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The following passage seems to be indicating that everything good comes from the Father, perhaps even that which is good in ourselves:

James 1:17: "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow."

This seems to have been the case with Adam and Eve who were created perfect, in the image of God. They were also perfectly pure and innocent. Can we interpret from this passage that even the goodness we possess as human beings comes from the Father?

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  • As opposed to whom ? Satan ?
    – Lucian
    Jun 23 '21 at 19:22
  • @Lucian From where do some of our attributes come: sympathy, compassion, mercy, etc. Are these merely the product of ourselves or are they gifts from God?
    – Xeno
    Jun 23 '21 at 19:26
  • See Galatians 5:22-23.
    – Lucian
    Jun 23 '21 at 19:38
  • @Lucian This is true. However, even before we are given the gifts of the Spirit: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, we possess some of these same qualities. I'm asking how we do.
    – Xeno
    Jun 23 '21 at 20:20
  • By definition, one cannot possess something before possessing it.
    – Lucian
    Jun 23 '21 at 21:08
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I don’t know if there are many places in scripture that speak directly to your question of where our good nature comes from. However, just as you pose in your question, I believe it can be inferred. My simple answer would be yes, James 1:17 states that any goodness we possess comes from God.

The Lord is the creator of the entire universe. So, all things both good and evil are the responsibility of God Almighty.

Isaiah 45:7 validates this:

7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.

So, whether good or evil, everything found in the universe is a product of the creative power of God.

Paul also alludes to this truth in 1 Corinthians 4 when speaking about where all our abilities come from:

6And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. 7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

Paul in his criticism of the Corinthians for boasting says that why do you boast about anything as if you were the one who was responsible for the ability they were boasting about. Paul states that everything that you have, everything that you are, has been given to you. So, I believe it is safe to infer that everything that comprises a human being whether physical, emotional or spiritual, including our good nature and sin nature, comes from God.

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  • Sorry, it is not safe at all to infer that our sin nature comes from God, and God not only is not but cannot be a cause of evil, for this would be an ontological and even analytical impossibility, something like "wind without blowing", or "dry water". Isaiah means not "evil" in the sense of moral depravity, but a physical calamity, which is not evil at all in ontological sense, but can be even good for healing of depraved souls. And "any goodness we possess comes from God"- granted! Yet, not automatically, but through our free initiative and agency, that is solely on us, not only on God. Jun 24 '21 at 4:13
  • I have to disagree with the concept of "sinful nature". It implies that 1. God creates naturally sinful beings when God has never done any such thing. 2. Jesus, born of a human woman, inherited sin: obviously Christ was sinless. 3. Everyone has inherited sins dating back to Adam. The latest infant born would, therefore, be the most sinful human being that ever lived! 4. All young children that perish are eternally lost. Impossible. 5. Children have an innate sense of fairness. If they were born depraved, from where does their sense of right/wrong originate? This doctrine is full of holes.
    – Xeno
    Jun 24 '21 at 5:03
  • We are incapable of disobedience before around 4 or 5 because we don't yet possess any real awareness of what that means. While we may sin at 5+, it is not an "accountable sin" because we are incapable of making proper decisions at such young ages. It's only when we reach an age of accountability that we are guilty of sinful behavior. (That age may be upwards of 19 if we use the young Israelites in the wilderness as examples, but to be safe, we should probably consider around 13 or 14.)
    – Xeno
    Jun 24 '21 at 5:13
  • @Xeno Understand this would be a difficult position but I'm just attempting to harmonize. My view: since scripture states that God has created evil, then evil must be finite, God is infinite. Per Isaiah 54, Satan is just a tool in His hand. 16 "Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy." Since we know God created Satan and iniquity was found within him, then evil is a finite entity just like Satan. I'm not dogmatic about this, just trying to harmonize scripture.
    – alb
    Jun 24 '21 at 12:16
  • @LevanGigineishvili Just trying to understand scripture. I would agree with you (and have in the past) but Isaiah 45:7 says "I form the light and create darkness". This seems to say that light has always been in existence (God Himself) and that darkness is created; I see it as God infinite, evil finite. Just trying to understand scripture.
    – alb
    Jun 24 '21 at 12:45
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Psalm 85:12

The LORD will indeed provide what is good, and our land will yield its increase.

Mark 10:18

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.

God is the source of all goodness.

James 1:17

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

Could James 1:17 be stating that even our own goodness is from God?

Our own goodness is not our own. It is from God.

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James 1:17 is a marvelous truth which is also expressed in many other places:

  • James 1:17 - Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no change or shifting shadow.
  • Heb 13:21 - equip you with every good thing to do His will. And may He accomplish in us what is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
  • Phil 2:13 - For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good purpose.
  • Isa 64:6 - Each of us has become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind.
  • Rom 7:18 - I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh; for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
  • Eph 1:9 - And He has made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ

Thus, if no good thing is in us, and every good thing is from above through Jesus, then it is true that anything good we do is from God.

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How many times in history the very "good and perfect gift" that only comes from God, do men, to whom those gifts are given, destroy by their own sluggishness, pusillanimity, neglect, worldly interests?!

The ten virgins in the famous parable were given the same gifts, all from the Above, but five of them were wise and worked on them, increased them and made thus themselves worthy of salvation; on the contrary the other five, the fools, were lazy and negligent, so did not increase divine gifts and were thus disqualified from the Kingdom (Matthew 25:1-13). The same is expressed in a parable about the master distributing talents (Matthew 25:14-30): all those talents signify the divine gifts, which can be only "good and perfect", yet the servants utilize those gifts differently, achieving different degrees of perfection, while one of the servants does not utilize it at all and buries it, that is to say, destroys it. Which is to say that "good and perfect" divine gifts can avail for nothing unless we freely co-act with those gifts. Our free co-action is not already a part of this gift, but our free initiative.

Thus, to avoid the extreme Augustinian and Jan Calvinian dangerous pitfall and in a heedless and euphoric celebration of divine goodness abolish human free initiative and arrive then necessarily to a double predestination monstrosity, we must answer to your question clearly negatively and say that NO, our free initiative to co-operate with divine grace and gifts (and, in fact, divine gift is a more everyday name for theological notion "divine uncreated operation") the divine grace by itself will not save us. Very similarly, when Ronaldinho is given no lesser talent, but even more, than Messi, yet by lack of his co-operation with this talent (women, night-clubs etc.) does not achieve as much as Messi, then this is a clear proof that not only talent does things, but our initiative as well, for how then a greater talent - Ronaldinho became eventually lesser footballer than Messi in the history of football?

Actually, the Lord Himself says that His gift can be "taken away" from an unworthy owner, and He not only does not but, due to His infinite love, cannot even take His gift from us unless we ourselves lose it through our sluggishness, self-conceit, lack of devotion etc.(Matthew 13:12). Now, if unworthiness is totally on the part of a man, then keeping oneself in worthiness is also totally on the part of a man for only thus obtains the salvific synergy (θεοῦ γὰρ ἔσμεν συνεργοί /1 Cor. 3:9/). Yes, if we become lukewarm in devotion and the Lord will therefore decide to spit us out of his mouth, it is not His, but our fault and responsibility, as keeping ourselves thankfully in devotion is likewise (cf. Rev.3:16). As st Athanasius duly says: "Ascetic cultivation of virtue is more valuable than miracle-working, for miracle is totally God's deed, while ascetic cultivation of virtue a joint deed of God's grace and man".

Had everything been from God, we necessarily go to Calvinism, which is a nightmare.

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  • This is an interesting view point indeed! I am vehemently opposed to determinism, predestination and extreme Calvinism and thus I am very sympathetic to this view point and agree with what you have said. I cannot avoid the the subtlety that, still, all good things come from above, even those that we develop by our sovereign choice which the Holy Spirit helps us develop. Thus, even the choice to develop a gift, while our sovereign choice is still the result of divine promptings which people are free to reject.
    – Dottard
    Jun 24 '21 at 1:46
  • @Dottard Thanks for the comment! In Christianity hell is not a metaphor, but a reality, and it is not a reality of afterlife, but a reality of presentlife also, for a painter plundering his talent due to his laziness, will one fine day find himself in hell, through understanding of this very plundering and loss of irreversible time. If so, then free initiative of co-operating with the talent was totally, 100% on him, and thus responsibility also. Yes, we are frighteningly free, no escape even to 1 or less than 1% that God's grace can infringe upon our freedom, for hell is real, not quasi-hell. Jun 24 '21 at 1:54
  • p.s. "extreme Calvinism" sounds like a pleonasm, for Calvinism is already extreme Augustinianism. Augustine himself is not always extreme Augustinian, but mostly in his later stages of Pelagian controversy; younger Augustine fighting the Manichean determinism is staunchly free-choice-ist. Jun 24 '21 at 2:00
  • p.p.s. but I am not a Pelagian, of course, for I believe nothing, nothing of worth can be achieved without divine grace aiding (John 15:5) and our syn-ergy with God's grace should always, ceaselessly be accompanied by thankfulness and praise of Him; yet, God also thanks us for our devotion and gives us even more (Matthew 13:12). Jun 24 '21 at 2:37
  • I agree with these sentiments entirely and without reservation. Well stated.
    – Dottard
    Jun 24 '21 at 2:51
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Adam Eve are nothing but the representative figures of all mankind. All men are created in God's image, unlike animals, as spiritual beings. Maybe James like John was writing against the growing Gnostic heresies where some Gentiles believed that God and Satan are one, as though all evil is desired and comes from God, because of their twisted view of fatalism and sovereignty, as we see in the theology of an African man named Augustine, who was not from above, denied freewill or man's nature, and turned sin into a metaphysical disease or stain of the soul, rather than the spiritual and moral transgression that man commits.

God is credited with all the good things, and Satan with all the evil things throughout the Bible, as in the contrast with: above and below; light and darkness; spirit and flesh. You must be born from above (John 3). James defends freewill in 1:14, saying that man alone is to be responsible for his temptations and sins. Satan or the devil is the source and personification of evil, or ungodliness. By their fruits or works we know their father or their spiritual source. He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. (John 8:23 ESV)

[ESV James 4:7-8] 7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

[NHEB 1John 3:7-10] 7Little children, let no one lead you astray. He who does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. To this end the Son of God was revealed, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 9Whoever is born of God does not commit sin, because his seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10In this the children of God are revealed, and the children of the devil. Whoever does not do righteousness is not of God, neither is he who does not love his brother.

[NHEB John 8:43-47] 43Why do you not understand my speech? Because you cannot hear my word.44You are of your father, the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks on his own; for he is a liar, and its father.45But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.46Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?47He who is of God hears the words of God. For this cause you do not hear, because you are not of God."

[ESV James 3:14-18] 14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.15This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

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