God is not well behaved


When someone says that God is perfectly good, I feel they are somehow saying that God is humanly good; that he is well behaved in a human sort of way, following all the human rules: no killing, taking perfect care of his neighbor, treating animals perfectly well, no slavery, no destroying cities, does not cause pain to others, treating others equally, giving his perfect wealth to the less fortunate, and so on. He is perfectly well behaved.

One realizes the absurdity of such a saying when thinking of God as a well behaved lion. He roars perfectly loudly, he has the perfect number of female lions to procreate with, he perfectly eats his meals before the female lions, he runs fast across the African plain, he perfectly sharpens his teeth on the bones.

God has no more need to act like a well behaved human than he does a well behaved lion. Only things that are ordered can possibly be perfect. Ordered things have a certain way they should be. But God is not ordered. If he was, we could ask who ordered him. Such a question would reveal a being more ultimate than he, which would indicate that he was not God.

What about God as God; are there certain sets of actions that typify what it means to be God? Does God create because that’s what a God does? Does God have a nature, a certain set of actions that he does or else he is not God? I think the answer to these questions is no, God is not ordered nor does he have a nature.

All this means that God is not a moral being. He is obliged neither to make your life any better or any longer. When we say God is good, we are not saying he is well behaved as a God should be. We are saying that God is goodness itself, the source of all created good. God who has no nature and is not ordered created things with natures, things ordered. When a man sets his face in the direction of God and says that God is good, he is seeing his human reflection from the source of his human goodness. And while looking there he sees, as much as he is able to see, how he ought to be. God is reflecting back to that man the way he is made. But, it is an error to project that same reflection upon God and say that this is how God is good.

God is indeed good, but not in any created sense.

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9 thoughts on “God is not well behaved

  1. From a Pantheistic point-of-view, or rather my view, humans create the guidelines for what is good. However, God dB is everything. As above, so below. So in a sense God still creates good as we are also God alo gside animals, plants, elements and so forth.

  2. When someone says that God is perfectly good, I feel they are somehow saying that God is humanly good.

    That would be Christians.

    I feel they are somehow saying that God is humanly good; that he is well behaved in a human sort of way, following all the human rules….

    Human rules.
    You mean like…the Commandments?

    God has no more need to act like a well behaved human…

    Does your god act at all? In any way? Including mercy, wisdom etc?

    This seems to be going off into the same dead end as the one about Hell.

  3. I get a sense that as you define god, god has no definition and so can’t be known in any realistic sense. Haven’t you just defined god as being completely outside of our conceptual ability to understand… sort of like saying there is a god but you can’t know him, detect him, or in fact know he exists?

    1. myatheistlife,

      When considering the “what” or the substance of God, we must admit that we cannot know it. We get things wrong if we think God is something we can picture or get our minds around. St. Anselm says, “I would be surprised if we could find anything from among the nouns and verbs which we apply to created things from nothing that could worthily be said of the substance that created all.” We can certainly compare God to things that we know, but these words don’t typically mean the same things as they do when applied to created things. We must realize the words have an analogous relationship.

      For instance, I can say that a cheeseburger is good and that Fred is good. The word good does truly and literally describe both Fred and the cheeseburger, but the word has a different meaning when applied Fred than it does when applied to the cheeseburger. In the same way, I can say that God is good and that Fred is good, and that “good” truly and literally describes both of them but does not mean the same thing.

      And let’s not forget, we really do have some descriptive words that can be attributed to God, words like Creator, the Source of everything, pure actuality, pure existence, true, good, one, being, real, and beauty. But, unlike us, God does not have these things, God IS these things. And each descriptive word is referencing one thing, not many. It’s like when the words “Superman” and “Clark Kent” refer to the same person. They just refer to him in different aspects. And words like good and true are different aspects of God.

      All these things describe the “what” of God. I have not yet gotten to the “who” of God. “What is God” and “Who is God” are two different questions, and not very many people realize that.

      The “Who” of God would be hard to figure out on our own but it is possible. For instance, if we consider love to be what God is, as when we say “God is love”, then of necessity we must say that God is a Trinity of “Who’s”. Because, if God is only one “who” then, when considering God before he created anything, what sense does it make to say that God was loving? What was he loving before creation? If God is one “who”, then there was nothing to love. He could love himself, but he would not know the kind of adult, mature love we speak of when we talk about loving another person, when we talk about giving ourselves wholly to them. He would have to create something in order to love, which would mean that he was deficient before creation. Generally, people don’t think “deficient” appropriately describes God.

      But, if God is three “Who’s”, then it’s easy to see that he did have this adult love all along. For each “Who” of the Trinity was loving and giving to each other equally before creation. And we are invited into the love that’s already going on, sort of like joining a quiet fireside chat.

      As you can see, there are some things to be said about God. But we must be careful about the kind of things we say. Attributing created qualities to God as if they were a direct comparison is wrong.

      1. That is what I’m getting at, I think. You say things about a being which cannot be described. This defines god outside of possible knowledge. That leaves me doubting the possible existence of such a god never mind a personal god.

        We can claim anything we want but if actual knowledge of the thing cannot be known, then the claim is without validity of any kind except in the singular case where there is evidence of a knowable kind.

        Given the above, isn’t everything you are claiming then just subjective opinion?

      2. You find it much easier to talk about analogies than your god.

        One realizes the absurdity of such a saying when thinking of God as a well behaved lion.

        or

        For instance, I can say that a cheeseburger is good and that Fred is good.

        We can talk about lions.
        They exist.
        The same goes for cheeseburgers.

        All these things describe the “what” of God. I have not yet gotten to the “who” of God.

        Indeed, you seem to have skipped the whole ” does your god exist” bit entirely.

        Describing something that cannot be described because of…whatever… doesn’t leave us with much except handwaving.

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