Sjolander Road Fellowship




Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

perfect knowledge

1/25/13

 

 

Every tragedy perpetrated by another human being prompts us to ask the question: What caused that person to do such a thing? We constantly seem to marvel at the ability of others to perform atrociously.

 

In evaluating the motivation behind what we consider to be extremely evil behaviors, like the recent mass murders, the church always chimes in with their traditional pat answer- we are basically a depraved, sin sick species which can't help but perform badly. Only by compliance with the church's salvation prescription could our basic depravity be changed.

 

Such discussions might logically lead to some speculation about what conclusions we would reach about what motivates tragic behavior, if we, like God, had perfect knowledge of the mind and heart of the perpetrators. If we had such an ability, would we see, as the church claims, that these individuals are wanton, willful flaunters of evil. The basic premise put forth is that many people simply enjoy doing what they know to be wrong.

 

Or, given God's knowledge, would we see what Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, offered as his explanation for bad behavior- " All human error or wrongdoing is involuntary for man can only choose what he believes at the time to be a good that will bring happiness. His only error is that he cannot discern the real good from the illusionary good.” Apparently Socrates believed that the evil which men do results from their believing it to actually be good. In other words the perpetrators of evil think their actions are fully justified because they are performing evil in the interest of the greater good. If they commit violence in a state of anger, for instance, they reason that theirs is actually righteous indignation which rightly prompts violent retribution.

 

If I am perfectly honest and candid, I'd have to admit to thoughts, which tended to justify horrendous actions on my part, like killing someone for a relatively innocuous, inconsequential slight or perceived wrong. In that admission, I lend my personal support to Socrates' contention that men who commit evil are motivated by their personal concept of righteous behavior and not by their concept of what is inherently evil. The reason for evil is then really a misconception of what is righteous.

 

I cannot speak for others; but, perhaps, they would recognize the same in their own mental activities, the ability to justify something horrendous by labeling it righteous. Most seem to suppress their more extreme "justifiable" evil urges, but I suspect an equal number recognize a personal tendency to do regretable things spontaneously without much thought at all. These knee jerk type reactions to perceived wrongs occur because we have become conditioned to defining our anger automatically as righteous indignation and our violent response as virtuous and therfore proper and even necessary.

 

All this speculation about the motivation behind evil behavior, leads us back to considering how God, who knows each of us better than we know ourselves, views us based on perfect knowledge. Does His superior understanding of each individual, promote a greater condemnation of that person or a greater ability to forbear and forgive as a consequence?

 

Some, based on certain Bible passages would conclude that God has already answered that question- The human heart is desperately wicked, Right? Thus the church derives its interpretation of a totally depraved humanity whose every inclination is to do what they know is wrong and do so with great pleasure.  

 

There is little argument that we, as humans, perform very badly very often. What we view as wicked is a manifestation of our natural ability to choose and act accordingly. However, noting that evil behavior originates on the inside does not establish and confirm its motivation. The heart which commits wickedness can easily be a misguided one which views the evil as justified and therefore actually good.  

 

The very passages which identifies the human heart as wicked also asks the question- Who can know it? Well, God can know it. You and I cannot. In a book I once read, a character spoke these words- to know perfectly is to forgive completely. We know who knows perfectly and who claims the ability to forgive completely, to the point of never remembering our forgiven acts any more. That is what makes God so awesome, the ability to work unerringly in perfect understanding of each of us and thereby love without restraint despite our weaknesses and shortcomings.