God Is Good. He Just Has To Be. – or – Plugging My Ears, Closing My Eyes and Screaming LA, LA, LA, LA…

So here’s a question we’ve probably all grappled with at one time or another: How much, and to what extent, does God interfere with our lives. Growing up I was assured that God had “a plan for my life” (in my strict, Calvinist church, God pretty much had a plan for everything).  This was bolstered by that verse about all things working together for the good of those who love God.  If some tragedy befell a member of our congregation, we were comforted with the assurance that it was all a part of God’s master plan.

I always found these words rang somewhat hollow. They were somehow disconcerting and they did little to salve the emotional pain I was experiencing.  The explanation naturally begged the question of whether God initiated the bad stuff to bring about something better.  This is where we tend to reach a theological impasse.

I have a friend who went through an ugly divorce – lies, unfaithfulness… the works. A few years later he met a girl who had been through a similar situation.  They connected on an amazingly deep spiritual and emotional level and now they are planning to get married.  He writes with relief and thankfulness that this was God’s plan all along – that God made him go through the suffering of the first marriage to lead him to this deeper, more loving second marriage.

While I don’t want to diminish in any way the joy my friend has found, this scenario sends my mind spinning in vicious theological circles.  Could God initiate an adulterous relationship?  Couldn’t God have just gotten these two together in the first place(he is supposed to be able to do anything) and if so, why would he choose to put my friend through so much pain?  And finally, where do the ex-spouses and adulterers fit in to this picture?  What is God’s plan for their lives and how does this sin that he may or may not have initiated fit in?

Another acquaintance recently went through the traumatic experience of a miscarriage.  Her church friends, in an attempt to be supportive, assured her in notes and phone calls that this was all part of God’s plan, that the child was with God now and that it would all work out for good eventually.  I couldn’t help but wonder if these notes were any comfort.  After all, the mother doesn’t want her child to be with God, she wants the baby to be with her.

Then, of course, we could step back from our personal lives and look at natural disasters like the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile or Hurricane Katrina.  While I think most of us would stop short alleging that these events were the judgment of God upon these people, some of us might feel theologically obligated to say, albeit reluctantly, that these natural events were part of God’s master plan.

I am going to go ahead and lay my position out there, theologically debatable as it may be:  God did not cause the divorce, the miscarriage, or the natural disaster.  My claim is based on three of the most widely held definitions of God.  1) God is love.  2) God is life.  3) God is light.

Perhaps all three of these fall under the category of God being ultimately “Good”.  The creator of good.  The definition of good.  The embodiment of good.  It is impossible for God to ‘sin’ and I would suggest that it is impossible even for him to initiate sin in humankind. If God is love, he cannot inspire adultery.  If God is life, he cannot cause the death of an unborn child.  And if God is light, he cannot initiate the darkness and destruction caused by disaster.  All of these things are alien to God, the opposite of God and his Kingdom.

But God does intervene in our lives.  I believe he initiated my friend’s new relationship.  I believe he will give my other friend a child to love.  And I believe that there have been and will be countless stories of love, compassion and faith in the midst of crisis emerging from disaster-stricken parts of the world.

Now I can anticipate the objection that this diminishes the sovereignty of God.  I can also anticipate people throwing all sorts of Old Testament passages at me about plagues, wars, famines, etc. that seemed to be initiated by God.

I’ll admit I don’t have a defense here.  All I can say is that I find it far more comforting to believe in a God who is all-good than a God who is all-powerful. In essence, I am reverting to the God of my childhood who comforted and protected you when bad stuff happened, rather than the mysteriously sovereign, rationally confounding God produced by countless hours of study, debate and theological reasoning.

This reversion to a childlike definition of God brings back another character from childhood who is often forgotten and seldom discussed: The Devil.  Who is he?  What role does he play in all of this?  I think that’s a subject for a different post, but for now I’ll take this stand:  God can bring good from a bad situation, but God can’t make a bad situation.  That’s somebody else’s job.

Published in: on March 11, 2010 at 4:50 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Here, here! I am in full agreement, and again I refer you to Gregory Boyd’s “Satan & the Problem of Evil.” I think you’d find a lot of comiseration, backed by strong theological thought.

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