Man is unique among the creatures; we live as if good and evil exist, as if we all have an obligation or duty to do the right thing. We call it moral law, and I find it fascinating.
When we think of good and evil we’re evaluating human behavior: animals can’t murder, lie, cheat or steal.
And what we call good or evil has little to do with the action itself; it’s largely based on motive: killing by accident or in self-defense isn’t murder.
In short, we believe in a real moral standard, an expectation for human behavior that’s independent of opinion or culture, and it isn’t optional or evolving: we expect it to be timeless.
However, we rarely agree on exactly what this standard is, and we never keep it perfectly ourselves, so we often feel guilt, and find ourselves accusing and judging others, experiencing offences, injustices, bitterness, contempt, indignation, shame, mercy and forgiveness. These emotions imply a perception of transcendent metaphysical reality, one above and beyond Nature which we didn’t invent or create; we act as if it’s been revealed to us.
And though we seldom agree on the standard itself, we never argue that there isn’t one. Essentially, we’re continually acting as if there’s a timeless, intelligent, supernatural Being, a numen … a God, benevolently and impartially requiring goodness of us. We know we’ll have to give account for our behavior (Ro 14:12), and that we aren’t perfect. (Ro 3:19)
Yet even in our brokenness and imperfection, as gods we impose our own version of right behavior upon others, thinking we know what good and evil are all on our own, calling for justice, seeking revenge, dimly reflecting God’s own moral nature within us. Every single human being lives like this, every single day; no one can live otherwise.
This doesn’t scientifically prove God exists, but that’s irrelevant; our goal in science is to convince ourselves of the nature of reality, yet we’re all already instinctively aware of this particular Reality.
It’s as if we live in a broken relationship with God, bearing His likeness, made in His image (Ge 1:27), yet alienated and estranged from Him (Ep 4:18), both longing for justice and hoping for mercy. Rebelling against Him while, in the end, expecting Him to win.
The invisible things of God are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that we’re all without excuse. (Ro 1:20) Instead of debating God’s existence, we should be seeking Him out, so we can find Him and be aligned with Him. (Ac 17:27)
It’s only by God’s own benevolent design in us that we’re even aware of Him, so it only makes sense that He wants us to find Him and be reconciled with Him. (Je 29:13) He wouldn’t make us like we are for any other reason.
4 thoughts on “In His Image”
We believe God is benevolent and impartial because we believe His standard is benevolent and impartial. We can all see that moral law is good, which implies God is good. We also believe we’re all equivalently subject to moral law, which implies God is just and impartial.
While it’s true that our perception of good and evil may change over time, we also apply our current moral framework across time, condemning evil doers of the past regardless of their own antiquated moral sense. We don’t expect true moral standards to evolve.
A classic example is women’s rights. Those who condemn gender bias do so independently of culture and age; they find it immoral at any time in history, and in every society, finding fault with everyone who has ever practiced this. They will admit that expecting women to defer and submit to men has never been acceptable.
In doing a little research into the motivation of the notorious criminal Clyde Barrow (of Bonnie and Clyde), after finding that he claimed to be avenging himself of the horrible injustices he endured in the Texas prison system, I’m thinking I could easily have done what he did. Bitterness is extremely powerful, and I’m not above it in my own strength.