Is God Good?

We take it for granted that God is “good” (all the time). And by good, we mean loving, kind, compassionate, forgiving, merciful, perhaps just, tender, gentle, graceful, and tame. Predictable. If God is all of these, then God is good.

I have a problem with the assumption that we know what is good, and that we could possibly judge God by those criteria. Many Christians have decided that anything that doesn’t match the above definition of “good” cannot be applied to God, or God would no longer be good.

By this logic, God cannot get angry, at least not fully. God doesn’t really punish, and only does so out of “love”. God cannot kill, at least not directly. God cannot show “tough love”. God cannot be cold and distant, because that isn’t loving. God cannot allow evil. God cannot be the cause of tragedy. Death cannot be a part of God’s desire for humanity. If God acts in these ways, then God cannot be good.

I’d like to throw the whole human convention of God’s “goodness” out the window. The whole attempt to explain how God is good and how all of the evil in the world still exists is one big effort to draw a circle around God and say, “God is this and not that.” I know that I am in no position to define God or understand God. It’s like Aslan, the Lion who is good, but in no way tame.

God is loving. But God is also vengeful, jealous, and angry.
God is kind. But God is also harsh.
God is compassionate. But God also hates.
God is forgiving. But God also withholds forgiveness.
God is merciful. But God also levels punishment.
God is just. But God’s justice is not what we think is just.
God is tender. But God is also cold.
God is gentle. But God is also rough.
God is graceful. But God is also brutal.

All of this is part of God’s “goodness”. If God is angry and jealous, God has a right to be. Sometimes, God needs to be harsh. There are things that God hates, and there are times when God has and will withhold forgiveness. God is the arbiter of justice and punishment, which means that God is sometimes cold, rough, and brutal. God doesn’t have to make excuses.

God must be all this, and more, for God to be able to be and do what God is and does. God is not always comfortable. God doesn’t, and shouldn’t, always act in ways we find acceptable. God acts in ways that we in our imaginations have decided is not good.

So yes, God is good. But that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

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Author: Pastor Ken

Ken Ranos serves as the pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Three Lakes, WI, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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