Can I Be a Good Person Apart from God

August 7, 2023

It makes sense for a person of no visible Christian faith or understanding of Christianity to identify himself as a good person with no correlation to God. The characteristic or charism of being good defines what the person genuinely believes is the correct mode of living. There are many reasons why a person would affirm the virtue of goodness apart from God, from being raised in a community where Christianity was either not considered important or did not exist entirely, which is possible now more than ever. Or, the notion of embracing any form of religion was considered anathema just because it represented a God the person disagreed with.

Whatever the case, the Divine construct of who God is as alpha and omega, Lord and King revealed through His Son Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, has been replaced with social constructs that rely on personal interpretation of conscience and goodness rather than the exercise of objective truth. I must admit that the freedom to define my own personal conscience without the strangulation of set rules-Ten Commandments, or laws-natural and moral is appealing. If I follow this logic, a good act can be defined as anything that fosters my personal fulfillment, regardless of whether it involves another person. And if this is the case, a good person has no need to be associated with God altogether.

A Fading Identity

The belief that a person can be good apart from professing a relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has become more prevalent in today’s cultural atmosphere. Why is that the case? In many respects, Christendom as we know it has been gradually fading into spiritual dormancy since the great age of the Enlightenment thinkers, such as John Locke and Immanuel Kant, between the 17th and 18th centuries. The premise established in this era was that man is the center of his own moral and ethical destiny and sets the terms by how he is to live apart from any divine source or organized religion.

This source of thought should sound very familiar to anyone who can objectively observe how being good in relation or association with Jesus Christ or His Church is met with indifference, nuisance or disdain.

How are we called to live?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I describe as the nourishing voice of Jesus Christ, derived from the nurturing voice revealed in Sacred Scripture, explains that Man is called to perform good acts.[1] The basis of the act stems from the freedom to perform a morally good act or not based on the object, intent, and circumstance. The Catechism speaks of another variable that cannot be discounted in a proper definition of a good act:

Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment.… For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God.… His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”[2]

The exercise of your conscience is the still, small voice that guides you and me to define what encompasses a good act properly. The conscience calls us to perform good works and avoid evil ones; this is what is known as having a properly formed moral conscience. If our personal definition of good acts does not encompass some form of objective truth or assent to a genuine sense of right and wrong, then the notion of being a good person apart from God should come into question. Again, the Catechism reminds us;

Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, Christians are “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” and so participate in the life of the Risen Lord. Following Christ and united with him, Christians can strive to be “imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love” by conforming their thoughts, words and actions to the “mind... which is yours in Christ Jesus,” and by following his example.[3]

Can I be a good person apart from God? Yes, in a subjective sense, based on a personal interpretation of being a good person, but objectively no, because you cannot separate your conscience from you’re intellect and will, which provides you and me the ability to discern right from wrong, good habits from bad ones. In the first book of Kings, we encounter our Lord appearing to Solomon and encouraging him to ask God anything, and He will grant it. Solomon wastes no time by acknowledging God as Lord and thanking him for everything he has given him. Solomon rightly tells God that he is young and still does not know how to act as king and asks God for the following attributes:

Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.[4]

God was very pleased with Solomon’s request, which was gladly granted. As we continue in our personal journey of faith, let’s not neglect asking our Lord for Divine assistance on how to live a life not apart from Him but in loving communion with Him.

“O God of my fathers and Lord of mercy, who have made all things by your word, and by your wisdom have formed man, to have dominion over the creatures you have made, and rule the world in holiness and righteousness, and pronounce judgment in uprightness of soul, give me wisdom that sits by your throne, and do not reject me from among servants. For I am your slave and the son of your maidservant, a man who is weak and short-lived, with little understanding of judgement and laws; for even if one is perfect among the sons of men, yet without the wisdom that comes from you he will be regarded as nothing.” 

Wisdom 9:1-6

 

[1] CCC 1749

[2] CCC 1776

[3] CCC 1694

[4] 1 Kgs 3:5-12

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