Is Only God Good? – On Perfection

The word good gets thrown around a lot. We generally use it to describe anything that we like, we call those things which we dislike bad. So people commonly behave as though God is not the only good.

When people do this, they pretend that their own subjective tastes and preferences are the tools which should be used to decide the goodness of a thing. And the people who talk this way are following a hedonic system which places themselves as the supreme judges of what is good or bad.

“Do I like it? Yes? Then it is good.”
“Do I dislike it? Yes? Then it is bad.”


People who do this are cannot be Christians, Jews, or Muslims. They place themselves above God as the judges of what is right or wrong, and they break the First Commandment and the Shahada in the process.

Yet members of these groups do so anyway, which is why they have become needful of a reminder of why only God is essentially good.

Only God is essentially good. He is the sole source and judge of goodness. Others may have goodness, but they only do so by their relationship to God. Their goodness is not intrinsic to themselves, nor does it arise from the judgment of others. So one should not say others are basically good.

In the following sections, we’ll address some of the common arguments pertaining to this topic. Then we’ll cover what it means for God to be good and perfect.

God Is Not the Only Good. People Are Too.

God is essentially good. God it not the only thing which is essentially good. To be good in essence is to be equal to good so that the good subject and good can be used to define one another.

In other words, God is good means:

God = Good

and

Good = God

Now, humans are made in the image of God, and their maker is perfect. So God did not make a mistake when he made man. Therefore, the image of God within man is perfect.

If the image is perfect, and if it is an image of God, and if God is good, then it must be a perfect image of good.

Humans possess this image of perfect good and must be good as well. The case could not be otherwise. If it were, then the image must be corruptible. Yet a trait of perfect goodness is the inability for something evil to stain it. So the image cannot be corruptible, and humans may not muddy it.

The Creator and His Creation

God is both being and the capacity for being.

All living things possess being.

So all living things possess God within them.

And God is good.

So living things must be good because they possess the perfect goodness.

A Quick Refutation of the Arguments Above

Two types of goodness exist: essential goodness and participatory goodness.

A thing is essentially good if its goodness resides in and of itself.

A thing is only good by participation, however, if it derives its goodness from something else.

Now living things which derive their goodness from that bit of God within them possess good of the second sort.

If God and His image did not reside within them, then they would not be good at all.

So living things are not basically/essentially/fundamentally/etc. good.

That God Alone Is Good

Only God is basically good. This is because God is meant to have certain traits, and God has these traits without error. God is good because He possesses all which he is meant to possess, and he bears it without flaw.

Why God Is Perfect

People often say that God is perfect without understanding the meaning fo the words they’re speaking. They string together words that feel nice to say, but the mouth which utters them is not aided by a knowing brain.

We’ll remedy that here.

What It Means for Something to Be Perfect

A thing is perfect if it possesses three characteristics: (1) an ideal form, (2) a lack of errors imbued into that form, and (3) no movement toward an end other than itself.

Now, what does that actually mean?

You’ll probably need to take some time to let the arguments below sink in.

An Ideal Form

A thing owns an ideal form if that form is the single most effective form available to it for it to achieve its own purpose.

A sphere is an example of an ideal form. This is because a sphere is the single most effective way of rendering a 3-D object in which all points are equidistant from some focus.

A Lack of Errors

Sometimes an ideal form may be produced by a accident. Subjects which accidentally possess an ideal form are not perfect. They are the result of errors, and the errors which led to their existence ruin their perfection.

This is because those subjects which bear an ideal form by accident are proof of error by their very being. And a thing which proves the existence of errors by its mere being and without relationship to another thing is not perfect.

A perfect thing alone cannot be used as proof of imperfection.

No Movement Toward A New End

If a thing is perfect, then it cannot change. If a perfect thing changes, then it is no longer perfect. Moreover, if a thing is perfect, then it does not lack anything which it might desire. So the perfect subject is not motivated of its own accord to change.

And a second body cannot act on a perfect thing to induce errors within it. If something is perfect, then the ability to be corrupted or damaged must not reside within it. To possess the ability to be corrupted is a type of imperfection, and a perfect thing must, by definition, lack this.

So, a perfect thing, content with its own perfection, does not change of its own accord. Nor can it be made to change by the actions of an outside force. Therefore, it does not change at all.

How God Is Perfect

God alone bears the three traits which allow a thing to be perfect.

His Ideal Form

God names Himself in the Old Testament as “I am that I am.” Here, He states that He is both being and the ability to be. Therefore, God cannot is irreducible. Nothing can be the cause of being that thing, whatever it might be, would require the ability to exist, i.e., God, in the first place.

So God, being… being, is in His simplest form. And by being the source of His own existence in its simplest form, He must not possess excessive or extraneous sections.

So He bears an ideal form.

A Lack of Errors

God cannot be the product of an accident, and He does not contain errors within Himself.

God cannot be the result of an accident because God created time, so time did not exist for Him and His creation.

Therefore, nothing could have lead to God’s existence. Sequences of events could not exist if time did not, and time was not present until after God created it.

Moreover, The Lord exists in His simplest form. So he must not contain errors within Himself. These errors would add to His simplicity and, therefore, destroy it.

No Movement Toward a New End

A perfect thing can’t change. If it does, then it is no longer perfect. And a perfect thing does not need to change. IF it did, then it would not be perfect.

Now, God is eternal. He exists outside of time, and he is immune to effects which require time to operate. One such effect is change.

If a thing change, then it changes over time. In one moment it is one thing, and in the next moment it is something else. This is the meaning of change, and it requires moments to exist.

But moments do not exist in eternity, yet God does. Therefore, Our Creator does not change.

And although The Almighty may intervene in the timeline of the universe in which we live, nothing here may change Him because we lack the power to do so.

So God remains constant.

That a Thing Has the Image of God Does Not Make It Essentially Good

Some may say that humans and other being may be basically good because some part of God is manifest within them, and He is good.

Those people contradict themselves.

If a thing is good because of its relationship with The Lord, then to lose that relationship is to lose the goodness which comes from it. In which case, the thing which was once good is now good no longer. Yet this could not be the case if it were basically good. The goodness of that thing is merely a byproduct of something else and not intrinsic to the possessor.

Singularity and Perfection

God is simple, and His simplicity is required for Him to be perfect.

Some may misconstrue this to mean that all simple things are perfect. Those who do are mistaken.

A thing is simple if it cannot be divided into smaller parts. This does not mean that all indivisible things are perfect.

Simplicity is necessary but not sufficient in order for a being to have perfection.

“An engineer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing else left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

 

Gene Botkin

Gene is the director of the Theosis Christian Project. He studied physics and military science before founding the Project. Gene is currently pursuing his doctorate in systems engineering at an engineering college in the Ozarks. The Theosis Christian Project is his attempt to expand Holy Orthodoxy in America.

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