Must we BE good to DO good?

The formula of salvation by grace and not by merit being understood as the accepted orthodoxy, but what could possibly be wrong with good things done by bad people, or by people who aren't exactly bad but not good either?**

The above was said in different words to make the point that good done by the bad or the unsalvated was by definition abominable. This hurt my ears. A lot. My custom when speaking to people isn't to object in ways that create argument. All I said was that I was sad that the speaker held this view. I got a little more evangelical fever thrown at the concept with that mile objection, and I let it rest. Later I wondered about the saying (if it is a saying): some read scripture to find love, and others read scripture with love.

I think that any good thing done by anyone at all is a good thing. That it is good to aspire to be good, that while we should try to improve ourselves and the doings of others, good might be done by any. I'd be interested if people are hard-core about good not being good when bad or unwashed folks are involved, like the speaker I listened to, and again I'd query if it isn't harsh and wrong.


** not that I'm very strong about salvationism, querying whether God's grace as demonstrated by those who profess to speak for and about God is very desireable, but that's a different discussion
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Comments

  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Third Isaiah saw good in Cyrus the Great because Cyrus was allowing the Hebrews in exile to return home.

    Jesus saw good in that dirty unwashed Samaritan who did the neighborly thing in spite of possible threat to his own life.

    Hate to say it, but if Trump can get us out of the Afghan conflict, that would be good.

    In truth, none of us is perfectly good, but we still can do good things.
  • If you are good, you will attempt to do good, so I really don't understand the faith by grace stuff other than making some sort of pedantic point about God.
    I've seen bad people do good for selfish reasons. Charities and aid groups don't ask for motivations, just assistance. They cannot afford to care if your heart is pure, as long as your money is real. Ask a starving person if they can taste the "abomination" in the food they receive.
    As Gramps says, most people are not bad or good, but both. So are only part of their good deeds truly good? Should we have a feather to weight the hearts of the doers of good deeds?
  • My experience with the "reformed" side of Evangelicalism tells me that they are very presumptuous about who "the elect" are - themselves, of course. That means they can do no wrong, even when they do wrong, where the un-elect can do no good, even when they do good.

    The dilemma comes (at least within the C of E) when we say the creeds, where there are clear references to us being judged according to our works. Same with some of the canticles. They never seemed to fit with the "reformed" doctrines of "total depravity" and "Irresistible Grace," yet these things were never talked about.
  • If we could reach a state of grace in this life, what use is God?
  • Who are these "good" people? I've never met anyone who acts from completely pure motives.

    Therefore the question seems entirely moot.
  • mr cheesy wrote: »
    Who are these "good" people? I've never met anyone who acts from completely pure motives.

    Therefore the question seems entirely moot.

    We're talking about the "imputed righteousness" St Paul talked of (see also Jeremiah 31:33-34).

    I wouldn't just dismiss it as a "moot" question, rather discuss what Paul meant and the validity of some of the doctrines ascribed to it.
  • OhherOhher Shipmate
    I'm a little bemused by the notion that we can even know when or if we're doing good or ill. If I volunteer at the cold weather shelter, is that good? Maybe not, when it means -- because I can only be in one place at one time -- I can't then volunteer to help an unlettered adult learn to read.

    I've been a teacher for a long time. Figuring out how to help a student who seems to be lagging is a constant struggle. When should I say something? What should I say? Should I say anything at all? Should I wait for the student to ask? (Many students assume they can't.) What will actually help this particular student? Encouragement? Consequences? Referral to tutoring or counseling? $5 so the student can get her first meal in two days? Even with the very best intentions, there's no way to be sure that (whatever I do) any action I take will actually benefit the student. There's no way to guarantee that (whatever I do or don't do) the student won't end up less well off instead of better off.

    It's the same dilemma with handing cash to the panhandler. Are we enabling an addict or helping someone simply down on his/her luck? Should we care which it is?

    What matters here, in terms of evaluating good and evil? The outcomes? The intentions? I don't know. I don't even know how we can tell.
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    The only way to be good is by doing good.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    edited January 30
    When we do good it makes us feel good - so there is reward for us. I know a great deal of people who do good, some religious and some not, but I can’t think of any who do it for no reward.
    @Ohher said - If I volunteer at the cold weather shelter, is that good? Maybe not, when it means -- because I can only be in one place at one time -- I can't then volunteer to help an unlettered adult learn to read.

    I ponder this often. I can’t join in ventures which help 50 people because I’m busy raising a puppy who will only benefit one person/family when he qualifies.

    But I believe we should work to our strengths. When we are going good and doing what we are good at then we are happiest and most productive.

    And there’s nothing worse than being helped by miserable folk! (said tongue in cheek in case I’m jumped on by a miserable person :tongue:)

  • Mark Betts wrote: »
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    Who are these "good" people? I've never met anyone who acts from completely pure motives.

    Therefore the question seems entirely moot.

    We're talking about the "imputed righteousness" St Paul talked of (see also Jeremiah 31:33-34).

    I wouldn't just dismiss it as a "moot" question, rather discuss what Paul meant and the validity of some of the doctrines ascribed to it.

    I'm sorry I can't join you in your magical thinking.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    LeRoc wrote: »
    The only way to be good is by doing good.

    Are we not talking about those who do good but are bad people?

    So (eg) they volunteer all day at the local shelter then go home and are horribly controlling with their family.

  • Boogie wrote: »

    And there’s nothing worse than being helped by miserable folk! (said tongue in cheek in case I’m jumped on by a miserable person :tongue:)

    Surely much of the time not being helped at all would be worse..

    More seriously, I don't see that there is a lot of point in stressing over the things one is not doing and weighing them against the things one is doing, rather one sees the task in front of you and does it (or not).

    On the general topic, it seems to me that Christianity is absolutely not about being "good" - or sadly even "better" than others.

    If anything, it is about a form of training to recognise, and take responsibility for the challenges in front of you whilst becoming increasingly aware of one's (and everyone else's) own failings, brokenness and need for healing.

    Good things are to be celebrated, wherever they come from (even miserable bastards!?) failings are to be recognised and used for learning.





  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    Yes, @mr cheesy - all true.

    I think being truly and helpfully useful to others does us all good - and faith doesn’t need to come into the equation at all. (It can do, but it doesn’t need to.)
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    edited January 30
    Otherwise (continuing that thought) we are in a total mess with regard to our morality.

    Two firemen go into a burning building and pull out two victims, saving their lives. The first is a Christian and this is an outworking of his faith. The other is a Hindu and his bravery can be ignored because he isn't In The Truth.

    That's ridiculous.

    (X-post)
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    Otherwise (continuing that thought) we are in a total mess with regard to our morality.

    Two firemen go into a burning building and pull out two victims, saving their lives. The first is a Christian and this is an outworking of his faith. The other is a Hindu and his bravery can be ignored because he isn't In The Truth.

    That's ridiculous.

    Utterly ridiculous.



  • Conviction of goodness has led to the greatest acts of collective religious evil - crusades, anyone?

    We act in fear and trembling.

    The quesiton of vocation may also be worth considering in this connection. Being the only source of good, God can't call people to do evil. But it is perfectly possible for people to act in ways that appear evil, from a conviction of vocation.

    Confusion of motivation and even result is so commonplace that this may just be a long-winded way of agreeing with those who say that it's so difficult to know whether an action or a person is good or evil that the statement, ultimately, has little meaning.
  • Someone much more intelligent than me said you know a tree by its fruit.
  • Nobody is perfect. I don't think that anyone is purely evil either. We are talking about salvation by God's grace, which I interpret as meaning that God draws near to us not because we do good but because God loves us. God doesn't love us the more when we love others and do good deeds and acts of kindness, but it is what God wants us to do as it is for the benefit of all, it spreads God's love abroad.

    Jesus said that even those who don't know God give good gifts to their children. How much more should we give God's good gift of love to everyone we meet?
  • Someone much more intelligent than me said you know a tree by its fruit.

    That goes back a long, long way, both in RL and in scripture.

    If people could be good then they could achieve goodness through their own efforts. We know what a load of balls that is: we can be admired and lauded, but I don't think we can "be good" however many good acts we perform. It goes against our nature and any notion of humility.
  • mr cheesy wrote: »
    Otherwise (continuing that thought) we are in a total mess with regard to our morality.

    Two firemen go into a burning building and pull out two victims, saving their lives. The first is a Christian and this is an outworking of his faith. The other is a Hindu and his bravery can be ignored because he isn't In The Truth.

    That's ridiculous.

    (X-post)

    Of course it is - exactly my point about us all being "judged according to our works." - in this matter I would think the two will be judged exactly the same. "Inputed righteousness" has more to do with past sins which cannot be resolved, but does not make us good when we knowingly do evil.
  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    Sometimes people do the right thing for the wrong reason, e.g .to be admired by other people. The fact remains that they did do a good thing. They deserve some credit for that.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    I wonder if the following helps to clarify the issue:
    Mark 10: 17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.

    ............and Charles Wesley's observation, after Paul:
    What are our works but sin and death,
    Till thou thy quickening Spirit breathe!
  • Kwesi wrote: »
    I wonder if the following helps to clarify the issue:
    Mark 10: 17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.

    ............and Charles Wesley's observation, after Paul:
    What are our works but sin and death,
    Till thou thy quickening Spirit breathe!

    Perhaps you can expand on this verse - I have to admit that I never quite understood it, other than it being used by unitarians to deny the Holy Trinity.
  • Boogie wrote: »
    When we do good it makes us feel good - so there is reward for us. I know a great deal of people who do good, some religious and some not, but I can’t think of any who do it for no reward.
    And I though I was a cynic.
    I believe I have seen this in other people, but since I cannot see into any mind but my own, I cannot be certain.
    For myself, I have done good things with no reward and I am not even a particularly good person. I've done the right thing and felt great personal pain for doing so, certainly more pain than any dopamine reward. I've done the right thing and had selfish motives imputed, dulling any chemical upper.
    And when I say that I am not a good person, this is not self-effacing, but self-knowledge.
    Yes, doing good can be its own rewards, but it is not the only way good happens.

  • Boogie wrote: »
    LeRoc wrote: »
    The only way to be good is by doing good.

    Are we not talking about those who do good but are bad people?

    So (eg) they volunteer all day at the local shelter then go home and are horribly controlling with their family.
    People are not so simple. One can do bad things but still do good things honestly. Life is not zero-sum nor black and white.

  • sionisais wrote: »
    Someone much more intelligent than me said you know a tree by its fruit.

    That goes back a long, long way, both in RL and in scripture.

    If people could be good then they could achieve goodness through their own efforts. We know what a load of balls that is: we can be admired and lauded, but I don't think we can "be good" however many good acts we perform. It goes against our nature and any notion of humility.
    I so want to say this more politely, but I am unsure how. This is religious propaganda, IMO. We are neither good beings who do bad nor bad beings who do good. We are a mix of biological imperative and learned behaviours that result in a mix of good and bad.

  • Yes, you get people who are horribly controlling with their family, but sometimes relent, and show them love. Jung used to joke about a client of his who seemed saintly, and Jung could not fathom this, with his theory of the shadow, (present in everyone), but then visited him at home, and said, ah, all was revealed, not a complete saint.

    A similar story is about the good enough mother, which is a standard phrase found in therapy, but we had an addition, also bad enough. If she was only good, you are fucked, as her shadow would leak into you unconsciously, and you would end up acting it out. Of course, this requires accepting that there is such a thing, not difficult for Christians, I would think.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Mark Betts :Perhaps you can expand on this verse - I have to admit that I never quite understood it, other than it being used by unitarians to deny the Holy Trinity.

    Mark 10 v 18: "And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone."

    As I understand it, Jesus asserts in this verse the Jewish theological view that only God is essentially good. Thus, for the man in question to describe Jesus as good either means that Jesus is divine or that Jesus is suggesting it is inappropriately ascribed to himself. Clearly, Chalcedonian Christians and Unitarians would adopt different positions as to what Jesus was implying, though its pretty clear what Mark (and Luke) thought and why he (they) included the anecdote.* It would seem, however, in the context of this discussion that only God can be described as good, though that does not preclude human beings performing good acts despite their limitations. So the answer to the question at the start of this post is that an individual does not have to be good in order to do good, though it does imply that apart from being God it is impossible to do good all the time. I would hasten to add, however, that does not mean humans are intrinsically evil, but, unlike God, morally complicated.

    * (You might compare the above text with Mark 2: "And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” I think it's pretty clear that Mark was referring to these incidents as proofs of Christ's divine nature).




  • Yes, you get people who are horribly controlling with their family, but sometimes relent, and show them love. Jung used to joke about a client of his who seemed saintly, and Jung could not fathom this, with his theory of the shadow, (present in everyone), but then visited him at home, and said, ah, all was revealed, not a complete saint.

    A similar story is about the good enough mother, which is a standard phrase found in therapy, but we had an addition, also bad enough. If she was only good, you are fucked, as her shadow would leak into you unconsciously, and you would end up acting it out. Of course, this requires accepting that there is such a thing, not difficult for Christians, I would think.
    I know people who are angels with others and more complicated with their own family. I don't buy Jung's shadow so much as the family dynamic is much more varied and complex. Whilst no one is perfect, I have met people for whom there is no evidence other than they are just nice. Not perfect, mind, but nice. No hidden evil, no darker internal parts hidden by the outside brightness. And I have met those who seemed naught but bad. No Scrooged moment waiting to happen, no Grinch's heart, waiting to grow.

  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    This is a fairly ancient debate, predating Christianity by several centuries. It could be argued that it goes back to the invention of ethics as a field of study. The idea that the goodness of an action is dependent on the motives and state of mind of the actor is usually referred to as virtue ethics. This contrasts with deonteology which holds that actions are good or bad based on some external set of rules regardless of the intention of the actor. Mediæval philosophers came up with a fusion they referred to as voluntarism.
    Voluntarism is an ethical system which says that an act is only moral if it is good by both virtue ethics and deontology. That is, an act must be good and permissible by absolute external rules, and the doer must also have good motives while doing it. The quintessential example, for which we may thank William of Ockham (1288-1348), is a man who goes to church. “You may think this is a good act,” Ockham warns his presumed-Catholic High Medieval reader, “but what if the man goes to Church not for God’s sake or out of love and piety, but in order to show off his Sunday finery to his fellow man, and make political and economic connections to further his own earthly greed? Only if a man takes good actions for good reasons is true moral virtue present!” In a less formalized but also more emotionally powerful formulation, which has the distinction of being the first real manifestation of voluntarism in the history of philosophy, Heloise (1101-1164) spends her days in the nunnery praying, and fasting, and looking after the sick, and mortifying her flesh, and everyone tells her she is a very good nun and leading a virtuous life, but, she writes, “Even while I’m praying I spend all day thinking about how much I want to be having sex with Peter Abelard (1079-1142)” (slight paraphrase). “How is this morally good? How is this rote repetition of pious words and actions without feelings behind them supposed to help me become a better person?”

    Thus we have deontology, virtue ethics and their child voluntarism. (Deontology: “A child conceived within the strictures of formally permissible union.” Virtue ethics: “And in love!”)

    Note that none of these systems deal with outcomes, only intentions and/or whether a set of rules is obeyed. To take into account the effects of one's actions in assessing whether they were good or bad requires consequentialism, a later invention.

    The link is a good (if long) read, and part of a (longer still) series.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Doing good is being good is doing good.
  • Kwesi wrote: »
    Mark Betts :Perhaps you can expand on this verse - I have to admit that I never quite understood it, other than it being used by unitarians to deny the Holy Trinity.

    Mark 10 v 18: "And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone."

    As I understand it, Jesus asserts in this verse the Jewish theological view that only God is essentially good. Thus, for the man in question to describe Jesus as good either means that Jesus is divine or that Jesus is suggesting it is inappropriately ascribed to himself. Clearly, Chalcedonian Christians and Unitarians would adopt different positions as to what Jesus was implying, though its pretty clear what Mark (and Luke) thought and why he (they) included the anecdote.* It would seem, however, in the context of this discussion that only God can be described as good, though that does not preclude human beings performing good acts despite their limitations. So the answer to the question at the start of this post is that an individual does not have to be good in order to do good, though it does imply that apart from being God it is impossible to do good all the time. I would hasten to add, however, that does not mean humans are intrinsically evil, but, unlike God, morally complicated.

    * (You might compare the above text with Mark 2: "And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” I think it's pretty clear that Mark was referring to these incidents as proofs of Christ's divine nature).
    Thanks for that - very helpful, I think I would tend to agree with you.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    edited January 30
    Crœsos wrote: »
    The idea that the goodness of an action is dependent on the motives and state of mind of the actor is usually referred to as virtue ethics. This contrasts with deonteology which holds that actions are good or bad based on some external set of rules regardless of the intention of the actor.
    Note that none of these systems deal with outcomes, only intentions and/or whether a set of rules is obeyed. To take into account the effects of one's actions in assessing whether they were good or bad requires consequentialism, a later invention.
    This is oversimplified to the point of error.
    (As an example of the error: see Russ' belief that as soon as you take consequences into account in say your tax policy you're committing yourself to locking up journalists who write critical articles if that makes your power base more secure.)

    Aristotelian ethics (being the paradigm example of virtue ethics) believes that an action is right if it is the right thing (one of the right things) to do, done in the right way, and for the right reasons. Nothing rules out 'because it will have good consequences' as a right reason. Indeed, it's hard to see how being courageous can be distinguished from being reckless without some attention to the probable consequences.
    The reason it's called virtue ethics is that it thinks that character trait terms - courageous, generous, self-controlled, just - are descriptions of a disposition to do the right thing for the right reasons, whereas vice terms (reckless, cowardly, mean, prodigal, self-indulgent, self-denying) are descriptions of dispositions to do otherwise.

    (Medieval voluntarism, from the description, is I suspect actually a form of deontology.) Deontology is the belief that moral action is done in conformity to some moral rule. Again, nothing means one of the rules can't be 'avoid bad consequences', or 'bring about good consequences', and nothing means that a deontologist can't say that a good action done for a bad reason is still morally bad. The difference between a deontologist and a virtue ethicist is that a deontologist doesn't think that character trait terms do any work in ethical analysis. (A deontologist can still use them, but will reduce them to tendencies to follow the rules in the spirit of the rules.)

    What is distinctive about consequentialism is firstly, the belief that consequences can be considered as states of affairs without reference to how they came about, and secondly, that states of affairs can be ranked such that the best state of affairs can be chosen. This ordinarily requires some way of making the elements of states of affairs fungible in order that states of affairs can be commensurable. An obvious way of doing that is to reduce everything to the monetary value: it is not an accident that Jeremy Bentham, the first generally recognised true consequentialist, was also am extreme free-market economist. The polemic of Victorian reformers like Dickens against utilitarianism is incomprehensible if you think of utilitarians as modern left-wingers like Peter Singer rather than as the forerunners of modern libertarians.

    Machiavelli is I think more of a somewhat eccentric virtue ethicist than a consequentialist. Aristotle's Ethics is notable for omitting what we think of as central ethical virtues such as kindness and compassion and for including oddities such as magnanimity (pride and ambition in the service of the community); Machiavelli is I think best seen as intensifying this by ruthlessly pruning the list of virtues down to magnanimity and its adjuncts.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Although it is legitimate to debate what constitutes a good action, ISTM we must remind ourselves that the question is to what degree do good actions require an individual to be essentially good in order to perform them. What is it to be a good person? Is the dichotomy between being good and doing good a false one? What does good mean, anyway? What do we mean when we say a person is good or an action is good?
  • A person is good if they wish to do good, an action is good if it helps.
    I think, at its base, this is a simple equation.
    Life adds some complexity to this, of course. However, as much employment as it gives to philosophers and priests, not much more than that means anything.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    edited January 30
    Aristotle sounds useful but seems to have an internal contradiction. It seems to say that practicing being virtuous is what makes one virtuous - and that virtue is that thing that the virtuous person would do.

    Maybe I'm oversimplifying too - but I don't really see how this helps. It seems to unravel as soon as you say 'that person is virtuous, I'll practice being more like them so that I become virtuous too. But, wait a second, how do I recognise what is virtuous and how do I know that person is virtuous.. unless I'm already virtuous?"

    Also it seems to gloss over errors in the practices of a good person by saying "they're virtuous therefore what they are doing must be virtuous.. even when it isn't. Otherwise they wouldn't be and it wouldn't be."
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Perhaps, God apart, the notion of an essentially good person doing good deeds is a false notion. Rather individuals perform good, bad and morally neutral acts. When they do good things they are good and when they do bad things they are bad. As Longfellow wrote:

    There was a little girl,
    Who had a little curl,
    Right in the middle of her forehead.
    When she was good,
    She was very good indeed,
    But when she was bad she was horrid.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    A person is good if they wish to do good, an action is good if it helps.
    I think, at its base, this is a simple equation.
    Life adds some complexity to this, of course. However, as much employment as it gives to philosophers and priests, not much more than that means anything.

    In that case I'm the goodest person I know.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Sinatra's in the CAPS.
  • mr cheesy wrote: »
    Who are these "good" people? I've never met anyone who acts from completely pure motives.

    Therefore the question seems entirely moot.

    I agree. There is no such thing as a good person or a bad person. We cannot assign moral value to human beings, but we can assign moral worth (every human being is worthy of love, etc.).

    What matters is how good an action is, which probably lies on a spectrum between completely good and completely evil. A person's intent sometimes is relevant in determining how good an action is, but no amount of bad actions or bad intentions makes someone a bad person.

    Obviously, some people have some degree of sociopathy, which weakens a person's ability to take the needs and wants of others into account in their decision making. I was listening to a TED Talk (my eyes role every time I say the words "TED Talk") about how some people are at the opposite end of the empathy spectrum from sociopaths and have brains that are actually wired to be highly attuned to the concerns of others and hence tend to be more altruistic. Even these things do not make a person "good" or "bad."

    All of this is relevant in constructing and reforming systems of criminal justice, which is a topic that might be relevant to this thread.
  • Kwesi wrote: »
    Perhaps, God apart, the notion of an essentially good person doing good deeds is a false notion. Rather individuals perform good, bad and morally neutral acts.
    I'm not seing where God is the necessary differentiator. A good person is one who, on balance, does/intendeds good. Though it is perfect possible to have been one and become the other.
    When they do good things they are good and when they do bad things they are bad.
    Absolutely no need to be this simplistic, sans God. Actually, with God, it is more logical to look at human behaviour simplistically. Not the only logic, of course.

  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    Aristotle sounds useful but seems to have an internal contradiction.
    It seems to unravel as soon as you say 'that person is virtuous, I'll practice being more like them so that I become virtuous too. But, wait a second, how do I recognise what is virtuous and how do I know that person is virtuous.. unless I'm already virtuous?"
    Aristotle would I believe say that you aren't starting from nowhere. You've been brought up in a society that has some grasp of basic ethical concepts. So if you've got enough ethical knowledge to want to be virtuous you've got enough knowledge to build on. Beyond that, Aristotle thinks that different competing ideas about ethics can be rationally assessed and compared.
    That raises the theoretical possibility of a society in which all the ethical concepts are faulty. There are two responses open to an Aristotelian. The historical Aristotle I fear would probably have said, yes, those are barbarians, only Greeks have the right kind of society in which to be properly ethical. A less chauvinistic Aristotelian would probably say that in order for a human society to be more or less functional for human beings it has to have at least a minimum level of virtue. A society with no understanding of virtue would fall apart.

  • A very simple way to resolve this, as far as is humanly possible, is to talk about the sum total of a person's good deeds (where they gain points) vs. lost points for dubious motives or bad deeds.

    If the sum total seems to be positive, they can at least satisfy themselves they are on the right road to being good. However, if the sum total seems to be negative, they must conclude they have serious work to do.

    You'll notice I didn't go as far as to say that a positive result makes a person "good." It can only ever be an indication, because God is the final Judge.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Points? Who's scoring?
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    [quoteMark Betts: ] If the sum total seems to be positive, they can at least satisfy themselves they are on the right road to being good. However, if the sum total seems to be negative, they must conclude they have serious work to do. [/quote]

    What if those good deeds are unintended or accidental?

    Regarding the question as to whether one has to be good in order to do good, your answer would seem to be in the negative, because, respecting causality, your view is that one becomes good by doing good. Would you not agree, however, that God always does good because that is his nature?
  • Gaining points sounds fun. Please sir, we debagged Forbes minor yesterday, and put his pants on the roof. I argued that this is a plus point, as adding to the gaiety of nations, but the beak disagreed.
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    sionisais wrote: »
    Someone much more intelligent than me said you know a tree by its fruit.

    That goes back a long, long way, both in RL and in scripture.

    If people could be good then they could achieve goodness through their own efforts. We know what a load of balls that is: we can be admired and lauded, but I don't think we can "be good" however many good acts we perform. It goes against our nature and any notion of humility.
    I so want to say this more politely, but I am unsure how. This is religious propaganda, IMO. We are neither good beings who do bad nor bad beings who do good. We are a mix of biological imperative and learned behaviours that result in a mix of good and bad.

    No problem, it's not only the basis of a lot of religion but specifically the basis of Christianity. Those biological imperatives and learned behaviours have, at most times and in most places, put man in the position of not being good. Man is a wanting animal. He wants the best and then he wants some more. All that is natural and the consumer society adds to it. Ambition, beating the next man, is the right and proper thing. Turning your back on what you want and what others expect of you is very, very hard. Doing so doesn't make you good or even do you good, but it does give you the resources, mostly the time, to do good things.
  • sionisais wrote: »
    No problem, it's not only the basis of a lot of religion but specifically the basis of Christianity. Those biological imperatives and learned behaviours have, at most times and in most places, put man in the position of not being good. Man is a wanting animal. He wants the best and then he wants some more.
    This fails the sniff test as man is a social animal as well. The biological imperative it species survival, and cooperation is part of this. This hold true even if we go to one's own genes being primary.
  • What makes us good? Possible Christian answers:
    1. Baptism - but only for the moment, it's a beginning where the idea is to remain good, confessing our sins when we fail
    2. Evangelicals (i) - The "born again" phenomenon - but a beginning (as above). I would say that so long as they get baptised, there isn't really a problem here - sort of "belt and braces"
    3. Evangelicals (ii) - the ones that think they are good from the moment they are "born again," no matter what they do. Yes, well I'm sure most can see the problem with this.

    However, the idea of it only being possible to do good if you are already "good" is something that we've inherited from Calvinism. He's probably at least partly responsible for option 3 (above) as well.
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    sionisais wrote: »
    No problem, it's not only the basis of a lot of religion but specifically the basis of Christianity. Those biological imperatives and learned behaviours have, at most times and in most places, put man in the position of not being good. Man is a wanting animal. He wants the best and then he wants some more.
    This fails the sniff test as man is a social animal as well. The biological imperative it species survival, and cooperation is part of this. This hold true even if we go to one's own genes being primary.

    I agree that man is a social animal, but he is a very choosy social animal. If he can't get what he wants with who he wants and where and when he wants then he becomes an anti-social animal very quickly unless some external factor steps in. While we have moral codes and ethics to counter these we also have laws and regulations, enforced by other fallible persons, to minimise anti-social actions.
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