What if God is not good?
I realize you have been taught otherwise, but information untested retains an element of speculation, and information untested rattles around in your soul like a bumper-game ball when all “you-know-what” breaks loose.
There is a fundamental difference between information taught and knowledge gained.
I too was taught that God is good—and I believed what I was taught by the vaunted elders in my world. But then life bore down upon me, my world, my theology, and my God. As the labor of life stiffened, I suffered what is called a crisis of belief, about a number of things, but specifically about whether or not God is all He’s cracked up to be.
As my questions grew in number and gravity with the passing of the years and the duty of living, I identified with what Jack Lewis said once: “Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’”
It is very difficult to circumstantially evaluate God and His reputed goodness. You can, but it is a tricky, inefficient, and unreliable business. Life is terribly complex. There are too many variables in our lives and too much time on our calendars weighed against God’s omniscience and eternity’s timelessness to regularly evaluate circumstance and derive a positive/negative formula for goodness.
Personally, I reconciled my doubts about God’s goodness—or lack thereof—by accepting that He is good to others. The rub was that I didn’t see myself as part of the others. I’m me and they are they. The question remained: Is God good—to me?
And, what if God is not good?
If God is not good, then He is like all the other gods in the world of religions. Singularity is an aspect of goodness.
If He is not good, then Israel should have been an historical casualty several thousand years ago. Patience is an aspect of goodness.
If God is not good, then there wouldn’t be the diversity we see in creation. Diligence is an aspect of goodness.
If God is not good, then the steadiness of sunrise, sunset would fluctuate. Dependability is an aspect of goodness.
If God is not good, then I would not have freedom of choice. I would be trapped in a world of “must” and “have to.” Understanding is an aspect of goodness.
If God is not good, then given the mess I’ve made of things on the planet—including my personal life—He would walk away and leave me to fend for myself. Engagement is an aspect of goodness.
If God is not good, He would neither tolerate nor consider the questions I ask. Approachability is an aspect of goodness.
If God was not good, He would remain in heaven. But He did not remain where He was. He came in singularity, with patience, diligence, dependability, understanding, engagement, approachability, and a divine plan for acceptance and security if I desire it to be so.
If God was not good, He would not be casting about, looking here and there across the face of the Earth for anyone who lifts a hand or calls His name. Hopefulness is an aspect of goodness.
And if God was not good, He would insist that anyone calling His name get it just right. But He seems perfectly content to answer any call that hints of His name. Humility is an aspect of goodness.
We could go on, but you get the idea I trust: Goodness is not circumstantial, nor is it attributed as though only relevant to some. Goodness is displayed as part of character.
Evaluating God’s goodness based upon circumstance is foolhardy. We live in a fallen world.
Granted, the goodness of God keeps the Earth spinning within the confines of space. By any measure, He should have let us drift outside our orbit and experience the destruction of a planet out of kilter. His goodness makes a way even while everything tends to greater disorder.
That the world is cursed and fallen, the consequence of our own choosing, explains the host of ills with which we suffer. God did not smite us with cancer, starvation, war, disease, and pestilence. The choice was ours to make: life or death. Our forefather chose death and bequeathed to us death and dying. In His goodness, God honored the choice made in the Garden by Adam and in His goodness supplies mercy—an irrational goodness—to live while in the midst of degradation. The alternative is that He leave us alone—and that is the definition of hell.
If God is not good, then we are without hope. Said backward, the presence of hope at any degree is testimony to the fact that the goodness of God exists.
His goodness does not exempt us from life’s orneriness. To do so would run slipshod over our freedom of choice as human beings. But his goodness does supply grace while in the midst of life’s trivialities and tragedies, grand moments and grievous losses.
I only find one verse of Scripture with the phrase, “God is good,” and it is in Psalms with the author trying to convince himself that this is the case for Israel. Hardly a declaration, even though it is written as such.
Thus, goodness is not declared. Goodness is determined.
This is what makes God’s goodness susceptible to Satan’s accusations to the contrary. If this life is all there is, and goodness is determined based upon circumstance, then Satan’s declarations against the goodness of God based upon starving children, cancer in your gut, wars around the globe, and whatever else is wrong with this fouled up planet stands to reason as true. If this is an accurate assessment, then God is fooling Himself and us along with Him. In this case, the one doing us the favor is Satan as He is like Dorothy’s dog, Toto, pulling back the wizard’s curtain to reveal truth.
But circumstance is a fickle reflection of truth, unreliable to provide an accurate picture from which to answer our pressing questions. No. To assess goodness, we must look at the bigger picture, take the long view of history, and consider what is of eternal note. Circumstance is a cut flower wilting under the heat of eternity.
This planet, and our brief tenure here, offers clues regarding the goodness of God, but in its fallen condition, it also renders plenty of vulnerability for us to be deceived about the goodness of God. If God is not good, then none of us would be here. The fact that we still are bears witness to the sustaining, personal goodness of God without respect to circumstance.
Our lives are a breath. This world is passing away. Our physical beings were made from dust and to dust they shall return. We are only visiting this planet. Our homes and our souls and our spirits are eternal.
In His goodness, the eternal God reaches to us with eternity while we are in the midst of a temporal labor. Just as it was in the Garden of Eden, the choice is ours to make between life and death, eternity and circumstance, His goodness or our own.
Note: To read a more thorough exploration of the goodness of God, I direct you to my latest book, Battle for the Round Tower. This novel explores the battle tactics and dynamics necessary to win the hearts and lives of people.