Responding to God’s Goodness
March 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
In this Blog’s prior Post, “Social Justice, Not a Bleeding Heart”, a shift of perspective was suggested with respect to our relationships with others. This entailed our obligation to be of service to those less materially fortunate in an effort to assist them with fulfillment of our common purpose in life – to know God. The Post focused on our attitude towards things of this world and called on both the well-to-do and lacking to re-evaluate what is essential to realizing our lives’ purpose. This new perspective and attitude proposes a new foundation from which questions of social justice can be addressed.
In the present Post, additional principles will be discussed which follow from God’s Attribute of Goodness. In future Posts, His Attributes of Grace and Mercy will likewise be considered. These attributes were identified in a prior Post, “God’s Goodness, Grace, and Mercy”. Some of these further principles deal with our obligations to others while some relate to more general things of which to be mindful in day-to-day life as we attempt to align our thoughts and actions with God’s Will. In either case, both allow us to further our purpose in life to know God.
As was mentioned in the latter above mentioned previous Post, the greater problem of evil surfaces when addressing God’s Goodness. Here again, this issue will not be fully dealt with and no theodicy will be advanced. Evil will be given its due in time. What will be said is that the world, as a manifestation of God’s Creative Power and image of His Attributes including Goodness, is likewise, inherently good. What then follows from God’s Goodness with respect to our relationship with Him and the world? One answer lies in our attitudes towards perceived hardship and suffering as well as faith and trust in God. Additionally, our perspectives can be shaped concerning giving and being of service to others, life’s sanctity, animal rights, and environmental responsibility.
Beginning with hardship and suffering, we are capable of changing our attitude towards them upon assenting to belief in the inherent goodness of the world. If, as they say, “all is good”, what room exists for these? Admittedly, the question seems naive and idealistic. For there at least appears to be countless instances of hardship and suffering; some profound and horrific. But credibility can be lent to this perspective when harkening back to the prior Post “Love – Material, Immaterial, & Divine”. Therein, it was recognized that the proper perspective to adopt when relating to circumstances in the world is to shed self-centeredness and selfishness. This entailed shifting our view of things away from how they affect, benefit, or relate to us, and instead focusing on how they should be perceived with an eye towards fulfilling our purpose in life to know God. Extending this viewpoint to what may be thought of as hardship or suffering then casts the circumstance in a whole new light. In this case, the situation doesn’t affect us but, rather, our relationship with God. When removing ourself as subject from the circumstance and, instead, replacing it with our relationship with God, the previously perceived hardship and suffering at least dims, if not altogether subsides. For there can exist no hardship and suffering in God’s relations; only goodness as has been previously demonstrated.
How then to characterize seemingly troubling circumstances? While in some cases easier to conceive of than experience, what these circumstances represent, actually, are opportunities; opportunities to further our relationship with God through the sowing of Immaterial Love. For that, is our purpose in life; our reason for being; our modus operandi as part of Creation’s humanity. If it seems extreme and unreasonable to believe that hardship and suffering doesn’t objectively exist, a middle ground can be had. Even if we assent to the subjective reality of troubling situations, it has to be admitted at least that these don’t affect the most important thing in our lives – knowing God. If we are burdened by hardship and suffering, these only relate to our self-centered and selfish individual self and not that for which we, as Self, were created. Material troubles may abound, but there exists none as insurmountable obstacle to fulfillment of our purpose in life to know God after at least our basic needs are met; and these, as were also discussed in “Social Justice, Not a Bleeding Heart”, prove to be few.
Another attitude capable of being shaped by God’s Goodness is our faith and trust in Him. This follows as a corollary and is closely related to our new-found perspective regarding perceived hardship and suffering as discussed above. Knowing that our perceived troubles can only exist subjectively with respect to us as self-centered and selfish individuals, coupled with the inherent goodness of the world, allows for having complete faith and trust in God. Although our individuality may be adversely affected by troubling circumstances, our relationship with Him, if we choose to pursue and develop it, remains steadfast. God’s Goodness serves as part of the foundation of His relationship with us which, as an attribute of His Infinite and Immutable Being, cannot be altered, compromised, or changed in any way. Therefore, whatever might confront us in the world, if responded to in accordance with God’s Will, serves only as an opportunity to better our relationship with Him. Knowing this, we can live confidently both materially and spiritually regardless of the circumstance in which we find ourselves.
In God’s Goodness we also find an obligation to act givingly and be of service to others. But for His Creative Power and Act, God’s Goodness would not be known. In this sense, His Gift of Creation represents the epitome of His Goodness. Thus, most fundamentally, goodness results in giving in emulation and imitation of God as Creator. To give is to manifest goodness, like God. There exists none in receiving in itself but for the response which the gift evokes. If received and responded to in accordance with God’s Will, further goodness rightly results. But the goodness sown is an effect of the response, not having received the gift.
Not all giving, it should be noted, is the same. Like all else in the world, it is qualitatively good by degree of its participation in God’s Attributes. To effectively give and infuse further goodness in the world requires right intent. The intent, paradoxically, is intention-less; unconditional. As God’s gift of Creation served to accrue no benefit to Himself as a Perfect and Unlimited Being lacking and, therefore, desiring nothing, so too must any gift that we bestow in turn. To give with conditions misses the point. In doing so, our perspective proves skewed; rooted in self-centeredness and selfishness instead of being focused on furthering our relationship with God. Its not merely about giving but, rather, selfless giving.
The idea that life is sacred serves as the context in which countless social and political battles are waged. Abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, and war are but some of the examples. Recalling our purpose in life to know God, a precondition for its fulfillment is life itself. Where there is life, at least of the rational variety, exists the potential for the knowing of God. Thus, except in extreme and rare cases, how can the taking of a life be justified? Perhaps yet another future Post will address the specific circumstances in which the taking of a life is permitted. Generally speaking, suffice it to say for now that the above mentioned examples are all contrary to God’s Will. His sole purpose in having Created was to be known and preventing one’s ability to do so after the opportunity has been granted through life, cannot be justified.
Although not as hot of a topic as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, and war, animal rights also follows from God’s Goodness. Here a different type of life is concerned; but life nonetheless. Lacking reason and thus possessing a qualitatively inferior soul to that of humans, animals do not have the ability to know God. Their purpose in life is not the same as ours. Like all else in the world, animals are good to the degree in which they participate in His Attributes. While not “as good” as man, they still partake in goodness nonetheless. At the most basic level, their existence as animate beings is good enough. For life itself is awe-inspiring and remarkable regardless of its qualitative character. Endowed with an animated life force, animals occupy second place to humanity in Creation’s physical chain of being (read: physical as not inclusive of immaterial angels or other spiritual beings). That there exists anything at all other than the inanimate is profound in itself. What exactly is life?; the ability to ambulate, sense, desire, and reproduce? Life as a quality in general thus need be revered, respected, and protected. Like its human counterpart, although more exceptions exist, animal life should only be taken in certain rare cases.
Consideration for animal life provides for a convenient segue to that of plants and the environment in general. With the former, we still find ourselves in the realm of life, albeit still of a different kind. Just as human life represents goodness to a qualitatively higher degree than animal life, so too does the latter with respect to plant life. We need not belabor the point regarding the sanctity of life. Although the being possessing it may not have the ability to know God, as in the case of animals, or ambulate, sense, or desire, in the case of plants, the animate force and quality of life itself still warrants reverence, respect, and protection. Life – wonderful; life – mysterious; life – magnificent. Life!
The animate and living beings of Creation undoubtedly takes precedence over the inanimate and non-living. But even the latter is to be revered, respected, and protected in its own right. For it too, like all of Creation, is still God’s Handiwork. To speak nothing of the wonders of air, fire, and water, even a lowly rock can still be considered miraculous. For it was created by God; and created ex-nihilo out of nothing at that. Any aspect of Creation, regardless of how limited in its participation of God’s Attributes, still takes part. This by itself is awe-inspiring. At once, nothing; but through God’s Creative Power and Act, then at once something; existence; being. Its all remarkable and inexplicable. That it was created because God chose to do so is enough. All of physical Creation, from the apex of humanity down through the soil under our feet, is deserving in its inherent right to exist and flourish in accordance with God’s will, whatever that may entail.
Thus, environmental protection follows from God’s Goodness. If we are to respond appropriately to Creation as a whole, reverence and respect must be paid to the environment. Again, this may seem idealistic as in the above example of a rock, but a middle ground here too presents itself. If humanity as a whole cannot value the inanimate or the animate of plant and animal life, surely we can find common ground with agreeing on the value of human life in general; even in absence of agreeing on larger issues such as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, and war. From at least this most basic standpoint, although it short-changes the rest of Creation, it has to be admitted that animal, plant, and greater environmental protection need occur if humanity is to thrive and healthfully meet its basic material needs.
Much has been derived from God’s Goodness; attitudes towards hardship and suffering and faith and trust in God; and perspectives concerning giving and being of service to others, life’s sanctity, animal rights, and environmental protection. With the obligations that follow relative to these, much progress can be made towards fulfilling our purpose in life to know God; and all of this ground was covered concerning merely one of His Attributes. God’s Goodness has proven to be fruitful grounds for assisting with determining right thought and action towards many of life’s most pressing and contested issues. With this, I’m encouraged by the effectiveness and pragmatism of the Qualitative Theory of Truth (see that prior Page). It wasn’t long ago that I struggled mightily with making sense of these issues and trying to determine on which side I should stand. However, now armed with fundamental knowledge of God’s Existence, His Reason for Creation, and my purpose in life to know Him, I am not only able to take a side but to do so confidently based on a foundation of objective truth rather than subjective custom, convention, or societal norm.
In the next Post, God’s Attribute of Grace will be addressed. It wont be nearly as voluminous as the present Post dealing with God’s Goodness but will nonetheless add to our guide for furthering our purpose in life to know God through right thought and action in accordance with His Will.