Re: basis for morality
Thu, 8 Aug 1996 08:26:59 -0400

Back on 8/4 Steve Schaffner wrote:

>Granting for the moment that "good" can be taken to mean "reflecting God's
character", how do you go from the statement "This action is good" to the
statement "I should carry out this action"? That is, without introducing
the additional claim "I should do things that reflect God's character", a
claim that seems to me to be as ungrounded as any in a secular theory of
ethics. How do you get from "is" to "ought"?<

>I mean this: when we say "God is good", we mean something more than that
God is what God is. Rather, we already have some notion of what "good" is,
and we're saying that God is (and is the source of) what we mean by good.
That is a claim, and a potentially false one in principle, about the
character of God. If, for example, I were to decide that there is a
creator, but that he delights in malice, deceit and pain, then I would say
that that god is evil, not that malice, deceit and pain are good. That's
the only way I can see to use the words "good" and "evil" meaningfully.<

You're point about the "evil" supreme God is good. I would
disagree with it though in a significant way. If God set malice, deceit,
etc. as the highest virtues, then those things we currently call "good"
would be "evil". In fact our universe would look insanely backward to a
denizen of such a universe.
To use a Star Trek analogy (my favorite kind): There was an old
Trek episode where Kirk, Scott, McCoy and Uhura ended up in a mirror
universe where the Federation was more like the Klingon empire. Terror,
assassination and the like were the tools of advancement in that universe.
For Kirk and company, and for their mirror counterparts who ended up in
"our" universe, the whole situation was quite befuddling.
Enough of that analogy. What scriptural principles can we apply?
In IJohn 4 we read that "God is love", that "We love because He first loved
us", and that "This is love: not that we loved God, but that He first loved
us". Just as God defines what love is by His existence and His actions so
He also defines what "good" is by His existence and His actions. To use
one more passage, Romans 7 says, "I would not have known what sin was
except through the law". So here we see God defining "evil" as well as
OK I have to go sit in a biosafety hood the rest of the day. Ya'll
have fun with this.

Mike Jaqua
7245 Balfour Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49024 <------------[Note change in zip code.]
(616) 327-6570 <---(New e-mail address. Old one still works. This new
one may change again in the next few months.
Eventually it will replace the old address.)