Tuesday, May 6, 2008

God is good?

When I was fresh out of college I got involved in the campus ministry that our church sponsored on the various campuses in the area. I suppose I got involved more out of friendship with the leader than any direct giftings in that area; I'm not sure that my involvement did anyone much good. It was also a time of a lot of personal upheaval in my life and I was questioning my path and questioning God.

I remember sitting at one meeting next to one of the leaders of the campus ministry. I don't remember the topic of the meeting, but at one point I believe we were supposed to turn to each other and say "God is good all the time, all the time God is good." I couldn't say it. I'm not in the habit of blithely repeating platitudes if I don't really believe them in the core of my being. It's one of those things that bug me in church services, when we are supposed to turn to our neighbor and say something pious, something that underscores the pastor's point. If I don't believe it I feel like I'm lying or being hypocritical, and repeating it isn't going to make me suddenly say "Oh, I get it!" (If there is some theological point I'm missing here, please do enlighten me.) At any rate, I did not feel like saying that God was good because I was not certain that he was. The leader seated next to me kept repeating it to me, kept insisting that I say it. News flash, I'm stubborn. Push me to do something and I will dig my heels in and push back with all my might.

So no, I never said it. And this is still one of the big questions of spirituality that I struggle with. I know that it requires a good God to make the kind of sacrifice required to bring us salvation. I know that Matthew 7:11 says "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"  And then there is the infamous Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (I can promise you, if I ever suffer a devastating loss and someone quotes that to me while the loss is still fresh, I will probably smack them.)

So, we have God, who gives good gifts and works for the good of those who love him.

And then we have 22,000 (and counting) dead in Myanmar. Up to a million homeless. Am I supposed to believe that none of those loved God? How is it good to take away the little that someone has left? I know that we live in a broken world, and disasters both natural and manmade are a consequence of that. But still I question, is God good?

I know that it makes my petty problems pale in comparison, but surely 22,000 people weren't wiped off the face of the earth just so I could feel better about myself. A better question maybe is, is God FAIR? Are fair and good part of the same package? Can God be one and not the other?

Today I don't have any answers. Just questions.

Lord, give me the grace to trust you even when I question you.

5 comments:

  1. These are excellent questions. I would HIGHLY recommend the book by Boyd "Is God to Blame?" Again, I know some call him a heretic, but he is solidly Mennonite/free-will in his theology of evil, even though a baptist.


    BTW Matt 7:11 is in reference to the sending of the Holy Spirit. I have to mention that with pentecost on Sunday and all.

    Romans 8:28 does NOT argue for causation, or for the inherent good of all things. It argues that some good can be worked out of things. Which is an entirely different statement that affirming ultimate good in all things or that God has predestined all things as they are.

    E.g. the cyclone is not inherently good. But good can still occur out of it. That is not to say on balance there is more or less good vs. bad outcomes.

    I also have the video series about Satan and the problem of evil. Mike and I (and a few others) went through it in a small group. Very good

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  2. I struggle with this too.

    If God is good all the time, then goodness is something far beyond my understanding.

    If God is not good all the time, well, then I just don't understand.

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