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In order to be Omnipotent, or all knowing, as well as Omnipresent and all powerful wouldn't a supreme being have to be so far removed from concepts of "Good" and "Evil"? Those are just terms and ideas that Man created, therefore how can something that is literally the sum total of everything be one or the other?

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Yes I was referring to the Judeo-Christian idea of God but it could be applied to any religion with a supreme deity that claims to be all powerful, all knowing and yet either good or evil. –  Monty129 Aug 11 '12 at 0:55
What I'm asking is how do you reconcile the ideas that God is all knowing and also good? How could the creator of everything that is also in all things choose a side? –  Monty129 Aug 11 '12 at 1:39
As the one who defines what "good" is, He isn't taking a side. He is the side, and we choose to be with Him or against Him. I understand where you're coming from. Your question sounds like something I'd have asked before I "got it". Your presuppositions are affecting how you perceive the issues, and as a result, the answers from folks with different presuppositions don't quite make sense to you. To quote a zen saying, you must "empty your cup" to understand the Christian perspective on this one. There is no spoon. –  David Stratton Aug 11 '12 at 1:48
But since you seem to be honestly asking, +1 for a good"seeker" question. –  David Stratton Aug 11 '12 at 1:53
@Monty129 No... you said "good and evil are subjective terms". That is an assumption that thinks we get to define good and evil. While it's true that each of us has a unique sense of good and evil, your assumption denies the possibility that there is one true definition of good and evil that originates in the mind of God. Even if Nazi Germany thought it was ok to murder Jews, they were wrong. God defines what is right and wrong--mankind either correctly or incorrectly understands what those are. –  Narnian Dec 12 '12 at 14:32

6 Answers 6

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Part of the problem (for me, at least) is thinking of good vs. evil as a kind of left-right spectrum. I don't know if that makes sense but it does seem to lead to some common questions like "how could a good God create evil?" Over time my mental model has changed so now I see God more like the center of a circle and all the rest of us are scattered somewhere between that center and the edge. God, the center, is the Way, the Logos, the Natural law, the divine Order. The further away from the center you are, the "less good" you find yourself, or the more disordered or out of harmony with God's will.

Allowing for mixed metaphors, this is similar to how Lao Tsu described the Tao, or how Buddhists might describe Karma. You are either in accord with Tao or you are not. You either have Karma or you don't (the pop notion that there is "good" karma or "bad" karma is incorrect). Conforming yourself to God's will, or discovering the Tao, or ridding yourself of karma... all of these involve ridding yourself of earthly desires and moving towards the center of that circle, God, which is true goodness.

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I would say this makes the most sense to me as "Good" and "Evil" can't really be broken down into nice neat categories. Comparing Karma to the essence of the Supreme Being would fit most into my understaning –  Monty129 Oct 5 '12 at 17:03

If you're asking for an answer from a Christian perspective, which implies that you will accept, for the purposes of the answer, the presuppositions inherent in a "Christian answer" such as that God is who the Bible claims he is...

You're making a false assumption in the question. Good or evil are not concepts that man made up and applied to God. Good and evil are concepts defined by God, and understood by us, his creation. As the Creator of the universe, it is He who defines what anything is. He created things as he saw fit, and if He says something is this, or something is that, it is so.

We, as His creations merely understand, through the senses and ability to reason that he created in us, or through his revealed word to us.

Therefore God defines what good and evil is. Being God, it makes sense that "Good" is defined as according to His word,in line with His character, and as revealed to us by Him.

It is only from an atheistic mindset that one could claim that "good and evil are traits we made up and applied to God". The ability to say that cannot exist without the presupposition that God is imaginary, and a creation of man. From the Christan perspective, this is exactly the opposite of the truth.

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There is no assumption. Good and Evil are concepts created by man, there is no denying this. The proof is in that those are subjective concepts. What's good to one person may not be good to another. The Christian faith's concepts of good and evil have changed because Man's thoughts have changed, not God's. Also wouldn't it be an Agnostic mindset? Aethists deny the possiblity of a supreme being. –  Monty129 Aug 13 '12 at 12:59
@Monty129 - I would argue that our interpretation of good and evil may have changed; however, God's nature (what he holds to be good) has not. If you could reference some specific examples of 'subjective' or 'changed' concepts? For the purposes of your question (the 'side' a supreme being is on), I don't necessarily see a difference in the points of view between atheists and agnostics (as both would likely view good/evil as created by man, regardless of whether the 'target' exists or not). –  Clockwork-Muse Aug 13 '12 at 17:58
You're going to need to provide more examples that God had a specific view on something, not humanity (which was my point earlier). Slavery, at least in the OT sense, seems primarily intended to be a debt-relief mechanism, for both parties - that is, you pay off your debt to person X by 'contracting' to work for person Y, who is supposed to provide for certain basic needs in exchange for the work. Which probably moves those laws into the 'civil' rather than 'moral' category. –  Clockwork-Muse Aug 13 '12 at 19:49
@Monty129 - On your initial comment, there is denying this. The Biblical view, and the most common Christian view is that God defines good and evil, not man. More liberal worldviews deny this, and even more liberal Christian views deny this. Biblical literalists, like myself don't accept the re-definition of good and evil. We hold that if God's word says something is evil/sin, it is evil/sin, regardless of what the current culture accepts. That's why Sola Scriptura is such an important doctrine. Man's definitions cjange, nut the Word never does. –  David Stratton Aug 13 '12 at 23:06
Further, the fact that man's definition changes over time is proof that Man is naturally in rebellion against God, and therefore, sinful by nature. Scripture talks about the redefinition of sin in Isaiah 5:20 - Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! You may not agree with the answer I've provided, but it is a "Christian answer". If The Bible is false, the Christian view may be false, bit this does not make this an invalid representation of the Judeo-Christian view. –  David Stratton Aug 13 '12 at 23:20

From a Christian perspective, you have the question backwards. You're asking how we can say God is good, but we aren't the originators of that definition. God has defined goodness (and he has defined himself as good) and our definition is only a pathetic approximation of that concept. (This reminds me a bit of when Christ asked, "Why do you call me good when only God is good?")

Now, does God measure up to our petty, and woefully inadequate standards? I would understand if someone were to argue "not really," but the failure is in that we, as sinners, have a corrupt view of "good" (planks in our eyes) which is often deficient and self-contradictory. Should God be required to meet such a standard? Absolutely not.

Based on a comment above, I feel that it is only appropriate to state this:

Arguing that "good" and "evil" are relative, at least to a Christian, is an equivocation. Even if "good" is taken in a philosophical or ethical sense (as opposed to an adjective one might use to refer to one's coffee or "a merchant's goods"), that is not the same understanding of the word that comes from a theological sense. In philosophy, often the highest "good" of man is no more than himself (some might say it is "happiness", others might argue that it is "the betterment of society" however in both cases the end of "good" is man (and whether that is corporate or individual man hardly matters)), but the Christian views the highest good as something wholly external. Ours is an objective good which is good, whether we like it or not, and whether or not it seems like it profits us as individuals or a society.

These two approaches are vastly different and yield strikingly different results. In the ethicist's world men are larger than anything else, but they are only capable of reaching so far. "Though I stand on the shoulders of giants, I still cannot reach the stars." In the Christian world, men are microscopic but they stand on the shoulders of the almighty. "Though I am too small to see through the crowd, I will climb a sycamore and dine this night with God." In the atheist world, the greatest men strive to be übermensch, in the Christian's world we are already the likeness and image of God, and God himself has sacrificed himself for our redemption. We do not strive to be greater than men, we strive to be like God Himself.

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Nothing exists that does not follow any rule. Everything that exists follows some rule or the other.

In any set or group. if the members do not follow their rules, they will be dumped, or thrown out of that group and will be considered "evil" by that group. Materials that are not fit to become part of our body are excreted by it, and will be considered "EVIL" or unclean. We will keep a distance or isolate them away from us, or keep it "out of sight".

In Christian belief, out of the set or group of all things created by God, creatures or material that stop following God's laws become unfit to be part of God's Kingdom will be kept out of it. They will eventually be destroyed.

Sometimes evil or dis-order is deliberately kept alive to teach new members. Where they teach to assemble or repair cars, cars are deliberately dis-assembled, and broken or worn out parts are saved (not thrown away) to teach new mechanics how to distinguish unfit parts, and how such parts can prevent the smooth operation of the engine.

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Welcome to the site! Suggested reading: What makes a good supported answer? I'd encourage checking out the faq, and perhaps this post as well: What Christianity.StackExchange is (and more importantly, what it isn't) –  David Stratton Oct 5 '12 at 4:28
I like that notion of evil as a teaching tool, that's a very interesting and, in my opinion, rational way of looking at it. –  Monty129 Dec 12 '12 at 13:44

If you say that God is "removed from concepts of 'Good" and "Evil'", then you are also saying that God is removed from any concept of a hungry child in pain. Which makes God less, not more. In other words, God IS capable of understanding suffering.

And as soon as we acknowledge that there is indeed suffering in the world, then there also most be evil.

Why - because it puts all of us in a position of either choosing to live in such a way as to increase suffering in the world (evil), OR living in such a way as to reduce it (good).

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As a comment on general philosophy, I see your point. What I don't see is what part of this represents any part of Christianity. Christianity very clearly believes that God is able to understand (and even shared in) human suffering, but also that good and evil are defined in reference to his person not as independent abstract ideas -- which doesn't seem to factor into your comment at all. –  Caleb Oct 6 '12 at 20:05
So ... in what way do you see this answer as representing [what part of] Christianity? –  Caleb Oct 6 '12 at 20:05
Do not Christians believe that God is not removed from concepts of good and evil? –  Hammer Oct 8 '12 at 1:24
Just because evil and good are defined ultimately only in reference to Him, that doesn't mean there is not some underlying logic behind it. –  Hammer Oct 8 '12 at 1:26
Actually while many Christians would not be able to articulate this, most theologians agree that he IS removed from the concepts so far as the concepts are found IN him and not he in them. There can be no "underlying logic" when the very logic we use is "underlaid" by the person of God. However it does not follow that such a God is also removed from temporal human concepts like "a hungry child" as your post implies. That God stepped inside his own creation as a man -- living and experiencing exactly what we do -- is one of the very basic tenants of Christianity. –  Caleb Oct 8 '12 at 6:10

im proud as a being that you have asked such an obvious yet considered complicated question.

and heres my influence (power), good and evil or the moral perspective, is a human perspective. and not a gods perspective. which humans just tell each other that this is so when there only seeing it from one side of the coin if you like, infact for a god to say otherwise would merely be looking at it from the otherside, but god doesnt say this.. we do. we interpret thus from the live (spelling of evil backwards hmmmm?). god is neither heads nor tails to me.. he is heads, tails, and the coin itself which is both physical and non phsyical which is considered to be singular but when you put it under a microscope has many different parts to it, the alpha and omega, the unmoving, mover.

therefore god is neither good nor evil because hes neither physical or meta physical he is both.

good and evil is just a human perspective on concepts like up and down, left and right, small and big. in order to understand small there must be a big and one must have experienced what big is first before using the reference small. im not calling your answer or even question right, because right gives the prospect that what others are saying is wrong?? it just a case of what you believe serves you.

for me it doesnt work to say that the 'supreme/all' being is a vengeful and jealous being, if our aim through religion is to understand our connection to one another and bring divine joy. its not a case of what we think or believe god to be, its more a case of what we think and believe ourselves to be. thanks for your time :)

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Welcome to the site. We are happy to have you participate. I think there is an actual answer in this post somewhere but I am having trouble finding it. We greatly appreciate good answers that include clear thoughts, proper grammar, and sources. Perhaps you can edit this and include those things. –  fredsbend May 10 '13 at 18:35

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