Being good is humanistically impossible. Anyone who thinks they’ve achieved a state of true goodness is a LIAR and the truth is not in them (1 John 1:8). It’s possible to attain “relative” goodness if you compare yourself to Hitler but this is as about as petty of a measure as regarding yourself “tall” relative to a worm. Yes, it’s true, but hardly meaningful. What you need to compare yourself to is an objective standard of goodness that’s greater than yourself. It’s what ancient thinkers like Confucius call “true goodness” (as I’m learning in class) or what Aristotle calls the virtuous life.
Corruption of Will
Confucius argued that he has never met a man who has achieved true goodness for a SINGLE day – including himself. You think you’re good? You’re a self-righteous egotistic pharisee. No one is good except God. You’re not as bad as you could be, perhaps, but that’s nothing to pat yourself on the back about. As Aristotle points out, being good includes acting and feeling “at the right times, about the right things, toward the right people, for the right end, and in the right way[…]” There’s no way you or me have accomplished this.
I’m not saying this to pass condemnation on others but I’m only saying this to state a fact. The sooner you and I recognize our moral failure, the closer we are to the good. Now the problem with the ancient thinkers is that their ethical views were practically impossible for the normal human to accomplish. They strongly believed that humans had a capacity for goodness because it is proper to their nature (which is true), but there is a corruption of the will and our emotions that cannot be solved by willing ourselves out of corruption. That would be like a blind man attempting to cure his blindness by trying to see with his eyes. It’s just impossible.
The Solution: Salvation
For this reason I think no amount of good works or abidance of the law can possibly make us “truly good” and yet at the same time we ought to be pursuing the good. Why then should we pursue good if it’s impossible to begin with? Because we seek the good by necessity, even if it seems hopeless. All that we do is done because we think it is good in some way or another. So the solution cannot be within ourselves, as Confucius and other religions may have us believe, but it must be in something other than ourselves. Who put this law into our hearts in the first place? I would argue that only God, in principle, can bring us out of this state. For thousands of years we’ve had billions of opportunities to “perfect” human nature and yet the same evils persist time after time.
I believe Christianity (among many reasons) because it is the only religion that seems to recognize this deep problem in humanity and it is the only religion that offers a viable solution. Jesus Christ Himself is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. Confucius sought the Way, but the Way has already come to us in the flesh. He has guided to goodness by His own power, not by our own will. We are rescued from walking in accord to the law and are now able to walk in the Spirit. It’s the difference between a branch attempting to bear fruit on its own (i.e, following the law out of your own will) and being connected to a vine that gives you life so that you can bear fruit (i.e, walking in the Spirit). All you’re required to do is abide in Christ through faith, and you’ll obey His commands because He instills a desire in you, not because you must conjure up some desire.
Do give Christianity serious consideration. It answers human’s deepest and most common problems in a way that no one could’ve expected.