Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Good without God

On my way home the other day, I happened by an advertisement by Humanist Canada, it read:

You can be good without God.

It was an interesting statement, seemingly meant to espouse the atheist philosophy, much like the controversial "There's probably no God" advertisements. I can only imagine that such advertisements seek to negate the need for God because, well, an atheist can be just as good as a Christian can. Where then does God factor into that?

And it's true, an atheist can be as "good" as a Christian can. So can a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Shintoist, and a Jew. Most major religions lay claim to moral codes, and these moral codes usually hold similar values at heart - for instance, the condemnation of murder. An atheist who upholds a similar moral code and works fervently to act upon it, can be just as "good" as any religious individual. They can aspire to be loving, kind, and forgiving. They may make donations to the poor, solve conflicts with patience, and treat others as they would be treated.

Yet even so, even the best of us are partial to anger, selfishness, pride, lust... In other words, even though we try to be "good", we're never perfect.


23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

But in focusing on the pursuit of righteousness, one is missing the point. Faith in God is not about being good, but about seeking truth. Indeed, a desire to improve ourselves may come about as a byproduct of our faith, but that faith is rooted in something deeper. Christians do not believe in God because they think it will make them a better person (though it may, in the process, do so) but because they believe that God exists, that he is real, and that the Bible is true.

Their own attempts to be good or inadequacy at achieving better results than their atheist neighbour does not make God less relevant. In fact, it makes God more relevant. Because in acknowledgement that we cannot achieve "goodness" beyond that which any other man can achieve (which is not all that "good" at all) on our own, we recognize our own weakness and need for salvation. Christianity offers this salvation in the form of Christ Jesus, who sacrificed his life that we might be reconciled with God. He claims more than just a path to "goodness" but a way back to God, life eternal, and truth.


3 How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?


6Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Indeed, Romans 3, which I cited above, continues:


23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

I'm reminded of a song I first heard many years ago (Never Gonna Be as Big as Jesus by Audio Adrenaline), which went on to say:

I could be about as good
Good as any human could
But that won't get me by

Get your own playlist at!

"You can be good without God." Is this true? To a certain perspective it is. By our own efforts, we can be no better than any other human being. But we trust in God because we believe his message to be true, and our faith then leads us toward salvation and transformation through Christ Jesus our saviour. It is He who makes us truly "good", but more importantly sets our sights beyond this life and toward eternity.


20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

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