I recently attended a Christian event where the presenter touched on Genesis 2:18, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” He gave the option that “not good” could mean ethically or pragmatically. He suggested that the “not good” referenced something that was not good ethically.
The presenter’s point was that the man was a social creature. Being a social creature, it was not ethically good for him to be alone. Ultimately the presenter drew a parallel to the social nature of the Trinity. Since the man, Adam, did not share in a social relationship, as God does in Himself, then his [the man's] condition was ethically “not good”.
Briefly, the difference between ethics and morality is the same difference as between “ought” and “do”, respectively. Ethics is what ought to be and morals is what things actually are relative to an ethic.
So the question is, can God do something that is not ethically right, something that is not as it ought to be?
Certainly the creation lasted six days. While the first five days did not complete creation, much of creation was still declared to be “good”. The last day completes all, even man and woman, and is “very good”. Days four and five each contain creation that was “good”. Twice on the third day God sees “good”. The first day is also seen as good. Now, where is the second day? The creation of the expanse does not gain a “good” glance from God. Why not? Was it “not good”?
We see in the creation week, save the second day, that “good” can be separate from God’s finished work but the “very good” relies on it. Where, then, does the “not good” come into play?
The fall has not yet occurred at this point in history. God has done everything and there is no will opposing God at this point. Anything that God does must be good. If this is not true then God would deny Himself by doing that which is contrary to Himself or deny Himself as God by having to submit to something outside Himself as an ethical standard.
So what does “not good” mean in Genesis 2:8? It means that man’s condition was not pragmatically good. God was not finished with His creation of mankind. God still had to create Adam’s perfect compliment to make mankind/humankind whole.
What is the verdict on the “‘not good’ ethically”? That term, “not good ethically”, is a meaningless term. Ethics, as defined above, by Wiktionary and by the Oxford English Dictionary means either a list of principles of right and wrong behavior or the morality of an action. Can we have a list of principles of right and wrong where the list is right or wrong? The list is what helps us determine good from not good. We would have to find another list to determine whether the first was good or not good. Or can we say that the morality of an action is good? The judgment of that action would be either moral or immoral. Could we then ask if the judgment to determine morality was itself moral? To determine good or not good we must choose a measuring stick, an ethic. If we have chosen the only True ethic, that is determined by the unchanging God of Jesus Christ, we cannot say that the measuring stick, the ethic, itself is not good (how can we determine good apart from God?).