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A Deconstruction Of A Catholic’s Proposal In Relation To Mark 10:18: A Biconditional Proposition(?)

Updated: Nov 21, 2022


Introduction


Four months ago on May 5th, a video was released on Youtube concerning a proposition that is proposed in relation to Mark 10:18 and the deity of Christ from an Orthodox Roman Catholic who just so happens to be a good friend of mines. [1]  A comment was made in the comment section [which you can also see in the linked vid] echoing my sentiments here but will be amplified. The proposition by the video creator is what he calls "biconditional", that is to say that a condition is true if and only if both the conditionals are true... This is used as a prop to bolster a position that affirms the deity of Christ.[2]


A biconditional chart


p↔qp↔q means that p→qp→q and q→pq→p . That is,p↔q=(p→q)∧(q→p)p↔q=(p→q)∧(q→p) .


My thesis


The creator of the video suggest that "Jesus is good if, and only if, He is God." This is to say Jesus can only be God, if he is good, likewise he can only be good if he is God. The proposition seems acceptable and coherent on the surface. However, we will deconstruct this proposition and show why this proposal straddles the line of an informal fallacy called a false dichotomy (either-or-statements).[3] Though our interactions have only been through social media, I can say with respect, I have nothing but admiration for video creator as I think his intelligence and geniality is second to none. However, here I will offer a brief critique of his proposal by offering an additional biblical alternative to consider.


First and foremost, I don't think it's necessary to accept the proposition that "Jesus is good if , and only if, He is God" and vice-versa as the only options. It seems that the premise is disjunctive. It assumes that God & good are interchangeable, that is "good” is a statement of identification for God. It also seems to me that there are more options available here. To limit us with only two alternatives does in fact presents us with a false dilemma. Off of the strength of the biblical data, this is where we're at.


Consider only ὁ Θεός himself is intrinsically good (1 Chronicles 16:34, Ezra 3:11,Psalm 25:8,Psalm 23:6, James 1:17 & Matthew 7:11). Everything that which is good succeeds from ὁ Θεός.. ὁ Θεός is the source of all good. God the Father. See Mat 7:11.[4]


Now that this expanded biblical proposition has been put on the table, those who use this passage as a detracter to Christ’s "assumed" deity can now firmly apply it to their exegesis of Mark 10.


We should also now consider the Psalmist’s words in Psalm 16:2 [I say to the LORD, “You are my lord;

I have no good apart from you.” ESV].


The Psalmist doesn't necessarily dismiss himself from the categorical proposition, being ἀγαθῶν (upright and honorable). In fact, he considers the source of good to be (κύριός μου/ליְהֹוָה).


Also consider John 3:27, [John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it have been given him from heaven.]


John posits that a man when it is given by the source can be ἀγαθὴ (good).


When we consider the creation account in Genesis 1, where God made the beasts of the earth, great sea-monsters, every winged bird after its kind, the dividing of light from darkness, grass, herbs and dry land also “טוֹב” (good), we get the sense that things or even people through God's sovereign power can likewise be good without inherently being good. Notice the adjective טוֹב used in Genesis is also used in 1 Chronicles 16:34 to describe God’s goodness. Interestingly, the LXX uses the dative Greek equivalent of the Hebrew טוֹב, ἀγαθοῖς in 1 Kings 2:32 to point out two "good” men being slaughtered, Abner the son of Ner and Amasa the son of Jether. Either or, everything that is good has God attached and is delegated.


Likewise, Christ is not there indicating that everyone else is not good. Indeed, he is not eliminating himself from the proposition, but rather he is emphatically affirming his knowledge of who he knows is the source of good. Even if he is morally "good" himself. This can inadvertently be a polemic against the claim that he is calling himself ὁ Θεός. Because we have no additional support in the literature stating that he just "is" the source of good and his goodness is autonomous.


Some may inquire, would Jesus be considered "good” independent of the Father? To put it mildly, the question is a loaded question. The hypothesis would require us to eliminate and abandoned an abundance of scriptural evidence that suggests Christ’s goodness, even his very life is dependent on his God.  


Conclusion


I propose that my Catholic friend’s bi-conditional proposition is predicated on a false conversional assertion. That if P then Q. If Q is correct, then also must be P, but this can be challenged by the negation. That is, Q is not always correct. Nuances have to be taken into consideration…


We can see that in John 3:2 where the Rabbi Jesus is corresponding with Nicodemus, another Jewish Leader who seems to agree with my conclusion when he says ["we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God, be with him]. Jesus indirectly answers him and affirms this by moving to another observation about God. This tells me that Jesus while not explicitly insinuating he is not God, he acknowledges that his God is only intrinsically good, that is the source of good, and he is good because his Father abides in him. It's as if Jesus was giving a subtle warning against the teachings that he is God. I find it fascinating that the rich man responds in verse 20 and his tone is modified by calling him only, "Teacher" instead of "Good Teacher". It's possible the man understood Jesus' request to not call him good and complied. I will also add that many Markan scholars take it that Jesus was distinguishing himself from God being appropriately called good.[5]


Ideally, the point of the entire incident was not to draw attention as to whether Jesus himself was God, it was to shift the focus on who was the good God.[6]


The declaration can be correlated with what he said in chapter 12 vs 29 where he was again confronted by a pious Jew about basic theology. Thus those who deny the notion of his divinity can now justifiably avoid the charge ["Those who deny Christ’s divinity (unwittingly?) deny his goodness] that is proposed circa 4:53 in the linked video above. It doesn't seem like "good" and Jesus are in a strict appositional relationship with God. The adjective ἀγαθόν would be a statement of predication, not identification. That is in retrospect, we can accept his goodness while denying his assumed deity.





 


References:



[2] A visual for a biconditional formula is provided below from https://www.varsitytutors.com/hotmath/hotmath_help/topics/biconditional-statement



[4] If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Matthew 7:11


[5] See James R. Edwards "A Commentary on Mark: The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary"pg. 77


[6] See NIB on Mark by Pheme Perkins and also “Wisdom Commentary” by Warren Carter

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