Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Problem of Pain: Chapter 3 - Divine Goodness

How Different is Our Moral Judgement From God

God is wiser than us so his judgement on many things will be different than ours, including good and evil. If this is taken to the extreme where what we think is good God thinks is bad and vice versa we would only follow God because of fear. We could easily fall prey to a form of devil worship. To escape this dilemma, Lewis draws on his own experience. He used to not have a good sense of right and wrong when he got together with a group close friends. Their judgement of good and evil was different from his and over time he followed their example and became much better of a person. The new judgments never entered the mind as mere reversal, but they connected with his own ideas of good and evil and slowly changed them over time. As you change you can see the ideas are more like "good" than your previous ideas but they are connected to your previous ideas of good by threads. We can tell that God is there when the change is accompanied by shame and guilt. When you come across divine ethics and it differs from your own you know which way you need to go.

I don't think I quite understood what he was trying to pitch there. I don't know why a good God would show up because of shame and guilt. Also, his example of a person shifting to be good works both ways, if a good kid is constantly surrounded by bad kids he can be corrupted in a similar way as he has described here.

Divine goodness is not different from ours as black and white, but more like a child's first attempt at drawing a circle is different from a perfect circle. It is different but completely recognizable.

God's Love

When we talk about the goodness of God, we usually mean to say love, and by love we mean kindness or the desire to see others happy. But we can't simply ask that god wants to see us happy, this is more of a grandfather, but we have a father in heaven.

Interesting analogy, I'm following this for now.

Love is more than mere kindness, we would rather see people we love suffer in a good situation than be happy in contemptible and strange modes.

I'm trying to follow his logic and here is what I came up with, suppose I had a child and he was happy but doing something that might land him in jail or killed. I would rather stop him from doing it and be unhappy than have him be happy but likely wind up in jail or dead. I would prefer him be unhappy than keep going down his current path.

God's love is naturally unique and it is difficult to talk about as it doesn't compare to anything very well, still, we can try to discuss it by analogy. One analogy is an artist with his sculpture. We are to God something he has painstakingly created and he cares for his creation. The biggest weakness in this analogy is the work of art is not sentient. A second analogy would be man with beast, either a sheep or a dog. God wishes us to be trained as we train a dog. It might go against the dogs nature, but it will live longer and be healthier and it will be something we can love. Another good analogy is a father's love for his son, the father wants the best for his son and wants to guide him to be a good man. The final analogy is the love a man has for a woman. The church is the lord's bride. When we say God loves man, we really mean it, he has a consuming desire present in deep love.

An interesting take on what god's love means. I thought he painted a pretty good picture there.

Is God's Love Selfish?

Lewis says that one critique of the description so far might be that God's love is selfish and therefore very different from what we think of as love. He will address that criticism here.

This didn't really come to mind for me as I was reading his description, I'm guessing before he wrote this he had debates and this was a common criticism. Or perhaps I have missed something.

Basically God is complete so he doesn't need anything from us, so he can't be selfish. He lives in a different realm so he can't get anything from us anyway. Also, he is not a separate being like a child is from a parent, so he can't misunderstand us and make a mistake.


Well that's chapter 3. A little light on things to comment on compared to previous weeks, although maybe that's good, my previous posts were pretty long. Next week Chapter 4: Human Wickedness.

Also, you might have noticed I moved this to Tuesday since I started following another book along with someone else's blog, which I am going to do on Thursdays.


  1. I decided to just type this as I went along in the chapter.
    How Different is Our Moral Judgment From God. I would have to agree here with Lewis in that God created us with different “inherent” moral values than he himself has. I, for one would never think that the ordered genocide of a people or the wiping out of everyone on earth, save one family, was ever okay. I also wouldn't tell people to murder their children for not obeying them or giving exceptions to the prohibition on rape.
    He says that when its said the “God is good” including in the bible, we don't mean “good” in the sense we use it everyday, like “Johnny is a good man.” You'd think the bible would be clearer than this, since it is the most important book on him. Then again, the stuff I'd find horrendous and people can still call him a “good God” is beyond me. I guess my definition is different, but I think its good that Lewis clears this up.
    I don't understand this unfounded assumption that we are “depraved.” He doesn't justify it and asserts it. I think it is true that as time goes by, we adapt our moral standards. I personally think that Christianity runs counter to this, as historically, its kept us back. People have used the Bible to justify all sorts of cruel and wicked acts on fellow human beings. I don't think I really need to state any examples here as anyone reading this can probably think of a lot. He asserts that when “The new moral judgments never enter the mind as mere reversals (though we reverse them) of previous judgments, but as “lords that are certainly expected.” I'm not really sure what he means by the later part. But, I can say with confidence the reason things have changed is not because of what's in the bible, but a growing human sense of empathy for each other. Of course we feel shame and guilt about it. It's what any moral being would do. Maybe someday, future generations will feel guilty for what we do to animals, as a random example, but long after we're dead. Saying that guilt is in there because God is there is really unfounded. Why not just order us not to do that stuff in the first place?! Why not say that burning people alive is a bad thing? Or stoning people to death for trivial stuff?
    A hundred years ago, we didn't feel women needed to have a say in our political system, less than two hundred years ago we felt like slavery was okay, those values are in the bible after all. The text of the Bible hasn't changed, but human society has. So, if the idea he is trying to get at is a “higher absolute morality” I think he doesn't really have a case. I also thought his example was good about “who you hang out with” but took a rather harsh exemption that he had to note that his lower moral friends “were in fact not Christians.” To me, adding this seems to imply that those friends were bad because they were not Christians. I might be reading into it too much, but adding that almost sets a tone in the readers head I think. I also kind of feel like the beginning of this is a cop out. “Oh. God is a good, all loving God, but his all knowing definition of good is something we can't really comprehend. That's why he does the things which we perceive as just awful but are really good.” I am really hoping this chapter doesn't seem to turn out like this..

  2. On this section, one question that is good to ask, which I have covered before is “what is something that God could hypothetically do that was not good?” Because you name it, he's done it.

    God's Love. “God calls men to repent, - a call which would be meaningless if God's standard were sheerly different from that which they already knew and failed to practice.” Why would God need to have different standards as a condition for asking for people to repent? We generally have the same moral standards as others in society for example, and we all follow the same laws. Those that break them repent by paying fines or jail time. When you make a high school kid apologize to another child for hitting them, its not because you have higher morals. They probably knew it was wrong. My analogy isn't perfect, but Lewis doesn't establish his case or eliminate the only other alternative.
    I think I am missing something here? This argument just seems way too weak in my head for this to be something he is really presenting? He goes on to talk about how the God of the Old Testament came down to appeal to our existing moral judgments, (the ones he gave us, despite being created in his image). “Hey. Why do you guys do all the horrible things you do? Why do you feel like you gotta turn away from me?”

    I follow the “father” analogy. I think that good parents who really love their kids will do things that aren't going to make them popular with their kids, but because they know it will be good for them. I remember mowing the lawn for a long time for free and my dad saying “it will build character son.” I didn't understand it then, but now that I am older I understand it a bit more. But my dad doesn't wipe me out with natural disasters. I don't really see the relation of people dying needlessly to teach lessons. The dead don't learn anything, but the price paid on other people to learn this lesson could have been done in other ways. What comes to mind here is the funeral of an old friend I talked about earlier, who was killed by a drunk driver and at the funeral mass the priest said that it was probably God giving a lesson in forgiveness. Did my friend really have to die in order to teach his mother and her new husband forgiveness?
    I really don't like his analogy of God's love and the bride of the church. “Love, in its own nature, demands the perfecting of the beloved; that the mere “kindness” which tolerates anything except suffering in its object, in that respect, at the opposite pole from Love... Does any woman regard it as a sign of love in a man that he neither knows nor cares how she is looking?” This seems like a really shallow love to me. Of course, to me love is unconditional and I think you should love your partner no matter how they are looking. I love my girlfriend for who she is, not for what she wears. I think it is a sign of love to look good for your partner, but to expect it is kind of shallow. God should have created perfection if that's what he wanted.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...