Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Is God's goodness objective or subjective?

I have been wrestling with a thought that I want to throw out there. When I say wrestle, I mean I have not come to any conclusion yet… it is just an idea I want to state, but I don’t want to defend it.

I am wondering about the story of Abraham being told to sacrifice his son Isaac. I am questioning whether the goodness of God is objective or subjective. Is good such because God has declared it so, or is goodness a standard outside of God to which he aligns himself?

I have heard from the lips of many believers in Christ this year various forms of this phrase - “If God declares it… then it is right”.

The immediate danger I see in such a paradigm, is that one could begin to justify a myriad of questionable and evil acts under the phrase “God told me to do it” or “It is His will”.

Beyond that, I wonder what it says about the nature of good. If God tells you to do something that would normally be defined as evil, does that make it good? Do normally abhorrent acts become acceptable if God does them?

I think many believers (me included) would be uncomfortable stating that there is an objective standard of goodness, because that would imply that goodness is something that God must, or chooses to, submit to. Implying such a thing would seem to lessen God ... make him penultimate.

However, if I were to take the subjective notion of goodness (dependent on God calling it good) to its logical end, I would have to ask the question, “If God told you to rape someone, would it being his command sanctify the act?” If your answer is no, because God would never tell anyone to do such a thing – then you are stating that there is a standard outside of God by which he judges right and wrong. The act is inherently evil and God could not deny his goodness.

If you are determined that it is God who sets the standard of goodness, then one would have to be willing that good and evil are ambivalent terms and are set by God based on the fact that he has all the power.

This makes me wonder if Abraham gave the best response to God regarding the sacrifice of his son Isaac. Here is the quick version: God tells his servant Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Abraham proceeds to do this without question. At the final moment, the Lord stays Abraham’s hand and says, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."

I tend to feel that most word choices in scripture are not accidental. So my eyes really gravitate to “Now I know that you fear God”. I know God considered Abraham’s actions righteous, but could he have been hoping for a better response than fear?

I read a book to my class every year that involves the biggest and toughest kid in school gaining some insight. He realizes at the end of the book that all of his peers praised him and did what he said because they feared him. Based on this new knowledge, he realized that he didn’t have any real friends.

Most people would not do an immoral thing if instructed to. Stick a gun to their head and they might reconsider. Put their loved one in danger, and they might do almost anything.

Fear can be a powerful motivator. At an outward glance, it might resemble obedience.

I can’t look in to Abraham’s heart, but it makes me wonder if God was satisfied with the events of that day. Abraham seemed ready to do an immoral thing – a very immoral thing – because he feared God.

Scripture says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. But it is only the beginning. Perhaps only a first step.

I wonder if God was disappointed that the relationship he had with Abraham had not moved on to something a little deeper.

Just thinking out loud……

Thursday, February 08, 2007

K2 The Church gets major TV coverage!

K2 the Church in Salt Lake City got three stories on TV this week. Nice!

#1 here

#2 here

#3 here

Sunday, February 04, 2007

NFL Clotheslines Churches

Many church Superbowl parties were shutdown by the NFL just prior to game day. Claiming copyright violations, cease and desist orders were sent out. Most churches never got an official warning, but did not want to cause trouble so they shut down.

I am wondering who sat in the meeting where it was decided to move on this. Aside from being unnecessarily rude, I would think it would not be helpful to their advertisers. Although a minority, I am sure there are many people around the country who have no compelling interest in watching the Superbowl. However, if it is a happening within a community, they will watch. Why would the NFL want to remove a community from watching the Superbowl?

I am not a sports watcher, but when my church has done Superbowl parties I have gone and had a great time. What does the NFL gain by making sure these parties do not happen?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Evangelical Exaggeration

Every month I get a letter from Focus on the Family. I rarely open it. The alarmist statement on the outer envelope usually prompts me to aim it straight for the garbage. How I got on their list I am not sure. Each month there is some hype about Christianity being under attack by gays / liberals / public schools ... etc. Each month there is a new boogie man.

I got an email from a friend once. She had been informed about how the "Public Schools" were up to something evil, and she wanted to know if she should be concerned. I don't remember the issue, but here is my reply:


Heh, don't worry; everything is going to be OK. I remember when I started teaching 15 years ago, the big panic in the Christian world was the book - "Heather has two mommies" ( a book about a child living in a lesbian family). Supposedly every classroom was going to be given copies of this book, there would be classes about it, your kid's teacher would make them read it, and soon all children everywhere would be gay and the world would blow up. 15 years and 3 schools later and I have yet to even see a copy.

The reality is that these "ministries" rake in big cash every time they run a report saying "Homosexuals and Atheists are beating children while the public schools cheer them on!" A friend of mine who used to work for the 700 Club told me about their "7 Days Ablaze" fund raising drive. He said they did more gay and atheist tie-ins to the public schools that week than any other time because it generated tons of phone calls. Around the office he said they called the drive, "Seven Gays Ablaze".

School systems are primarily community driven. Rochester Schools were pretty much what they were because the community wanted them that way. The same is true out here in Salt Lake. I think the question should always be, "Am I happy with what is happening at my child's school?" If one scourers the schools of the country, it would be easy to find oddball things to report about.

I want accurate information about schools as much as anyone, but I am suspicious of groups who intake a greater income of money on bad news rather than good. Plus, I think the time has come for our Christian communities to start loving goodness more than they hate evil.

Plunk, Plunk. My two cents.


It has always been in the back of my mind to write a blog about the use of exaggeration and overstatement in the Evangelical community. So many ministries preying on fear. However, this author beat me to it and wrote about it much better than I ever could. Click HERE for a great read.
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