Can God be described as “good”?

No… the real problem here is that Shawn hasn’t been very clear in offering an alternative. A version of this God = good has already been on the table, namely that God defines what is good, which sounds like divine command theory.

The most obvious interpretation of the alternative Shawn is offering is to say the opposite, that goodness defines God. But then since goodness is an abstract adjective which describes the difference from evil, this doesn’t leave God with much of those things usually attributed to Him, such as intelligence, will, creator, omnipotence, spirit, and omnipresence. On the other hand… this strongly reminds me of my own way of originally attaching meaning to the word “God” by equating a faith in God with an existentialist faith that life is worth living. And this definition put me on the path of determining what sort of God best serves that purpose. This suggests a little different way of stating the proposed alternative, where God is that which best motivates goodness in life and thereby making life most worthwhile – i.e. a personification of goodness.

Also one might point out that authentic goodness requires choice and that would mean the only consistent way of making God the personification of goodness is to say that He nevertheless chooses goodness over evil of His own free will. Doesn’t that sound reasonable?

OR… it suggests that goodness itself has a dark side in the opposition to and destruction of evil. It has often been my explanation that I can only believe in Christianity because of evolution, founded on the idea that the very nature of life requires evolution. But that means that life requires a great deal of death and suffering, and if you believe life is a good thing (and many think that a reverence for life is central to any idea of goodness) that by itself points to a rather dark side of goodness, and especially a rather dark side to any creator of life.

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Or at least chooses to maximize good which is really all any of us can do. Especially if one believes He accepted wildebeests being eaten alive by hyenas and wild dogs as an acceptable price to pay for the fruits of evolution. One often hears that God is omnipotent and so could just have skipped the nastiness of the savanna for the piety of churchly life, but I don’t think imagining God as capable of magic’ing anything at all in any way at all makes any sense.

Of course this is said in empathy for your point of view by someone who sees no role for any intention of any kind in our origins - at least not until we make the step from mammalian/simian to human. And even then no one would be content with God defined as an archaic product of consciousness who possibly had a role in creating our bit and then willingly stepped aside to play a complimentary role, giving our new part of consciousness an opportunity to do better.

Genesis 2:16-17 says;

“And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Which rather suggests that “death” was not part of God’s plan for mankind, but rather a curse that man brought upon himself as a result of his sin and rebellion.

believing in Christianity BECAUSE you believe in evolution seems a rather eccentric basis for one’s faith, and one that is contrary to scripture and pretty much all Christian theology.

Mitchell, whether you believe in evolution or not, your life is very worthwhile - because you are created and loved by God, not because you are a stepping stone to a higher life form and not because your grandad was a chimp.

Is that what happened to you?

Incorrect, because the death they died on that day was not a physical death. So the Bible does not suggest any such thing. With a living eternal spirit, physical death is not death at all, but birth into a much wider world of the spirit where there is God who is also spirit. It is only death because our spirit is already dead. This world with its limitations is just another womb in which we grow before being born in spirit. Spirit is the more tangible reality and the physical is just a simulation using the laws of nature to make things out of particles and atoms much like the way computer simulations make things out of bits and pixels. “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies… What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 50 I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” 1 Corinthians 15

Incorrect again. The problem of evil and suffering has been the irrefutable flaw in theism for over 2300 years. But evolution changes this because it shows that living things are not clockwork toys made by a watchmaker, for life is a phenomenon of self-organization. Free will is the essence of life itself and we are not simply what we are made to be, because we are a product of growth and learning as we participate in the making of ourselves. But that means that suffering and death are an indispensable part of life itself, without which we would not even exist. Because of evolution the argument from the problem of evil and suffering fails utterly, and Christianity can be reborn in a new light if people do not cling to the filth and ignorance of the middle ages.

Ah! But I can do better than that. You think you are better than the animals simply because an ancient necromancer made a golem out of dust. But I know, that while the animals are our bretheren with respect to biology as shown by ALL the scientific evidence, we have another inheritance that comes directly from God making us literally His children. It is an inheritance of the mind. So while you strut in the pride of being a golem made by the magic to imitate primates so closely there is practically no difference whatsoever between your genetics, bodies and brain from those of chimpanzees. I am quite comfortable in the knowledge that I am another form of life altogether than what they are. They are biological genetic species while I am a memetic organism - a mind with a completely different set of needs, desires and inheritance directly from God as His child. And even if that inheritance was a bit corrupted by the bad habits started by Adam and Eve, it has been brought to us from God once again in Jesus renewed.

Mitchell, you said in an earlier post:

Is that really your position? That you can ONLY believe in Christianity BECAUSE OF evolution?

Yes. Without evolution, I would be an atheist. Without evolution, I would consider the problem of evil and suffering to be sufficient reason to believe there is no God – certainly not a God that created this world and which I would consider worthy of my regard.

Remember that I wasn’t raised Christian – far from it. Science was the source of truth, not any religion. Only a careful consideration of the Bible in light of what science has discovered led me to think that God exists and that Christianity is worth believing in.

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Dear Mitchell,
Based on your answer, would you then agree evolution demonstrates a slow beautification of
God’s creation?
Best Wishes, Shawn

I cannot tell you this for certain, but I can certainly imagine that is was possible. I do have the distinct feeling that I was one of the countless that Jesus freed after His victory over Satan on Easter Sunday though. I am deeply grateful for this.
Best Wishes, Shawn

Mitchell, I sympathize with your position. My personal take on it is that if God created a universe full of deception and false evidence, then he would not be good, and would not be God.

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You don’t look that old.

I think that the evolutionary process shows remarkable ability far beyond what mere human intelligence can do for finding superior effective solutions to difficult problems. But that doesn’t mean the solutions are good ones. They can be rather diabolical. And it only finds its solutions at the price of a great deal of failure (and for living things that means considerable death and suffering) – that is something that should never be overlooked.

So I would tend to think that evolution is more of a neutral tool, and that beauty is more subjective. I don’t think the idea of God as an artist is precluded by evolution or by operation of natural law in general.

Ok.

I find your answer a little surprising.

Like you I wasn’t raised as a Christian (or rather I vehemently opposed and Christian influence as a child) and it was an interest in mathematics that brought me to consider the possibility of God and the. John Polkinghirne who led me to think that God was a near certainty.

But for me personally maths is not central to my belief in God. I have witnessed God in direct action (as I am sure others on this blog have) that convinces me of His existence and power far more convincingly than any theory of science or philosophy.

I feel similarly about the theory of evolution. Perhaps I have not given it enough thought, but the fact that God can create the Universe our of nothing means that I am less surprised that he have make humans out of the same building blocks that are also found in insects and animals.

If a life form were discovered on another planet that was made from the same proteins and similar DNA to life on Earth it would not be that big a deal to me - anymore than were a new species to be discovered in the Amazon.

Having said that I do know Christians for whom the theory of evolution is a very big deal, because this would mean that death and suffering was part of God’s plan and ithat it is very difficult to square with the early chapters of Genesis.

You seem to have gone the other way by interpreting those passages in Genesis and Corinthians you quoted earlier (and probably much of the Bible) in such a way that they CAN be compatible with evolution. Personally I think this is misreading the text (when the Bible uses a word then we should take the most obvious meaning of it unless the context clearly indicates otherwise) but that is for you to determine as you see fit.

I personally do not find it psychologically challenging to hold an open mind on the subject of evolution as to me it isn’t very important with regard to my belief in God, but I can see that for others this is a very big deal.

I first heard of John Polkinghorne when somebody told me that I sounded like him. We do have a couple things in common: a theoretical physics background and we are both open theists. Though it seems to me that in some ways at least I am theologically a little more conservative than he is. For example, I believe in an historical Adam and Eve.

I have perhaps, gone even farther than you think. People have have asked, “how can you reconcile evolution with Genesis?” I have replied with the question, “how can you reconcile creationism with Genesis?” Here is the link. For it seems to me that the Bible agrees better with evolution.

It is true that for some things I don’t go with the literal interpretation of things, but it seems obvious to me that nothing shouts symbolism in the Bible louder than the names of those two trees in the garden. And it also seems to me that in Matthew 13, Jesus suggests that literalism is a refuge for those who simply do not want to hear or understand the truth, so I would compare Biblical literalists to the servant in Matthew 25 who returns exactly the talent he was given without any investment of thought with nothing but fear as his excuse for doing so.

Polkinghorne has always appeared to me to be a very orthodox Christian, so I’m not sure you would describe him as an “open theist” - whatever that means. The guy was a professor of physics at Cambridge University before resigning his position to become an Anglican vicar and what I have read of his books he takes the view that scientific discovery gives us so much circumstantial evidence of the existence of God, and the Christian God in particular, that God has only stopped just short of rendering faith redundant.

His book “One World” is very persuasive in its description of the scientific and philosophical case for God.

I can’t remember if Polkinghorne has spent much time talking about evolution, if he has then i May have skimmed over it in my reading - as for me this just is t a big deal.

What I would say of your approach is that you seem to be making God in your own image. From what you have said in this thread you have a very strongly held view on morality and the nature of goodness (which may not be at all incompatible with God’s own views) and on the primacy of the theory of evolution (which might be) and Yiu seem to be saying that God can be God so long as he can fit himself into the parameters you have set.

I’m not sure that approach makes a huge amount of sense. It would be like me saying that I can’t believe in God because of Gödel’s incompleteness theorem.

I dont know if God made us all out of chimpanzees or just out of the same building blocks that we see in other plants, insects and animals, and I don’t really care - it is no less of a miracle.

As interesting as I find maths to be, I don’t really care if maths is a perfect system or not. I am genuinely interested in finding out who God is and I see his creation as of a very distant and secondary importance and interest to knowing more about God.

Can God be described as “good”?

Yes, he is good. He ordains evil to bring about even greater good than would be realized in its absence (Genesis 50:20, dozens of other texts). He ordained the worst imaginable sin–the execution of the perfectly innocent Son of God (prophesied by Isaiah 700 years before it happened)–to bring the ungodly to God while vindicating the God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23-26). Late to discussion and this is sure not to resonate with most here, but just my two cents on this weighty topic. Good to be back after a hiatus from the forum. Happy Monday to all…

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Great to hear from you again, and a source of humility, too. What is it Lewis had Aslan say? “You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve," said Aslan. "And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”

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What I would say of your approach is that you seem to be making God in your own image. From what you have said in this thread you have a very strongly held view on morality and the nature of goodness (which may not be at all compatible with God’s own views) and on the primacy of the interpretations of the Bible which you have been taught and you seem to be saying that God can be God so long as he can fit himself into the parameters you have set.

You can worship a monster if you want, but I will not. I am ready willing and able to join both the atheists and Sisyphus in defying unjust gods even if it is absolutely hopeless, content in the fact that I will not be sniveling worm serving an evil creature just because it has power. I know the approach of conforming your morality to whatever some powerful authority dictates is even less moral than it is sensible and is all it takes to justify atheist condemnation of religion as something evil.

I know our biology including our brains have very little difference from the chimpanzees and the DNA sequences prove beyond all reasonable doubt that they have close common ancestors with us. But just as the fact that we are made of the same basic stuff as rocks and stars doesn’t make us the same as rocks and stars, so also that we are made of the same basic stuff as the animals doesn’t make us the same as animals. Some people may be so dominated by their biology that they cannot feel that they are anything but a biological organism. But I don’t see that happening in my own life and it is abundantly clear to me than I am primarily a mind not a biological organism and thus my identity comes far more from the memetic inheritance I have from God than the genetic inheritance I have from the primates.

I find God’s creation telling a much clearer story about who God is than a book which involves all kinds distractions including ancient cultures, literary devices, and obscure historical expedience. I do believe the Bible is the word of God, but not inerrant nor infallible since it is inconceivable that anything written in the blunt tool of human language could be either of those things. So I will look first to the direct line we have with God in what He has created without the involvement of sinful human beings and second to the book which in all likelihood may only be one of many (even though the other candidates don’t interest me nearly as much) by which God has put a written authority into our hands, but which has been frequently misused throughout history.

As for John Polkinghorne being an open theist, all you have to do is care enough about the truth to do a google search on the topic. He is such a well known open theist that his name is listed in the Wikipedia article on open theism.

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To me, this seems to state what Teilhard de Chardin believed: We humans have one foot in the Biosphere and the other foot in the Noosphere; but it is the ‘latter foot’ which offers us the purchase to step into the Kingdom on Earth that our Creator intended.

Dawkins felt that Darwinian evolution gave him the freedom to pursue scientific studies with complete intellectual honesty. To me (and perhaps to you) accepting the truth of evolution clarifies the theodicy that traditional Christianity finds so difficult: How did Evil arise in a World that God originally created perfect? In a real sense, the Biosphere is essentially amoral; it is in the Noosphere that we can either please or displease our Creator.
Al Leo

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