The Dishonour of Campaigning

And for this reason, I said, money and honour have no attraction for them; good men do not wish to be openly demanding payment for governing and so to get the name of hirelings, nor by secretly helping themselves out of the public revenues to get the name of thieves. And not being ambitious they do not care about honour. Wherefore necessity must be laid upon them, and they must be induced to serve from the fear of punishment. And this, as I imagine, is the reason why the forwardness to take office, instead of waiting to be compelled, has been deemed dishonourable. Now the worst part of the punishment is that he who refuses to rule is liable to be ruled by one who is worse than himself. And the fear of this, as I conceive, induces the good to take office, not because they would, but because they cannot help—not under the idea that they are going to have any benefit or enjoyment themselves, but as a necessity, and because they are not able to commit the task of ruling to any one who is better than themselves, or indeed as good. For there is reason to think that if a city were composed entirely of good men, then to avoid office would be as much an object of contention as to obtain office is at present; then we should have plain proof that the true ruler is not meant by nature to regard his own interest, but that of his subjects; and every one who knew this would choose rather to receive a benefit from another than to have the trouble of conferring one.

Plato’s Republic, Book 1

To paraphrase (from a Reddit commenter):

“Good men are unwilling to rule, either for money’s sake or for honour…. So they must be forced to consent under threat of penalty…. The heaviest penalty for declining to rule is to be ruled by someone inferior to yourself. That is the fear, I believe, that makes decent people accept power….”

Moving Away From The Middle

I’m finally reaching a conclusion on the subject of God’s alignment and what that means for me as a Christian. I’ve been thinking about this subject pretty consistently for three months now, and my views have changed quite a bit since I began.

When I began, I assumed the following setup for alignments, recognizing that the divisions and contrasts it set up don’t always work in the real world. Nevertheless, I felt this was relatively accurate and reasonable:

Alignment Axes

The more thought I devote to this topic, the less accurate this seems to be.

On Law and Chaos

The axis above sets the dichotomy of Law vs. Chaos. In the context of this series, it is assumed that Law = God’s Law. We’re talking about the Law built into creation by its creator, the law set forth in the Bible, and the law of God that will be made manifest with the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Opposing it is, presumably, Chaos: Satan and his followers, the devils and demons of hell, the antichrists and distractors of this world. Everything that seeks to displace worship from God and direct it to something else would serve Chaos, because it detracts from the Law. Veering from the Law to anything else creates chaos in the sense that it is unordered.

Or so I assumed, but that thought process broke down once I actually thought about it. In observation of the world as I understand it, neither this assumption nor the axis above holds up.

Another way to define these two terms are as Order and Chaos, with God and the Law representing order. As I look at the world around me, both the physical and the spiritual, I can’t escape an important and undeniable fact: there is no such thing as chaos.

Satan and the angels that followed him were created by God as creatures of order. Even when the universe was formless, God was there representing order. God created everything from nothing, and that includes the angels, both those that follow him still and those that rebelled.

And the rebels don’t want to plunge the world into chaos, or so it seems to me. The object of Satan’s desire isn’t to destroy everything, but to turn worship from God to himself; failing that, he would turn worship from God to anything else. If you can’t win, deny your opponent victory. Satan wants order, he just wants his order and his law.

The setup of Dungeons & Dragons, which inspired the axes above, is that there are both devils and demons. One are the fallen angels and the other are primordial creatures of chaos that want to destroy the order of the gods and return the universe to how it was before. I’m not the type to claim that something doesn’t exist simply because I haven’t met it, but this concept of a demon seems entirely fictional to me. There might be servants of Satan set on destruction and chaos, but guiding them is a greater purpose. I don’t think the goal is eternal chaos.

Everything is ordered. From the tiniest atoms, molecules, electrons and neutrons, all the way up to governments and lungs and trees. In the movie SLC Punk there is a scene where the main character is discussing order vs. chaos with another character, and while the main character advocates anarchy as a natural structure, he is easily overcome by the logic of order. Even as a tree dies and decays, it returns into the earth to create new life. Even the process of decay has order to it.

Surely, there are constructs too large for us to see and understand, much like an ant can’t see the pattern of a tile floor upon which it moves, but our inability to perceive order doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. In everything I can see, I see order. While it is conceivable that a pocket of chaos could exist within an ordered structure, it seems less likely that order could ever exist within chaos. What I mean is that, if there is a higher pattern, something larger than we can see, it must be ordered. If it were chaotic, our world would be chaotic. It must be ordered, for our world is ordered.

Even the “random” events people might point to, trying to prove that the world is not ordered, are easily explained. Order is undeniable.

So what does this mean for the axis above? In my mind, it rotates. But as it rotates, Chaos disappears, and Law aligns with Good. There is no Lawful vs. Chaotic because chaotic doesn’t exist. The entire line assumes Law. Even devils want order.

Then what of Neutral?

It seems natural to assume that Neutral continues to exist halfway between Good and Evil, but I’m not sure I accept that. On this matter, I am not entirely settled, but in examining the Bible and what I know of the world, Neutral as an ideal doesn’t work.

The issue here is God’s law and order. Within a world based upon that law, Neutrality is untenable. To clarify, holding to Neutrality as an ideal is to commit to balance. It is the Yin/Yang philosophy, which is that Good exists when everything is in balance–to move too far to one side or the other brings imbalance and subsequently Evil. Neutrality is not immorality or amorality, but it is a commitment to balance and justice.

Neutrality in this sense cannot exist within the Christian construct. Anything that detracts, distracts, or redirects from God is by definition evil. That word carries a lot of weight and baggage, so let me try and unpack this.

Picture a line, with Evil on the left and Good on the right. Each has an arrow and at the tip of the arrow is a point. Let us say that the point at the tip of the right arrow is the door to the Kingdom of God. At the tip of the left arrow is the throne of Satan and the proposed new order he represents.

The purest Good, the purest Law, and the purest Order are at the rightmost point. If someone is leaving the line at any point and going in a different direction, even if it is close to the rightmost point, even if it is only a millimeter off, it’s no good. That person has been distracted, and is likely distracting others as a result. They’re so close, but they miss the mark and do not enter the door.

Anything that is not God is against God, and therefore is evil. By definition and necessity, it is therefore separated and separate from God.

If someone is sitting on the line, not going one way or the other, they’re in the same situation. They are not going through the door, and subsequently reside in evil. There is no halfway point, no neutrality, no “good enough.”

There is no Neutral because there is no Law and Chaos. There is no alternate dichotomy. There is only Good and Evil. If you aren’t going through that narrow doorway, you are not serving Good.

But didn’t you think you were Lawful Neutral?

I did, and I began to consider God the same. My struggle has been to define God and, by doing so, to define myself. I want to know what God is so I might better understand what I must become. If God does X, I want to do X, but I didn’t know what X was. All I have are the stories and acts described in the Bible, which leave me confused on this point.

Lawful Neutral is the dedication to order and justice without regard to morality. As stated in the first entry of this series, it’s not immoral or amoral, but rather holds to a code rather than the ideal of Good.

As my thoughts progressed, I recognized that the code to which I must hold is God’s code. It is the Bible and the revelation of the Holy Spirit. If I am Lawful Neutral and my code is God’s code, then that means I am aligning myself to God. But that still left the question, what is God?

With the elimination of Chaos from consideration, and the subsequent elimination of Neutral as a tenable ideal, that leaves only Lawful by which I might define myself. I am not neutral in the sense that I am sitting in the middle of the line–I am actively pursuing God. I am pushing towards that point on the right. And with Lawful now aligned and defined with Good, that leaves only Good by which I might define myself.

God is Good all the time, and all the time God is Good. That is my guidance and definition. A commitment to the order and laws of God is a commitment to Good.

To put it another way, and to my mind a much more accurate way, I am Lawful, not Good. God is Good, for God is holy and mighty. I am not Good because the sin within me leads me astray and pulls me from that line. But while I am not Good, I am Lawful, and by making that my ideal and goal I draw nearer the Kingdom.

What about the definition of Lawful Good?

In the first essay, I hypothesized that God didn’t match with my understanding of Lawful Good. I asked the question, “If God is Lawful Good, then, how do we account for the suffering we see in the world?” I truly do believe that the suffering is part of that higher order, that grander pattern of which we are unaware.

I don’t intend it as a cop-out or a dodge. The issue is that we humans tend to fixate on ourselves and what we’re feeling. We forget that God exists outside of space and time, and we also forget that we were created to be eternal. Whether you believe in God or not, whether you’re Christian or not, you soul is eternal. This mortal coil, this diseased body, will pass after a time, but our spirit merely walks through a door. The question is: Will we walk through the door on the right, or the door on the left?

The question of whether we’re happy or content, hungry or fed, bleeding or hale, is all sec0ndary.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my job, where I ought to be in this life, and what I ought to be doing. I’m not always very happy at my job, and so I wonder if I should stay there. I wonder what God wants.

Several weeks ago while praying about it, it finally occurred to me that maybe what God wants isn’t for me to be happy. That isn’t to say God wants me to be unhappy, but maybe my happiness isn’t his primary consideration. Actually, let me put that another way: maybe I don’t know what will make me happy, and while I assume it’s one thing, it might actually be another. Let us consider the tried and true example of Mother Theresa. She lived in poverty, amongst disease and dirt, and her life was not one I particularly envy. Would we call her happy, or would she call herself that? I suppose she might, and that’s what I mean. Maybe God has a plan for me that is more important than what I think will make me happy, and my assumptions are somewhat irrelevant in that context.

(As an aside, I in no way mean to compare my work to that of Mother Theresa. In that sense, this is a rather poor analogy. It is also worth noting that since I came to this realization, about us not always having to feel happy, I have been far more content and happy at work.)

Maybe to serve God’s plan, we will have to suffer. The Bible talks about being crucified, and while we read that figuratively, it was very literal for the disciples of Jesus. What’s a little suffering if I get to walk through that narrow door? Maybe I’m going about this all wrong.

That’s what I was thinking, and so when I re-approach the concept of Lawful Good (which, having eliminated Chaos, might be better called just Good), I strike my concerns about suffering and compassion. God’s compassion is bigger than mine, and his view of suffering is wiser than mine. I look at a temporary hardship and consider it hard. God looks at it and considers it temporary.

In the face of eternity, it is hard to disagree.

How do we cling to that line and make it through the door?

It seems impossible after reading the section about neutrality. Even if we strive for Good, even if we live as good of lives as we are able and honestly aim for that rightmost point, we will fail. Our sin will pull us off target and we will miss the mark.

Give thanks that we are not saved by works alone. No, we cannot hold true to that line, and we cannot walk through that door under our own power. But Jesus forgives our sins and clothes us in his garments, such that he walks through the door and takes us with him.

Picture it as our starting point being the middle of the line, and we’re shooting for the right. We curve up or down, at times closer to the line and at times further, sometimes veering sharply away from the point and sometimes being almost on target. When we accept Jesus into our lives, when we make him our marksman, he sets his aright. No matter where we are on the chart, even if we were heading left, once we accept him we’re turned and aimed right into the Kingdom.

The matter of faith and works and how that all plays out is a topic for another essay–know that both are necessary, in a sense. But for us to be Good, even for us to be Lawful, we must be pursuing Christ, and we must likewise be pursued by him. We are incapable of doing it on our own.

God is Good

That about wraps up my thoughts. What do you think, here at the end? Have I missed something, or is there something more I ought to consider? Share in the comments below, and thanks for reading.

Super Secret Squirrel Project

I’m working on a new project that I’m feeling pretty good about. It’s still in the “secret” development phase, which means I’m telling a few people but not too many. I’m not sure why this is, except that I want it to be a bit of a surprise when it becomes public, and talking about it a lot in advance undermines that.

The whole thing has me feeling better about life. It has given me some direction and some inspiration, and I’m actually doing work on something that satisfies me creatively. It’s a good feeling.

Anyways, hopefully I’ll be able to announce it in 2-3 weeks. Not much going on here other than that, but stay tuned for more 🙂

If God is Good… what’s that mean?

Jonny made an excellent point in reply to my last post:

To borrow from Christian Platonists, God is Good in the sense that God = Good. We call other things good for the ways in which they are like God. We do not call God good because He is like something else.

Right, this makes sense. I continue to hold firm to the phrase, “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.” I’ve heard it uttered in both Baptist and Catholic churches, and everywhere in between, and I find truth in it. It is uncompromising and hopeful. God is Good.

So what is “Good?” What does that mean? Extending from my last post, my first thought was that our definition of Good is probably incorrect. I’d like to recognize that Christians, at least some, make an honest effort to align their definition of Good with their concept of God, thereby equating the two, but as a knee-jerk interpretation of the word Good, I doubt we really do that all that often. Jonny states that D&D’s definition of Good is “altruism,” and that this is incorrect when compared to reality, ((He also states that D&D’s definition of “Holy” is shallow, in that all it means is that it does 2d6 damage to evil. I’d dispute that–the reason Holy does 2d6 damage to Evil is because Evil can’t stand the touch of something set aside for and consecrated by deity. It is anathema to them. The damage is just the result.)) but as I look at how a lot of people live their lives with God, I don’t see too many contradicting that view.

Can we say that we do not believe that God is altruistic? I’m not really comfortable with the word “we” in the last sentence, because I’m questioning it a bit, but let’s roll with it. One of the things I was getting at in my last post is that a lot of people in the Church seem to think that God’s purpose is to serve them, or at best to serve humanity. I get that we should ask for God’s help, God’s healing, God’s blessing, etc… but do we recognize the purpose behind God’s actions? If God heals someone, does anyone else wonder why?

It took me a bit to reach this thought, but Adam’s reply gets at what I’m going for. Essentially, I’m calling into question our definition of Good. I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely certain who I mean by “our” in that sentence. Partially, I mean humanity in general, but I loathe over-generalization and that’s too far for me. If I narrow it to the Church, that’s still too overgeneralized, though I don’t consider my question irrational in that context. Let’s just say, a lot of the Christians I’ve met seem to have this definition of good: kind, compassionate, altruistic, humble, forgiving, honorable, and honest. They equate Good with Jesus, who washed the feet of His disciples, and so we assume that God will always wash our feet no matter where we tread.

I agree that God is Good, but I don’t think God’s definition of Good and our definition is the same. I think our definition is the list of words I put above. I’m beginning to think that God’s definition is closer to that of Lawful Neutral. So in turn, what humanity considers Lawful Neutral, God considers Good.

Part of the problem, it occurs to me now, is English. After studying a couple other languages, I’m pretty unsatisfied with ours: it’s too limited, with too few words that mean too many things. “Good” can mean a ridiculously broad number of things. Same as “Love” and, apparently, “Companion.” ((By which I mean Eve, who was created for Adam–the English translation of this word is nowhere near its original meaning.)) In my head, I’ve got at least 2 different definitions of Good going, one being “God,” in the sense that Jonny related the definition as God = Good and Good = God. The other is my own thoughts in regards to God’s alignment, that being Lawful Neutral, so if God is LN, and God is Good, that means that our original definition of Good is incorrect and we ought to bring ours more in line with the traditional definition of Lawful Neutral.

Which means that Good isn’t necessarily a humble, all-forgiving, altruistic servant, but is instead a fair, honorable judge, upholding a moral code. There’s a part of me that is revolted by this thought, as a positron revolts an electron. I wasn’t raised in the Church, and fantasy fiction had more to do with my moral upbringing than anything else, but the definition of Good as I related it above (kind, compassionate, altruistic, etc.) is deeply ingrained in me–to defy it and consider something else to be Good is difficult. Yet the phrase, “Does not hesitate to protect the innocent” keeps going through my head, and I look at this world, and I don’t see it. I don’t see our Protestant American definition of Good in this world, and I can’t find a reason for God to not impose that Good if, indeed, God is Good (by the definition of protecting innocents, altruism, etc.).

Here’s how my logic works, then: I know that God is Good. Since God is Good, God would do Good things. My knee-jerk, gut definition of Good would require God to do things that he is not, in all actuality, doing. Therefore, I can only logically reach one of two conclusions: either God isn’t Good, or my definition of Good is incorrect. I have already stated that I know that God is Good, but I am less confident in my definition of what Good is. Therefore, my definition must be incorrect.

If my definition is incorrect, I must find a new definition of Good. And thus far, the concept of Lawful Neutral seems to fit the bill.

To be honest, Liches make me a little queasy

I see a deep sorrow in Arthas's eyes; a quantifiable longing for bananas.
I see a deep sorrow in Arthas's eyes; a quantifiable longing for cuddly puppies and kittens.

I finally received my copy of the new World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King last night and set about installing it on Linux. Even though I got home pretty late last night, I wanted to at least give it a try, and since the installation and patching only took about 30 minutes, I went ahead and created a Death Knight.

My first impressions were…. *drool*. The opening video is stunning, and I was anxious to get rolling. After configuring my appearance, I began my demented existance.

As I continued playing, however, my apprehension grew. I’m the sort of guy that, when I play Knights of the Old Republic, I’m invariably a light-sided Jedi. It makes me uncomfortable to slaughter people for no other reason than my own self-advancement, and I don’t delight in rampant carnage… unless they be Stormtroopers. Even the Horde on World of Warcraft are billed as misunderstood, noble, and generally decent people. They take care of their own, and if anything can be said about their actions, it’s that they had little choice but to fight for survival.

But the Death Knights… they’re just plain evil. You start out serving the Lich King, and one of your first tasks is to go into a town and slaughter the inhabitants. You’re specifically ordered, in fact, not to worry too much about the guards, but to focus on chasing and cutting down the civilians because that will strike greater terror into the hearts of the Lich King’s enemies.

I’m going to keep going with my Death Knight, because I’m assuming you eventually break away from the Lich King to join your respective faction (Alliance or Horde) and things return to normal after a while. But these opening quests so far have just made me just a little uncomfortable.

Terrorists are people too

I’m not sure how I feel about the most recent actions of Hamas. The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were starving, without fuel or medicine, and had been under siege for months. And yet it is a terrorist organization that has given them a temporary reprieve so that the hungry might eat again and the sick might be tended.

What they did was a good thing, and President Mubarak [of Egypt] was honourable in allowing the Palestinians to pass, shop, and greet old friends. The smugglers are out of work, and I feel a bit bad for them, but it’s good for the majority of the people…

But seriously, this is Hamas. They’ve bombed civilians in Israel and regularly fire rockets into residential areas. They’re self-professed terrorists working to bring down the Israeli state at all costs. They’re number 12 on our List of Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations. But in this situation, they’re the good guys.

As I was thinking about it yesterday, it once again drove home for the me the realization that even evil people (or would it be more accurate to call them people who perform evil acts?) are people too. They have hopes and dreams, families they love and want to protect, and often they have good intentions. They love and weep just as we, my friends, do. I neither justify nor approve of their response to their circumstances, but I cannot hate them. If anything, I pity the situation in which they have been thrust. I am sorry they feel their actions are necessary.

And I have to recognize when they have done a good thing. Good in the name of evil is still good, just as evil in the name of good is still evil… but they have done a good thing. Regardless of their terrorist status, I am glad they have helped these people and kept them from starving. I just pray that this action by them will not lead to more violence and deaths.