Wednesday, September 5, 2007

For September 9, 2007 - A Good God

What does it mean to say that “God is good” – what is good about God? In Genesis 18 we find this rhetorical question:
“Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Though we affirm “God is good,” it is one of the hardest truths to understand over the course of our lifetimes. Since the things that happen to us are not consistently wonderful – and may be thoroughly rotten - we have a hard time accepting that God is good.

Genesis 18 presents the story of God’s destruction of Sodom for their sin. God ponders, “Should I tell Abe what I’m about to do?” This action of revealing his plans is, in itself, striking. Letting us in on his purposes is no small thing. But what Ab does is equally surprising. He tries to talk God out of his terrifying plan on the basis of the innocent who will suffer too. Here we come across a truth that makes our cut and dried conceptions of God go limp: God often seems to be perplexed in his thoughts and actions. He turns and bends his plans – or at least it seems that way to us. Here in Genesis, he wants to wipe out the darkness he sees in Sodom, but he listens to the cry of his chosen servant, Abraham, who pleads with him to spare the city. Is Abraham’s sense of justice greater than God’s?

God is, in some ways, like us – or we like him. He agonizes over decisions. He listens to other ideas. Shockingly, he has regrets and wishes he had done things differently (Genesis 6:6). But he is good – how?
From our perspective, it is sometimes hard to see God’s goodness. Terrible things happen, judgments, troubles, hard times – and all of our Christian platitudes don’t get us very far. We quote Romans 8 saying, ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We hang onto that as our spiritual lifeboat, but our faith can feel like it’s taking on water fast. What then? How can we trust in God’s goodness? - Curtis


  1. Wow - I read this passage in my summertime devotions and wondered to myself why (in the plus 40 years of my Christian walk) I had never heard a sermon on it. Looking forward to hearing it!

    In my little corner, God has been nothing but good. Obviously there are more than a few who have different stories and I continue to be amazed by the steadfast faith of those whose lives are filled with unrelenting challenges and yet still claim His goodness.

  2. I don't see that there's an adequate way to define "good" without reference to God. Ethical philosophers have tried, and have come up with things like utilitarianism, what benefits the most people, etc. But there are always issues with that. Defining good as "what God is" is the only consistent way I know to handle it. That would make the question, Is God good? a little like the question, Is the Pope Catholic?

    On the other hand, there is the Theodicy issue. There seems to be evil in the world, and we are told that God is all-good and all-powerful. The only way that I can answer is that we are not all-knowing. Things that seem bad to us may be good if we knew everything. Something may seem bad for one or several individuals, but be good for the scope of history overall. Also there are the issues of human sin and its consequences (which this passage addresses), and human free will.

  3. No one can be considered "good" unless he opposes evil. If God did not oppose/punish evil, he would not be good, only benign. If a judge in a courtroom were to face a serial killer, and set him free, the public would not gush about how good he was, they would clamor for his resignation.

    Also, it's politically correct these days to identify the sin of Sodom as lack of hospitality. Certainly what they were trying to do to the visitors was inhospitable. But I think that it's worth noting that Abraham offering them his daughters, as bad as that was, was still far less evil in his eyes than what they intended.


Thanks for posting!