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The Goodness of God

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By ariike
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RELIGIOUS STUDIES (Philosophy of Religion) A. Explain what is meant in the Bible by the phrase “God is good”
The goodness of God is first revealed in his actions as a Creator. Genesis chapters 1-3 contain the Creation story. God created the world out of nothing – “creation ex nihilo”. Each act of creation is seen to be good. "And he saw that it was good" (Genesis 1: 10). The end result of God's creation is the Earth and mankind. Everything created was made for man to take control of. God is the image of goodness and as mankind was created in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27, "God created man in his own image.") This tells humans that they are required to be good, as good as God.
Exodus 20 describes the Ten Commandments given to the Hebrews by God. Moses received the commandments by revelation from God on the peak of Mount Sinai. They were guidelines given for God’s people to live by. The underlying principle is that humans are to be good and being good means following the Ten Commandments. God's goodness demands that mankind worship only one God and nothing or nobody else "You shall have no other gods before me and you shall not make for yourself an idol." (Exodus 20: 3-4). These commandments show that God is the primary source governing how people should lead their lives because God is entirely good. The Ten Commandments show man how to be good by giving strict guidelines. (Thou shalt not murder; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal).
God’s goodness demands a response. It includes the will to punish, so that goodness is combined with justice. The most memorable demonstration of God's willingness to punish is in the case of Noah's Ark. God was displeased with the obedience of man and sent a great flood so that mankind could start afresh. He then forgave mankind by making a covenant with Noah to say that he would never destroy the earth ever again. Disobedience in the Old Testament was always followed by punishment from God. This is because the Jews believed in corporate responsibility for sin. To have just one sinner in a community meant the entire community would become sinful, so it was up to the community to take responsibility for the good conduct of everyone in the group. There are also rewards when man is good. God promised Abraham many lands and many descendants.
God makes covenants throughout time and God's goodness is shown through these as he never gives up on man but continues to forgive them. God wants what is best for man in the hope that man will return to God and live according to God's holy law. God is shown in the Bible to be a good God who cares for his people. At the time of Moses he rescues all the slaves from Egypt by sending the ten plagues and then parting the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape.
The Euthyphro dilemma poses the question: is what is good, good because God commands it or does God command it because it is good? The Divine Command theory states that things are good because God commands them; so the Ten Commandments are good because they are what God commands. So in response to the Euthyphro dilemma, in the Hebrew Scriptures what the Jews understand to be good is good because it is loved or commanded by God - not for any other reason. God is seen as the ultimate source of moral authority and should be obeyed unquestioningly.
The goodness of God and his actions is not a matter of human judgement and might not be easily understood by human beings. This is clearly seen in the story of Abraham’s attempt to sacrifice his only son Isaac at God’s command. God challenged Abraham to do something which to most humans would seem to be immoral and so many would question Gods goodness. However this story also raises the idea that God is the Lord and master of all, who is beyond human comprehension and so it is our duty to respond to and obey the commands of God even if we believe the outcome to be immoral. The story is a test of faith. The story of the sacrifice of Isaac reinforces the idea that God’s goodness is not for human judgement as it is a human’s duty to follow Gods commands and trust in his goodness and wisdom even if it is beyond our understanding.

B. “It is difficult to believe in a God who is perfectly good.” Discuss.
There are many different reasons for why it is difficult for people to believe in a God who is perfectly good.
The amount of evil and suffering that exist in the world is one such reason. How can a God who is said to be all powerful and perfectly good, create an imperfect universe and allow things such as suffering and natural disasters to occur in the world. There is an obvious tension between the existence of evil and God's attributes of being omnipotent and omnibenevolent. An omnipotent being would be able to get rid of evil and an omnibenevolent being would want to get rid of evil. So, God either does not have both of these attributes or there is no God. The existence of evil in the world disproves the point that God is perfectly good as he is willingly causing distress to His creation. However, a Greek philosopher called Epicurus defined the problem of evil perfectly.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able to? Then he is not omnipotent
Is God able to prevent evil, but not willing to? Then he is evil
Is God able to prevent evil and willing to? Then why is there evil?

The free-will argument provides a counter to the above argument. The free-will argument denies that, 'by saying that while God abhors evil he allows it'. The free-will argument asserts that God's purposes for His creation cannot be achieved without allowing humans free will. God could not allow human free will without allowing for the possibility that they would choose to do evil. It goes on from there to say that God is in no way responsible for the evil that there is.
Another difficulty of seeing God as perfectly good can be seen in the Bible, where some descriptions of God and His actions do not exactly match preconceived notions of what it is to be good. For example; in Exodus 20. In verse 5, God describes himself as a jealous God. The quality of jealousy is generally not a “good” human quality. Less so in a perfectly good God. God’s wrath is also frequently described in the Old Testament. Several times, God is described as a vengeful God.
Some Biblical stories also make people doubt the perfect goodness of God. The Bible mentions a man named Job and states the fact that Job will be eternally faithful to God. Job has a great family he is wealthy of money and land and has good health. Satan says that Job is only faithful because of these blessings. So, to prove a point, one by one God removes the joys in Job's life and he is still faithful, but why would God ruin someone’s life to prove a point to the devil if he was perfectly good? One of the ideas discussed in the Book of Job; where Job is the subject of a wager between God and Satan. Most Christians would say that a God, who tests us, for whatever reason, cannot be perfectly good. For example it cannot be right to test people by asking them to sacrifice their children (such as with Abraham and Isaac) even if God does command it. These problems in Exodus leave us with an ongoing problem today - how can a good and loving God expose mankind to the sheer amount of undeserved suffering that they experience?
In conclusion, there are many examples of God's goodness throughout the Bible but it is difficult to believe in a God who is perfectly good because there are also so many objections such as evil and severe punishment to the rules that dispute God being perfectly good.…...

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