I have noticed a trend of sorts in the discussions regarding the goodness of God that I think needs further examination. There seems to be a common agreement that if a God existed, He ought to be good. Hence, if the best candidate for God is shown not to be good by reason of His acts recorded in the Bible, His failure to end suffering in the world, or His plan of salvation is found to be flawed, then He doesn’t meet the qualifications of goodness nor Godhood.
Is this a fair assessment of the charges levied against His goodness and existence? I will continue on the assumption this is fair and I am sure you will all correct me if need be in the comments. At any rate, this is what I am hearing from all the discussion in the comments.
The idea of a “good” is resonate within us however we arrived at this construct. We value the good. We have standards for good. We differentiate good from evil. From what I see, the debate revolves around how we came to these constructs more than whether or not these constructs are part of humanity. Few argue that we don’t comprehend a difference between the two. I think most accept this dichotomy as obvious.
Can you put yourself in my shoes for a moment? Can you think about what the existence of an eternal God who is the author of all life means for the world? Is it possible for you to imagine with me a world where an eternal God created all? If such a God exists and is goodness personified eternally all He creates would naturally be good. This is the story of the Christian God. He created a good world with good people in it and He said it was all good. But we object that it cannot all be good we know there is evil, there is suffering, and there is disease and tragedy. We see natural disasters and not so natural ones. We see war, brutal violence, murder, destruction. We are appalled by what we see, so we, if a naturalist, can deduce we have evolved to have this natural indigence within us towards such cruelty. But what if there is another answer. What if when good was created, that which was not good was made possible. Man being created good, but with freedom sees what is not good and chooses to try that out for size. Man was warned not to do what is not good, but the not good was available to him, not because it was created, but because it is the absence of good or sometimes a distortion of good. The non good defiles the man who was warned it would not be a good thing to do. A course of events was set in motion to bring about the redemption of man to righteous goodness found in God that he became separated from through sin.
The evil and suffering in the world, is thence, a product of the gravity of sin causing corruption in man and in creation. But man has been on a journey ever since to become the great people of righteousness who will reign in a world where sin and evil has been conquered once and for all. God paid the debt for us, and as that reality is lived out in His Church in the world a great restoration will take place and is taking place. He waits and seems slow about bringing it to fruition so that more rather than less will find life in Him. He tarries to allow the fullness greater time to grow and more hearts and lives be brought to life through Him through the work of those who are in Him and are bringing Him to others.
I am a huge fan of C.S. Lewis’s books The Chronicles of Narnia. Maybe you have seen the new movie The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. In this mystical
The longing we have for the good is thus explained as a desire to find this restoration that all for which creation longs. We know intuitively that things ought not to be like they are, that violence, and suffering seem out of place to the way things ought to be. Could it be that there is meaning in it all and that our yearning to set things to rights is because there is a right to set it to? We can give up, so to speak, on our journey and accept things are simply the evolutionary pattern of life that we may or may not evolve past. But it would appear that even in terms of evolution we still have this nagging since of “rightness” and “oughts” and “the good.” It lingers despite evolutionary theories. So much so that we know that if a God exist He “ought” to be a good one or else He’s not worth bothering about.
These charges levied against Him can only be discussed in a framework of “a good” and if we imagine a world with no God I see a world where only humans make up what is beneficial to life based on evolutionary patterns to promote the continuation of our people and yet that doesn’t satisfy me. If that answer is good enough for you, then I can’t argue with that. We can say a God that destroys life for whatever reason under the sun cannot be good because life is good. But how do we determine life is good or valuable? How do we charge this Christian candidate for God with violating morality if He is our Creator and goodness is His nature? Or how do we charge Him, if He doesn’t exist and our morality is a product of evolution? There would be no one to charge, and nothing to charge Him with.
Unless you are talking about the finite gods of the Greeks and Romans and other ancient cultures, no one believing in God posits a God who is less than good. It seems to be a prerequisite for Godhood. We use our own standards to question it, but we are obviously not a perfect standard of good. So I question our appeal to ourselves to have grounds to question Him.
I realize I have not given some awesome argument that defeats all objections to His existence or His nature. But I hope I have left you with some things to consider. I’m not offended or threatened by such questions. I think they need to be asked and the questioners deserve to be taken seriously with great time and consideration taken in forming responses. You will find I do write on the same topics repeatedly because I am trying to have something worth your time to consider and I want to keep at it and keep reading and learning and inquiring. So I give answer, and then study some more, and listen some more, and engage in conversation some more, then write once again. So for today, this is where my musing pauses for you to consider.