Tuesday, August 3, 2010

America, the Good Wannabe

This is a response to Spiritual Tramp's blog post, Are We Good:
I enjoyed that post, Scott. I confess, I did not watch the entire speech. I didn't even make it to the 6-minute point you quoted from.
I agree with your statements, for the most part. But I do take issue with a couple things. First, I wasn't there Sunday, but I disagree with that definition of goodness offered by our associate pastor.
The Bible says that praises to God are “good.” The Lord calls each day of the creation “good.” If you do a simple word search for "good" in scripture, you'll get more than 700 returns, and few of them deal with situations of generosity in particular. If you do a search for "goodness," you'll get 48 returns. All but two are about God's goodness. The other two are about the fruit of the Spirit, which is derived not by any of man's endeavors (generosity included), but by the Spirit alone.
They quoted Micah 6:8 Sunday before last, you'll remember:
He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but
to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
According to that passage, justice, kindness and humility are good. Sacrificial generosity is surely a part of that, but it's not the end-all summation of goodness.
Further, there is no such thing as goodness outside of God. Nothing is good apart from Him, and people cannot be good without Him (James 1:17; Psalm 14:1, 53:1). So if you use Scripture as your basis for judging whether or not our nation is good, you'll have to deal with another problem in your post:
You wrote, "God isn’t (and I’d argue shouldn’t be) the center of America’s life."
You are right, God is not the center of America’s life, nor is He at the center of the vast majority of her citizens' lives (whether they claim to be Christ followers or not). And America is not a good nation, accordingly.
Generosity is a beautiful thing. It’s a mitzvah (good deed) commanded by God. His heart is particularly soft toward the orphan, the fatherless, and the widow, and generosity toward them affords us particular blessings, just as exploiting one of them affords us curses. That’s a scriptural fact. But being generous will never make us good. America could feed every starving child, clothe and medicate every destitute and sick individual in our nation and the world. America could spend, spend, spend and give, give, give, and never be good. Goodness belongs to God alone, and it is only manifested through the presence of His Holy Spirit. Everything else is just empty works.
On a related note, that's the problem I have with the liberal or progressive movement in our nation—it's all works with no place for the only One who can make any of our endeavors good or lasting—the very definition of humanism.
My opinion is rooted completely in Scripture. I realize that is seen as a weakness and an offense to many. And I, conversely, see anyone’s efforts at goodness outside of Him as fruitless. C'est la vie.

1 comment:

  1. Well, and perhaps I didn't point this out clearly enough in the blog post, in Josh's defense he didn't say that merely being generous was a fruit of the spirit. Any man can be generous. The generosity of men is largely self serving (this is true of both the self righteous giving I've seen on the right and the social agenda I've seen on the left). The type of generosity that Josh spoke of was the sacrificial sort that's not possible outside of a relationship with God.

    I think part of the issue with the whole thing is that the word "good" has come to mean so many things from the moral to the mediocre. In looking at the interlinear Bible for this passage it says that "agathosune" means goodness/benevolence/kindness moreso than moral uprightness. So generosity is certainly one way of looking at that. And I think the sacrificial generosity Josh spoke of is certainly a fruit of the spirit.

    It's certainly not the end all definition of goodness and I don't think I said as much. I was speaking mainly of "agathosune". If the fruit "goodness" was as all encompassing as you define it here then it likely wouldn't be listed since all of the other fruits are pretty specific.

    In closing I'd say that your opinion is rooted entirely in your interpretation of the scripture. As is mine.