It has been a while since writing in my series on decision making. I want to conclude the series with a well referenced, and easily referenced, synopsis of goodness, decision making, and sin. This is a tough topic to wrap your head around all at once, and it has taken me a long time to get to the point where I can write about this, so I hope this serves to be useful in gaining a deeper understanding for everyone.
What makes something good?
Nobody thinks of themselves as bad. We all have desires that we try to fulfill. Even if we have conflicting desires (I want to go have sex with that beautiful person over there vs I want to stay healthy/safe), we optimize our desires and priorities. It brings us to a dilemma, are we good because good is measured by what we desire, or because we always happen to desire ‘good things’?
What if a decision you make out of a’ good’ desire has unintended consequences? Even the smallest thing could set off a chain of events nobody could predict. What if you make a mistake (as we know humans are prone to do)? Was the decision still a good one?
How do you know your desires are good? Do we all get together and make a system of principles that help us manage conflicts between people and their desires? How do we know the system of principles is correct?
If we were to measure this journey to find goodness in terms of probability, one could argue that we are slowly improving our probability of doing good as we grow in our laws, culture, and individual maturity. We might be solving more problems as humanity matures, but we are still the same humans that have always been. For all our improvement there is still rich and poor, still war, still tyranny (even in democracy), still destruction, still loneliness, still broken relationships, still self-abuse, still death… the list goes on. For all the well intentioned pursuit of desires by good people everywhere, we cannot escape our humanity.
Our desires are shaped by a combination of factors including biology, environment, culture, etc. Because of the diversity of these factors, our desires are formed conflicting within ourselves and with others. Often these desires create biases that make it difficult for us to interpret reality. Even as we gain more information about our reality, our desires stubbornly adjust our mind and our plans. For example, I know it is bad for my health to blow my nose really hard, but I still do it due to my desire to feel that really good, nostril-clearing feeling.
The point I wish to make is that good is necessarily what we desire. Goodness is defined simply by the fact that it is desirable.
The problem with finding the ‘right good’ is that it isn’t just a function of desire, but of information as well. As humans, we don’t have perfect information. We have some information, we are constantly getting more information, but in the scope of the basically infinite amount of information existing about reality, we know little or nothing. Not only are there elements of our universe of which we cannot even grasp the most basic concept, but there is also the element of time, knowing what has happened and what will happen. We will never have perfect information.
So when you evaluate a claim that says, “I am a good person”, maybe you often pursue desires with the best intentions you know how, but in comparison to perfection, something we can’t even imagine, the claim falls so short. I understand that we don’t inherently think of ourselves as bad people, but we need to look harder at what it means to be a ‘good’ person.
Are we doomed to live never knowing what will happen, how our decisions will affect things down the road, always struggling with the human condition of death, war, inequality, loneliness, and how are we supposed to live with that reality? When we have grown up with it our whole lives it doesn’t really seem that bad, if you are reading this you have survived and are making it by somehow. All problems come and go, do they not?
Is the point just to survive? Maybe make the world a little less bad for a little while until whatever difference you made disappears with time and as other problems take its place? Maybe just get whatever satisfaction you can from life?
I would rather have my desires be born from perfect intelligence than try to do any of the above. Why settle for anything less than perfection? You might be thinking that such a goal is impossible to achieve, and you would be right.
Let me be clear about this, we can do nothing that is not born of imperfection. It is said that someone who is truly unintelligent gives a right answer to a yes-no question exactly 50% of the time. That does not mean you are 50% of the way to perfection, it means you have no ability to discern between right and wrong answers. Imagine how small the odds of a correct guess are when every decision in life is chained together, second by second, with multiple choices for each answer.
In our historical records, many men have set themselves up as gods among men, or set up for themselves gods or heavens that embody their beliefs. In recent years, claims of godhood would be quickly dismissed, usually. Generally claims to godhood come with some sort of follow up about the stuff we now need to do to appease the newly appointed god. We all know that achieving godhood or perfect intelligence is impossible.
Also in our historical records exists one man who displayed indications of perfect intelligence and whose claim to Godhood gave us no burden to bear. Once, speaking on who could possibly escape from the endless struggle of the human condition, He told them that men can never escape it, it is impossible. This same man gave himself up to take the burden of the human condition on Himself, the hopelessness, ignorance, pain, destruction, and everything else. He claimed that what man could not do, which is bear that burden, could be done by God, a being whose desires are born of perfect information and therefore never makes mistakes or suffers unintended consequences. Our entire reality, past, present, and future is born of His desire.
It stands to reason that every act of true love in the world comes from the One now bearing our burden and actively working to bring us all to partake in the same perfection that He necessarily has. He wants us no longer to be slaves to our own desires, but take on His desires so that we will be connected to Him and everyone else in a place of perfect peace and security in His perfection. He does not need us to start fixing humanity, He desires for us to surrender ourselves to perfection. He wants us to be free of the human condition. And so we will be.
There is no eternal retribution waiting those who choose not to accept this. If you believe the history is wrong or the claims are ridiculous, you are welcome to go back to experiencing the human condition as you see fit. It was once said that it’s like missing a party.
When I consider just how far from perfection the human condition is and how unable I am to do anything about that, I cannot help but see connection to a perfect being as of ultimate value. How can I hope to find peace in my own humanity? When confronted with the truth of what holiness really is, and how I have none of it, how can I remain at peace? In the face of a holy God, I see nothing of my own life that is not death and decay.
If I have no ability to discern between right and wrong on my own, how can I continue to go through my life thinking I am good? How could I ever begin to tell someone else about their right and wrong decisions?
In my experience, Christians love to think that their understanding of the Bible is the right one. They use this understanding to condemn or bless the actions of those around them. Not only does the Bible have some choice words about this, but it makes no sense! How can you believe you have that capacity when the entire premise of Jesus’ salvation, and the reality that we can readily observe, is that you do not have that capacity! Christians have gone so far with this to say that people will be tortured eternally for things they themselves habitually practice!
My desire for you all is to experience the taste I have had of the desire of something truly perfect. There is peace and goodness in connecting to a holy being. My own imperfection continues to impede my ability to let go of my own desires to be influenced by God, but I hope that love continues to pour out of me as I open myself to His love and become renewed as part of Him, abandoning my human condition.