JOHN PEARRELL: We cannot be good apart from God

Last week I broached the subject of whether or not we can be truly good without God. I stated in that column that your answer to that question really depends on your standard for goodness.

If your standard is human comparisons, then yes, we can be good without God. But if your standard is God, the answer is no, we cannot be good apart from him.

As we wrapped up last week's column, I referred to the riots that recently rocked Great Britain, and referred to the fact that the rioters thought their actions good.

One young hoodlum expressed such in an interview actually stating to the press "It is good that we can take what we want and show our power (to society). We are simply taking what is rightfully ours."

Now, there is the rub -- when our definition of what is good has no real moral foundation.

Years ago, Father Frederick C. Copleston debated the atheist Bertran Russell concerning the existence of God. During that debate, the issue of how Russell recognized goodness came up.

Russell had a little difficulty answering that question, ultimately coming down to stating that how he felt about a situation determined whether the act was good or bad.

Russell's logic on this is flawless if, in fact, there is no God. However, while the argument is flawless as far as logic is concerned, it's flawed when it comes to life.

The rioters mentioned above, for instance, thought that their actions were in fact "good," and as long as the definition of good resides solely in the feelings of the individual, some extremely bad things can be done in the name of goodness.

As Ravi Zacharias points out, "In some cultures we love our neighbors, in others the eat them. Do you have a preference?"

In the early to mid-20th century, Friedrich Nietzsche declared God to be dead. He predicted rightly that with the death of God, the 20th century would become the bloodiest in all of history.

Isn't it interesting to note that Nietzsche links the absence of God with the absence of goodness? In fact, his prediction was true. Adolph Hitler, using Darwinian Evolution and Nietzsche's philosophy, succeeded in convincing the German people that it was "good" that the Aryan race be advanced at the murderous expense of all others.

Sadly, there are still some today who feel that such a heartless philosophy is indeed good. How can they justify such thinking? It's simple: if there is no ultimate standard for good, then good becomes contingent upon how I feel about the situation.

Once goodness is defined by mankind, nothing becomes off limits. We see this both in atheistic and theistic philosophy. When man becomes the measure, some very evil things can be done in the name of goodness.

That is why Paul wrote "But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!" (2 Corinthians 10:12, NLT).

Isaiah warned, "How terrible it will be for people who call good things bad and bad things good, who think darkness is light and light is darkness, who think sour is sweet and sweet is sour." (Isaiah 5:20, NCV).

Is this not we are seeing today? As we systematically remove God from the equation, we are losing our ability to discern right from wrong or good from evil. The Bible warns, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 14:12, NIV).

Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington, GA.. For more information visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.