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March 18, 2012

Question: Can one be good with God?

 One can be loving, kind, philanthropic or work for universal peace whether one believes in God or not. For the theist, praiseworthy action is grounded in spiritual values, presumably forming part of a belief system that originates with God or an ultimate Being, communicated through divine revelation or the acquisition of wisdom by other means. The non-believer believes that he or she is independent of such a Being and looks to the origin of goodness within and exclusively through the human being.

But the question is not whether one can be good with or without God, but rather, what is the ultimate source of goodness, and how is it communicated? Some would argue that it doesn’t matter; it is strictly the deed that counts. Not so, for every deed is motivated by the conscious knowledge of the Good and is actuated by an intention or a spirit that determines the full value of the action.

For Bahá’ís, good deeds cannot be separated from the knowledge and love of God. These dynamic, driving forces are the generating purpose moving all creation. They should not be abstracted from anyone’s existence. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains: “…that which is the cause of everlasting life, eternal honor, universal enlightenment, real salvation and prosperity is, first of all, the knowledge of God. It is known that the knowledge of God is beyond all knowledge, and it is the greatest glory of the human world.” (Some Answered Questions, p. 300).

He explains further: “Second, comes the love of God, the light of which shines in the lamp of the hearts of those who know God; its brilliant rays illuminate the horizon…In truth, the fruit of human existence is the love of God, for this love is the spirit of life, and the eternal bounty” (SAQ, p. 300). He maintains that when the knowledge and the love of God combine to motivate a deed, the deed itself acknowledges the source of all goodness and is complete and perfect. If not, although it is praiseworthy, it is like a beautiful lamp that has no light, or a body of loveliness without spirit.
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen March 18, 2012
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