From the time I started this blog, discussions on the question of God’s goodness have been of primary prevalence. Therefore I find myself thinking and writing on this topic far more often than any other topic.
The most common objections to God’s goodness are the actions recorded in the Old Testament, the existence of evil, and the doctrine of hell. The problem anyone encounters with the first two is that one has to have a different point of reference for good outside of God in order support an argument that God’s actions are not good. Not to mention, if God does not exist, and is not available as the point of reference for goodness, then there is nothing to contend in the first place, for there were no such actions by the hand of God.
To argue against His goodness rather than His existence allows, for the sake of argument, for Him to indeed exist. Now if the Bible God exists, the Bible God has certain attributes that describe His nature. God, being one, rather than a sum of parts, is not a collection of His attributes. We speak of His attributes separately at times, but they are one, just as He is one.
As discussed in the previous post, God is not just in one situation and merciful in another. He at all times is doing or saying the just and merciful thing. At the same time, His goodness is one with His justice and mercy. His actions come from His nature. They cannot be different than who He is. God is not like us in that He chooses to respond differently than He wants to. He always does that which He wants for His will is one with His nature. To use His doing all that He wants as a refutation that He is good is illogical. For His want is one with His nature which is good. Doing whatever He wants, is precisely doing that which is good. In contrast, we have a duplicitous nature and we often do the things we ought not to do because we want to do that rather than what we know is good and at times we do the good thing by choice even when we want something we ought not want. This is not so with God. He always does according to His nature which is good. There is nothing external governing Him. There is no authority greater than Him.
To move from the philosophical to the illustrative, the next common contention against the goodness of God is to point out particular actions of God as evidence that He is not really good for a good being would never do such and such. The problem in this is that we ourselves are not infinitely good and so we cannot be the point of reference for goodness. Thus we have nothing outside of God to declare something He did as wrong. If the Bible God is real, and the Old Testament records are true, we were created by this God. Thus our idea of what is good cannot supercede His.
Now as to the question of evil, if there is evil then there must be good. And if there is both good and evil then there must be a way to differentiate between the two. That way cannot come from those who are doing the evil and the good; it has to come from a good source that is not corrupted by evil. A source that is good infinitely or eternally. The evil then is that which is different from that good and the only way anyone can call something evil is to have some idea of something else being good and knowing that this evil thing is not that good thing. Hence, a point of reference outside of us is required. Now, that point of reference does not need a point of reference. Nor can that point of reference be an abstract theory of man or an abstract form in the cosmos, it needs being to have realness. A supernatural eternal being that is absolutely good and gains His existence from none outside of Himself is necessary to support a worldview that says there is good and evil.
However, if one is not maintaining such a worldview and there is no evil and no good, things only are amorally then this view would not need such a foundation. Naturalism will do nicely to support this view of things, but few are willing to abandon certain actions as being amoral rather than down right wrong, unjust, or evil. Such a worldview is difficult to live out for as soon as someone does something “wrong” to you the view ought to be quickly abandoned and a call of injustice issued.
Lastly, there is the doctrine of hell. The argument is that a good God with such infinite power and love ought to have come up with something less revolting than an eternity in torment for those who do not have relationship with Him. However, God is the source of eternal life. Being outside of Him is being outside of that eternal good life. That is a tormenting existence when all is said and done and one has passed on into eternity. It cannot be otherwise, God’s life isn’t in that existence. His Presence is not manifested there. Therefore, it is tormenting, it is destructive, it is horrid. This is not a place where God wants any of us. He sent Jesus so that all would have the opportunity to be pulled out of the existence that leads to such perishing. The door to the good eternal life—the heavenly reality—is Jesus. It is in Jesus therefore He is the only way. Hell is then not something God is doing to us, but something He has made the way for us to avoid for it was never a place meant for mankind, but a place created for Satan and his demons to be bound for eternity. God does not send anyone to hell. He opens His to us to find life in Him as we are designed to, but gives us the freedom to continue in our own ways apart from Him which will sadly separate us forever from His life.
God’s goodness cannot be proven by weighing God’s actions and commands and finding them to fall short of Himself. There is not another standard worthy of being an instrument of measurement against God. He is the good authority. There is no authority greater than Him. God is always Himself. If He is, then He is good. If He is not, then the entire discussion is irrelevant for there is no one to judge.