“If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” (1 John 2:28)
The righteousness that someone who is born of God practices resembles God’s righteousness in such a way that knowing God’s righteousness gives one assurance that whenever one sees it practiced (by a human being), that human being resembles God in this crucial respect.
In approaching God (intellectually as well as existentially), there are two dangerous extremes: thinking him too like ourselves and thinking him too unlike ourselves. Much ink has been spilled over the first extreme.
There is the tendency, or so I perceive, to see only it as a problem, and the other extreme as fashionable, virtuous, even particularly spiritual.
But Holy Scripture gives us a different picture. Above verse is particularly clear. How could we practice a righteousness that truly resembles God’s if God is radically different from us? Or at least radically different in moral respects?
C.S. Lewis gives us another strong reason for the same conclusion:
On the other hand, if God’s moral judgement differs from ours so that our ‘black’ may be His ‘white’, we can mean nothing by calling Him good; for to say ‘God is good’, while asserting that His goodness is wholly other than ours, is really only to say ‘God is we know not what’. And an utterly unknown quality in God cannot give us moral grounds for loving or obeying Him. If He is not (in our sense) ‘good’ we shall obey, if at all, only through fear—and should be equally ready to obey an omnipotent Fiend.The Problem of Pain, Harper One 2001, p. 28-9
Indeed, if God is utterly different from us, it might be that His moral judgments are also radically different from ours, why not even the exact opposite? We would have no epistemic justification to grasp God’s moral character by looking to our own.
But, fortunately, we have. And not just in an intellectual sense. John’s first epistle is no philosophical work, but a pastoral one. Its purpose is to reassure, encourage and comfort. And it is reassuring that our moral intuitions of the good are reliable indicators of God’s goodness.
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