Do you think we can form reasonable beliefs without reference to scripture that if God exists, he probably is or must be good?
What an interesting question!
Off the top of my head, it seems the only rational approach is that one’s guess about God’s character would be influenced by one’s sense of the nature of the visible world. But of course, that’s at best a mixed bag, appearing to contain both aspects of goodness and evil.
Maybe it would come down to whether one’s instinct was that our sense of love and goodness and its’ origin is what most needed to be explained. Or whether the cruel evil of the world pressed one as what we most needed to explain by assuming it correlates with the character of its creator.
My gut tells me that it’s pragmatically hard for me to take seriously the concept of an evil transcendent being, because I would think the whole assumption of giving allegiance or worshipping such a potential entity would be appalling and of little attraction (though of course pagan religions typically saw the whole point as figuring out how to appease such perverse deities, a view I find discredited).
One can explain our inclinations by evolutionary developments. But I think what most captivates me is explaining why we humans have the sense of transcendent value and agape (self sacrificial) love that seems ingrained as a compelling attraction in me, and thus leads me to assume that the source must be good. But of course, that’s also reinforced for me by having been exposed to the Jesus’ narrative as validation, and the sense that he was good and in touch with such transcendent values as the ones that I sense we really need.
Qaz, it’s not going to be easy to answer your question “without reference to scripture” since the beliefs held by the vast majority of rational beings have been impacted by scripture, to a greater or lesser extent. That means I cannot offer a response along the lines of men and women having been made in God’s image. If that were to be true, the answer to the question would relate to our view about ourselves. If there is no good in us, there could be no good in God. Similarly, if we were only evil, then so must God be pure evil.
We could ask, and debate, the most basic questions: “How did we get to exist?” “Are we accountable to any supreme being who caused us and all we see around us to exist?” I could continue but you can see where I am heading.
Didn’t the Parable of the Wheat & the Tares tell us that if you rip out the tares from the field it will damage the wheat? They had to grow side by side.
It’s not easy to answer your question “without reference to scripture” since the beliefs held by the vast majority of rational beings have been impacted by scripture.
Haven’t the vast majority of human beings over the millennia lacked knowledge of the Bible,
and thus had to gauge God’s character apart from familiarity with Scripture?
Yes, Bob, that is correct and why I added the second paragraph to my post.