By Ronald Francis
There are two dangerous misconceptions about the nature of ‘goodness’ in the world today. The first is that good and evil are equals, yin-yang, if you will.
The second is that goodness is a matter of perspective, a relative good. Neither of these fallacies represent what goodness is to a Catholic Christian and we must be sure to make the distinction and recognise these falsehoods that are so pervasive in the culture.
Good is primary. We must never yin-yang good and evil, that is, make them equals that reign alongside each other in perpetuity. In fact, this falsehood is a tenet of Luciferianism—that a perpetual, eternal challenge can be posed to the Almighty God.
We see this theme in popular shows and social media, a sort of self-deification in which humans find ontological equality with God, and what is evil is called good to equate it in some way to the objective good.
No! This dualism can never work, and it is so dangerous. As CS Lewis reminds us in Mere Christianity, “evil is a parasite, not an original thing. The powers which enable evil to carry on are powers given it by goodness.”
You see, even evil acts are, in a way, because of goodness. It is the turning away from God that makes evil exist, just like darkness is the absence of light, not an entity in and of itself, nor is it equal to light. Light can always overcome darkness and so too, good can always overcome evil.
Scripture reminds us of this explicitly in many ways. St Paul wrote that in everything, God works for good (Rom 8:28) and assures us that we can overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).
Even the most insidious and sinful acts are a rejection of God, not independent expressions. This is great news. That goodness has primacy is the origin of hope. There can be no eternal hope without this foundational goodness. That “creation comes forth from God’s goodness [and] it shares in that goodness” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 299) means that goodness was before evil; it is present now and will outlast the last evil deed.
That God’s goodness endures means that His plan supercedes every bit of suffering, every pandemic, every sin, all brokenness and even death. This is the gospel, the Good News.
The second fallacy is that goodness is not objective. This fallacy is couched in the general relativism of the age—that there is no objective truth or objective morality that is applicable to all people that makes our societies better.
Nowadays, truth originates in personal experiences and feelings. It is completely amorphous and sometimes even demands the compliance of others. A similar fate has befallen the definition of goodness in the culture. It is now a matter of internal motivation only, rather than a standard beyond the individual.
CS Lewis pointed out that there have always been two distinct views on what is good. One view is that goodness depends on point-of-view: “We call a cancer bad…because it kills a man, but you might just as well call a successful surgeon bad because he kills a cancer” (Mere Christianity).
This is a relativistic goodness in which God is an entity beyond good and evil, who requires nothing of you, who demands nothing, and all is relative.
The other view, the Christian view, is predicated on a God that is definitively good and righteous, “who loves love and hates hatred, who wants us to behave in one way and not in another” (Mere Christianity).
There is one objective good that we can partake in but is not defined by our experiences and feelings. It should be immediately apparent how this idea is antithetical to the philosophies of the age.
We want a God that demands nothing of us and only responds to our every whim. We want to live as we see ourselves, not as God sees us. We want to be God.
So, as you stream your next show, or attend your next lecture, or chat with friends, look out for these fallacies.
Remember that God’s “goodness and wisdom” within which He reveals Himself and makes known the mystery of His will (CCC, 51) are unparalleled and objective. Goodness has no equal.
Ronald T Francis is currently a PhD candidate and an assistant lecturer at the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics at The UWI, St Augustine.