A popular christian song says:
“God is good all the time
He put a song of praise in this heart of mine
God is good, yes He is, all the time
Through the darkest night, His light will shine
God is good, yes he is, God is good
All the time, here we go!”
In 1st Samuel 15, God orders Israelites to strike the Amalekites, killing the men, women, children and infants. Even the animals.
In Job, God allows Satan to kill the children of Job to make a point about Job’s righteousness. (Chapter 1) Job’s wife survives them (Chapter 2) but is certainly traumatized by the loss of their family.
When Joshua took Jericho, he followed God’s command to “devote all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old.” (Josh. 6:21) Except they saved Rahab the prostitute, because she lied for them and for God’s mission.
Jesus Himself explained to the people of Nazareth (with whom He likely grew up), “I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but a widow in Zaraphath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elijah the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed – only Naaman the Syrian.” Because the people did not like this image of God that seemed “unjust” or maybe violated their concept of “good,” they tried to throw Christ off a precipice. (Luke 4)
So what’s all this about God being Good. All the time? What about when Christ strolled up among the columns of the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem and healed one guy, leaving the rest in the diseases? If a doctor did that in a modern hospital, would he be praised as good, or would he be sued and run out of town?
Given all this, I ask what is the definition of ‘good’ when the word is used as an adjective for God? Because it MUST be a different definition than the modern, common definition.
From Google:good, ɡo͝od, adjective1. to be desired or approved of. “we live at peace with each other, which is good”2. having the qualities required for a particular role. “the schools here are good”
b (1) : suitable, fit
- good to eat
(2) : free from injury or disease
- one good arm
(3) : not depreciated
- bad money drives out good
(4) : commercially sound
- a good risk
(5) : that can be relied on
- good for another year
- good for a hundred dollars
- always good for a laugh
- made a very good deal
f (1) : adequate, satisfactory
- good care
—often used in faint praise
- his serve is only good
- —Frank Deford
Well this definition of “good” just goes on and on, doesn’t it? I mean, with such a wide array of definitions for this one word, I could make a “good” argument that anything was good.
But that still leaves us with the question of “How can we call the God who authored such atrocities as shown above be called “good” by any acceptable definition? The Christian will offer this: “God is good by His standard and for His purposes.”
Ok, to that I submit this: “Hitler’s camp at Nuremberg was good by his standards and for his purposes.”
Well we can’t accept THAT now can we?
I hear you. “That’s where FAITH comes in, Dave. You’re making a simple thing complicated. You’re making people doubt where they should have faith.”
Faith in WHAT, exactly? Faith in a supernatural, invisible being who does what He wants, when He wants, to whomever He wants, with no accountability to anyone because He created everything?
Yes. I’m afraid so. But faith that He is good? That’s harder. Here’s an interesting quote for you:
“God’s decision to create humans as naturally good follows necessarily from God’s nature; it would be outside the nature of God, who is good, to create a being that is not good.” – St. Gregory of Nyssa, as retweeted by Dr. Aaron New.
So according to St. Greg, and Dr. New, maybe, God’s creating of us in His image means that we are good.
Come on now. As infants maybe. What about “the depravity of Man?”
If we are now calling mankind, the perpetrator of countless murders and molestations, bullying and bigotry, GOOD, then I may just boycott the word altogether.
I keep hearing people say “all it takes for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.” Who are the good men? I’ll suggest that’s not biblical so much as this is:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.” – written by Paul, Romans 3.
So I’ve created quite a storm. Lots of confusion. Let’s see what we can do with it.
God is bigger than our concept of good. He’s good through the millennia, which means sometimes He looks bad or mean to us, as we do to our three year old when we insist on feeding her healthy food instead of constant sugar. Or when we impose discipline. Punishment, to a toddler, does not even indirectly translate to “good” anymore than death or destruction translates as such to an adult. But the adult can see the benefit of the pain to the child as God can see the benefit of pain to a generation of children.
And yes, God inflicts pain and struggle on people who love Him as well as people who don’t. Just like a parent would inflict pain on his child to teach or correct, and on others to protect his own. All for good.
So God is good, after all, but in a way that I don’t comprehend, because I can’t see the big picture. Another quote from the Apostle Paul:
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. – 1 Corinthians 13
I don’t understand it anymore than the toddler facing discipline, but that doesn’t make me reject the existence or goodness of the Father. On the contrary, it proves it to me.