Monday, September 3, 2007

Hitch-hiking, Natural Goodness and the Sovereignty of God

Yesterday I made it safely back to Dunedin after hitch-hiking down from Hamilton. It was a fun experience and I met some great people, and learnt a lot from them.

Hitch-hiking always gets me thinking weird thoughts about time, God and predestination. A typical example is wondering if, had I been standing in a different spot, the same person would have picked me up. And what would have happened if I had been there slightly earlier, or slightly later. I often get the impression that it can’t just be coincidence that these people happen to be driving past at that exact moment. Everything worked out so perfectly that it definitely felt like God was orchestrating the whole thing. I won’t write much in the form of rational reasoning for this, but I will just say that it is immensely comforting to know there is a God who is working all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).

My trip down also got me thinking about the natural ‘goodness’ of humans. Contrary to what most people think, hitch-hiking brings you into contact with some of the most amazingly hospitable people. In particular, I was most impressed with one man’s positive outlook on life. His philosophy on life, one of trusting in the good of people and trying to pass on the ‘goodness’ to others seemed very attractive to me.

That said, I hold to a theology (which I trust is biblical) that says without God’s grace, the human will is totally corrupted by sin, and is unable to do anything pleasing in God’s sight. Just writing it like that seems so heartless and makes me kind of understand why people have such a low view of Christianity. However, I find the big picture, one where God intervenes to bring man to himself purely because of his arbitrary mercy and love, to be a beautiful, all-encompassing worldview. This view, in my opinion, explains the darker side of reality better than my optimist friend’s philosophy, however leaves me wondering how to fit in the many good, altruistic acts done by unbelievers.

As it stands, I would explain goodness in unbelievers by saying God’s grace acts to restrain us from carrying out a lot of our more evil inclinations, and that it is only because of God’s hand that our society doesn’t completely deteriorate and self-destruct. This view, however, seems so morbid and negative, and certainly not ‘nice’ in our culture. But I think it only seems gloomy and negative if you hold that the best thing for us is our own glorification. Essentially my view makes humans totally unworthy of any praise, but God becomes more beautiful precisely because of our sinfulness. Furthermore, I would argue that the best thing for us is to enjoy God’s beauty, and so this worldview is actually very good and precious to me!

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