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Archive 1


Should we describe God as good?

Clarification needed here regarding Section "Attributes" where God has the description of being good. The reason this question is raised is as follows:

  • If things are "good" because God defines them to be good, then the phrase "God is good" has no inherent meaning.
  • If we assume the phrase "God is good" means something, then there is some metric differentiating good from bad that is independent from God, which means God is no longer sovereign (As in, God is not in charge of what is good and what is not good)

If more information is needed, the keywords to search for are "Divine command theory" and "Euthyphro dilemma".
I would like to know which point of view should we be using in terms of describing God. Thieh 11:25, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

The Euthyphro dilemma is more to do why something is good, not why God is good.
Even though it's true that goodness is defined by God's nature, it's still correct to say that God is good. It may be tautological to say that milk is defined as something that comes from cows, and also that the source of milk is cows, but (a) the latter statement is not therefore rendered false by being a restatement of the definition, and (b) people don't need to know that milk is defined as being something that comes from cows in order to be aware of the existence of milk, so telling someone that milk comes from cows might still impart useful information to them.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 13:36, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
Your analogy isn't quite the same: better would be "describing milk as 'milky'" which is obviously a truism. Do you really mean: the inverse:"Good is God" i.e. the definition of Good is whatever God is? User 11speak to me 13:49, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
Actually, not everyone might know that milk is milky, so it is worth saying. And it is very meet, right and our bounden duty to say at all times and in all places that God is good.--CPalmer 13:54, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
Speak for yourself. Would all those Old Testament people killed by or on behalf of your God have agreed? User 11speak to me 13:59, 11 August 2009 (UTC)(EC) ps thanks for reminding me: I need to go out to buy a carton of milky substances which I hope will turn out to be milk. ;-) User 11speak to me
(edit conflict again (x2)): Yes, describing milk as milky is a valid (albeit not exact) analogy. And to take it the next step, it's also a valid statement to make, assuming that people are familiar with milky substances other than milk. I thought of the milk analogy because of a TV show I saw the end of tonight, in which the comment was made that "milk comes from cows" as though this was new information, such as to people who think it comes from the supermarket. So telling them that milk comes from cows could indeed be new information to them. Similarly, people who have little idea of God might also have a fair idea of what goodness is, so telling them that God is good is still telling them something useful (especially if they've been exposed to atheistic propaganda that God is evil). Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 14:00, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
Re the TV show, "Talking about your generation"? BradleyF (LowKey) 03:07, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
Yes, I think that was it. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 03:15, 14 August 2009 (UTC)
No atheist would say that God is Evil: they might say that the followers and their teachings of the myth can be though. You can't be evil when you don't exist. User 11speak to me 14:05, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
Can't a fictional character be evil? That's what they think of and say about God. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 15:31, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
They probably say "so-and-so's God" or "the God of the Old Testament" I don't think that a true atheist can refer to God except as a fiction so you're probably right in that they use "God" as shorthand for "the fictional God of the Creationists" for example. User 11speak to me 15:45, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

Something being left out is the fact that the bible says that god is all powerfull and all knowing. As such it would be wrong to say god is good for he created sin, since he is the creator.--Timsh 16:26, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

Firstly, how does you second sentence relate to the first? I can't see a natural segue there. Are you instead perhaps referring to the fact that God is the creator of all?
Moving on. Sin, isn't a "something" that God created. It could be described as a state (relational), or an act, or a decision, but none of those are God's state or act or decision. They are from the sinner. It is like saying that God created "jump", and so is responsible for everything that is a result of our jumping. The normal Christian/Biblical definition given for sin is "rebellion against God." So not only is it not a created something it is against God, rather than some aspect or work of God. BradleyF (LowKey) 02:59, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
Ur, I don't intend to include Biblical content in the discussion yet. Here is another analogy: If what is good and what is not is based solely on God, then saying "God is good" bears as much meaning as "God is godly" because "God" or "gods" are the basis of the definition of the word "godly" (if "milky" can be defined independently from "milk" then it means something by saying "milk is milky"). It is independent to whether God is actually good because God can then simply define Himself to be good. The problem is more in line with that given God defines what is good, if we say God is good, that's because God asserts Himself to be good, resulting the problem that the question "Why God is good" can only be explained through circular logic/proof by assertion/other similar fallacies. Thieh 18:50, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
Besides, by saying God is good, aren't we commiting some faulty assumptions that we can judge/evaluate God? Thieh 18:50, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

Even if God is the basis of goodness, the only reason to not say "God is good" is because anyone who understands what "good" means must also understand that it's defined by "God". But this is not necessarily so, and I'll illustrate with the "milky" example. Suppose we are familiar with milk, but move to a part of the world where milk isn't known. But while there, we notice a substance that we would describe as "milky". We tell the locals (who don't know what milk is), that the substance is what we call "milky". As the locals don't have a suitable term describing this, they adopt our term "milky". So they get to know what "milky" means without being aware of milk itself.
Now that particular scenario is a bit far-fetched, but I put it to you that it is not far-fetched if you substitute "good" for "milky". That is, there can be plenty of people who understand what "good" means (in a general sense at least) without making the connection with God. This is what your reply overlooked.
Beyond that, you then argue that the statement "God is good" is meaningless on the grounds of it being fallacious, but this is not so, and has already been addressed above.
...if we say God is good, that's because God asserts Himself to be good No, its because God is good! I suspect that you meant something slightly different, but if so I'll address that when you restate it.
Besides, by saying God is good, aren't we commiting some faulty assumptions that we can judge/evaluate God? No, we are not making the evaluation. We are relating what God has told us.
Actually, if there's anything fallacious here, it's the reasoning that says that (a) "God is good" is meaningless because goodness is defined as being God-like, and (b) that the (alleged) Old Testament description of God as a genocidal tyrant means that He is not good, which means that such people are claiming that God is not God-like! That is fallacious reasoning, known as trying to have a bob each way.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 03:15, 14 August 2009 (UTC)
That is, there can be plenty of people who understand what "good" means (in a general sense at least) without making the connection with God. This is what your reply overlooked. I think I have it in the first post as: If the phrase "God is good" means something (in the case people understands goods but not relating it to God) then these people would have a separate metric/standard differentiating good from bad that is independent from God.
So in essence, we have two concepts to introduce to those who has an understanding of goodness without relating it to God, namely:
  • that God is good in the concept they understand it as good;
  • The basis of definition of goodness as it is being defined by God (by saying it I also mean to introduce this concept you are requiring those people to change the definition of goodness)
The milky example does not have the second concept being introduced because the description of "milky" does not require a change in the basis of definition (if they understand "milky" without milk then introducing milk means we are defining milk based on "milky", not the other way around). That's why I put up a closer analogy of "gods are godly" (The word "godly" requires the definition of gods to be meaningful; otherwise at most it is "superhuman" or "supernatural", basing the definition on "human" or "nature").
Here is why the coexistence of "goodness defined by God" and "God is good" is not exactly the best idea (I meant to ask "How does one know" in the previous post, my apologies):
  • If goodness is defined by God, the only way to know whether something, including God, is good is to check with God, or the set of rules that God has left behind. (If the step of checking with God or the set of rules set by God is skipped, then there is an independent standard of goodness and thus God does not define goodness)
  • If the set of rules is the word of God, then any of those ways are in direct or indirect manner that God says He is good (Through his words or Goddidit)
  • Therefore the only way to know God is good given that goodness is defined by God is for God to define Himself to be good.
...(b) that the (alleged) Old Testament description of God as a genocidal tyrant means that He is not good,...And no, I am trying to keep the discussion to be independent of the contents of the Bible (at least I have yet to mention any of such contents) until there is the need for it. Thieh 17:09, 14 August 2009 (UTC)
If the phrase "God is good" means something (in the case people understands goods but not relating it to God) then these people would have a separate metric/standard differentiating good from bad that is independent from God. I guess I overlooked the significance of that, and perhaps you do have a point there. So I'll concede this point until and unless I can answer it. I'd ask what you propose instead, but you've already done that below, so I'll respond there. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 01:05, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
Jesus said Only God is good and we have excellent historical evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. By the way, here is an excellent song: God is good Ruylopez 01:13, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
Quoting yourself now, Ken? Well done - really proves your point! [NOT!]. User 11speak to me 01:25, 17 August 2009 (UTC)

A different take

Would it be more appropriate to state that "God is beyond the human concepts of 'good' or 'evil', and cannot be described in those terms"? After all, the Bible directly describes God as being jealous, wrathful, and vengeful in various places, and we could not consider these traits to be "good" if applied to men and women. Instead, we are expected to accept that these traits are compatible with a benevolent, loving and forgiving God, so the only way to not have God considered inherently good but fallible is to declare that God is beyond "good" or "evil". That works as an apologist line of reasoning, but to people like me it simply sounds like "Do as I say, not as I do". --DinsdaleP 19:09, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

Interesting suggestion, but I disagree. God is good. Jealousy, anger etc are indeed bad when exhibited by people, but God wields them justly, so in Him they are good. God is not fallible. "Do as I say, not as I do" sounds glib, but it's at the foundation of Christian thought - for example, only God can judge.--CPalmer 21:35, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
Didn't meant the "Do as I say..." line to come across as offensive, it was just the most succinct way I could think of expressing that point. The idea that jealousy, wrath and vengeance are good when wielded in a just manner is an interesting thought. When I look at their definitions per Merriam-Webster, the primary ones don't have any particularly bad connotation to them. It's only in the secondary definitions that concepts of excessive punishment or abusiveness come into play. My original thoughts were inspired by perceived overlaps between the Seven Deadly Sins and characteristics directly attributed to God in the Bible.
Is the conclusion I'm supposed to accept, then, that something like "wrath" is not to be considered a sin when practiced by God, but sinful when practiced by man? Or is it that these are not inherently sins at all if expressed in the proper context (i.e. it's okay to express wrath in certain circumstances)? --DinsdaleP 01:20, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
Absolutely. Look at the example of Jesus throwing the salesmen out of the Temple. He was very angry indeed, but it wasn't a sin. It's possible for people to be justly angry too (righteous indignation), but very difficult to use that just anger without it turning to hatred and the 'dark side'.--CPalmer 08:30, 12 August 2009 (UTC)

(OD) Regarding jealousy, it is important to be aware of a cognitive "switch" taking place. God is jealous in the sense that He will not tolerate our worship of other gods. God insists that we worship Him and Him alone. In other words he will not accept unfaithfulness. This is something that we accept as good, normal, and justified in any "exclusive" relationship. These days, when we normally speak of a person being jealous, we are actually referring to the irrational insecurities of a person about the exclusivity of their relationship. If said person's partner was unfaithful we would then hold the wronged party blaimless if they ended the relationship. Through drift, "jealous" is doing double duty as two related but very different concepts, and we need to be careful to keep them sorted when comparing "jealous" (insistent about exclusivity) with "jealous" (irrationally doubtful about exclusivity). BradleyF (LowKey) 03:21, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

Aren't they two sides of the same psychotic coin? ħuman Number 19 04:39, 14 August 2009 (UTC)
No. Consider a marriage. It is a monogamous union, and infidelity is grounds for the wronged partner to terminate the relationship. A spouse saying, "I assert my right to monogamy. I will not tolerate infidelity,." would not be considered psychotic, or even unreasonable. A spouse that is unreasonably convinced or constantly suspicious of the fact of infidelity (regardless of what they aim to do about it) is a horse of a different colour entirely. One is the reaction to an abuse of trust while the other is a refusal to offer the trust in the first place. BradleyF (LowKey) 02:30, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
Well put. Except in your example of the expectation of fidelity being broken, "jealousy" is not required, it is merely breach of contract. ħuman Number 19 02:19, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
Well, marriage being an exclusive contract, infidelity of course is a breach of that contract. "Merely" is a stretch though, as the breach is grounds to terminate the contract. Actually contracts will often spell out the consequences of breaches, which we accept as a prudent an reasonable inclusion. We certainly don't equate that with paranoia about the breech occuring. Apart from that, maybe I am missing something in your post, because there is still a difference between asserting the consequences of the breech (if it should happen) and an unreasonable insistence that is will happen (or has happened). We use "jealous" to mean both, but God's jealousy (of the 1st type) is condemned as the 2nd type. BradleyF (LowKey) 02:38, 19 August 2009 (UTC)

Suggested change

Separate section: Goodness of God There are two schools of thoughts regarding whether God is good:

  • For those who believes in a metric of "good" defined independently from God, God is perfectly good
  • For those who believe goodness is contingent on God, God is beyond the human understanding of good and bad

Comments? Thieh 00:10, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

Putting it this way seems very non-committal, which is appropriate in some circumstances, but I don't think this is one of them. Also, it's not written at an easily-understandable level ("metric" and "contingent"). And finally, although in one sense everything about God is beyond our understanding, it's misleading to imply that we therefore cannot understand at all.
(I've got a virus or something, and I'm feeling lousy, so I'm probably not thinking clearly either.)
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 01:33, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
I guess we have to explain the divine command theory in a separate article then (unless we can affirm all christians are taking only one side of the issue) and link it here somewhere. Thieh 23:17, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
An article about the divine command theory sounds like a good idea. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 02:16, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
Divine command theory. I thought I'd add one-click shopping for those interested in the topic. ħuman Number 19 02:20, 19 August 2009 (UTC)

Better suggestion:
(Before we put up the suggestion, perhaps replace the line with God is holy and Good to "God is omnibenevolent and all-loving", since holy suffers from similar problems, perhaps due to the way the holiness article is putting it)

In order to determine whether it is meaningful to say God is good, we would need to know where do our values come from.

One school of thought, the Divine command theory, argues that something is good if and only if God defines it to be good. With that basis of goodness, it would not be meaningful to say God is good, because the only way to knwo whether God is good is to consult with God. Then the phrase "God is good" is equivalent to "God said God is good", which results in self-assertion (or circular reasoning)

On the other hand, if God is not the sole source of our values, then God is perfectly good within this understanding of goodness. This notation is more compatible with places on the world where people have not heard of God's teachings.

Comments? Thieh 05:41, 30 August 2009 (UTC)

Evidence for God's Existence

The universe is running down, and it could not have been running down forever, so it could not be eternal.

under the laws of thermodynamics this is true barring an outside incursion but may not hold with quantum effects or a multiverse.

The cause of the universe must be something outside the universe and must itself not have had a beginning.

depends on how you define Universe. Must itself have not had a beginning is unwarranted.
I will not change this yet but may find some refs for the full article. Hamster (talk) 04:17, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
The first point is not negated by your argument. Quantum effects and a multiverse purport to explain how it began; they don't deny that it began.
On the second point you are correct, but only in the sense that the cause of the universe might itself have had a beginning, but the cause of the cause, or the cause of the cause of the cause, or... must not have had a beginning.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 10:51, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
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