What makes an action good?
Socrates coined the Eurythro Dilema -
Is an action 'good' because:
1) God commands it, or
2) God commands what is good?
To choose (1) would mean that if God commanded that '**** is not wrong', then there would be nothing morally wrong with ****.
This could mean that God is a divine dictator because whatever God commands is the law.
Option (2) suggests God only commands what is good. Problem here is that goodness does not originate from God. Instead, goodness is like an independent standard of which God is the enforcer.
Christians do not support this view as Christian tradition emphasises the goodness of God's actions and the fact that goodness originates from God.
God's goodness revealed and questioned
Bible presents two key ideas: 1)God is good and perfect. 2)God's actions are good.
Goodness is revealed directly to people through God's activity in the world for the benefit of humans (miracles) and the beauty of creation.
When Christians say that creation reveals God, they mean that something of God's nature can be learned through it.
The goodness of God's actions is not a matter of human judgement - shown in the story of Abraham.
God challenges Abraham to do something that is seen to be immoral, raising questions about the nature of God's goodness.
Story shows that it is God's commands that make an action good. Our duty to respond to such commands.
However, for many it presents a strange, uncomfortable image of God.
The Bible - Old Testament
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (Decalogue)
Exodus 20 - God sets standards of what is morally right and wrong.
Given to the people of Israel as a gift.
God is revealed through a Theophany - an event which is beyond description, yet reveals God.
Part of God's covenant with Israel - a sacred agreement that cannot be broken.
Relationship between them and God - He sets standards for them to obey, in return they are His chosen people whom he protects.
God's goodness shown through covenant - He keeps it even when the people don't.
God is described as 'impassioned', (often translanted as jealous) but it actually means that God is passionately committed to Israel.
Imagery used to describe God's activity in the Bible is anthropromorphic. Attempts to communicate God's awareness and activity in world.
Examples such as warrior, fighter, king or mother hen do not fit well. Not literal.
The Bible - New Testament
In the Gospels and Epistles, God's goodness is revealed through Jesus.
Christians believe Jesus is God made flesh (incarnate), and His life and ressurection reveal God's love for people.
Jesus is crucified as a sacrifice for our sins.
God's goodness is again shown through the forgiveness offered by Jesus.
Comparison of Plato's Form of the Good and God
Both sources of goodness.
Plato states that the Forms are not material, physical things. Similarly, God is transcendent - utterly separate from the world.
Awareness that God's goodness is different from human beings and thus not always understandable in human ways.
The Form of the Good is the source of the other Forms; The Form of the Good does not act in the physical world.
Alternatively, God is not just a source of goodness who decides what is right and wrong. He acts in morally good ways in the world, e.g.creation and miracles.
What does 'God is good' mean?
1) By saying God is good we are making a statement about God's nature and actions.
2) Augustine - evil can be defined as being a lack of something.
Perfection means that something cannot be any better than it is - it lacks nothing.
'God is perfectly good' suggests that God is the standard of what is good and the standard cannot be defined.
This suggests that opinion 2 of the Euthyphro dilema is incorrect.
Problems raised by God's goodness
1) Is it possible to believe in a good God given the amount of evil and suffering in the world?
2) Questionable whether God intervenes in the world as not everyone has witnessed/ experienced events such as miracles/visions.
3) Destruction of the city of Ai (Joshua 8) and the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22: 1 - 19) question God's goodness
4) Some Philosophers argue that we cannot talk directly about what it means for God to be good. He's not a physical being like humans so to asses God's goodness is different from assessing 'John's goodness'.
5) To say that God acts in a way which promotes good in the world is a problem because some argue that God is unchangeable. What about the God who responds to people's needs?