PAPER NO. 4
GOOD & EVIL – LIFE & DEATH
The Beginning of the Foundation
It assumes the clarity of general revelation and the redemption of special revelation.
The cornerstone is the beginning of the foundation.
The choice of good or evil is the existential first principle: it is the most basic choice for all men, everywhere, at all times.
The stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone (1 Peter 2:7).
Rejection of the Logos in creation (in general revelation) results in the rejection of the Logos incarnate (in special revelation).
All attempts of mankind to build a lasting culture, civilization or kingdom, while rejecting the cornerstone, have resulted in futility.
- The Good
The good is the highest value (summum bonum), the end in itself, chosen for its own sake and not for the sake of anything else. The good is not virtue (virtue of all kinds, duty or moral law is the means to the good); the good is not happiness (happiness, pleasure or joy is the effect of possessing the good). The good for a being is according to the nature of that being. The good for man is grounded in human nature, which is knowable to all. It is one and the same for all; it is the source of unity in each person and for all persons.
Good and Evil for Man
- The good for man as a rational being is the use of reason to the fullest to understand the nature of beings and the source of all beings, which is God. It is the source of life: maturity in one’s own understanding, fruitfulness in the increase of understanding in others, unity in all relations in every sphere of life, and fullness in all the riches of knowledge and understanding.
- Evil is an act which is contrary to one’s nature; it originates in the failure to seek and to understand what is clear about God. Left to oneself no one seeks God, no one understands, no one does what is right, not even one (Romans 3:10-12). Evil is the source of spiritual death: meaninglessness (the mind is darkened), boredom (burning desire without satisfaction), and guilt (resulting in interminable self-deception and self-justification). Corporately it results in divisions, apostasy, cultural decay and collapse.
Life and Death
- Life is present and inherent in seeking and understanding; it is not future or extrinsic as in the common conception of reward in the afterlife in heaven.
- Death, which is spiritual, is present and inherent in not seeking and not understanding; it is not future and imposed as in the common conception of punishment in the afterlife in hell.
- The Good in Biblical Revelation
The good in biblical revelation is eternal life, which is knowing God.
- Since creation is revelation, the whole earth is full of God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3). And since man is made in God’s own image, the end of man’s work of dominion is the knowledge of the glory of God.
- The one desire of the psalmist is to know God: One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to enquire in his temple (Psalm 27:4).
- The Word of God incarnate who makes God known, said in prayer: And this is eternal life, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3).
- The apostle Paul, expressing his view of the highest good, said: I count all things a loss [compared to] the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:8).
- The Good in Historic Christianity
The good in Historic Christianity, as summed up in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Shorter Catechism, is focused on the knowledge of God’s glory:
Man’s chief end is to glorify God (SCQ 1), in all that whereby he makes himself known (SCQ 101), in all his works of creation (WCF 4.1) and providence (WCF 5.1). The work of God in creation and providence is the revelation of God’s glory.
- Ten Characteristics of The Good
The good, as knowledge, is continuing, inexhaustible, comprehensive, inalienable, corporate, cumulative, communal, fulfilling, ultimate and transformative. Only the end of all knowledge in the knowledge of God satisfies all of these requirements of the good.
- The Good and Man’s Work of Dominion
The knowledge of God is through the knowledge of the creation, which is self-revelation; the knowledge of creation is through the work of dominion. The work of dominion given to man at creation in the Garden is corporate, cumulative and communal (Genesis 1-2). Mankind’s work of dominion through history comes to completion in the City of God (Revelation 21-22).
- The Good and Moral Evil
Moral evil serves to deepen the revelation of the divine justice and mercy. It deepens also the work of dominion, which extends now over sin and unbelief. In dominion every thought raised up against the knowledge of God must be taken captive (2 Corinthians 10:4). All kindreds, nations, tribes and tongues are to be brought to the knowledge of God.
- The Good and Natural Evil
Natural evil (toil, strife and old age, sickness and death, increasing corporately to war, famine and plague) serves to restrain, recall from and remove moral evil. It is a call to stop and think about self-deception and self-justification against clarity and inexcusability regarding the existence and nature of God and the moral law.
The Good and Hope
- True hope of attaining the good through the work of dominion is opposed to false hope of direct knowledge of God through a beatific vision in heaven and to no hope of skepticism and nihilism.
- The promise of redemption, given after man’s fall, is that through a spiritual war which is age-long and agonizing, good will overcome evil; one to come, in the place of Adam, will undo what Adam did and do what Adam failed to do.
- The deepened work of dominion will be completed, signified in the continuation of the Sabbath, a day of rest; the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9).