Be Good for Goodness Sake?

This idea came up because of a clip from “The View” which I’ve copied below.

And there are some good responses in there to this run-of-the-mill atheist critique. (Shout-out to Candace Cameron Bure for trying to break that ground.)

But next time someone tells you to throw away religion, and just “Be good for goodness sake,” remind them that this phrase is a line from a Christmas song whose message is that you should be good so that you are rewarded for it on Christmas. How ironic that the modern atheist movement, which never misses a chance to impugn “bronze age myths,” has now adopted a part of a fairy tale that parents tell to their children to get them to behave as the headline of their official moral canon.

Also note that “be good for goodness sake” was not even supposed to be a command accompanied by a reason. It was never supposed to be a call to detached generosity. It’s a command accompanied by a idiom (“Oh for goodness sake!”) that has lyrical repetition of the word “good” and was primarily chosen because it rhymes with “awake.”

So, note that this is not a deep point. It is a nonsense phrase that people are trying to make into a serious moral philosophy for life.

  • We can note that the phrase really has no meaning.
  • We can note that it is not accompanied by any definition of “good” or “goodness.” This means that even if taken seriously, it’s a philosophy that depends on an individual’s view of the world, turning “Be good for goodness sake” into “Do the proper thing in your view for whatever reason you can think of, and if you can’t think of a reason, or if the balance in your mind skews towards the other direction, you don’t have to be good.” That’s not going to hold water when the going gets tough.
  • We can also note that their rejection of “church” comes from a misunderstanding of Christianity. (How funny that those who tend to leave the church never really understand it in the first place.)

That’s why if someone ever tries to confront you with this line, or questions you about it, tell them about your actual philosophy, which you got from…   …that’s right…    …the church:

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Heidelberg Catechism, Question 86:

Q. Since we have been delivered
from our misery
by grace through Christ
without any merit of our own,
WHY THEN SHOULD WE DO GOOD WORKS?

A. BECAUSE Christ, having redeemed us by his blood,
is also restoring us by his Spirit into his image,
so that with our whole lives
we may show that we are thankful to God
for his benefits,1
so that he may be praised through us,2
so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits,3
and so that by our godly living
our neighbors may be won over to Christ.4
1 Rom. 6:13; 12:1-2; 1 Pet. 2:5-10
2 Matt. 5:16; 1 Cor. 6:19-20
3 Matt. 7:17-18; Gal. 5:22-24; 2 Pet. 1:10-11
4 Matt. 5:14-16; Rom. 14:17-19; 1 Pet. 2:12; 3:1-2

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Now that’s deep!

And by the way, I’d love for someone to make a funny video of an angry orthodox-thinking caroler trying to insert this answer as a lyric into “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” amidst his unsuspecting choir.

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