Nice post, well written and thought out.I posted this a long time ago but it doesn't seem to have survived the software upgrade and so I'm posting it again here. Enjoy!
Our Moral God
The question of God's morality might, to some, seem a ridiculous question. To some the idea that God might not be moral is so ludicrous a thought that it would be down right blasphemous to even utter it aloud. After all, they say, if God is amoral (i.e. non-moral) then there can be no standard of right and wrong. But to those who take such a position it would come as quite a surprise to discover that there are at least as many, if not more, who think it an equally blasphemous thought to suggest that God is moral. After all, God is not subject to the law! Right?
What is the source of such confusion? Well, there are many possible ways to answer that question, the most obvious of which has to do with the defining of terms and explaining in more detail what is meant when one says that God is, or is not, moral. But I don't believe that the problem can really be solved by a mere analysis of the semantics involved. This is not an issue of sophistry but rather it is a problem of philosophy. There is a more fundamentally philosophical issue involved here that I believe the vast majority of people on both sides of this issue do not understand nor do they even have any inkling of the issue's existence for that matter. The purpose of this essay is to bring this issue to the attention of those on both sides of this issue and to explain how the God we serve is indeed moral but not because He follows or is subject to a set of rules nor because His nature defines morality, which is meaningless, but because God is rational.
In John chapter one we are taught not simply that Jesus is God, nor simply that God became a man, but that God the Son is the Logos of God. The New King James renders the passage this way...
John1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
In this passage, everywhere you see the phrase, "the Word" the Greek word being used is "Logos". It is important to understand what this Greek word means because the use of "Word" as an English translation just doesn't convey what this passage is teaching. Logos conveys the idea of communication or more specifically, discourse and more specifically than that, rational discourse and or rational argument. It is the word from which we get the suffix "-ology", as in Biology, Technology, Climatology, Cosmology, etc. So the study of living things is "Biology" and the processes in a living creature are said to be biological. Notice bio-LOGICAL. This is the meaning conveyed by "Logos". To apply logic to the processes in living things, and thus to understand them, is biology, it is the logos of life.
So now, with this better understanding of the Greek, lets look at this passage again...
John 1:1 In the beginning was Logic, and Logic was with God, and Logic was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.14 And Logic became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Now, there are some who object to such a translation thinking it improper to equate the living God with some abstract concept such as logic. But it should be noted that those who make such an objection never object to God being equated with the abstract concept of "Word", nor are they typically capable of offering any explanation as to what exactly it means to say "the Word as God". In other words, people who object on the grounds of referring to God as an abstraction, typically have no real problem with abstractions so long as the abstraction being used can't be made any sense of at all.
This is, however, quite a new idea to most of those reading this and so let me just cite a couple of other's who have used and acknowledge the validity of such a translation. Not that doing so helps to prove anything other than that this teaching is not unique to, nor can it's genesis be attributed to me. Indeed, this idea is as old as Christianity. As evidence of both its veracity and its antiquity, I offer the following quotations, the likes of which there are many...
"...this translation––may not only sound strange to devout ears, it may even sound obnoxious and offensive. But the shock only measures the devout person's distance from the language and thought of the Greek New Testament. Why it is offensive to call Christ Logic, when it does not offend to call him a word, is hard to explain. But such is often the case. Even Augustine, because he insisted that God is truth, has been subjected to the anti–intellectualistic accusation of "reducing" God to a proposition. At any rate, the strong intellectualism of the word Logos is seen in its several possible translations: to wit, computation, (financial) accounts, esteem, proportion and (mathematical) ratio, explanation, theory or argument, principle or law, reason, formula, debate, narrative, speech, deliberation, discussion, oracle, sentence, and wisdom.
Any translation of John 1:1 that obscures this emphasis on mind or reason is a bad translation. And if anyone complains that the idea of ratio or debate obscures the personality of the second person of the Trinity, he should alter his concept of personality. In the beginning, then, was Logic." - Gordon H. Clark; Against The World. The Trinity Review, 1978-1988. [God And Logic, Gordon H. Clark, p. 52-56] John W. Robbins, Editor.
"For not only among the Greeks did reason (Logos) prevail to condemn these things through Socrates, but also among the Barbarians were they condemned by Reason (or the Word, the Logos) Himself, who took shape, and became man, and was called Jesus Christ;" Justin Martyr: The First Apology of Justin Chapter V
Logos n. < Gr, a word: see Logic 1 Gr. Philos. reason, thought of as constituting the controlling principle of the universe and as being manifested by speech 2 Christian Theol. the eternal thought or word of God, made incarnate in Jesus Christ: John 1 - Webster's Dictionary
Okay, so what's the point? God is Logic, Logic is God - so what? Well, lets suppose someone, for whatever reason, rejects the Bible, Jesus Christ and the whole concept of God, a true atheist, attempts to think through the issues of life and does so in such a way so as to stay as true to the principles of logic and sound reason as he possibly can. If the Living God is Logic, what conclusions then should this person come too? Should they not be at least very similar to the teachings which are found in Scripture? If such an atheist existed and made such an attempt to use reason to formulate his philosophy of life, would he not be using God to formulate it, even if by accident and in ignorance?
Now, bearing that in mind I want to look at John 1 again. This time verse 4...
John 1:4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
I find it interesting that the issue of life is brought up in the context of the Logos of God. It interests me because if one were to attempt to contemplate a rational basis for morality, life would have to be a necessary starting point because it is only to the living that issues of morality apply or matter. Ayn Rand, just the sort of atheist to which I've been referring, put it this way...
"...the first question is "Does man need values at all—and why?" According to Rand, "it is only the concept of 'Life' that makes the concept of 'Value' possible," and, "the fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do." Rand writes: "there is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or non-existence—and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms. The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action... It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death..." The survival of the organism is the ultimate value to which all of the organism's activities are aimed, the end served by all of its lesser values." Ayn Rand(1964). The Virtue of Selfishness (paperback ed.). p. 13 & 18 New York: Signet.
Rand also said,
"Man's mind is his basic tool of survival. Life is given to him, survival is not. His body is given to him, its sustenance is not. His mind is given to him, its content is not. To remain alive he must act and before he can act he must know the nature and purpose of his action. He cannot obtain his food without knowledge of food and of the way to obtain it. He cannot dig a ditch––or build a cyclotron––without a knowledge of his aim and the means to achieve it. To remain alive, he must think." Rand, Ayn (1992) . Atlas Shrugged (35th anniversary ed.). p. 1012 New York: Dutton
Now, according to Rand, rationality is the primary virtue in ethics (i.e. morality). For rand ethics is...
"the recognition and acceptance of reason as one's only source of knowledge, one's only judge of values and one's only guide to action." Rand, Ayn (1964). The Virtue of Selfishness (paperback ed.). p. 25 New York: Signet.
All of which, if God is Logic, is entirely consistent with the common Christian teaching that morality is derived from and defined by God's character. Which, by the way, is not to say the Ayn Rand was a godly person, nor that her philosophical conclusion were all correct. On the contrary, her rejection of the existence of God lead to a great many errors, some of which are disastrously grievous. But, nevertheless, to the degree she stayed true to reason, here conclusions remained close to the truth, which means, by definition, that they remained close to God and His truth as taught in the pages of Scripture.
Rand's quintessential statement on morality is this ...
"Since reason is man’s basic means of survival, that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil." Ayn Rand: Atlas Shrugged
Now, since we now know that God is Reason, what could an atheist say that would be any more in line with the teachings of Scripture than that!?
And so, in conclusion, I attest and believe that I have now shown that we can find the answer to the confusion surrounding the morality of God in the fact the God is Logic. Morality is not simply defined by God's character as many Christians suppose, but rather that which is moral is so because it is rational, which, if you are following the line of thinking in this essay properly, you'll understand is the equivalent of saying that what is moral is so because it is God like. To say that God is moral, is not to say that God has a list of rules He must follow but simply that God is Life and that He is consistent with Himself and therefore acts in way which is proper to Life. To say that God is moral is to say that God is rational. A non-moral God would be non-rational and therefore non-personal, non-relational, non-thinking, non-living, non-real!
God is real, therefore God is rational, therefore God is moral!
I don't believe we can attribute morality to God, this is an anthropomorphic depiction of God. Only humans are judged by morality. God is, I am that I am, a spiritual essence beyond any kind of relative state, eternal, uncreated, unchanging. Humans are subject to a relative state, (knowing the Tree of Good and Evil) and thus can be judged by morality. God is an absolute perfection and humans have no insight into absolute states. The concept of God is 100% abstraction.
“In the beginning” refers to that eternal reality beyond time, a reality that transcends all creation, is changeless and placeless, and yet is the very essence and source of all that exists or can ever exist. It is beyond time and space, beyond here or there, beyond up or down, hot or cold–beyond any duality or form there exists the “I am,” the single, indivisible, omnipresent, unfathomable “Word.” Within the absolute realm of the eternal “I am”, the Word exists without any need of expression or vocalization. It just is.
I really like how you frame the, "Word", as Logic.
God is the, "I am", transcending rational and moral. God is a state of perfection.
In order for the, "Word" to become Manifest in the material realm the, "Word" must Manifest through a human form, the likes of Jesus and Noah and Moses, etc.