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THE GOOD OF IT ALL
See Question and Answer 1 and 2
When one has found that it is impossible to be a fully operational human being without purpose, an entity equipped with aiming without having to aim, a critic without criterion and an assessor without means of assessment, then it is necessary to see how it all fits together. Once the impossible is duly abandoned, the possible needs attention. Once you find you need to eat, and cease to flurry in the face of fact, it is important actually to do the eating. Once you have found the need of morals, it is crucial to select them, and since the whole point is that you cannot invent them, since this is merely a subjective function of a non-determining body, or simply to imagine them, since this merely makes for choice, not morals, and although choice has a moral component, it does not invent the morals with which to make itself: it is necessary to operate unfunctionally in the world of morals. It is important to avoid the pride of inventing the ride, and to find with understanding what is the nature of the moral case.
Norals being dead, that is non-morals, and norality being meaningless, a mere avoidance technique which makes of man a non-intellectual being with irrationalism his helm and folly his rudder.
We have in the preceding chapters seen the necessity of God in many ways, citing whole volumes to the point, and having found this, we now proceed to the operational level.
First, we can now answer a whole series of questions in a systematic way.
Thus, what is the good of a thing ? It is good in numerous ways, whether merely in the mind of the mentor of the matter, the one assessing, or in fact. It is good if it can meet a proposed purpose, FOR that purpose. What of the purpose ? It is good if forms part of what is a coherent and assessed approach to broader purposes, just as putting air in a flat tyre is good when the business of travelling in that car is in mind.
What however of the next layer of need ? If you have resolved on a course of action, and find what serves this purpose, you first need to have resolved the nature of the course of action. Thus the principles of morality, the basis of morality, the heart for morality, the spirit of morality and the living direction of it, so that it does not lapse into mere legalism or fudge into mere fancy: all this needs preliminary attention.
If now it be said that this is onerous, then a parallel needs to be drawn. If you want a house to live in, do you find it too onerous to think of windows and doors, and their frames ? Is it too much to have a mind ? Is power of choice a horror and is individuality to be received with hatred of life ?
If so, we need a reason. If not, we need a way.
Thus even a thrust of one dimension, like building a house, needs a number of preliminaries. Since one is normally given some 20 years at least before building a house, then one has had in the realms of the rational and what is minimally knowledgeable for the purpose, 15 years for thought on such preliminaries: not just for building, but for knowing how to approach ANYTHING in life with meaningful use of faculties, facilities and functions.
That is a reasonable time. Indeed, a year is a great time.
But what is the reason for deciding that it is worth while, that it is good in short, to use these functions, to value life at all, and so to apply its means, methods and powers with due diligence ?
That brings us at once to the God of the Bible, because
1) it has been shown that He is there and
2) it has been
proven that the Bible is His sole authorised word of command
3) in this book, the Book of the
Lord (Isaiah 8:20, 34:16, Matthew 5:17-20),
These things all having been shown repeatedly, the truth of the Bible and the presentations to this effect, we are now in the applied phase in the realm of morality, of goodness.
What then if this now be said ?
But why should I regard the will and mind and mercy of my Creator, and not use the liberty which He saw fit to give me for the progamming of my own. It is a gift, so why not use it ?
It is a power, so why not deploy it ? What is wrong with that.
First, the use of the word 'wrong' is too early for our survey, since we are talking about that very thing. Hence we must first proceed in measured terms to applied goodness.
Every action has a purpose, even if it be the avoidance of purpose, since this then becomes the purpose, and is at once as programmed for the personality as anything else could be. It is mere negation, but you can have negative purpose.
Every layer of purpose, has higher purpose. Thus if you want to build a house, you are responding to a desire for some habitation in some place. If you want habitation, you want to house life. If you want to house life, you want to care for it. If you want to care for it, you need to know why, unless you become irrational, and acting as blind, await the bump of reality which being at any level at any time, and possibly lethal to the meaning of life, constitutes already a decision that life does not matter.
If you want to know why you should consider that life matters, so that every lesser decision has validity, then you need to consider your own place in it. If you do not like this, and wish to give a negative vote to the Creator, in order to seek to incense, recompense or rebuke Him, then you are purposing a life struggle with God. What of such a battle ?
Since He is more powerful and having made you, knows you better than yourself, like a country which knows all your defences, weakness and objectives and His own wisdom in which He constituted your every resource, recourse and wit, and has merely set down time as we have it with its waiting, as a creation, knowing beyond and above and below it, and is much more profound as must be what creates than what merely operates, then you will certainly lose.
If you declare, But I want the fight, that is my will! then this becomes an exercise in futility, and as such has escaped the domain of reason.
If you say, It is reasonable to direct one's whole life to futility, and not at all erratic, then the question arises: in what way is it reasonable to trash you treasure, or deem it trash which has magnificent features ?
If it be replied, I am incensed against life because I am not and do not have what I want! then this ceases to be reasonable, since God, the God who is both there and operative as shown, promises to provide all that is necessary for abundant life.
If you say, I do not believe that! then in this applied level (we do not reproduce apologetics every time we speak), then this is mere irrationality.
What if you say something further such as this ?
While this may be His approach to the matter, it is not mine. I do not conceive with my evaluation power, that He is right. It is a farce, a fiasco, a limit, and a base thing to have a Lord, whoever He is, however great, powerful and loving, merciful, compassionate, caring or anything else. I want to have my own system of thought and morals, and since you are so keen to show I MUST have one, then this is it!
In this case, you are again being irrational. Reason is giving you everything except one, the power to be God, since this involves an eternity you did not inhabit, a facility and function you did not possess and a knowledge that is not yours. Since you are insisting in your whole program of thought on being a VIRTUAL GOD, and since you have to have your will uncompromised, VIRTUAL GOD HIMSELF, then this is mere collision with reality. You are not and logically cannot be so.
If you reply, Not at all: I do not seek to BE God, but merely to act as if I were; then this too is irrational, for if you want to act as if you were God, without bothering to BE He, then you are in collision with reality, and thus subjecting yourself to ANYTHING of any kind for any time, or for eternity. Yet if you say: Why is it irrational to do that! the answer is clear.
It is only if it is more important to you to lose anything, suffer anything, become abysmal in wisdom, ignorant in fact, than to avoid all of this, that this could even begin to be rational. What follows if your reply follows these lines ?
This may be so. I simply do not care what becomes of my life. It is more important for me to register this fact before the aweful might and Majesty of my Maker than any result could be ?
This then needs examination.
WHY is this your choice ? The answer ?
This is self-expression, self-fulfilment. Here is my goal, desire, desideraturm, dynamic and here lies my volition. Deprive me and I die. Let me have it and I live.
The next question ? It is this. Why do you want self as ultimate criterion, whatever becomes of it ? If it is so important, why not look after it ? The reply now comes into earshot.
It is the very essence of my will NOT to regard life in any way, and it is my motif to SHOW that I do this, in order to register a protest, attack this alleged care and show that it simply is not right to have a lord over me when I have power to reject it. Why should I BEAR having Him, even if He is in every respect so far above, beyond and over me as to be infinitely my superior, if I do not want to!
Have I not been given the power to do this ?
Why then blame me if I quite rationally use it!
This is a misuse of the term 'rationally', however.
It is to confuse the exercise of a power BECAUSE you have it, with the reason for and grounds of such use. If you have a million dollars, then you may expend it as you will, within the compass of your situation. Does this make it right, or rational to do so, in the particular way you have chosen, ahead of all evaluation ? This is merely to avoid evaluation and to declare that values do not exist; whereas, as shown, they do. Hence it is irrational. It is impossible, having eyes, to be blind and not to be susceptible to evaluation.
WHY is this done!
It cannot be simply because you value not using what you are given, since this is to institute a criterion of value, your will, without considering ITS value. Why is the will so valuable that you want to have its works evaluated as reasonable, when reason is precisely what is excluded in the willing!
If it be replied, The reason IS that I WANT it! then this is a reason for it in form, indeed, but does not provide in that reason, anything but will. It leaves an irrational ultimate, without ground, an arbitration by the arbitrary.
It is uninformed by decision in advance.
If it then be conceded that this is so, but that even uninformed will is better than informed slavery! then the term 'slavery' is being defined. How is it defined ? Is it any submission to any will in any thing ? If so, then it is clear that you desire to be God, since this is the only being in the nature of the case, of whom this could be true.
If then you desire what is not and cannot be true, then this is not reasonable. It is a contradiction between reality and desire. That does not alter.
That is irrational, a non-option for life, a preclusion of it. We return then to ask: Why do you decide to give NO value to life ? The talk of will is merely circumstantial, showing in what way you plan to do so, in no way excluding the fact that this is what you are doing.
WILL as GOD, then, will of a creature who is NOT-GOD, substituting for the will of the Being who IS GOD, this is the criterion. This is mere lust, not within the powers of choice, and hence a simple abuse of a given power for one not given, and an insistence if you cannot be what you are not, you choose not to be, or to have anything happen without limit, so that the result, utterly beyond you in every way, is fundamentally the same, though actuality may be far worse in such a case, even in general terms.
This further narrows the position. It is this: Either make me GOD or I have no value for life, and although this does indeed involve a species of morals and a criterion for evaluation, my will, yet this is my decision.
Thus all we have is what is impossible for reason, that a temporary being, made in time, should become the eternal Being who MADE time, and hence is irrational. Accordingly, this is merely irrational suicide, with the addition, that the means of death, the time, and the manner of it remain unchosen, so that you have even the further anomaly that not only is it irrational, but it maximises the LACK of will to determine things. It is hence doubly irrational. We however are not investigating the possibilities of insanity, but what reason shows.
This in fact becomes the equivalent of an adult tantrum.
We return therefore to the levels of evaluation. The purpose of building a house, making any empirical decision, fulfilling any empirical purpose, rests on the purpose assigned to life itself. Since God is the only rational purpose, in His will, and mere will is not a rational option, we are left with the levels of actualising this potential.
Thus the good of anything is its relevance to the purpose in view, to be found in the foundation of the meaning of life and its purpose, and this in the setting for man, of the Bible for moral evaluation, the will of God for directive ascertainment, and the principles of God for propositional guidance.
Since God is loving, kind, gracious, thoughtful, compassionate (you recall we are in the applied field in this chapter); since His mercy is prodigious, and He is in fact not willing that any be cast eternally out of His presence, as if by imperial impact of some mysterious negative*2, being on record to the contrary, but DOES exclude when His mercy is seen ultimately rejected as even foreknown by Him whose invention is time, then there is a most positive result.
This fact then transmits first of all into grand but not illimitable need for determination of what one is to BE. Willing is to occur WITHIN this environment. The kindness of God toward man is not in question biblically (cf. Titus 2-3); nor for that matter is the will of man. Both are clear, and only in the will and wit and wisdom of God is there any release for man (Ephesians 4:17-19), by a miraculous intervention, both in kind, the incarnation, and in history, the regeneration.
Let us clarify. One is not to BE the GOD who is like this, but to have these qualities, at the creaturely and derivative level, which God proclaims and executes. How can this be ? It cannot be by becoming God, as shown, but it MUST be by securing the change of heart and will and way and character which this requires. How can this be done except by the way which God makes exclusive by HIS WILL, which being the will of such a Being, IS GOOD.
Why is it good ? It is because this is reality, here are standards, here and here alone of necessity is the ultimate actuality which works and in which we exist and have been made! It is good first because this is the good of us, and if anyone is NOT to be good for nothing, here is the resource in which to gain first the definition and then the practice of practical goodness.
We are IN this milieu, as a fish in water, and what is good for us is precisely this.
Secondly, having come into being, we not only find goodness in being what we are in the eyes of the Maker, but in the nature of the Maker. If having excluded mere tantrum-type will as irrational, we look for the answer to the next question, What IS the nature of the willing One above all ? we find answer to all that reason could pose.
Thus if one makes a mistake, is He merciful ? Precisely (I John 1:7-2:2). What if one has trouble in some domain, can He, will He persevere like a good coach, in bringing eventual victory where one has been weak ? Of course (I John 3:9), for He provides the power for this (Romans 8), and grants eternal life itself as a gift as part of the preliminary process by which you are made into what is able both to understand and to act as one of His children (Romans 5, 6:23, I John 5:11-12, 10).
But is it reasonable, what He asks of one ? Yes, it is because the One who MADE our plan itself, and our persons in particular, has the answer in power and pity, in mastery and grace to give what is needed, point by point.
What if however, He wants, as with Job, to test us, or even USE us to show that we who love Him, are not hypocrites, not crypto-hedonists but that love is stronger than death ? Does this meet our need reasonably.
Reason is not love. However it can show the reasonableness of love, although some will never love. Thus if you love God because there is no hatred in Him, except of what is evil against life, no whimsical, capricious, power-seeking pollution in Him, since He already has all power and having no dints, being all-powerful, seeks nothing from the creation He made without necessity, but by love, then to love Him who in wisdom, has such love, and does not defile it at all ever, is to act in the realm which life has and is, maximising its value and recognising its nature.
But if it involves, it might be pursued, immense suffering, to show such things, how is this reasonable ?
Yes by all means. It is reasonable unless hedonism be the approach, and the idea that a series of feelings is more important than fact is not reasonable, be the truncated approach to truth. .
In the end, therefore, you love life, or you do not. If you do not, you are not reasonable. Indeed what charge can you bring against God ?
Should He be less pitiful, less compassionate, less involved, should He have decided to exclude love because some love hate, and so defile both love and hatred, making them mere names for distortion by-products! Should He have never have invented the history which provides opportunity and scope for those who will be the lovers of God, whose delight is in truth, justice, equity, compassion, mercy, non-self-indulgence, with selfishness excluded and saintly holiness included, so that in the domain of God they might be children of light ? Is it reasonable for Him to delete these in advance, because of those who prefer the unknown rumblings of a rebellion not only irrational, but fraudulent, acting as if being God were wrongly exclusive, when in fact it would be impossible to include their desires in the very nature of the case of creation at all!
If then you decide on anything, you first must value life, in the domain of the rational. As already noted, this does not make love mandatory, for it does not come by command alone: love is sui generis. It does make reasonable the act of loving God and unreasonable the other. Reason is not however the matchmaker.
What is the matchmaker then ? It is love. To love by love and for love and in love, you live. It is available, it is natural, it is beyond the curse (cf. Beyond the Curse!), and its rejection is an exercise in tantrum-esque futility.
That fact, it is true, does not make one love. It merely shows the shame of failing to do it.
The devil has thought himself able to make a show of overturning God as you see in Revelation 12; but failed. Those who follow him are no more reasonable. As a creature, he has no show, only more of a show for a time; but even at that, by his will he has made himself instrumental, the price of failure in truth. Thus the more he tries to discredit God, to overturn or correct His word, to devalue and harass His people, the more He shows by the enormous power used for such a purpose, and the failure, the enormity of the idea and the magnificence of the incorruptible, indefeasible, indefectible deity!
In sum then, we find that the good of a thing is its fitness for a purpose in the milieu where goodness lies, that is in the will and life of God. This means that every decision, evaluation, has to occur in a number of layers ... as the window for the house, the house for the care of the life and the family's togetherness, the life and togetherness of the family for the exhibition of the glory of God, the reception of His family graces and the enduement with His love in action, so that all being in order, or at least organised, His desire for these particular designs, these members of His human race, might be fulfilled.
This involves in turn, KNOWING what these are in your own case, and EXECUTING them with all means, and thus with all purposes, relevant to such an aim in a milieu of such morals and dynamic as that of God Himself personally. This requires the pursuit of His written word, the Bible, in the presence of His Living Word, the Son of God, the Saviour, resurrected, governing history by His word, even to the abyss of judgment, and conserving His children, all being by heart invited.
Thus there is the necessity of keeping in close touch with God, not only propositionally, in principle, but personally in practice. This involves discipline, the good of which is the attainment of this result, and the nature of God's grace, that it is never erratic but composed (Romans 8:29ff., Deuteronomy 32).
That includes obedience to His commandments, not as a means of becoming a child of His, for children are not born by obedience (cf. Galatians 3, John 3), but by a power beyond themselves; and obedience is merely a household phenomenon for those who are born.
Is obedience then good ? Yes it is, not because it is a conformity merely or even chiefly, but because God BEING love (that is, having no superior feature which compromises its purity, and working always with this supervening reality), and love rejoicing in the truth (I Corinthians 13), and truth loving love and love loving truth, there is need to follow what is of this kind, not witlessly, but with some care.
Does this mean that the degree of such care makes conformism the criterion ? Not at all: in all love, conformism (e.g. to the washing up need, or the dish-washer fitness cycle) is a result. If, as Christ put it, you love Him, you WILL keep His words. He who does not do so, does not love Him.
How could a wife love a husband whom she seeks to humiliate, to disorder, to deprive of peace and to incite to folly ? If she loves him, she will put much energy and effort into finding his need and meeting it with address! It is not mere burden; it is joy's fulfilment. That is the nature of love for spouse, for children or for friend, within the particular specifications and character of each case, with its various subsidiary realities.
Love is simply like that. Life has its avoidance of millions of evils, simply by being like that. If it involves suffering in the current warfare situation of good against evil, in the special field of God as goodness' source, criterion, ground and cause as original, and the devil and his allies as the opposition, what is that ? Is it a problem essentially ? Are irritated hands a moral problem, an existential difficulty for the wife who got them washing up, or with babies' nappies ? Does it make her wonder whether love is worth it ? Love biblically is strong than death (Song of Solomon 8), and stronger (Titus 1:1-3, Philippians 2). This is a question of how valuable it is, not of its kind.
How valuable is it ? If you love, there is no limit. That is all.
What is the good of it all ? God is the good of it all. What is the good that God shows ? It is love, and with this, mercy, and with that truth, and with that peace, and with that willingness on the part of creation to be corrected, for love is not haughty or arrogant. Then with these, there is that concern for its object, and with that unselfishness, and with this willingness to work in a team, and with this, willingness if necessary like Elijah to work without one, to show that God alone is sufficient, and with this courage, and with this sanctity, lest the name of God be derogated, and with this endurance, lest the one loved be discomforted, and with this self-control, lest the purpose of love be compromised ... These are some of the features of goodness, and in love they are present, the love of God who defining all things by His own criteria, is Himself definitive.
Thus does majesty coincide with magnificence, and sovereignty with suitability and quality with power.
Goodness is multi-dimensional but single and singular in character. It is a close friend of love, and an intimate companion of mercy. The breach of its qualities makes the earth close to uninhabitable, and as power surges, pride mistakes power. How does it do this ? It mistakes the power available to man in an ordered universe, through the knowledge which arises in man because of created gifts of God, for man's greatness.
This is not good. It curses love, disdains mercy, attenuates life, confronts reality and so distorts life and love, that becoming other, the new horror, creation moves towards becoming vile. Love in the end removes it, for in horror the time comes when past all test, it is better than it goes to its place and no more contrives to exist in time; but how long is the longsuffering of God that for now nearly two thousand years since Christ died for sinners, He yet does not finish the work of testing, of spreading the Gospel of His completed provision! (II Peter 3:9). How long is the allowance, even to the uttermost, for man is not capable of enduring in this form, forever in his sin, and the time comes when judgment sits (cf. Isaiah 57:15). God has acted. He has performed. He has promulgated. He has displayed. He has said and wrought all.
In this, His goodness knowing no limit in bearing not only the death penalty but the qualitative horror of becoming the butt of sin, in order to cancel its guilt for those who receive His ransom and accept His sacrifice, He displays a prodigy of grace and a torrent of mercy.
If people prefer parched throats rather than torrents, it is a decision indeed. If it is to God they come, it is in repentance and faith, not trusting in their own wits, but in His wisdom, in their own works, but in His completed work of salvation (Ephesians 2, Titus 3, Romans 3, 8), nor in their efforts but in His effectuality, or in the works and words of others, but in His word.
The torrent of truth continues like an ocean poured forth. If witless man watches, marvels and dies, so be it, it is his own choice. Preferring darkness is not uncommon. It does hide for a time.
What is the good of that ? Life finds its good, for there is no other way but irrational rebellion, meaningless desire and ultimate futility.
This love, it is the glory of God; this truth, it is the wonder of God; this mercy, it is the delightfulness of God.
Vainglory is vicious in the end, because to the uttermost point, it will not love, find goodness where alone it is to be found, and makes of the creation a virtual Creator, which being a lie, has no virtue, being witless, has no wisdom, and being contrary to possibility, is irrational.
*1 See Ephesians 2, I John 3-4, Romans 8:29ff., Isaiah 48:16ff., Ezekiel 33:11, for example.
As in Colossians 1:19ff., John 3:16ff., I Timothy 2:1ff., and shown in
Great Expectations ... Chs.7 and 9,
Beauty of Holiness Ch. 2,
SMR Appendix B
The Christian Pilgrimage Ch. 3
The Glow of Predestinative Power Ch. 4,
Outrageous Outages Ch. 9,
Christ's Ineffable Peace and Grace Ch. 2.