About Blog 2019-02-16T12:08:07-05:00

The question of what constitutes “good” is a major branch of philosophy called Aesthetics and the amount of ink given to this topic can hardly be measured. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a recent popular example. Though I will occasionally touch on works of philosophy, it will be for the most part only tangentially. My real purpose is to explore the idea of “the good” as a central focus of the message of the Bible. Indeed, it could be said, that the attempt to distinguish what is “good” from what is “bad,” or maybe more accurately, to distinguish what is “good” from what is “not good” is a central if not the central emphasis of the whole bible.
If we listen to what the writer of the creation story in Genesis is really trying to say rather than trying to make him say what we want to hear, this is not too difficult to see. Although Genesis begins with a creation story, the author is clearly not attempting to explain how God created or even in what time frame. Though six days are noted in creation, it is certainly not saying when those six days occurred and certainly not that God needed six days to create. If we take a biblical understanding of God, He could have created it all in less than a second or even in no time at all! The six days are used as a pattern for the rhythms to be employed in human work and I will develop this idea in later. But when details of the “how” and “when” of creation take a back seat, what is being said about creation can come into focus.
In the days of creation, God evaluates His work and six times the author states that “God saw that it was good.” Six times! You’d think that would get our attention. Then in the next chapter, God saw “that it was not good that man should be alone.” He then instructs the first man that he may eat (indulge in? engage in?) any tree in the garden. We could leave this statement with an entirely literal meaning about food and eating, but if we compare the statement in Genesis 1:26-28 where God gives the man and woman authority to rule over all His creation, another possible way of looking at it emerges. Add to this, the highly compressed nature of the whole creation story (only 56 verses) and the poetical way the six days are expressed (day one” light, day four: light bearers; day two: atmosphere and separation of waters, day five: birds and fish; day 3: dry land vegetation, day six: land animals and humans), it is more than likely the author intended metaphorical understandings where eating from trees refers to a whole myriad of human activity. But there is an exception. From “tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat.” Stop right there. The Hebrew doesn’t say “good and evil.” That’s King James phrasing. What is actually says is, “the knowledge of good and bad,” or as we stated above, “the knowledge of good and not good.” In other words, the human race has authority under God over all His creation except in the final determination of what is good and what is not good. He says this brings death. Why? Because as finite beings, humans can’t ultimately know what is actually good because they cannot see the ultimate end of most any action. They will start concluding things to be good that God knows is ultimately not good and vice-versa. And it is telling that in Genesis 3, when the woman is tempted by the serpent, the tree God called “not good” she decides “is good for food and able to make one wise.” The human race has been making decisions like this ever since.
It is my purpose to dispense with the moralism that modern Christianity has drifted into and attempt to look at the questions relating to knowledge, power, relationships, sexuality, political science, social justice, history and the like by looking at the overall biblical landscape, searching for insights to what God is revealing as the long term results of a human behaviors, and how they contribute to what makes human life good or not good. For this to happen we must be willing to set aside the merely politically correct versions of what is good or not good. For these vary with the political and social climate and with newly acquired information. Conversations along this line are important because the hostile polarization of American society is directly related to it. One group asserts adamantly what is right and good and demands that others accept that assessment. Failure to do so results in hostile rhetoric, threats of violence and eventually violence itself. Groups like “Unite the Right” and “Antifa” are presently the most extreme examples but hostility is now brewing everywhere throughout the social landscape.
For those whose positions on these subjects are merely means of gaining and keeping power rather than truly seeking social wellbeing, of course, nothing will help. But for the rest, it is my hope to create a respectful conversation that will help us take a step back from all the rhetoric and truly see if in the bible God has given us insight into why He should be listened to in our pursuit of “the good.”