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God’s Goodness Problems, the Forms, Mill, Plato and Vardy.

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Presentation on theme: "God’s Goodness Problems, the Forms, Mill, Plato and Vardy."— Presentation transcript:

1 God’s Goodness Problems, the Forms, Mill, Plato and Vardy

2 PROBLEM! PROBLEM! PROBLEM! If God is interactive, can have relationships and is capable of change and response, how can He be perfect? Surely, perfection is, by its very nature, always the same. If part of the nature of God is that he doesn’t have a body, how can he suddenly have one?

3 The FormsThe Christian God

4 The Biblical portrait of God differs sharply from the Greek conception of the eternal Forms. In the Bible, the goodness of God sets a moral standard for people, and demands a response from them. The goodness of God is expressed through its direct activity in the lives of people. It is not a remote quality. God = more than a model of goodness = perfectly good = to be understood analogically (in comparison to) = not the same as human goodness.

5 Euthyphro Dilemma In Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro (Youth-ee-pro!)… Socrates asks ‘Is conduct right because the gods command it, or do the gods command it because it is right? If you take the first option, you simply accept that whatever God commands must be considered ‘good’: you have no independent way of deciding right from wrong. So what if God commands something that your reason tells you is wrong (e.g. genocide?) You appear to be at the mercy of particular scriptures and their interpretation. If you take the 2 nd of Socrates’ options, it implies that human reason provides us with an independent standard by which we can judge what is good. But this sets the authority of human reason over that of God. This is something that religious people reject.

6 Difficult to solve! Believers tend to use God’s commands as a point of reference when deciding what is good, but are aware that sometimes their relationship with God might call them to do something which they know rationally would be considered wrong.

7 Peter VARDY (1998) ‘ Reason and morality normally go together but, just occasionally, it is possible for a love relationship with God to cause someone to do something which goes against society’s accepted norms. It may call one of us to leave mother and father, brother and sisters for a higher love… In the Christian life, lived as part of a love relationship with God, it is just possible that this relationship might call an individual to act against what appears to be rational, reasonable and understandable.’

8 John Stewart MILL Mill argued that a good God should not act differently to a good person, so we cannot justify apparently evil acts of God on the grounds that he is divine. NEVERTHELESS Suffering and evil are huge problem for religious believers If God is both omnipotent and benevolent, then why does he permit evil?

9 The goodness of God cannot be measured by human standards of goodness but it is to be experienced within a relationship which is based on faith, not reason. Classic example - Abraham’s call to sacrifice Isaac (someone called to do something that society would condemn as wrong). Vardy’s observation - because Abraham trusted his relationship with God, he was able to hold two contradictory facts: 1)God’s promise to him that he would have many descendants through Isaac 2)That he would sacrifice Isaac as God had commanded him to The fact that he ultimately was not required to do so is not the point; Abraham responded in faith assuming that he would be so required.

10 More on Biblical verses

11 God’s goodness does not depend on circumstances or on him acting in an entirely predictable manner. The experiences of Job and Jesus himself show this. Despite their experiences, these characters, and others like them, accepted that God’s goodness is ultimately incomprehensible, but is utterly reliable.

12 Exodus 20 For the Israelites, God’s goodness was experienced through his covenant (formal agreement) relationship with them, first revealed in the giving of the Law, including the 10 Commandments (the Decalogue) at Sinai. = set out standards of behaviour towards God and towards others = not a law code (not comprehensive enough for that) = deal in the most general terms with moral behaviour and attitudes.

13 Exodus 20 The acceptance of them indicated the willingness of the people of Israel to enter into a covenant relationship with God that separated them from all other nations. It was a free response to a free act of grace by God, but it did bring certain obligations upon the people, who were expected to represent God and his goodness to the other nations. For this reason the highest standards of behaviour was expected of them, & they could not expect to be immune from God’s judgment if they violated his standards of goodness: ‘You only have I known of all families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities’ (Amos 3:2)

14 God’s goodness is not inflexible Although he is angry when his people violate his standards, and because he is just he must judge, he does not do so hard-heartedly. The book of Hosea balances God’s divine wrath (which Israel’s conduct deserved) against God’s desire for them to repent and return to him: ‘I will not execute my fierce wrath against them, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God and not man; the holy one in your midst’ (Hosea 9:11)

15 Philip Yancey (1997) Uses the book of Hosea as an example of God’s grace – his undeserved favour shown to sinful man: In a manner of speaking, grace solves a dilemma for God… On the one hand, God love us; on the other hand, our behaviour repulses him. God yearns to see in people something of his own image reflected; at best he sees shattered fragments of that image. Still, God cannot – or will not – give up.

16 God is eager to forgive And since ‘“my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”, declares the Lord’ (Isaiah 55:9), he can do what he likes, and go to whatever lengths he chooses to be reconciled with his people. Hosea was told to marry a cultic prostitute to learn the lesson of God’s unfailing love, even when his goodness was deeply offended by human sin.

17 God’s goodness is also displayed in the personal experiences of believers The psalmist frequently write of his experience of God’s goodness underpinning his own life, especially when he is in situations of peril. Psalm 69 starts with the cry ‘Save me, O God! For the waters have cone up to my neck…’ (69:1) And ends with the exclamation ‘I am afflicted and in pain; let thy salvation, O God, set me on high! I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving’ (69: 29-30) The biblical characters knew God personally and trusted in his goodness, whatever was going on around them.

18 New Testament writers The ultimate demonstration of God’s goodness is the sending of Jesus God takes the initiative to overcome the natural inclination to sin which is in all men, and provides the means of redemption. John 3:16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that all who believe in him should not perish but have eternal life’ God’s willingness to sacrifice his son is the model of goodness. It is the saving act to which humanity is called upon, by the New Testament writers, to make a life- changing response, freeing ourselves forever from the impossible task of measuring up to the perfect, unchangeable, God.

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