Except by God’s Standard, What Is the ‘Greater Good’?
In an article I read not long ago, David Kupelian derides the foolishness of those who reject Donald Trump for President because “the lesser evil is still evil.” In his argument, and in all the examples he cites to support it, he tacitly assumes that that the ultimate standard of good is never in question. He says “As in most every other area of life, during wartime we are constantly forced to choose between the lesser of two evils—for the greater good.”
However, to be consistent with the mind of Christ, the notion of “the greater good” must be rooted in the absolute goodness of God. For Christ says plainly “None is if not God alone.” (Mark 10:18) This is particularly the case in a nation founded upon respect for the Creator, God, on whose authority right, and the laws that reflect and implement it, ultimately depend. But in the 2016 election, that assumption is precisely what is at issue, across the entire spectrum of our politics. Though they do so in various ways, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump prove, in both word and deed, that they have abandoned it.
Given our actual circumstances, therefore, and the actual choices before us, Mr. Kupelian’s argument could only be true in a world where good connotes the presence of some finite condition or way of being, some “thing” that is more or less good, depending on the circumstances. That’s probably why it contains reasoning from various human perspectives, but none from the perspective of Christ. For in Christ God is bound to appear in human form, though as such (i.e., God) He knows neither boundary or limitation.
For as Moses says in his instruction, “Hear you, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” He is whole and wholesome, not divided against Himself. This means that we must accept His authority (which is to say His Being as it constitutes right and truth) as a whole or reject it. But Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton agree in departing, in principle, from respect for “the laws of nature and of Nature’s God”. They agree in abandoning the acknowledgment of God’s authority relied upon in the American Declaration of Independence. In doing so, they abandon the cause for which the Founder’s fought in the first place. This is why I argue that both Trump and Clinton must be opposed. Not coincidentally, it’s also why Christ says we “cannot serve God and Mammon.”
Christ’s statement makes no sense If we accept Mr. Kupelian’s argument. In effect, Mr. Kupelian argues that we cannot serve God (act for the “greater good”) except by serving Mammon. He claims that our circumstances routinely require it. But in all the examples he cites, the greatest good– which is the presence of God’s rule, is implicitly taken for granted. But this implication has consequences that Mr. Kupelian fails to think through before drawing his conclusion.
On account of this failure he does not give God His due. He apparently thinks that its acceptable to act like Ananias (Acts 4:1-5), who sells his house for the sake of the community of faith, but holds back part of the proceeds. Tragically for him, he does so in the context of a standard of action that requires surrendering all to God. Without regard to that standard, Ananias’s action may appear to be partly good, and in service to the “greater good” of the community in material terms. But in the presence of God’s standard, it is wholly unworthy, and in recompense for the shortfall, he loses his life.
The Scripture describes the community of believers Ananias professed to be part of as being “of one heart and soul.” This makes sense in regard to those who truly accepted Christ, and let His mind be in them. But isn’t this also the profession of faith common to those who walk in Christ’s way today? Or do we now profess to believe that double-mindedness somehow faithfully represents the transformation of our lives in Christ?
If it does not, how can we vote for someone to represent us when their lives, and our vote for them, represent that double-mindedness, to the point even of rejecting God’s will for human nature (as Trump does, for example, by disrespecting the male-female distinction the Bible clearly portrays as God’s intention for our nature.) What does this rejection of God’s premise for our nature (which is the basis for our identity as a people) have to do with the prudence of the Founders? Their prudence began by respecting God’s standard, even though they could not be sure that, in and of themselves alone, they had the power to enact it.
Of course if we cast away God’s standard and judge simply in terms of good and evil as the world defines them, it makes sense for Mr. Kupelian to say that rejecting evil in principle is foolishness. But the Scripture forewarns us that “the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness: but to them that are saved, that is to us, it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians, 1:18) Viewed by our all-too-human eyes, Christ succumbs to death. But in God’s will He conquers death forever. So in this or that election we may seem to lose, yet in keeping faith as Christ did, in spite of death, we win the election of God, forever.
Those who refuse to abandon the standard of God, can happily endure the reproach of foolishness. For without that standard all talk of good and evil is empty vanity and human pride. “Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20) Of course he has. Thus, when Americans “foolishly” insisted that God’s standard of right be respected, our nation went from weakness to strength, and thence to unprecedented strength. Now we go the other way, from worse to worst, with fear abounding, because we no longer have the confidence that comes from looking to God, and God alone, for true right and justice.
What if only two are left who act for truth in Jesus’ name, though they die for it; only two who bear witness to God’s truth as He did? (Revelation 11:3) So be it. For though all the world rejoices at their deaths, yet they will stand with Christ triumphant in the end. That victory is false which is won at the expense of our complete trust in the standard of God, and in the Word through which He constitutes our existence; the Word we now profess to have within us, by the comfort of God’s Holy Spirit.
There is no calculus of greater good once God is forsaken. And God is forsaken when we cease to mind Him, as Jesus did, wholeheartedly. For Christ reminds us, in all He says and does, that the first commandment of love is to love the Lord our God with our WHOLE heart, soul, mind and strength, even though it means we suffer humiliation and death as He did, in the eyes of the world. In a political guise, Trump’s self-professed Christian supporters seek to avoid Christ’s fate. And they may very well end up rejoicing in what they will call a victory come this election day. They may, like the High Priest’s rent-a-crowd, cheer the good victory of their Barabbas.
But, be that as it may, the idol of their reasoning will prove their folly. Having departed from the way of life in truth, which wholeheartedly discards all wisdom but the standard of Christ and God, they will cheer briefly, and in vain. As Egypt’s Pharaoh turned against the Israelites, reneging on his promise of liberation, Donald Trump will revert to the obdurate self-idolizing will that has been the prevalent character of his public life. He proclaims himself a defender what some are pleased to call “religious freedom”, but what is freedom once by choice we have abandoned God’s authority? Trump has bowed to the prevailing winds that blow toward the complete abandonment of God’s rule for natural justice. But where God does not determine the substance of fundamental right, what is the right to act but an excuse to oppress righteousness, and a lure to self-destructive freedom? And where is the “greater good” in that?
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