The Goodness of God
David Baggett and Jerry L. Walls (Oxford University Press: Apr 2011), 304 pages.
This book aims to reinvigorate discussions of moral arguments for God's existence. To open this debate, Baggett and Walls argue that God's love and moral goodness are perfect, without defect, necessary, and recognizable. After integrating insights from the literature of both moral apologetics and theistic ethics, they defend theistic ethics against a variety of objections and, in so doing, bolster the case for the moral argument for God's existence. It is the intention of the authors to see this aspect of natural theology resume its rightful place of prominence, by showing how a worldview predicated on the God of both classical theism and historical Christian orthodoxy has more than adequate resources to answer the Euthyphro Dilemma, speak to the problem of evil, illumine natural law, and highlight the moral significance of the incarnation and resurrection of Christ. Ultimately, the authors argue, there is principled reason to believe that morality itself provides excellent reasons to look for a transcendent source of its authority and reality, and a source that is more than an abstract principle. ~ Book Description
David T. Lamb (InterVarsity Press: April 2011), 205 pages.
God has a bad reputation. Many think of God as wrathful and angry, smiting people right and left for no apparent reason. The Old Testament in particular seems at times to portray God as capricious and malevolent, wiping out armies and nations, punishing enemies with extreme prejudice. But wait. The story is more complicated than that. Alongside troubling passages of God's punishment and judgment are pictures of God's love, forgiveness, goodness and slowness to anger. How do we make sense of the seeming contradiction? Can God be trusted or not? David Lamb unpacks the complexity of the Old Testament to explore the character of God. He provides historical and cultural background to shed light on problematic passages and to bring underlying themes to the fore. Without minimizing the sometimes harsh realities of the biblical record, Lamb assembles an overall portrait that gives coherence to our understanding of God in both the Old and New Testaments. ~ Product Description
"A Divine and Supernatural Light" in A Jonathan Edwards Reader (Yale University Press: 2003), p. 112.
Thus there is a difference between having an opinion that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. A man may have the former, that knows not how honey tastes; but a man can't have the latter, unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind. So there is a difference between believing that a person is beautiful, and having a sense of his beauty. The former may be obtained by hearsay, but the latter only by seeing the countenance. There is a wide difference between mere speculative, rational judging anything to be excellent, and having a sense of its sweetness, and beauty. The former rests only in the head, speculation only is concerned in it; but the heart is concerned in the latter. When the heart is sensible of the loveliness of a thing, that the idea of it is sweet and pleasant to his soul; which is a far different thing from having a rational opinion that is excellent.
Paul Copan (Baker Books: Jan 1, 2011), 252 pages.
Is the God of the Old Testament nothing but a bully, a murderer, and an oppressor? Many today — even within the church — seem to think so. How are Christians to respond to such accusations? And how are we to reconcile the seemingly disconnected natures of God portrayed in the two testaments? In this timely and readable book, apologist Paul Copan takes on some of the most vexing accusations of our time, including: God is arrogant and jealous; God punishes people too harshly; God is guilty of ethnic cleansing; God oppresses women; God endorses slavery; Christianity causes violence. Copan not only answers the critics, he also shows how to read both the Old and New Testaments faithfully, seeing an unchanging, righteous, and loving God in both.
"Evidence of a Morally Perfect God" in God is Good, God is Great, William Lane Craig and Chad Meister, eds. (IVP Books: 2009), pp. 49-50.
Many sane, educated and generally trustworthy people claim not only that God exists but also that they have genuine knowledge, including justified true belief, that God exists. Because claims are typically cheap and easy, however, the claim to know that God exists will prompt the following response, usually sooner rather than later: How do they know? ¶ This common four-word question, although irksome at times, is perfectly intelligible and even valuable, as far as it goes. It seeks an explanation of how the belief that God exists exceeds mere belief, or opinion, and achieves the status of genuine knowledge. In particular, this question typically seeks an explanation of how, if at all, the belief that God exists is grounded, justified, reasonable, or evidence-based regarding affirmations of truth. ¶ A plausible goal behind our four-word question is, at least for many inquirers, to acquire truth in a manner that includes an adequate indication of true belief. These truth-seeking inquirers aim not only to avoid false belief and lucky guesswork, but also to minimize the risk of error in their beliefs (at least in a way befitting to the acquisition of truth). We should aim for the same, as people who seek truth but who are faced sometimes with facts and other realities at odds with our opinions. In seeking truth about God's existence, in particular, we thus should seek truth based on evidence for God's reality. Such evidence, if available, would indicate that it is true that God exists, or (in other words) that God is real rather than fictional.
Why I Am Not a Christian (Simon and Schuster: 1957), p. 12.
If you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, you are then in this situation: Is that difference due to God's fiat or is it not? If it is due to God's fiat, then for God Himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good. If you are going to say, as theologians do, that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which is independent of God's fiat, because God's fiats are good and not good independently of the mere fact that he made them. If you are going to say that, you will then have to say that it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being, but that they are in their essence logically anterior to God.
On Natural Theology, Vol. 1 (Robert Carter & Brothers: 1857) pp. 71-3.
The prima facie evidence for a God may not be enough to decide the question; but it should at least decide man to entertain the question. To think upon how slight a variation either in man or in external nature, the whole difference between physical enjoyment and the most acute and most appalling of physical agony may turn; to think how delicate the balance is, and yet how surely and steadfastly it is maintained, so as that the vast majority of creatures are not only upheld in comfort but often may be seen disporting themselves in the redundance of gaiety; to think of the pleasurable sensations wherewith every hour is enlivened, and how much the most frequent and familiar occasions of life are mixed up with happiness; to think of the food, and the recreation, and the study, and the society, and the business, each having an appropriate relish of its own, so as in fact to season with enjoyment the great bulk of our existence in the world; to think that, instead of living in the midst of grievous and incessant annoyance to all our faculties, we should have awoke upon a world that so harmonized with the various senses of man, and both gave forth such music to his ear, and to his eye such manifold loveliness; to think of all these palpable and most precious adaptations, and yet to care not, whether in this wide universe there exists a being who has had any hand in them; to riot and regale oneself to the uttermost in the midst of all this profusion, and yet to send not one wishful inquiry after that Benevolence which for aught we know may have laid it at our feet — this, however shaded from our view the object of the question may be, is, from its very commencement, a clear outrage against its ethical proprieties. If that veil of dim transparency, which hides the Deity from our immediate perceptions, were lifted up; and we should then spurn from us the manifested God — this were direct and glaring impiety. But anterior to the lifting of that veil, there may be impiety. It is impiety to be so immersed as we are, in the busy objects and gratifications of life; and yet to care not whether there be a great and a good spirit by whose kindness it is that life is upholden. It needs not that this great spirit should reveal Himself in characters that force our attention to Him, ere the guilt of our impiety has begun. But ours is the guilt of impiety, in not lifting our attention towards God, in not seeking after Him if haply we may find Him.
"The Self-Emptying of Love" in The Incarnation: A Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Incarnation of the Son of God, Stephen T. Davis, Daniel Kendall, and Gerald O'Collins, eds. (Oxford: 2004), p. 249.
The first and most powerful source of the appeal of a kenotic theory is the great religious power and meaning that is intrinsic to the idea of a God who sacrifices and suffers with and on behalf of his creatures. If I am caught up in terrible suffering it is one thing to be assured of the love and kindness of another person. It is quite another thing for that other person to give the assurance by entering into my situation and suffering with me or even for me. A God who empties himself out of love for human beings, who recklessly as it were gives up divine privileges to endure all the hard realities of human life, is a God whose love is credible and inspires love in return.
William Lane Craig and Chad Meister, eds. (Intervarsity: Nov. 30, 2009), 272 pages.
The days have passed when the goodness of God — indeed, the reality of God itself — could reasonably be called a consensus opinion. God's reputation has come under considerable review in recent days, with some going so far as to say that it's not we who've made a mess of things. Instead whatever it is we call God is to blame. But is such an opinion really a fair assessment? In this magisterial collection, the contemporary complaints against belief in God are addressed with intellectual passion and rigor by some of the most astute theological and philosophical minds of the day: J. P. Moreland, Paul Moser, John Polkinghorne, Michael Behe, Michael J. Murray, Alister McGrath, Paul Copan, Jerry Walls, Charles Taliaferro, Scot McKnight, Gary Habermas, Mark Mittelberg, Chad Meister, and William Lane Craig. Includes an interview by Gary Habermas with noted convert to theism Antony Flew, and a direct critical response to Richard Dawkins's God Delusion by Alvin Plantinga, God Is Great, God Is Good offers convincing and compelling reassurance that though the world has changed, God has not.
"Battlestar Galactica Episodes 421-423 Commentary" (March 23, 2009: 1:27:00)
And this is the key moment of the finale, [Baltar] realizing the connections. Baltar is the man who has been thinking about and talking about God from the very beginning. Since the moment that Caprica Six said "God is Love" and Baltar dismissed her belief and mocked her belief. There is a direct connection between that moment and here where Baltar in the finale realizes, truly realizes, there is a different, there is another hand at work here, that there is something else going on, that there is a greater truth, that there is really something to this idea of destiny, that there is really something to this notion that he is a player in a grander play, and that he has to fill that role. I was really intrigued by that and I really wanted that to be a part of what happened at the end...
Is God a Delusion? A Reply to Religion's Cultured Despisers (Wiley-Blackwell: Dec. 3, 2008), p. 49.
Everything we care about — and, more significantly, everything we should care about — is something the universe of "blind physical forces" just doesn't care about. A materialist view of reality turns morality and goodness into the idiosyncratic concerns of a single species that might never have existed (and if we hadn't, the universe wouldn't have cared a whit). When we are gone (as we will be), the universe will once again just be a world of meaningless facts and events. The world of things without life, without personality, without a capacity to care — this, according to the scientific picture endorsed by Dawkins and Stenger and others, is the ultimate reality. ¶ Juxtaposed against this picture, there is the hope that the essence of the universe is characterized by something else — what Martin Luther King called "a loving purpose." It is the hope that there is something fundamental that eludes empirical investigation and which is essentially on the side of goodness. In such a universe, the moral agent who cares about the good is in tune with the fundamental truth about the universe in a way that the sociopath is not.
Steven Nadier (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: Oct 28, 2008), 320 pages.
In the spring of 1672, the German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz arrived in Paris on a furtive diplomatic mission. That project was abandoned quickly, but Leibniz remained in Paris with a singular goal: to get the most out of the city’s intellectual and cultural riches. He benefited, above all, from his friendships with France’s two greatest philosopher-theologians of the period, Antoine Arnauld and Nicolas de Malebranche. The interactions of these three men would prove of great consequence not only for Leibniz’s own philosophy but for the development of modern philosophical and religious thought. Despite their wildly different views and personalities, the three philosophers shared a single, passionate concern: resolving the problem of evil. Why is it that, in a world created by an allpowerful, all-wise, and infinitely just God, there is sin and suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people, and good things to bad people? This is the story of a clash between radically divergent worldviews. But it is also a very personal story. At its heart are the dramatic—and often turbulent—relationships between three brilliant and resolute individuals. In this lively and engaging book, Steven Nadler brings to life a debate that obsessed its participants, captivated European intellectuals, and continues to inform our ways of thinking about God, morality, and the world.
Robert Garcia and Nathan King, eds. (Rowman & Littlefield, Inc. : July 30, 2008), 224 pages.
Morality and religion: intimately wed, violently opposed, or something else? Discussion of this issue appears in pop culture, the academy, and the media — often generating radically opposed views. At one end of the spectrum are those who think that unless God exists, ethics is unfounded and the moral life is unmotivated. At the other end are those who think that religious belief is unnecessary for — and even a threat to — ethical knowledge and the moral life. This volume provides an accessible, charitable discussion that represents a range of views along this spectrum. The book begins with a lively debate between Paul Kurtz and William Lane Craig on the question, Is goodness without God good enough? Kurtz defends the affirmative position and Craig the negative. Following the debate are new essays by prominent scholars. These essays comment on the debate and advance the broader discussion of religion and morality. The book closes with final responses from Kurtz and Craig.
A number of recent books making the case against God have hit the best-seller list, most notably Christopher Hitchens' God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. If you follow the argument closely, you'll notice that the gravamen of the case against God is their judgment that God, and specifically the Christian God, as he is commonly understood, is not good after all. Whatever its status as a logical proof against theism, the argument is existentially forceful because we meet a God in their arguments that is deserving of their unmistakable disdain. The argument against the goodness of God usually advances on three fronts:
- God cannot be good because the world is rife with evil and suffering;
- The God we meet in the Bible, especially in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament, is repugnant to our moral sensibilities; and,
- Those who claim to follow this God are responsible for epic evils like the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the "troubles" in Northern Ireland as well as for more quotidian evils like intolerance, anti-intellectualism, and being bores.
The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1998), p. 63.
We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that he is full of joy. ¶ We pay a lot of money to get a tank with a few tropical fish in it and never tire of looking at their brilliant iridescence and marvelous forms and movements. But God has seas full of them, which he constantly enjoys. ¶ Human beings can lose themselves in card games or electric trains and think they are fortunate. But to God there is available, in the language of one reporter, "Towering clouds of gases trillions of miles high, backlit by nuclear fires in newly forming stars, galaxies cart wheeling into collision and sending explosive shock waves boiling through millions of light-years of time and space." These things are all before him, along with numberless unfolding rosebuds, souls, and songs, and immeasurably more of which we know nothing.
Ric Ergenbright (Tyndale House: Oct 1, 1999), 160 pages.
Renowned landscape photographer Ric Ergenbright here turns his attention to the holiness reflected in the beauty of the natural world. Combining scriptural passages with photographic and scientific observations relating to the elements of nature, Ergenbright uses his dramatic, often astonishing photographs as a testament to the power and perfection of God. Though he recognizes that "if all Scripture were lost, we could still know something of [God's] character by carefully studying the works of his hands," Ergenbright uses the book to emphasize how God's Word can illuminate the world around us. This beautiful coffee-table book is a wonderful addition to any nature-lover's collection, and the detailed notes throughout are an education to any aspiring photographer.
The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1998), p. 61.
Jesus' good news about the kingdom can be an effective guide for our lives only if we share his view of the world in which we live. To his eyes this is a God-bathed and God-permeated world. It is a world filled with a glorious reality, where every component is within the range of God's direct knowledge and control — though he obviously permits some of it, for good reasons, to be for a while otherwise than as he wishes. It is a world that is inconceivably beautiful and good because of God and because God is always in it. It is a world in which God is continually at play and over which he constantly rejoices. Until our thoughts of God have found every visible thing and event glorious with his presence, the word of Jesus has not yet fully seized us.
R. Douglas Geivett on Design said...
"Is Jesus the Only Way?" in Jesus Under Fire, eds. Michael J. Wilkins and JP Moreland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 192.
If the condition in our universe were not what they are, within a very small margin of flexibility, no life of any kind would be found in this universe. Thus, while the present universe is a fit habitat for human and other life form of life, the initial probability of there being such a universe is quite small. The confluence of so-called "cosmic constants" is improbable enough on the assumption that the universe is uncaused and undesigned; it is even more improbable on the supposition that we owe our existence to Creator who has it in for us. If, on the other hand, our lives are special, and if what makes our lives special has anything to do with the physical condition in which we come to have our lives, then the good of human life depends upon the Creator as well. This is cause for considerable comfort, for it offers an important clue concerning the Creator's good intentions for humans. Our bodies locate us in a physical world of astonishing complexity, apparently ordered by its Creator to the goal our physical well-being.
The Ragamuffin Gospel (Questar Publishers, 1993).
This chapter began with a paean of praise of the power of God manifested in the works of creation. The gospel of grace ends any apparent dichotomy between God's power and his love. The God who flung from his fingertips this universe filled with galaxies and stars, penguins and puffins, gulls and gannets, Pomeranians and poodles, elephants and evergreens, parrots and potato bugs, peaches and pears, and a world full of children made in his own image, is the God who loves with magnificent monotony.