In the comments of my post “More Thoughts on God’s Goodness” it is asserted that morality is either arbitrarily dictated by God or it exists outside of God and consequently God is bound by an external moral standard. First of all, those are not the only possibilities, but let us examine the latter assertion first.
Instead of saying morality let us change that to “good.” If goodness is outside of God and God is bound to it, it would be eternal like God and uncreated like God then we would have this metaphysical non-God standard of goodness with no being attached to it that exists independently and outside God. This seems highly unlikely. We would be positing the eternal substance of good without any attachment to any person, being, entity, God. We would be positing something extremely abstract and unimaginable. Furthermore, if God was bound to conform to an outside standard, He would not be an independent self-existent Being for He would have need of adaptability to eternal goodness. He would for all intents and purposes cease to be God and would not be in essence a good God, for goodness is something not found in Him, but found outside Him that while He could measure up to it, He wouldn’t be the measurement of it. Need I explain further how this paradox could not logically exist?
Moving on, to the first proposition that goodness is created by God. This is typically argued that whatever God decrees is good. For instance, He could suddenly decide to decree that “rape” is good and it would be so. This would be an arbitrary and ever changing standard based on the whims of God. In this scenario, people assert that God creates goodness and could just as easily declare evil things good because He decrees it. This does not work as a standard of goodness. For one, for God to be God, He is unchangeable. He is always Himself. If He needed to be whimsically one thing and then another, He would cease being God. For God is the greatest being that nothing greater can be imagined. If there was someone greater than the Judeo-Christian God, then that Being would be God. If no one greater exist and it were possible to be greater than God, then God would not be God. Thus, necessarily being the greatest, He must be perfectly good, pure, holy, worthy, just, merciful, loving, and righteous.
A possibility was not proffered in the assertion about the nature of goodness that avoids the paradox and the whimsical arbitrary dictator. That is that goodness is not eternally external to God, nor created by God as an external created standard, but it is His nature. He is goodness. All He is the perfect standard of goodness. Not a representation of goodness, but in real essence goodness itself. Goodness isn’t an abstract invisible set of laws and rules. It isn’t separate from God. Jesus’ disciples called Him the Good Teacher. Jesus asked them, “Why do you call me good? You know that there is none good, but the Father.” Jesus was asking them if they realized they were accepting Him as one with God. For He knew they knew only God was “good.”
One can argue that this idea makes our use of the word “good” meaningless. Because when we say an apple taste good we are not saying it is God. No, we are saying that it lines up with a high standard of taste as far as apples go. We use the word in many different ways just as we use the word love in a variety of ways that does not communicate the fullness of love. We say we love our child, but we also say we love going bowling. This does not mean that the love we have for our child is on the same plain as the love of a sport or an object. We still know the difference, even though we use the word in both instances.
Christians believe that we become righteous when we receive Jesus gift of salvation. Sometimes we give the wrong impression as if Jesus hands salvation out to us. In reality, He gives us Himself who is salvation. We become righteous because we enter union with God. He doesn’t give us righteousness, He is righteousness. He doesn’t give us goodness, He is goodness. He doesn’t give us love, He is love. We can have shadows and tastes of this reality before we know Him, but the real tangible essence of these things are only found in Him and we only gain them by being in Him relationally. That is why the greatest commandments are to love God and from that place of love of God and being loved by God we can live out the second greatest commandment to love people. When God’s love is within us it naturally overflows to others. This is why the Scriptures say we cannot hate people and claim we love God, for we do not know God’s love if we hate people. This is actually the standard Scriptures say that unbelievers have to judge Christians. Jesus said that it is our love for each other and the world that shows that Jesus is really the Son of God and that it’s all true.
If I do not live a life of love towards you or towards anyone, you have reason to believe I do not know God and I have nothing true to say about Him. Being in Christ is a highly experiential reality. It is more than intellectual belief in the existence of God and the acceptance of the worldview of Christianity. It is not akin to religious service because of that intellectual accent. It is a viable tangible living relationship. Granted there are times when it doesn’t feel like it and I don’t feel that tangibility. However, there are so many times where that relationship is alive and journeys to new depths and new experiences. It is a journey through deserts, valleys, mountains, and sometimes you feel like you’re soaring with the eagles and other times you feel like you’re traveling through a desert. But that joy of having even one day with the Lord is worth more than a thousand elsewhere. However, God delights to spend time with His children and we don’t have to sustain on only one day of tangibly relating with Him. We can have an eternity with Him that begins not when we die, but when we begin to live with Him now.
Just like any relationship it is cultivated by spending time with Him and talking with Him and listening to Him. It is cultivated by love and trust. However, it is His love working in us that enables us to know Him. He does the work. He asks us to rest in Him. All service is done out of a place of that rest. It seems like a contradiction, but it is a beautiful harmony when you see it lived out. It is part of that journey in learning how it all works. I’ve met people that have a pretty good handle on it and they are a joy to be around. I’m still learning, as I am sure are they. The