Friday, June 23, 2006

Thank goodness for the good souls?

I'm working a midnight right now and my client is asleep. So I've been sitting and thinking (as I often do on these shifts when everything on TV is replaced with infomercials) and my mind wandered to conversations I've had over the years. What stuck out tonight was a topic I've talked about with a lot of people over the years, 'Why would God damn people who are, for the most part, good even though they aren't Christian?' Usually when this matter comes up, I go on the defensive and try to show how God is merciful and just and that members of the hypothetical African tribe who love everybody and are all around nice people but haven't ever heard of Christ aren't necessarily going to hell. I could go into this further, but my response to this notion is not what I was pondering this evening.
What sparked my interest tonight was the realization that the question itself that the "good-people" apologists ask is flawed. The question posed (why would good people go to hell) reveals the mistaken view that many in today's culture have towards humanity. It is a strange misconception because on one hand it bears a sinful pride by assuming that people can really be so good as to be justified by their own works before God and on the other hand it shows the great despair of a culture that has gotten so used to the cruelty and sin of humanity that even the dimly lit shadows can look like daylight to the eyes of a people shrouded in pitch black.
Looking to scripture, we see in the Psalms that, "there is no one who does good, not even one." Anyone can look through the Bible and find hundreds of similar verses. Conversely anyone could look through the Bible and find verses like Psalms 34:8 which says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good." So God is good, and man is not. Simple enough right? But that's not all there is to it, because it was not always this way. Looking at Genesis we see that God's creation is also good. In fact humans are said to be "very good." This is what i think is so important. We were made good and (before the fall) we were good by the very definition of our existence! We didn't have to do anything extra, we just were good by our very nature. But we screwed it all and we continue to screw it up. We sin so much that our cruelty and selfishness is referred to as human nature. This is the despair that I am talking about, we are so lost that we had to actually redefine what it means to be human! So for a sinful creature to turn around and point to some good works and call call themselves a saint is like standing in a deep chasm (a chasm you created no less), putting a few shovels full of dirt in a pile, and calling it a mountain. Such an act is not only a denial of the chasm you are in but it is an insult to mountains. This skewed perspective places "being good" on a level above and beyond our natural existence, when in fact being good is supposed to be our existence and, if it wasn't for our selfishness and lust, it would be. It reminds me of a quote that I've heard attributed to Augustine, Goethe, and even Nietzche- "become who you are." That is the call on humanity. To be holy is not to become divine, it is to become human. We are not filling mountains, we are filling holes (or for some of us, not digging up the whole that Jesus just filled).
Looking now at the pride in this way of thinking, I draw your attention back to those first verses I mentioned. According to the Bible, not only are we depraved but God is good and moreover he is the giver of all good things. Since God is good and anything else is good only in that it reflects Him, we can see that people cannot take credit for being good, that is for God alone. The only thing we can really say is our doing is sin. So to turn to God and point to our good deeds saying "isn't this good enough?" Is like cutting out the face on a painting, taking it the artist, and trying to take credit for its beauty (while ignoring the destruction we have cause to his creation).
Those are my thoughts for now. Maybe there's more to say, but I hear stirring upstairs so I must get back to work.

Dan, 10:53 PM


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