Monday, July 23, 2012

"God is good!"

I heard two stories recounted across the weekend which ended with the concluding comment "God is good!", both stories involved something going bad before the people involved got out of the situation and found themselves back in a good situation, or at least one which was better than the bad one.

In both cases, I couldn't work out if the statement was the conclusion to the story (i.e. 'these bad things happened, but God overcame the circumstances, therefore God is good') or if it was a statement of faith (i.e. 'despite these bad things happening, I will continue to believe that God is good').

In both cases, the statement was made in a way which sounded like a conclusion, but I've heard much worse stories before coming to the same 'conclusion' when it really must have been a statement of faith, as the details of the story, if considered objectively, simply couldn't lead to the conclusion that God was acting in a good way in the unfolding events.

Therein lies the problem for me at the moment. The bible says "God is good" (I don't think it adds the 'all the time' that seems to feature on so many bumper stickers or t-shirts - do a Google image search and you'll see what I mean) and I think most Christians believe it, whether or not their experience actually supports the statement. What sequence of events would lead the believer to come to the opposite conclusion? None. A family dies in a car crash, one of them survives - God is good. A mud slide wipes out a village but the school is saved - God is good. What has to happen before someone concludes that maybe God isn't good? Or maybe is simply not acting there at all?

I was thinking of discussing some aspects of the book of Job here, but on thinking about it I realised that 'God is good' is not actually one of the points made in Job. The main point of Job is: God can do whatever he wants to do, who are you to question it...? But it doesn't demonstrate the goodness of God.

I have no doubt that for some people, their experience of life suggests to them that there is a benevolent deity working things out for good for them. However, I also look at the world and see many lives that look as if the opposite is true. In the middle are those for whom things work out some of the time, and not at other times. Indeed, if you look at the big picture it is hard to see a good god at work. Its easy for relatively comfortable and well off people in the West to say 'God is good', but I have to say I'm seriously beginning to doubt it. Not to doubt the goodness of God, but rather to doubt the Godness of good.


Edwardtbabinski said...

nice blog, neat thoughts

KWRegan said...

Hi, Ed---now we have half of the 1975 champion GSCA 4 team commenting on this blog item. As for the other half, I've been back in close touch with John Fedorowicz and Tyler Cowen. BTW, my old Oxford team captain recently debated W.L. Craig, so it goes with the flow.

For a few days I've been pondering saying something intelligent, but I haven't come up with anything better than Luther's "two theologies" as expressed by this sermon by Rev. Mark F. Bartels, which found its way onto my website.

KWRegan said...

OK---here's one. I appreciate that the particular sign in your photo is painted red behind white lettering, indeed blood-red. That is exactly the color I would use. Why would I do that?

Ricky Carvel said...


I have no idea why you would paint such a sign in red. Maybe you just like red?

I skimmed through the sermon you linked to, it seemed to be about suffering for the sake of the Gospel. There is a big difference in my mind between suffering on behalf of Christ or the gospel and suffering through the random pains of life.

In my "God is good" stories, one was about a motorcycle accident, where my friend came out with some broken bones, but nothing life-threatening (I wonder if he'd been paralysed if "God is good" would still have been the conclusion, I suspect it would have been), the other was about a family who followed the 'guidance' of God to another country, where things didn't work out and they had to come back soon after. Neither of these was suffering on behalf of Christ or the gospel, they were both just "unlucky" events with "silver linings".

KWRegan said...

The key IMHO is the following "All the Time" which you observe shows up often in the Google Images search on "God is good". When I add those words to the search (both without quotes) a red Polish example I like moves up from page 20 to page 6, so I guess "often" = about 1/3 of the time.

Adding those words means saying it holds when no one survives the car crash, or at the Aberfan school. So yes, a statement of grim faith. The contrast to uses of "God is good" that are more casual than the ones you cite == the contrast I see between Luther's theologies "of Glory" and "of the Cross". Despite the meme that Prots prefer the empty cross, Luther preferred the occupied one as haven and meeting point. Thence my preference of blood-red for the sign with all six words.

The other phrase of particular import in the sermon for me is the four words preceding "to create life." Google them (without quotes is OK) and you should find the sermon is top hit. That's how I found it to begin with, and by chance it became useful to (heal) my church the same weekend the author's church took down its pre-2010 archives. Thus I feel I got "lumbered" with it, and have to go around trying to explain it when I'd rather be in bed...