About “judging God’s morality”

About “judging God’s morality” January 15, 2012

About “Judging God’s Morality”

Recently an acquaintance asked me if I am guilty of “judging God’s morality.” He explained that his reason for asking is my answer to my student’s question “If it were revealed to you in a way you could not doubt that God is as Calvinism says, would you still worship him?” My answer was “No.” Apparently this response caused my acquaintance some consternation. I responded that I didn’t see why. He further explained that it seemed to him inappropriate to judge God. “But, I said, I’m not judging God. God is worshipful; I worship him. How is that judging God?” My acquaintance replied “But you said you wouldn’t worship God if he was as Calvinism says.” Again, my response was a puzzled “So what?” But I could see my acquaintance was still dissatisfied. So I reflected on his question a bit more and waited until I felt perhaps I understood his concern and then replied. Here’s my reply to him:

If I am guilty of “judging God’s morality,” so is everyone else. Unless, of course, someone is a nominalist—a person who believes God doesn’t have a definite character but is capable of having whatever character he chooses to have. Such a person probably also believes that whatever God does is automatically good and right, that is, morally righteous and worthy of worship just because he’s God. C. S. Lewis gave us the test for determining whether someone is a nominalist or a realist with regard to their belief about God. The test is a question: “Is something good because God wills it or does God will it because it is good?” A nominalist will answer that something is good just because God wills it. A “realist,” someone who believes God has a definite character, will answer that God wills something because it is good. There’s a world of difference between those views of God.

If a person claims he doesn’t “judge God’s morality” it can only be because he is a nominalist. To such a person I ask “What makes God worthy of worship?” The answer must be “just because he’s God.” To that I can only respond “Oh, really? Why, then, do Psalm 106 and 118 (among other passages of the Bible) say to worship God because he’s good? It’s obvious to me that the Psalmist was telling his listeners (and us who read his Psalms) that God is worshipful, whereas “the gods” are not, because our God, the true God, is good. And, according to Psalm 106, God is good because “his steadfast love endures forever.”

Was the Psalmist judging God’s morality? Is someone who obeys him by worshiping God BECAUSE he’s good judging God’s morality? It seems ridiculous to say so.

I said everyone judges God’s morality—unless they are a nominalist. I don’t really know what to say to a nominalist except that I don’t really know how you can believe a being, even the supreme being of the universe, is worshipful just for existing. It seems to me that is to baptize naked power as worshipful.

What I get from the Bible is that God is worshipful because he is good. Yes, also because he is all powerful and holy.  But it’s a package deal. Take away goodness and he wouldn’t be worshipful. That’s how I understand Psalm 106 and Psalm 118.

Now, to my acquaintance who’s worried that I might be wrongly judging God’s morality I asked: What if it were revealed to you in such a way that you couldn’t doubt that God is really Satan , that Satan and God are one and the same being? He said he couldn’t imagine such a thing. I asked him to imagine it, even if it is inconceivable that it could ever happen. Finally, he said that, no, if he came to believe that God and Satan are one and the same person, he would not worship him. I asked him if that isn’t “judging God’s morality?” No, he replied, because I’m not evaluating the real God’s morality; I’m evaluating (somehow he had trouble using the word “judging”—for understandable reasons, because it’s a loaded term) an imaginary being who doesn’t exist as unworthy of worship. Right.

Then I asked my acquaintance what if it were revealed to you in a way you couldn’t doubt that the god of Mormonism is the true God. His response was that if somehow he had to believe that he would not worship God. I asked him if that means he’s judging God. He said no because that’s in the realm of the imaginary and hypothetical. Right.

I cannot imagine any Christian saying that if it were revealed to him in a way he could not doubt that God is as Mormonism says (a human being) he would still worship him. The main reason most Christians don’t consider Mormonism a form of Christianity is precisely because its god is not worshipful. By what standard? By the standard given to us by God himself in Scripture. Is saying that you would not worship the god of Mormonism if he were the only true God “judging God?” I wouldn’t think any Christian would put it quite that way, but there’s a sense in which it’s correct. But it’s very misleading because it’s not judging the real God’s worthiness of worship; it’s judging an imaginary God’s worthiness of worship.

Back to what makes God worthy of worship. When I go to a church and the worship leaders says “Let’s worship God just for being God” I don’t go along with that. I don’t worship God just for being God UNLESS what is meant is “because being good is what it means to be God.” That’s what Psalm 106 and Psalm 118 (among other passages) are saying.

But wait, my acquaintance interjected. Aren’t you using your own autonomous standard of “goodness” to evaluate God? Aren’t you judging God’s goodness by your idea of goodness? Not at all, I replied. The standard of goodness I’m using as the criterion is the one given by God himself—loving kindness and steadfast love. That’s the standard I’m using to judge OTHER so-called “gods.” I’m not “judging” my God, the God of the Bible, at all. I’m simply accepting the standard he has revealed for worshipfulness and using it to rule out worshiping other gods (which, of course, don’t exist as real gods because they’re not worshipful).

Okay, my acquaintance finally said, but it just seems there’s something wrong with saying you wouldn’t worship God “if.” I don’t see why, I replied. I’m only saying that I wouldn’t worship God if he weren’t worshipful, which he is.

Finally my acquaintance asked if I am saying Calvinists aren’t worshiping the true God. I haven’t accused Calvinists of that, I responded. I’ve only said that’s why I’M not a Calvinist—because IF I believed what they believe about God I would have to also believe what they don’t believe about God. They say God is good. I’m not sure exactly what they mean, but I take them at their word and say they are simply being inconsistent when they ALSO say they believe that God predestined the fall and fallen people to hell. That’s simply incompatible with the standard of goodness given by God himself and applied to himself as the reason to worship him in Scripture.

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