Can God be described as “good”?

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.


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…


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.”


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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