Monday, April 16, 2007

Good People

Partly as a matter of theology and partly as a matter of experience, I stopped believing in good people a long time ago. A short while after I discovered this, I no longer believe in bad people. I do, however, believe in sinful people.

The theology: Original sin, and the notion of "who can be good but God alone?" seems to cancel out the notion of good people. Coupled with the experience of what I know of myself versus having been the 'good kid' at various points in my life, this pretty much destroys my belief in the idea of an inherently good human nature.

Believing in bad people: Things get a bit more nuanced here. I don't think people are neutral either, but I don't think they're bad. At least, we cannot really speak of 'bad persons' anymore than we can speak of a 'bad humanity', or a 'bad human nature.' Essentially, as far as words like 'good' or 'bad' go, we're all one or all the other. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." So to single out 'bad people' aside from the whole human race would seem arbitrary at best.

Believing in sinful people: If all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, we may accurately speak of our state as one that needs redemption, but across the board. We may accurately say that without grace we would certainly be, as it were, screwed.



asgromo said...

I'm not sure I can tell what you mean. Society singles out bad people all the time; society tends to frown upon randomly punching people in the face, or stealing their stuff, or lying, or whatever else you can think of. Society similarly singles out good people. It tends to encourage working to save human life or make it more comfortable.

That we all fall short of God does not mean we cannot judge one another, or maybe you know that.

Maybe I just don't understand why you were imagining naturally "good" or "bad" people in the first place. =/

I would just remark that God's standards for goodness may very well be extremely good, and we should all aspire to them, but they make a terrible metric for judging ourselves, as we all fall short of them anyway.

So, everyone's sinful and needs redemption (God's perspective).

Also, certain people need to be forcefully restrained or killed because they are harmful to society (our perspective).

k-po said...

to my ever challenging nephew who inspires me to think about things my brain cannot wrap around - as my brain has been stolen by my boys and will be returned upon their graduation from college -

i am a sinful person, by nature, as i believe that is how i was born and then with the proof of my sinful nature by how i lived my life.

however, i am a saved person by the grace of God and because of his love for me in sending Jesus to cover my sin past, present, future.

do i continue to sin? yes. in overt public ways? well i hope not, but it is sin just the same and it is between God and me.

i am thankful every day that in spite of my sin, God continues to love and forgive me. that He knows my heart and what my desire is, which is to emulate the characteristics of Jesus.

we are all good, bad, ugly and everything in between at some point during our lives. we all have flaws and some days are better than others. more than being just a "good" person, i want to be a person seen as loving God first. i want to be a person of integrity.

to me it is kind of black and white. sinners vs non-sinners. well there has only been 1 non-sinner so we are all lumped together on the other side with varying degrees. don't dissect it. it is what it is. sin or no sin. with God it is sin or no sin. does God categorize saying well he's good and she's bad or does He see sin as sin?

sometimes i think we all are so busy trying to pick that splinter out of society's eye that we don't see the tree stump sticking out of our own eye. make sure your own heart/soul/conscience is clear before trying to figure other people out.

love you!
auntie k.

llgp said...

Well said, McGee! We can certainly differentiate between people based on our understandings of goodness and badness, but sinfulness is the clearer theological concept and the more ultimately meaningful term. We may think that Gandhi was "gooder" than Hitler, but both were equal in terms of their need for redemption.

Anonymous said...

i am reminded of my minimal early childhood development instructions to tell children that they are "a good person, who sometimes does bad things." And I think there is validity in that it teaches a chld that they are valued. personally, however, i have to agree with a couple of your other commenters..i am a flawed, bad, human being saved by God's grace. And i really don't believe in gradations of badness...sin is sin to a sinless God. i think as a society we just have a flawed sense of what good and bad mean. maybe, after all, it is a matter of semantics. most of all, i believe you are right on when you say that across the board..without grace we would certainly be, as it were, screwed.

keep on thinking and making me think with you. it helps keep senility temporarily at bay.

L-Po said...

This is your sainted mother. As you know, I am only surpassed in goodness by the BVM. She and I would prefer that you not use the word "screwed" when discussing theology. (She's actually more upset about it than I am.) I actually prefer not to think of myself as "good" or "bad," always striving instead for "annoying." How am I doing?