What Is Good In God's Eyes?
What is good?
They say the defining characteristic of philosophy is that it gives hard answers to easy questions. If that's true, then this question certainly fits the bill. The question was raised by commenters here whether we can believe God is good, when the Bible says he ordered the destruction of nations, and when he says in the Bible that suffering is beneficial (at least for some).
The answer to this question requires challenging common assumptions about what is really good.
As in previous posts in this series (see the bottom of this one), since it's a Biblical question we must answer from a Biblical framework. As I've said before, it does no good to say, "Your God doesn't fit my view of the world;" because if your worldview doesn't include the Biblical God, then you're simply stating the obvious. The real question is whether the actions of God make sense within the framework of God's word, the Bible. For those who have been following this series, that's just a review; for others, it's setting a stage. I'm sensitive to the charge that this is circular argumentation, and I have already discussed it here.
Thus this is a question not just of philosophy but of Biblical theology. What is really good in God's eyes? The short answer is, in part it is what you would expect, and in part it is completely different.
God's ultimate goal is a universe that reflects his glory. (This is not ego-centric in God's case.) He is eternally at the center of all, from before time began and through all of natural and human history, and everything is to reach its consummation in him.
So the definition of "good" starts with God and ends with God. (I hear yelps and yowls of "circular reasoning!" in the background as I write this, but I remind you that for now my purpose is still simply to define terms as the Bible states them, and we're answering from within the Biblical framework; later we will discuss whether that framework is consistent.)
For humans, according to the Bible, the "good" is a matter of experiencing and reflecting the character of God. God's character is revealed Biblically as loving, holy, righteous, just, and wise. God's love is central ("God is love) and it's what most people seem to expect of him. His love is expressed in multiple ways, so many that it will be the subject of another post in this series yet to come.
God's holiness is less often recognized. This is where it's crucial to be aware of the Two Worlds mentioned previously: many of us living in one of these Worlds have no idea of what is said of God in the other. It would be hard to overstate the importance of God's holiness, or how unaware many are of it.
Habakkuk 1:13 says he is pure; he is too holy to look upon sin without dealing with it. He says to Israel, "You shall be holy, for I the Lord am holy." Holiness is not, as is often supposed, the same as righteousness; it has more to do with being set apart. God is separate from all that is sinful. (In Christ he has an answer for the obvious problem that poses, which I do not have time to delve into here.)
God is righteous, meaning he always does what is pure and without sin: "For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright" (Psalm 11:7).
God is just; he judges fairly. He rewards the good and punishes evil. Some evils in the world continue unabated but only for a time; he will deal with it in his time, but remains patient so that more may escape judgment, through Christ.
God is wise beyond our understanding; not everything has to make sense. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours. I have often thought, in fact, that it is not surprising that some things about God remain puzzling even to those who spend a lifetime searching them out. If we could understand God, it would be more appropriate that he worship us than that we worship him.
This just scratches the surface of what is defined as God's goodness. It touches only on his moral goodness, and not his omnipotence, omniscience, and so on. (Brief blogger break: this is content matter for libraries of books; we can't cover it that thoroughly here!)
To summarize: God's goal is a universe that reflects his glory. His goodness is expressed in his love, holiness, righteousness, justice, and wisdom. What is good for humans is to come into a knowledge of God, to know his many-faceted goodness, and begin to share in his character: to become complete in Christ. This is with a view to eternity, so that temporary/temporal pain may be good if it produces eternal growth. This is nothing more than the common idea of delayed gratification, though magnified to a large scale.
God chose not to make human goodness automatic, not to make us automatons. He created us with the ability to make moral choices, and as a result, real moral evil has entered the world. Thus we have the problems, the questions that started us on this whole series. When the answer to these questions comes, it will be in this form (this is a preview): God's goodness is always operative in every facet: love, holiness, justice, and so on. Sometimes from our perspective, its apparent operation is more on the level of preserving holiness and justice than on the level of providing personal life, health, or comfort. Sometimes we, who do not fully share in or understand the whole extent of God's goodness, do not see clearly how it is working, but this is because of our limitations and not because of flaws in God.
This is very revolutionary thinking for those who live in the World that is not familiar with it. I'm sure there are questions and problems I've raised here in this very brief outline that I'm hardly aware of, but I'll leave it as is for now and let the discussion go forward.
1. Two Worlds
2. Another View of the Two Worlds
3. Is God Good?
4. Might Makes Right: The Basis of God's Goodness?
5. What is Good in God's Eyes?
6. Death and Destruction and God
7. Why Did God Order the Destruction of Nations?
(to be continued)
Posted: Tue - November 1, 2005 at 10:21 AM |