RE: God Is Still Good


I received some feedback on an earlier essay, God is Still Good, that leads to some things I want to discuss. Here is the first comment:

So it IS logical to assume a invisible being living in the sky is real? That's incredible. So is it also logical to beleive of a fairy tale book that has a story about a magical ark? Stop letting yourselves be brainwashed. Anyways.. [sic]

First, regarding Noah's ark, there's nothing magical about it. It is, more or less, a large floating zoo. We have zoos all over the world in which different animals live in close proximity to each other. Furthermore, the modern world tends to have an arrogant disdain for the ancients, thinking that they were somehow less intelligent than we are today. Objects such as the great pyramid at Giza demonstrate that attitude is unwarranted. Thus, there is no reason to think such a large floating structure was beyond the engineering skills of ancient people.

Moreover, to focus only on such details in the story of Noah is to miss the point entirely. When interpreting the Bible we have to remember that its purpose is not objective history, but rather, theology. Writers of the books of the Bible chose specific historical events to express a theological issue and to reveal God's nature to man. The story of Noah may be literally true, exaggerated legend, or fabricated myth, but the meaning of the story remains the same in each case. The story teaches us that God will allow evil to exist only up to a point. At some point, He wipes out the evil while preserving a remnant of those who hold to the good. Understanding that moral is fundamental to understanding the Bible's message.

The image of God as an "invisible being living in the sky" is what we give to children when we teach them about God. Lacking a mature reasoning ability, simple anthropomorphic description is all they can understand. When we mature, we must "put away childish things" (1 Cor 13) and come to understand God's nature at a more mature, abstract level. To argue about God as "a being living in the sky" is as ludicrous as to argue about how far the stork has to travel when he brings babies. Both are stories for children, not for adults seeking understanding of the great mysteries of life. It's useful, even for adults, to describe God's nature using anthropomorphic metaphors, but we must always remember that it is figure of speech only.

For those who accept the Bible as God's revelation, the question of God's existence is irrelevant. The first statement in Genesis assumes God's existence. For others, the question is one of metaphysics. In terms of metaphysics, the basic question we have to ask is not so much "does God exist?" as it is "what is the nature of reality?" It is an ontological question first, an existential question second. The ontological problem is to determine if there is a transcendent, non-material category of being. Once we settle that question, we can start talking about the nature of that transcendent being. We cannot look at material phenomenon alone, as that would be begging the question. We need something that is non-material yet definitively "real" to give us a hint. Man's moral conscience is one thing we can look at because it precisely fits that category. That leads to the next comment.


What exists in a mans thinking has to do with all the experiences he has dealt with in life, and the opinions he has made about them. So he would die for his friends, because he cares about them. He cares about them based on the experiences he had with them.

Although a noble sentiment, if we accept that argument, the negative must also be true. If our experiences in life dictate our actions, we also have to include experiences that are painful when determining why we act as we do. If all of our experiences with friends are pleasant and beneficial, then it is easy to justify treating others with kindness. But, by the same reasoning, when friends, family or co-workers act to our detriment, we can justify treating them with disdain, or even vengeance, in return. Beyond that, if someone is a stranger, not part of our experience in life, we have no basis for treating him with kindness at all. In other words, the statement made above can equally justify kindness, indifference, or harm to others, depending on one's actual experiences and opinions. The same logic can be used by a con-artist, thief, greedy businessman or mass murderer. When we base our concern for others solely on how we are treated, or how we feel about the situation, we can justify bigotry and hatred as equally valid to acceptance and love. That is, unfortunately, an accurate description of typical human behavior.

Furthermore, to die out of concern for others doesn't make any sense if there is no "me" that survives to know about it. If I do what I do because of the way it makes me feel, there is no point doing something that results in not feeling good about myself. With death as the result of an action, I cannot justify that action unless there is a self that survives beyond physical existence. Otherwise, there must be some other reason I act that way.

The very fact that this person made the comment tells us something. We do feel that way about others even if it doesn't make sense to do so. The Christian interpretation is that we each carry some remnant of the divine image whether we realize it or not. When someone sacrifices solely out of concern for others, we see the spirit of God expressing itself in the physical world. That act of sacrifice expresses God's nature as described not only in the gospel, but also throughout the Bible. Go back to the story of Noah and think about it some more. God's wrath seems harsh. However, the first premise of the Bible is that God made everything. When He destroys mankind (save Noah's family) through the flood, He is sacrificing something He made and desired in order to bring about good. That is the nature of divine love and when we sacrifice something of self for others, we express that love in our actions.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matt. 5:43-48)

The words of Jesus are in stark contrast to the way of the world. We are not to just do good because it is pleasant or because others have been good to us. To be the light of God's presence in the world requires that we do as He wills, and that means to love even those that despise you. It is all too tempting to reduce Christian teaching to the level of an intellectual system that we can compare with others. But we must not do that. Man is moral to the extent that man follows the leading of the Holy Spirit and immoral when man rejects that influence in favor of self-determined morality. Our internal moral sense does not come from intellect, reason or self-centered desire. Our moral conscious comes from a source outside of the self. To live by faith means this: we trust that spirit to work in us and lead us towards the good and away from evil. To the extent that we do so, we make God's presence known to the world.



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