Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Lately I have been pondering about the meaning of "good" when God said that what He had made was "good" in Genesis chapter 1. In the past we have discussed in Bible studies that the definition of good and evil in Hebrew is often thought of in a concept of function and dysfunction (http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/27_good.html).
Lamentations 3:38 talks about how God issues good and evil or in other words "function" and "dysfunction". This view of good and evil gives a new picture. It is not that God is morally "evil" in His actions but in order to bring about full functionality in creation sometimes dysfunction is necessary. At this point in time I think about God flooding the earth in Noah's day - it was an act of dysfunction. It was not ultimately God's intended end or ultimate outcome to cause death, but it was necessary to do in order to reach His intended and ultimate outcome for His creation (justice and salvation).
Coming back to the title of this post, I have been wrestling with God's definition of "good". How can something that is "good" become evil? If it is good or functional, then where is there room for it becoming bad or dysfunctional? If something is good would it not be completely resilient to evil? These questions came from an understanding that when God made everything good, it meant that it was perfect in a present complete sense.
But these questions have brought me to a new understanding of what is "good" in His sight. I believe that "good" to God is like a painting that He has begun and delights in the intended outcome or conclusion. When God created the world I don't think that He was surprised that mankind fell. I don't think that Christ was plan B. He was before the foundation of the world and was intended for sacrifice and salvation from the foundation of the world (John 1, Revelation 13:8, 1 Peter 1:18-20). The gift of Christ and therefore the fall of man is plan A.
So if Christ was God's intended outcome, in order to reconcile man to Himself, then Adam and Eve in their "perfect" state were not perfect at all in God's eyes in a complete finished sense. It is interesting to note that Paul said that Adam was of the dust and Christ is of heaven; first comes the natural and then the spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:45-49). Adam was not complete without Christ, even before Adam "fell".
So why did God intend or allow dysfunction (the fall) in His overall "good" functional picture? I wonder whether in order for mankind to experience the fullness of love, grace and sacrifice, then a negative or dysfunction is necessary. In order to know the difference between functional (God's best intended complete outcome) and dysfunctional then we as mankind need to experience both. Thus the tree of the knowledge of "good" and "evil" is necessary in order to appreciate what is truly functional. Adam was of the dust, and before the fall he was not yet aware of dysfunction, nor was he aware of the aspects of complete function. This complete function was the act and demonstration of love and sacrifice modelled by Christ. It is important to note that currently, mankind as a whole are able to experience aspects of function, such as love etc, alongside dysfunction. But mankind have not yet experienced God's full intended functional end-outcome, where dysfunction does not exist.
What is this end-outcome? To become like Christ Himself, valuing what He values. To die in order to have life more abundantly, and to experience dysfunction in order to become and appreciate complete functionality.
I will leave you with this verse from Romans 8:18 "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory, which shall be revealed in us" - KJV (Some versions say "to" instead of "in", but I believe it means "in" or both).
Isn't it cool that the glory will be revealed "in" US?! God is moulding and developing us into His masterpiece and suffering is a part of it! (Romans 5:3-4)
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Post number 2 (following THE SOUL):
Anything we know about God’s nature is completely dependent on Him revealing His nature to us. There are various means of such revelation, ranging in clarity from intelligible recorded language (Scripture) to the expression of the resulting character in reality (i.e. creation, incarnation, sin and suffering, end-times, etc).
Regardless of the clarity of revelation, there is some degree of interpretation by us, the recipients. We sense the language (with varying degrees of accuracy) and perceive it’s meaning (with even less accuracy) in line with our own current character.
I realise my own fallibility in receiving revelation, and welcome anyone to persuade me toward a truer and fuller perception of God’s nature! This is very important, because God’s nature is the basis for his character, and everything else!
Remember I’m mainly interested in peer review - both of philosophical validity and clarity, and Scriptural support.
Most fundamentally, God is a conscious (soulish), relational (Trinitarian) spirit.
His soulishness means He has a character, Free Agency (a hedonistic drive for best expression), and desires.
His relational nature is unique - for most other beings, this is merely one way of expressing a particular kind of character (which is itself malleable). God's intrinsic and unchanging relational nature becomes especially relevant to his creation of and interaction with humanity.
Another aspect of God’s nature, is that He is the ‘I AM’ - the ONLY self-sufficient, self-existent thing in existence. As such, God is not dependent on ANY other being for existence (and is thus eternal), but everything else is dependent on Him for existence.
This does NOT mean he does not allow other beings to have God-like properties - after all, He has given angels and humans conscious spirits (and thus souls) just like Him. But the existence of anything depends on God wanting it to exist.
The necessity of this clarification is obvious when considering the pre-existence of human spirits. If God is eternal and our spirits depend on his desire for their existence, it is possible that this desire has been present for eternity with God Himself. Thus it is possible that human spirits are eternal - but ONLY GOD is self-sufficient, self-existent.
God is free to fully define his own context, in which His free agency operates.
This means his context is designed to match his strongest desires - to allow maximal expression of His character, and thus maximal pleasure.
It also means He has full and true perception of all things - his desires are spot-on, and his will knows exactly what the best expression of his character is.
Being always able to express his character fully, God is never under any pressure to mould His character.
This means that His character is the same, for all eternity.
It also means that He will inevitably attain maximum possible ultimate pleasure in the context He created.
This character is extremely broad and complex - given that it is not limited by anything except God’s nature (which is minimal).
God’s Free Agency mean that expressiveness is also part of His nature. Combined with a broad, complex character and ultimate expression, this makes powerful creativity part of God’s nature. EVERYTHING that exists is part of the perfect ultimate expression of God’s character. The observable and unobservable aspects of the fleshly and spiritual universes, along with various created beings and their natures, all serve this end.
The complexity of creation itself is part of the perfect expression of God’s character, since God’s character is complex. But it also means that each and every minute event within reality has broad ripple impacts (Butterfly Effect). It is possible that God deliberately chose a reality in which his methods are somewhat constrained by these effects, because this best reflects His character.
The character of God is referred to as His holiness - consequently, any created being’s character is holy to the degree that it aligns with God’s. Since God’s character is constant, holiness is a constant knowable standard of character.
Holy characters have potential to find the greatest possible ultimate expression and pleasure of any characters in all of reality, since it is designed to allow the greatest ultimate expression of God’s character, which is holy.
Since holiness is the best way to pursue and attain ultimate pleasure, anything which encourages holiness is ‘good’ in multiple senses - maximising pleasure, maximising utility, fulfilling purpose, and being holy.
Developing holiness is ‘sanctification’. To sanctify, characters must perceive a reality in which holiness finds best expression. They must perceive a reality created by and for the expression of God’s character. This is why ANY expression of God’s character is, by definition, ‘good’ for all created beings.
The Grace of God means that His character is always ‘good’ when it is expressed, and it is always perfectly expressed. It is an impersonal property of existence, which describes how God's expression happens to always be ultimately 'good' for us.
Human holiness also wills for 'good' to be expressed, resulting in 'good works'. These please God because of what they indicate about the character, regardless of his decision to bring them success or not (based on perfect holiness and knowledge).
Since God’s character it is so broad and complex, there are multiple varied ways that different (more limited) being’s can be holy - this is God’s purpose to display his character. Thus there are multiple ways to be sanctified. Also the way in which holiness works itself out in the will is even more varied, depending on context - but it will always be an expression of God’s character.
Human holiness is also different from God's holiness, in that our natures are NOT un-limited in our expression. EVEN IF we were perfectly aligned with God’s character, the expression of this character will be limited by our natures.
True human ‘holiness’ (from God’s perspective, and what will bring us the most pleasure) is thus angled heavily toward finding pleasure in experiencing God’s OWN expression of this character, more than our personal expression of this character.
Thus human holiness includes a set of attitudes towards God’s own character - including confession (understanding, belief/perception, acceptance, and ownership), love (and desire), and trust (and hope). These can obviously exist apart from each other, but are collectively known as ‘saving faith’.
Relationship to Created Beings
Love is defined as pleasure in the pleasure of another being, with whom we have a relationship.
There are three ways this can happen - mutual experience (both simultaneously enjoy each other, but on a superficial level as if they were just part of a pleasurable context, rather than primarily in the pleasure of the other), mutual characters (the characters are alike, so that when one expresses itself, it is as if the other had also), or the development of a character whose expression involves giving pleasure to the other (and can thus be sacrificial to this end). These are known (in Greek) as eros (sexual passion), philios (brotherly affection), and agape (sacrificial love) respectively.
Sacrificial agape love is based on God's grace (His intrinsic 'goodness', both defining and encouraging maximal possible pleasure in holy characters). But more than that, it includes a relational desire for His created beings (themselves a product of His character expression) to find delight along with Him - i.e, to delight in His character. While grace is impersonal, love is personal, and not only describes God's expression but influences it.
For humans, agape love for God will also aim to maximise His delight in a reciprocal manner - but it is different to God's love, because we bring Him pleasure by being holy and enjoying His own character expression!
God is able to completely mould all created characters as He sees fit. This is because character moulding is dependent on perceptions of good/evil - they sanctify and/or harden based on the balance of goodness/evil that they perceive.
God is in complete control of the actual presence of evil vs goodness throughout life (thus manipulating character moulding over time), and is also able to provide powerful instantaneous spiritual perception via the Holy Spirit (discussed later) in any degree He sees fit.
God works all things together to bring about what he has predestined. Since soul states cannot be the basis of election (election is unmerited as discussed later, but soul states are clearly ascribed merit by God), this leaves God bound to mould characters as required to bring about what He has predestined.
The problem of God designing sinful characters is addressed later when I discuss the necessity of sin.
- God is a conscious (soulish) and trinitarian (relational) spirit.
- He is the ‘I AM’ - the ONLY self-existent, self-sufficient being - the creator and sustainer of everything else in all of reality.
- Being able to define his own context, God is unlimited in expressiveness, is all-knowing, and is unchanging.
- The creation as a whole IS the complex expression of God’s character, and that (according to God's Free Agency) must be its ultimate purpose.
- Sanctification is the process of becoming holy - aligned with God’s character.
- Any sanctifying pressures are ‘good’ because holy characters will find ultimate best expression in a universe designed for the expression of God’s character.
- Human holiness includes faith, which means it focused on God’s expression of his own holiness.
- God is loving because He wants other beings to align with his character AND find maximal ultimate pleasure in it.
- God is able to completely manipulate the moulding of all created characters, because He is in control of their prior character development, their current context, and their spiritual perception (via the Holy Spirit).