The leader of the church service intones, “God is good, all the time”, and the congregation responds with, “all the time, God is good”. This may be a stylised church thing, but it is also a profound statement of truth. The older I get, the more I come to understand that this axiom lies at the foundation of so many theological and life-related issues.
There are two parts to the statement:
- God is good: This is the fundamental moral and ethical foundation of human life. God is good, he is not bad. God is love, he is not hate. God is truth, he is not lie. Of course, we will need to define what we mean by ‘good’ and we will need to establish a standard against which we can determine goodness.
- All the time: God is not good just some of the time, but all of the time. He is not both good and bad, successively or simultaneously. God is absolutely and always good.
Right at the outset, let me give a few examples of what this means and the effect it has on our beliefs and lives:
- If God is consistently and absolutely good, then he cannot, in any sense, be bad.
- If something truly bad happens to us then we cannot and must not attribute it to God. “God knows best – His ways are higher than ours” is no real comfort at all to the man or woman whose daughter has recently been raped and then butchered. It besmirches God and leaves the parent hopeless and doubly distraught.
- If God cold-bloodedly killed Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) for lying about how they spent their own money, then why should we expect his goodness to be manifest in our lives? It would be no better than living in fear of the wrath of God or not believing at all.
- If God is not good all the time, then why should WE strive or even expect to be? The old false narrative that God’s standards are different to our standards is just an unethical double standard.
- If God has predetermined who will be saved and who consigned to Hell then how can we equally believe the biblical statement that he wants all to be saved? Either this makes God out to be a disingenuous fraud, or it makes the bible unreliable.
There are many more examples I could set down, but these will do for now. So, now let’s examine the two parts of the axiom I started with and then move on to how we should establish the truth that God is good, all the time.
God is Good
If I were not a bible-honouring Christian then I guess I would have to argue from philosophy, sociology, or reasoning. If you would like to explore the intellectual idea of Godless ethics then HERE is a good place to start. However, I am a bible-honouring follower of the Lord Jesus and so I will instead argue from scripture.
Many Old Testament texts affirm that God is good, but consider Psalm 34:8: ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.’ The word ‘Lord’ in the Hebrew text is of course ‘Yahweh’, the customary name of the creator God of Israel.
As with the Old Testament, there are many references to the goodness of God in the New Testament. Again, I want to focus on just one. 1 John 1:5 ‘This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all’ It is quite legitimate, therefore, to say ‘God is good, and in him is no badness at all’. God is absolutely, completely ‘light’, and ‘good’ and there is nothing in him that is ‘dark’ and ‘bad’.
All the Time
Not only is God good, but he is consistently and continuously good. Not just sometimes good and sometimes bad and not both good and bad, but always good.
James 1:16-17 reads: ‘Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows’. The picture here is a sundial where the shadow moves over the dial as the hours progress. God is not like that. To use the same word picture, God is like the sun at noon where there is no movement of a shadow on the sundial. He is unchanging in his bright goodness.
So then, God is good, and only good, all the time. Yet I have often read or heard that we need to hold the goodness of God and his ‘dark side’ in dynamic tension, accepting that he is both light and dark, good and bad. He loves all people because he created them in his image to be his eternal children, but he feels free to abuse and obliterate them if he deems that this is ‘necessary’. I have very little tolerance for this line of thought. It is schizophrenic and falls foul of Isaiah’s admonition: ‘Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter’ (Isaiah 5:20).
So, now one more important issue needs addressing, ‘What is our standard for what is good?’
How do we know good from bad and truth from error? God is good, but what does that mean in terms of our standards?
An alternative to this wrong thinking is to slip into another form of wrong thinking – to accept that God has double standards. What is good for him is not necessarily good for us. God expects us to live to standards that he does not evidence. There is just so much that is wrong about this line of thought, so best I just say that God does not have double standards, he is absolutely good in all his ways.
So, how then do we determine good from bad? The obvious answer to a Christian is, “well the scriptures of course”. Sure, but that supposes that we are all able to understand the bible correctly, whatever ‘correctly’ actually means. No, the answer must be that our means of determining good from bad is the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in and through the scriptures. If Jesus is truly God incarnate, then what he said, did, and revealed of the nature and character of the Godhead must be true. I have made the case for this idea many times and you can find an instance of this HERE.
If you find yourself blaming your god for bad things, or accommodating his apparent ‘dark side’, then PLEASE examine your thinking. How can you have a loving relationship with a god who is fickle, disingenuous, or just plain bad? You cannot! If your god might have chosen you or a loved one for eternal damnation, no matter what they do or are, then what kind of a god is that? If your god applies double standards or expects you to disengage your critical faculties then what does it say about his morality and ethics? I have used ‘god’ with a small ‘g’ in this paragraph because the deity we are envisioning here is not God Almighty. He is not the God embodied in Jesus of Nazareth.
God is good and there is no badness in him. God is light and there is no darkness in him. Anything that contradicts this key maxim is a reflection of wrong thinking and incorrect biblical interpretation.
Please do not dismiss what I have written here as either simply interesting or perhaps irrelevant. The nature and character of God is something that affects all doctrine and human life. Rather than moving on to the next thought presented to you, stop and critically evaluate what I have set out before you. Look into the scriptures and question, pray, and seek answers.
This is a vitally important subject, so please comment freely in the section at the foot of this article and I will interact with you as best I can.