Tuesday, February 23, 2010

All things Are Good

Based upon Saint Augustine's essay found in "Confessions", Book VII, Chapter XII

Things that are not corrupted are supremely good, but even things that are corrupted must be good, else they could not become corrupted.

For corruption harms only by diminishing good. Things corrupted are deprived of good. But a thing completely deprived of good would cease to exist. Existence itself is good and is evidence of good.

Therefore, whatsoever is, is good.

God made all things good, and there is no thing or substance which God did not make. Each by itself is good, and the sum of all of them is very good, for our God made all things very good.

That is a condensed version of Augustine's essay. The complete, original version is reproduced below.

This idea that all things are good forms part of the grand theme of the sovereignity of God. Those who suppose that evil is a thing, cannot reconcile the holiness of God with His sovereignity in allowing, much less creating, evil or corruption.

Augustine's thoughts help me see God's sovereignity and holiness even in a world that is decayed and eroded by undeniably evil, ungodly corruption.

I am good. I am not supremely good, and I am corrupted in my flesh, but the very fact that my flesh can be corrupted is evidence that I was created, and am, good.

However, I am not good enough on my own merits to escape God's righteous wrath and condemnation for my sin, my corruption. That is another story altogether.

This discussion also hints of Jonathan Edward's illustration of the two lenses through which God can view His creation.

The "near" lens of God describes His view of creation and the acts of mankind with respect to their immediate effects. Sin, disease, and tragedy are seen as evil and disbonoring to God.

God's "far" lens refers to His view of creation and the act of mankind in relation to all eternity and His supreme objective and purpose. The sin, disease, and tragedy that He sovereignly allows and even prepares is seen as part of master plan leading to His glorification and our complete joy.

The difference between these two "lenses" of God can be pictured as the difference between threads used to make a tapestry, and the finished tapestry itself.

Looking closely at just the individual colored threads, one would not see any pattern or design - it would appear no better than a confused, knotted mass of causes and effects.

But by stepping back and looking at the entire finished tapestry, one would see the threads coming together to form intricately beautiful designs, patterns, and shapes.

Only God has the perfect ability to judge and condemn sin, yet use the effects of sin and tragedy to complete an eternal, supreme plan of glorification and joy.

"And it was made clear to me that all things are good even if they are corrupted. They could not be corrupted if they were supremely good; but unless they were good they could not be corrupted. If they were supremely good, they would be incorruptible; if they were not good at all, there would be nothing in them to be corrupted. For corruption harms; but unless it could diminish goodness, it could not harm. Either, then, corruption does not harm - which cannot be - or, as is certain, all that is corrupted is thereby deprived of good. But if they are deprived of all good, they will cease to be. For if they are at all and cannot be at all corrupted, they will become better, because they will remain incorruptible. Now what can be more monstrous than to maintain that by losing all good they have become better? If, then, they are deprived of all good, they will cease to exist. So long as they are, therefore, they are good. Therefore, whatsoever is, is good. Evil, then, the origin of which I had been seeking, has no substance at all; for if it were a substance, it would be good. For either it would be an incorruptible substance and so a supreme good, or a corruptible substance, which could not be corrupted unless it were good. I understood, therefore, and it was made clear to me that thou madest all things good, nor is there any substance at all not made by thee. And because all that thou madest is not equal, each by itself is good, and the sum of all of them is very good, for our God made all things very good."

"Confessions", Book VII, Chapter XII, Saint Augustine