And You thought I had missed your TedTalk…heh-heh! 😊 Thought you’d sneak one by me, eh? 😋
I do wonder at one thing with all of this use of the term “good”. On what basis is the term “good” defined. By societal norms or by God’s eternal principles?
Here’s my dilemma.
Remember in the Book of Judges where it says,
In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. [Judges 17:6 & Judges 21:25 NLT]
If you examine those times, they were among the most wicked and vile periods of Israel’s history. Yet mankind defined their own “good”. See the disconnect I have?
This is what I read in Scripture, and it informs my worldview that permeated even my fictive worldviews.
People may be right in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their heart. [Proverbs 21:2 NLT]
Wealth created by a lying tongue is a vanishing mist and a deadly trap. … Evil people desire evil; their neighbors get no mercy from them. [Proverbs 21:6, 10 NLT]
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. [Genesis 6:5 NASB20]
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. [Romans 3:10-12 KJV]
If we do not take our definition of the term “good” from God and all that attenuates to that implication, we are only left with mankind’s definition of it that arises out of a sinful and selfish heart. It is only by knowing God’s standard for the term that we can aspire to those gifts and attributes that come from His goodness.
I do not want mankind’s definition because it makes one righteous in their own eyes, rather than actually expressing the virtue of it lovingly and sacrificially by God’s terms. The Ten Commandments were given to show us God’s standard of good. Terms like “good person” or “good people” can mean just about anything. Criminals and psychopaths can see themselves as good and virtuous while committing the most heinous acts.
This is why, as a baseline, I have to reference “good” as arising from God, either implicitly or overtly.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. [James 1:17 KJV]
Morals are also defined by God. They have to be, otherwise, they become arbitrary, self-defined, and subject to the vicissitudes of popular opinions.
So, my anchor point, always for “good”, has to be God’s standard.
So, you pose the problem of moral dilemmas. And the burden of “goodliness” or “god-likeness” is borne on the shoulders of the “hero”. They do so distinguish themselves sometimes by personal virtue doing what seems to be right, informed by the conscience, which I believe is the residual law written upon the heart of mankind.
Romans 2:14-15 seems to affirm this, even though a conscience, willfully ignored enough can become seared (1 Timothy 4:2) and God will solidify these in their persistent rejection of Him by giving them over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28). But I think a hero needs to have some sense of accountability to a Higher Authority, to maintain any good pursuit against the headwinds of evil and evil characters.
The trolley problem. Yes. One life for many. Clearly, a struggle for personal desire and community responsibility pitted against one another. I think of the poignant film entitled “Most” (also titled “The Bridge,” as Most is Czech for bridge) a 2003 Czech film directed by Bobby Garabedian and written and produced by Garabedian and American actor William Zabka. [Yes, the same American Actor who plays Johnny in “The Karate Kid” movies and now the “Cobra Kai” series on Ntflx] The poignant and moving story of a bridge operator who sacrifices the life of his own son, to save the lives of complete strangers on a train that must pass over a railway bridge lift. Clearly, a parallel to God’s sacrifice.
The loner hero.
That seems to be something some writers do, but I only think it appeals to me if they are loners because they are the only ones who will take the moral stand in the midst of collective cowardice. I think every hero needs a support system, and some mentorship to affirm them, but failing that, they need to have a faith foundation and a relationship that encourages them towards the “good”. I do not believe in heroes with no flaws. Only Jesus did that, and it was the singular exception. Jesus did have susceptibility and temptation (Hebrews 4:15) but never succumbed to it. He is the only paragon. Any other portrayal in fiction that mimics this without being a representation of Christ merely annoys me. I see C.S. Lewis’s Aslan as Christ equated, so I do appreciate that parallel and do love Aslan as a character.
Heroes vs. corrupted heroes.
Ah yes. I’ve seen this one used many times. Seems like Marvel and DC Comics movies do this a lot. The villain indicates to the hero that they are just a side-step away from each other, walking on the opposite side of an arbitrary line of justice. The Spiderman series did this (and had the trolley dilemma as well) with Spidey and the Green Goblin in the Toby McGuire versions. Christopher Nolan’s Batman also did this with Bruce Wayne and Ra’s al Ghul character from the League of Assassins. It also happened with the Heath Ledger Joker and Christian Bale as Batman with the prison ferries “Trolley dilemma”. Seems to be a popular trope, but I think of Satan tempting Jesus in the Wilderness to making a single misstep, so it hearkens back to that age-old conflict with the lure of a shortcut to “save mankind” other than to walk longer uncompromising “The Warrior’s Path”.
You’ve raised some good points. Sign me up for your next “TedTalk”. I’ll be there will bells on. 😉
Brian Stansell (aka O'Brian of the Surface World)
I was born in war.
Fighting from my first breath.