Conversations with Angie: Arguments for the goodness of God
But a person might argue that while God's existence is necessary for there to be evil, it may not follow that God is good. I think there are two ways to show that God IS good.
First, just look at the properties of good and evil and what they mean. Notice that evil is what ought to be avoided, and good is what ought to be embraced. That's just true by their definitions. Good and evil are not equal and opposite. If they were, then you could exchange good for evil and evil for good. Whether a culture adopts the moral law that "You should always do evil" as opposed to "You should always do good," would be an arbitrary decision. But we can see, by the very nature of good and evil, that good is to be done, and evil is to be avoided.
Since this distinction between good and evil comes from God, and since between good and evil, good is what ought to be done, and evil is what ought to be avoided, it's clear that this God has a preference for good over evil. Everything that ought to be done is good, and everything that ought to be avoided is evil. It follows that God only prefers good, and never prefers evil. God, then, must be wholly good.
There's a second way to show that God is necessarily good that comes from an objection to the argument I've been making. It's called the Euthyphro dilemma, and it goes sommething like this:
If something is good because God commands it, then "good" is arbitrary.
If God commands something because it's good, then "good" does not depend on God.
Both horns of the dilemma assume that "good" is something other than God. The first horn assumes that good is below God, or is created arbitrarily by God. The second horn assumes that good is above God, and that God is obligated to live consistently with.
If good is a necessary objective feature of the world, then good cannot be arbitrary, so the first horn of the dilemma must be wrong. But the second horn of the dilemma must be wrong, too, because good cannot exist independently without any foundation in a personal being. It seems, then, that "good" is neither above nor below God. "Good," if it is to exist, and is to be a necessary objective feature of the world, must be equated with God in some way. It can't be other than God. Good must be part of God's nature, and his nature must be unchanging in order to avoid being arbitrary. God doesn't make arbitrary commands, that are then defined as good. Rather, God's commands flow necessarily from his unchanging nature. And good isn't arbitary, either, because God must be a necessary being with an unchanging nature. God couldn't simply decide to change the rules--to exchange good for evil and evil for good--because God is what he is, and couldn't be otherwise. All of this arguing entails that God is necessarily good, and he's good by nature. Goodness is an intrinsic part of God's nature.
Now that I think about it, there's a third way to show that God is good. Remember the most basic moral imperative is "Do good." All other moral imperatives basically say the same thing, but in more specific circumstances. All we have to do is ask ourselves a question: Would the world be a better place if everybody obeyed the moral commands, or if everybody disobeyed them? Obviously, the world would be a better place if we all cared for each other, helped each other out, never murdered, stole, or lied to each other, etc. It seems, then, that God commands us to do things that are in our best interest. But why should God care about us in the first place? We're just a tiny insignificant spec of dust in the universe that God could easily ignore. But not only has God given us the moral law, but he has always provided a means by which we can know what that law is. He has made the moral law known to us and impressed upon us by giving us a conscience, and the moral law is in our best interest. The conscience God gives us encourages us to do good and avoid evil by causing us to feel the incumbancy of morality before we even act. It seems, then, that God is good, and that God also cares about us.
to be continued...
Conversations with Angie: Finally reconciling evil with God's goodness