If God is good He is not God and if God is God He is not good
Is God Cruel? Is God Capricious? Is God insensitive and indifferent to human suffering and injustice?
“If God is good He is not God and if God is God He is not good.” Attributed to Archibald MacLeish
That was the reply to the question, “What is your take on the Judeo Christian God?” asked of a 60+ year old Jewish American man. He explained that his answer was rooted in a response and an attitude toward God based upon the holocaust in Nazi Germany during World War II. When he said, “If God is good He is not God” he was saying that if God is good He would have prevented the holocaust from happening to the Jews. The fact that God did not prevent it means that though He may be good He must not be powerful. When he said, “If God is God He is not good” he was saying that if God had the power to prevent the holocaust and yet He did not intervene and prevent that from happening then God may indeed be powerful but He is not good. It was a clichéd summary of reasoning upon which the God of the bible had been judged, condemned and dismissed. Consider that God still seemed to be believed in by this man. However, God was discredited and discounted in his heart and mind.
Today the secular currents of early 21st century western civilization seem determined to dismiss the God of the bible, to say that God is no longer relevant. There is a will to throw off Christianity as a failed moralistic religion, proven empirically to be more harmful than beneficial to mankind after 1900 years of religious corruption, controversy, intolerance, persecution, atrocity, war, death and destruction. God is little more than a puzzling and distant idea to many, a fictional literary character and a relic of an ancient world, somehow responsible for a long and terrible history. Nineteen centuries have passed since any fresh scripture was written. This duration and the silence and invisibility of God lends to the sense that the God of the bible never really existed. The God of the bible seems to be fading into legend and fable.
It has been suggested that perhaps God was a numinous invention of ancient despots who wished to try and control human behavior through fear of a contrived, unheard and unseen god. If so, the experiment in moral repression has failed miserably, giving us even more reason to dismiss Him. God is thought perhaps to be nothing more than a delusion, an uncanny manifestation of higher thought and imagination struggling to cope with ontological angst, to explain reality and which has at last become irrelevant to a new world cultural and technological situation. Since this purportedly fictional God is held to be responsible for so much that is terrible why not do away with Him completely? God is thought to be destined to be dismissed as myth as have the gods of Greek and Roman mythology.
How then shall God, who is believed in fervently and is thought by some who are of the Hebrew faith and or the Christian faith to be a good and loving deity, be found to be such a cruel and malevolent being or fictional being by so many others? Why do we have this book of biblical scripture which lavishly and poetically attributes a transcendent depth of love to the divine nature contrasted with a world filled with people inclined to believe that if the silent and invisible God does exist He is a malefactor, cruel, aloof and indifferent to the tribulations of mankind? Suppose we could catalog the suffering and the tragedies of the centuries? Much of the world carries some anecdotal subset of this catalog in their hearts and minds and uses it as evidence to condemn God and send Him away.
Why do those who believe in God and believe that He is good and loving hold this positive view of God against the tide of those who despise God based upon what to human reasoning must be His inescapable culpability for the sufferings of mankind which, if God is God He could surely remedy? By what argument is God to be found a wise, good and loving being, this despot who by His own scripture admits that He sends some souls to exist in torment in hell for all eternity? The world wonders. Where is the truth in this enigma?
Consider this. Why is it that God is now the more condemned by modern man even as technology and prosperity in the western first world has made life for many of us better than life ever has been in previous centuries? Why, just as many come into a time of opulence and creature comforts are we more inclined to judge and condemn God? Why is it that the softer and gentler our lives become, the less well we think of God? Does the material quality of our lives bear upon this question?
To not perceive the love of God in scripture, both the Old and the New Testament, and in life is to be spiritually blind. I fully realize that assertion may well offend many who have rationalized God out of their lives with that negative perspective and that attitude. Who can overturn or overrule the evidence which persuades so many that God does not exist or is not all powerful or is cruel and aloof, all based upon our human history?
Jesus manifested the practice of the will of God in a human life and Jesus tortured and killed no one. Rather, Jesus, having done nothing to merit punishment or death, was tortured and killed by us for trying to explain the most sublime and loving spiritual concepts upon which our eternal well being depends. He did this to fulfill the will of God. The divine nature plays out differently in the role of God in heaven administering reality that it does in the role of son of man living life as a human being in the flesh but the natures are the same. Reconciling God and Jesus and realizing there is not a difference in their essential character is key to perceiving and grasping the love of God.
In our terrestrial lives we work and struggle to build and sustain our lives. We administer a small personal reality as well as we can. Within that administration we bear responsibility for ourselves in acquiring the world’s goods, in our conduct toward other beings, in our deportment as communal souls in a shared world. Consider and imagine the responsibility which God must bear to maintain this world, this universe, our individual and collective lives, while sustaining His own existence as well as ours. There is no adequate way to philosophically describe the scope of God’s responsibility as an extant being. God works. Jesus explained this in John 5:17 when criticized for healing someone on the Sabbath. “But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” What is the work of God? He upholds our opportunity to live and seek after Him. He sustains our exquisite existential opportunity. We criticized God and cast Him away because we do not grasp His reality and because he does not always do as we think He should. Our failure to grasp and appreciate the great themes of existence as responsibility for administering those themes falls to God in the interplay of all created things, all people, all prayers and the unfolding of our lives and history leads us to a spiritually naïve prejudicial failure. We hate God for many reasons but when we do so we are blind to the scope of all that is with which He must contend. If we judge, hate and condemn God we are fools missing the mark entirely in the formation of our understanding of reality.
Let me say it plainly. I have no righteousness of my own but it fills me with a righteous indignation for God to have to struggle so to defend the love and honor of God to the world. How can so many people malign God Almighty? For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that who so ever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have eternal life. Pitiful man that I am, I have been clinging to our Great God all my adult life. It seems I do so against a dismal tide of popular culture which stupidly believes it would be better off, on a better course of progress if we could only do away with God. Come about people. God is our salvation and we respond to Him as though He was our destruction.
Once when Elijah the prophet, struggling to oppose the worship of the false god Baal, was discouraged, being chased by Jezebel and felt alone and despondent God informed him that God still had 7000 who had not bowed to Baal. That was 7000 out of a nation of Israel composed of millions of people. I want more than a remnant to know, love and worship God. I want understanding, knowing and appreciating God to be main stream throughout the world. Amen. God deserves better from His children. We cut our own spiritual throat by hating and rejecting our Father in heaven who administers a shared global existence for billions of people out of touch with the labor of love going on in our collective history and each of our individual lives.