February 16, 2010
Good without God?
"…even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened."
Many are professing quite loudly today that they can be "good without god." We Christians have a fairly good idea of what these people are trying to say. They haven't killed anybody. They work hard. They build community, are compassionate, and give to charity. And I suppose that from a perspective in which the God of the Bible is ignored for a few moments, you could easily agree with them that they are fairly decent people.
The rub comes, though, when you probe more deeply than the superficial. At the heart of the issue is how you define what "good" actually means. Who defines that? And by what authority? The natural man who claims to be "good without God" wants to improvise what good means and define it on his own terms.
Now, granted, if Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead and all the claims Christianity are irrelevant, then non-believers are free to live however they choose with no consequences. And that is exactly what most want. But that point of view doesn't exactly square with reality or with history.
In the end, man's attempt to define what is good in relative terms has no effect whatsoever on the definition of good that has been eternally fixed by God. Romans 1:18 powerfully speaks to this, saying that man's very desire to determine for himself what is good is something that God actually mocks, calling it "futile… foolish… and darkened."
As harmless as it may seem on the surface, it is actually a grave offense for a creature made by God to stroll around on the earth that He made and pretend to himself that there is no God. Such self-centered unbelief screams that Jesus, the Apostles and the thousands of martyrs and godly believers through the ages are nothing more than a bunch of liars. And that man is the one who decides what is true, what is of value, and what is good.
This matter of defining good and evil really gets to the core of the offense of the gospel. If you've never personally seen an irate, prideful or self-justifying response to the gospel message, you may want to check the accuracy of the kind of gospel you're telling to others. The true gospel calls all human creatures—all pretenders to autonomy—to acknowledge God as their Creator and bow in submission to Him, not just add Jesus to an otherwise self-absorbed life.
It's a bit counter-intuitive, but such submission actually ends up being in the best interest of the creature. Instead of continuting to fight against the way things are, the creature who submits to God begins living the life of blessing, Romans 5:1(Romans 5:1) with his Creator.
What's the proof of a life at peace with the God? Francis Schaeffer said that it's thankfulness. In the first chapter of his classic book, True Spirituality he wrote that as seemingly small, insignificant and optional as a thankful heart might appear at first glance, thankfulness turns out to actually be the litmus test for whether or not one truly believes in God. Schaeffer said...
"The beginning of men's rebellion against God was, and is, the lack of a thankful heart. They did not see themselves as creatures before their Creator...
The rebellion is a deliberate refusal to be the creature before the Creator, to the extent of being thankful.
"In a Christian understanding of contentment, we must see… there is a personal God. He is my Father since I have accepted Christ. Then surely when I do not trust Him, I am denying what I say I believe."
If ingratitude evidences lack of trust, and lack of trust means unbelief, then when we catch ourselves grumbling, we need to repent of Hebrews 11:6 (Hebrews 11:6). Unbelief is the root of an unthankful outlook, and unbelief cuts the nerve of true spirituality. Schaeffer speaks out of his own experience here when he says that...
"The inward area is the first place of loss of true spirituality. The outward is always just a result of it."
The pathway back to true spirituality is the prayer that Christ answered in mark 9:24—"Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief."
Yes, life is hard. Yes, we live in a sin-cursed and fallen world. Tomorrow's anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy is a stark reminder of this truth. Things are not as they should be. But in the face of all that, we are not called to give thanks with a plastic smile. Neither are we called to be complacent in fighting against what is wrong in the world. God calls us to trust Him knowing that His view transcends the tiny part of the picture that we can see. If we are full of faith, we'll be thankful for all things while standing for good as defined by our God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).
It may be a hard truth to accept, but thankfulness in all things is not optional. It's essential.
That is, unless you are out of touch with reality, still trying to be good without God.
Intersecting Faith & Life:
How firmly do you believe that God alone defines good and evil? Do you think of ethics and morality as something that can be improvised by people? What's the result of that?
If you have an opportunity to talk with someone today who is trying to be good without god, relate to him/her in a positive way about his desire to be good, then direct him to the deeper line of thinking seen in Romans 1.
how to know truth and evaluate competing worldviews by Chris Daniel
why i believe in god by Cornelius Van Til