Tuesday, November 19, 2019

sinful goodness

Thoughts on virtue as seen in non-Christians vs Christians, from James McGlothlin's article "Can the Godless Do Good?":
"The apparent goodness of non-Christians can sometimes confuse Christians. Is this apparent goodness actual goodness — and if so, how does it fit with the Bible’s teaching that, apart from God, “no one does good”? Pastor-theologian Jonathan Edwards provides the categories for making sense of non-Christian virtue. According to Edwards, the apparent goodness of non-Christians is not merely apparent, but nor is it “true virtue.” Rather, it is limited virtue, which, though similar to true virtue from the outside, falls short of participating in the triune goodness of God...
Edwards helps us to explain how Christians can affirm that the virtue and love they correctly recognize among non-Christians is indeed good and virtuous, though only in a limited way. With Edwards, the Bible attests that a non-Christian never pursues or exemplifies anything with the goal of glorifying God (Romans 3:10–12; Matthew 22:37). But Edwards suggests that we reject the tempting inference that all of a non-Christian’s seemingly good actions and character are never good or beautiful in any sense. Rather, their seemingly good actions and character are indeed morally good, but only in a limited way — that is, they are short of being done or lived for the glory of God."
Edwards so clearly explains the intersection of thoughts I struggle with: how morality differs between believers and nonbelievers, the main aim and motivation of good works, and how nonbelievers can seem to be genuine in their giving and acting even while maintaining a state of unbelief. 

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