10 Feb 2019

God Is Good

Religious 2 Comments

At the tail end of my discussion of The Three Lads and the Lizard King, I alluded to the familiar problem of evil, and how the orthodox Christian answer is a bit scandalous. Specifically, God allows evil to happen. In the book of Job, the Devil literally gets permission from God to do horrible things.

Yet the Bible also shows that God uses these evil acts–which do not originate with Him–to ultimately be turned into serving God’s purposes. The most obvious is the crucifixion of Jesus, which is the worst possible sin we could have committed, and yet God flipped it into our salvation and deliverance from evil.

Another one is the horrible policy of the Pharaoh to have newborn Israelites snuffed out (in order to control Israel’s population growth and keep them in bondage to the Egyptians). Yet God used this awful policy to be the wellspring of Moses himself, who could not have turned into the man he did, under more pleasant circumstances. (Also worth reminding people: Moses was EIGHTY YEARS OLD when he was first approached by God with the mission to lead His people out of Egypt.)

Now if you look at your life (or world history) and conclude, “God is either evil or limited in power,” then you made a mistake in your reasoning. God by his very nature is both good and omnipotent.

Incidentally, this passage (from Ex. 33) always fascinates me:

18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock.22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

Is that passage saying men are able to handle the full brunt of God’s goodness, but there are other aspects of His might that they can’t handle? The last time I read that passage, I thought it was saying God’s goodness itself might overwhelm and consume Moses, but upon this reading, I’m wondering if it’s saying the opposite.


2 Responses to “God Is Good”

  1. Andrew in MD says:

    I don’t think that passage is saying either that the full brunt of God’s goodness alone would overwhelm and consume Moses or the opposite. I take the “pass in front of you” part of that passage to mean that Moses will not necessarily be able to see “all of [His] goodness,” but that it will be there, in Moses’ presence, while he is in the cleft in the rock behind God’s hand. I’m imagining that Moses would only be able to catch glimpses of any of God’s features from his position.

    I also don’t think that that passage says that God has any aspects that are not goodness and glory. I can see how it could be read that way, but I don’t think it is definitively saying that.

    And then, separate from what is exclusively said in that passage, I imagine that God is sort of transparent and that His being contains the whole of the universe. I think that gazing upon His “face” would reveal to a man every detail of the universe and that no man could see that and live.

  2. Andrew in MD says:

    Bob, what do you mean by, “God uses these evil acts–which do not originate with Him?” Do you not believe that all things ultimately originate with Him? You agree that God created all evil-doers and gave them the capacity to commit evil, right? Are you just saying that God did not force anyone to choose evil?

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