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The Goodness Of God

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What Makes An Action Good?
In philosophy of religion there is a classical problem called the Euthyphro dilemma that comes from the writings of Plato. The crunch point of the dilemma is a question that Socrates raises about how goodness is defined: Is an action good because: 1) God commands it, or 2) God commands what is good? The choice to be made is double-edged. If you choose (1) God’s commands make things good, it would mean that if God commanded that ‘rape is not wrong’, then there would be nothing morally wrong with rape. Some philosophers do not like this view as it could mean that God is a divine dictator because whatever God commands is the law. Option (2) suggests that God only commands what is good. The problem with this view is that goodness does not originate from God. Instead goodness is some sort of independent standard and God is the enforcer of this standard. This view is not supported in Christian tradition, which emphasises the goodness of God’s actions, and the fact that goodness originates from God. In the Bible god is clearly pictured as being perfectly good and his commands are the moral law. For example, the Ten Commandments express God’s will and state what is good according to god. On this view, things are good because God commands them – God sets the standard of what is good and bad. The Goodness of God in the Bible

Two key ideas emerge about God’s goodness in the Bible: first, that God is good and, second, that God’s actions are good. The Jewish Scriptures and the New Testament paint a clear picture of God being ‘good’. Many passages state that God is good and perfect. God’s goodness is revealed directly to people through God’s activity in the world. God is the creator, and God’s creation is repeatedly stated to be good and to reveal God to the world. By saying that creation reveals God, Christians mean that something is learned about the nature of God through creation. God’s action in the world is clearly seen as good in the Bible. The creation myths in Genesis and Psalms clearly state that God’s goodness is visible: in the creation of and sustaining the world. Furthermore, God’s goodness is seen through his actions for the benefit of people, such as healing miracles or support for God’s followers in battle (e.g. at Jericho). The picture that emerges is of God acting within the world and God’s activity is clearly seen to be good.

The goodness of God’s actions is not a matter of human judgment, and this is nowhere more clearly seen than in the story of Abraham’s attempt to sacrifice Isaac at the command of God. The story concerns duty and faithfulness to God, but the fact that God is clearly stated to challenge Abraham raises important questions about the nature of God’s goodness. The story of the sacrifice of Isaac clearly presents an image of God as the lord and master of all, whose will is beyond human comprehension. This story; probably more clearly than any other in the Bible, indicates that Gods commands are what make an action good. The duty of people is to respond to and obey those comands – in this story Abrahams faith in God is put to the test and what matters is Abraham’s response to God’s commands. One important aspect of the story is that faith in God involves surrendering your will and wishes to God. The story of the sacrifice of Isaac ends with God intervinging to prevent the sacrifice, but the fact remains that, for many Christians today, the story presents a strange and uncomfrotable image of God. The Ten Commandments

God’s revelation of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 is a clear example of God setting the standards of what is morally right and wrong. The status of the Commandments as revelations from God is shown by the fact that God is revealed through what is called Theophany – an event which is beyond description, yet reveals God. God commands what is good and in some parts of the Bible it states that God wrote the Commandments on tablets of stone, rather than...