Our Moral God

blueboy

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I posted this a long time ago but it doesn't seem to have survived the software upgrade and so I'm posting it again here. Enjoy!

Our Moral God

The question of God's morality might, to some, seem a ridiculous question. To some the idea that God might not be moral is so ludicrous a thought that it would be down right blasphemous to even utter it aloud. After all, they say, if God is amoral (i.e. non-moral) then there can be no standard of right and wrong. But to those who take such a position it would come as quite a surprise to discover that there are at least as many, if not more, who think it an equally blasphemous thought to suggest that God is moral. After all, God is not subject to the law! Right?

What is the source of such confusion? Well, there are many possible ways to answer that question, the most obvious of which has to do with the defining of terms and explaining in more detail what is meant when one says that God is, or is not, moral. But I don't believe that the problem can really be solved by a mere analysis of the semantics involved. This is not an issue of sophistry but rather it is a problem of philosophy. There is a more fundamentally philosophical issue involved here that I believe the vast majority of people on both sides of this issue do not understand nor do they even have any inkling of the issue's existence for that matter. The purpose of this essay is to bring this issue to the attention of those on both sides of this issue and to explain how the God we serve is indeed moral but not because He follows or is subject to a set of rules nor because His nature defines morality, which is meaningless, but because God is rational.

In John chapter one we are taught not simply that Jesus is God, nor simply that God became a man, but that God the Son is the Logos of God. The New King James renders the passage this way...

John1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.​
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.​
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.​
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.​

In this passage, everywhere you see the phrase, "the Word" the Greek word being used is "Logos". It is important to understand what this Greek word means because the use of "Word" as an English translation just doesn't convey what this passage is teaching. Logos conveys the idea of communication or more specifically, discourse and more specifically than that, rational discourse and or rational argument. It is the word from which we get the suffix "-ology", as in Biology, Technology, Climatology, Cosmology, etc. So the study of living things is "Biology" and the processes in a living creature are said to be biological. Notice bio-LOGICAL. This is the meaning conveyed by "Logos". To apply logic to the processes in living things, and thus to understand them, is biology, it is the logos of life.

So now, with this better understanding of the Greek, lets look at this passage again...

John 1:1 In the beginning was Logic, and Logic was with God, and Logic was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.​
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.​
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.​
14 And Logic became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.​

Now, there are some who object to such a translation thinking it improper to equate the living God with some abstract concept such as logic. But it should be noted that those who make such an objection never object to God being equated with the abstract concept of "Word", nor are they typically capable of offering any explanation as to what exactly it means to say "the Word as God". In other words, people who object on the grounds of referring to God as an abstraction, typically have no real problem with abstractions so long as the abstraction being used can't be made any sense of at all.

This is, however, quite a new idea to most of those reading this and so let me just cite a couple of other's who have used and acknowledge the validity of such a translation. Not that doing so helps to prove anything other than that this teaching is not unique to, nor can it's genesis be attributed to me. Indeed, this idea is as old as Christianity. As evidence of both its veracity and its antiquity, I offer the following quotations, the likes of which there are many...

"...this translation––may not only sound strange to devout ears, it may even sound obnoxious and offensive. But the shock only measures the devout person's distance from the language and thought of the Greek New Testament. Why it is offensive to call Christ Logic, when it does not offend to call him a word, is hard to explain. But such is often the case. Even Augustine, because he insisted that God is truth, has been subjected to the anti–intellectualistic accusation of "reducing" God to a proposition. At any rate, the strong intellectualism of the word Logos is seen in its several possible translations: to wit, computation, (financial) accounts, esteem, proportion and (mathematical) ratio, explanation, theory or argument, principle or law, reason, formula, debate, narrative, speech, deliberation, discussion, oracle, sentence, and wisdom.

Any translation of John 1:1 that obscures this emphasis on mind or reason is a bad translation. And if anyone complains that the idea of ratio or debate obscures the personality of the second person of the Trinity, he should alter his concept of personality. In the beginning, then, was Logic." - Gordon H. Clark; Against The World. The Trinity Review, 1978-1988. [God And Logic, Gordon H. Clark, p. 52-56] John W. Robbins, Editor.

"For not only among the Greeks did reason (Logos) prevail to condemn these things through Socrates, but also among the Barbarians were they condemned by Reason (or the Word, the Logos) Himself, who took shape, and became man, and was called Jesus Christ;" Justin Martyr: The First Apology of Justin Chapter V

Logos n. < Gr, a word: see Logic 1 Gr. Philos. reason, thought of as constituting the controlling principle of the universe and as being manifested by speech 2 Christian Theol. the eternal thought or word of God, made incarnate in Jesus Christ: John 1 - Webster's Dictionary​

Okay, so what's the point? God is Logic, Logic is God - so what? Well, lets suppose someone, for whatever reason, rejects the Bible, Jesus Christ and the whole concept of God, a true atheist, attempts to think through the issues of life and does so in such a way so as to stay as true to the principles of logic and sound reason as he possibly can. If the Living God is Logic, what conclusions then should this person come too? Should they not be at least very similar to the teachings which are found in Scripture? If such an atheist existed and made such an attempt to use reason to formulate his philosophy of life, would he not be using God to formulate it, even if by accident and in ignorance?

Now, bearing that in mind I want to look at John 1 again. This time verse 4...

John 1:4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.​

I find it interesting that the issue of life is brought up in the context of the Logos of God. It interests me because if one were to attempt to contemplate a rational basis for morality, life would have to be a necessary starting point because it is only to the living that issues of morality apply or matter. Ayn Rand, just the sort of atheist to which I've been referring, put it this way...

"...the first question is "Does man need values at all—and why?" According to Rand, "it is only the concept of 'Life' that makes the concept of 'Value' possible," and, "the fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do." Rand writes: "there is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or non-existence—and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms. The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action... It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death..." The survival of the organism is the ultimate value to which all of the organism's activities are aimed, the end served by all of its lesser values." Ayn Rand(1964). The Virtue of Selfishness (paperback ed.). p. 13 & 18 New York: Signet.​

Rand also said,

"Man's mind is his basic tool of survival. Life is given to him, survival is not. His body is given to him, its sustenance is not. His mind is given to him, its content is not. To remain alive he must act and before he can act he must know the nature and purpose of his action. He cannot obtain his food without knowledge of food and of the way to obtain it. He cannot dig a ditch––or build a cyclotron––without a knowledge of his aim and the means to achieve it. To remain alive, he must think." Rand, Ayn (1992) [1957]. Atlas Shrugged (35th anniversary ed.). p. 1012 New York: Dutton​

Now, according to Rand, rationality is the primary virtue in ethics (i.e. morality). For rand ethics is...

"the recognition and acceptance of reason as one's only source of knowledge, one's only judge of values and one's only guide to action." Rand, Ayn (1964). The Virtue of Selfishness (paperback ed.). p. 25 New York: Signet.​

All of which, if God is Logic, is entirely consistent with the common Christian teaching that morality is derived from and defined by God's character. Which, by the way, is not to say the Ayn Rand was a godly person, nor that her philosophical conclusion were all correct. On the contrary, her rejection of the existence of God lead to a great many errors, some of which are disastrously grievous. But, nevertheless, to the degree she stayed true to reason, here conclusions remained close to the truth, which means, by definition, that they remained close to God and His truth as taught in the pages of Scripture.

Rand's quintessential statement on morality is this ...

"Since reason is man’s basic means of survival, that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil." Ayn Rand: Atlas Shrugged​

Now, since we now know that God is Reason, what could an atheist say that would be any more in line with the teachings of Scripture than that!?

And so, in conclusion, I attest and believe that I have now shown that we can find the answer to the confusion surrounding the morality of God in the fact the God is Logic. Morality is not simply defined by God's character as many Christians suppose, but rather that which is moral is so because it is rational, which, if you are following the line of thinking in this essay properly, you'll understand is the equivalent of saying that what is moral is so because it is God like. To say that God is moral, is not to say that God has a list of rules He must follow but simply that God is Life and that He is consistent with Himself and therefore acts in way which is proper to Life. To say that God is moral is to say that God is rational. A non-moral God would be non-rational and therefore non-personal, non-relational, non-thinking, non-living, non-real!

God is real, therefore God is rational, therefore God is moral!


Clete Pfeiffer

3/24/2012
Nice post, well written and thought out.

I don't believe we can attribute morality to God, this is an anthropomorphic depiction of God. Only humans are judged by morality. God is, I am that I am, a spiritual essence beyond any kind of relative state, eternal, uncreated, unchanging. Humans are subject to a relative state, (knowing the Tree of Good and Evil) and thus can be judged by morality. God is an absolute perfection and humans have no insight into absolute states. The concept of God is 100% abstraction.

“In the beginning” refers to that eternal reality beyond time, a reality that transcends all creation, is changeless and placeless, and yet is the very essence and source of all that exists or can ever exist. It is beyond time and space, beyond here or there, beyond up or down, hot or cold–beyond any duality or form there exists the “I am,” the single, indivisible, omnipresent, unfathomable “Word.” Within the absolute realm of the eternal “I am”, the Word exists without any need of expression or vocalization. It just is.

I really like how you frame the, "Word", as Logic.

God is the, "I am", transcending rational and moral. God is a state of perfection.

In order for the, "Word" to become Manifest in the material realm the, "Word" must Manifest through a human form, the likes of Jesus and Noah and Moses, etc.
 

JudgeRightly

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I don't believe we can attribute morality to God,

Is something good because He commands it to be good, or is something good because He recognizes it as good?

this is an anthropomorphic depiction of God.

So what is it supposed to represent? Is not God good?

Only humans are judged by morality.

Can God know if He is good?

God is, I am that I am,

Yes.

a spiritual essence beyond any kind of relative state, eternal, uncreated, unchanging.

This sounds like new-age nonsense.

God is Spirit.
He is eternal.
He is uncreated, the Uncaused Cause.

But He is not unchanging.
He is not "beyond any kind of relative state," whatever that means.

He does not change in His character, but He does change in other ways, like becoming a man, dying, and rising from the dead, never to die again, growing in wisdom and favor, becoming the God of individuals, of a nation, of the world.

Humans are subject to a relative state, (knowing the Tree of Good and Evil)

1) It's "the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil."
2) By "relative state" are you defining that as "knowing the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil"? If so, please explain what that is supposed to mean.

and thus can be judged by morality.

Morality isn't something that "judges."

God is the judge, and He tells us to judge with righteous judgement.

God is an absolute perfection

More new-age nonsense.

and humans have no insight into absolute states.

Is that absolutely true?

The concept of God is 100% abstraction.

Saying it doesn't make it so.

And the Bible says otherwise.

“In the beginning”

It just means "in the beginning of the creation." (Creation here being a noun, not a verb, referring to the created universe.)

refers to that eternal reality

There is only one reality, and it's this one, because God is real, and everything in existence exists in the context of His being.

beyond time,

There's no such thing as "beyond time."

a reality that transcends all creation,

Again, there's only one "reality." Stop living in a fantasy one.

is changeless

Reality is that God existed for eternity past, then at some point created, and now 7,500 years later (give or take 100), we sit here discussing it.

Reality changed, because God is capable of change.

and placeless,

This one I somewhat agree with, prior to God creating, there was only God, but once He created, there was a "where."

However, I will point out that God's existence is "above" ours. What that means exactly, however, we won't be able to comprehend fully, if at all, until we get to heaven, where we no longer see through a glass dimly.

and yet is the very essence and source of all that exists or can ever exist.

This is idolatry.

Reality is not the source of existence. God is. Don't put your ideas of reality in place of God.

It is beyond time

Supra.

See also https://kgov.com/time

and space,

Space isn't a "thing," it's a construct we use to describe the physical relationship between two objects.

beyond here or there, beyond up or down, hot or cold–

Supra.

beyond any duality or form there exists the “I am,” the single, indivisible, omnipresent, unfathomable “Word.”

Conflating your concept of reality with God Himself has you confused.

GOD is the One who is omnipresent, but not everything about Him is unfathomable, and God the Son was separated from God the Father and God the Holy Spirit when He died on the cross to pay for our sins, but was reunited with Them upon His ascension.

And while there is one God, He is three Persons, in other words, there is a plurality in the Godhead.

Within the absolute realm of the eternal “I am”,

Only God is "I AM." There's no such thing as an "absolute realm of the eternal 'I am'."

the Word exists without any need of expression or vocalization. It just is.

More meaningless new-age nonsense.

I really like how you frame the, "Word", as Logic.

He's not the one who does that.

The word LOGOS (usually translated as "word") doesn't actually mean "word." It means logic.

God is the, "I am",

Yes, He is.

transcending rational and moral.

No, God doesn't "transcend" rational nor moral.

In a sense, He IS reason, anything that conflicts with Him is wrong.

He IS moral. He is the standard by which all are judged.

God is a state of perfection.

No. God is a being who IS perfect. He is not a "state of perfection.

In order for the, "Word" to become Manifest in the material realm the, "Word" must Manifest through a human form, the likes of Jesus and Noah and Moses, etc.

Jesus was and is God. Several times in His-story He manifested Himself in this world, prior to His incarnation. We call those theophanies.

Noah was not. Moses was not. Whomever you meant by "etc" was not.
 

Clete

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Nice post, well written and thought out.
(y)

I don't believe we can attribute morality to God, this is an anthropomorphic depiction of God.
No, it isn't. God is good!

Deuteronomy 32:4 He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.​
Psalm 118:1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. (see also Psalm 136:1)​
Psalm 143:10 Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.​
Psalm 145:17 The Lord is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works.​
Hosea 3:5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.​
Hosea 14:9 Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the Lord are right; The righteous walk in them,...​
Mark 10:18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.

There isn't anything in the text or in the context of any of these and perhaps a hundred other passages that say similar things that would cause anyone to suspect that they don't mean what they explicitly say.

In fact, the ONLY reason to think otherwise is if you bring your doctrine to the text.

Only humans are judged by morality.
Not so!

Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.
Psalm 89:14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face.​

God is, I am that I am, a spiritual essence beyond any kind of relative state, eternal, uncreated, unchanging.
This is Greek philosophy, not biblical Christianity. God is a person. A person who is not only living, relational and loving but who created us for that very reason and purpose.

Humans are subject to a relative state, (knowing the Tree of Good and Evil) and thus can be judged by morality.
This is just completely wrong. Adam and Eve were both declared "very good" before they ever saw the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Genesis 1:31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.​

God is an absolute perfection and humans have no insight into absolute states. The concept of God is 100% abstraction.
This is not biblical Christianity.

“In the beginning” refers to that eternal reality beyond time, a reality that transcends all creation, is changeless and placeless, and yet is the very essence and source of all that exists or can ever exist. It is beyond time and space, beyond here or there, beyond up or down, hot or cold–beyond any duality or form there exists the “I am,” the single, indivisible, omnipresent, unfathomable “Word.” Within the absolute realm of the eternal “I am”, the Word exists without any need of expression or vocalization. It just is.
Self contradictory nonsense born out of Aristotelian stupidity that Augustine imported into the Catholic Church. It has exactly nothing to do with anything taught in the bible whatsoever. It is 100% irrational nonsense.

I really like how you frame the, "Word", as Logic.
I can't take credit for coming up with that but, yes, I like it too! "Logic" or "Reason" is a far better translation of Logos into English than is "word" which conveys almost no meaning in English at all.

God is the, "I am", transcending rational and moral. God is a state of perfection.
There can be no such thing as the super-rational. You said it yourself in a post on another thread. Truth is truth. There isn't any second kind of truth. The following is the only thing Aristotle ever wrote that is worth reading....

  • The Law of Identity: A is A. A thing is what it is. This is the foundation of all knowledge excepting the singular presupposition of God Himself (i.e. somewhat redundant once you realize that God is Reason - thus "I am." is the ultimate expression of the law of identity.)
  • The Law of excluded Middle: A truth claim is either true or it is false (i.e. given a particular context).
  • The Law of contradiction: Any two truth claims that contradict cannot both be true (i.e given a particular context).
Incidentally, Aristotle is given credit for these laws but it should be noted that he did not invent them nor was he the first to understand them. He is given credit because his is the oldest known writings that include them and for no other reason.

And there is a word for being non-moral. That word is "amoral". Suggesting that God is amoral is heresy at best if not down right blasphemy.
And there is no door number three from which to choose, by the way. A thing is either moral, in which case issues of right and wrong apply, or a thing is amoral. There simply is no such thing as "supra-morality". It is an utterly meaningless concept that is completely foreign to the bible.

In order for the, "Word" to become Manifest in the material realm the, "Word" must Manifest through a human form, the likes of Jesus and Noah and Moses, etc.
I don't know for certain what it is you mean by that statement but on its face it appears to be blasphemy. Noah and Moses would both have struck you in the face for likening them to anything remotely similar to God in the flesh. God was on His way to kill Moses for having failed to circumcise his son and was denied entry into the promise land for having failed to follow God's explicit instructions and striking the rock (a picture of Christ's death) twice! He was anything but the Logos of God. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your point here. Care to clarify?

Clete
 
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JudgeRightly

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I want to learn more about the theophanies. The Burning Bush is the only one I can fathom.

Consider also Jacob's wrestling match with Christ, Abraham's welcoming Christ as a guest in his home, and Moses getting to see God's back on Mount Sinai.
 
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