This post was inspired by the CK debate happening here.
I’ll confess that I find a certain amount of comfort in the idea that God is in some ways a different kind of being than we are. Humans, for all their beauty, are kind of messed up sometimes, and I love the idea that there is a being out there who is perfect and “good” and who doesn’t have the same kind of imperfections as the rest of us. I also love scriptures such as Moses 7:33–the moment when Enoch asks God why he weeps, He responds, “And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood.” The idea that there is a perfectly loving and good being who weeps at the cruelty that we inflict on one another appeals to me.
At the same time, as many others have pointed out, there are some scriptures where God doesn’t come off as quite so loving. Remember all that death and punishment in the Old Testament? And what about Laban? I don’t think there are any easy answers to the difficult questions these scriptures pose.
As I ponder these scriptures, I often find myself asking: what kinds of “ways” are these (i.e. are they God’s ways), and are they “good”? The issue of God’s “goodness” came up on the aforementioned CK thread, and I really liked one of the comments by Jacob J (comment #68):
In the last paragraph of #62 there is the mention of whether God’s goodness is the same as our goodness. I feel like there are some fundamental aspects of our sense of goodness which are non-negotiable, which if God tried to tell me I was wrong about I would just reject the goodness of God. For example, if goodness really turned out to mean taking pleasure in the suffering of others or creating certain humans in an evil way so as to delight in their eternal torment, I would just as soon conclude there is no God as try to augment my view of goodness. However, it is fully expected that we will have to change to become celestial and this will inevitably require us to learn and gain perspective which could alter our view of some things. That said, I am at a loss to define a criteria upon which I can distinguish between deal breaker aspects of goodness and those I am open to adjusting.
This comment is something that I think many of us struggle with in some way at one time or another. What do we do when God’s “ways” don’t match what we think they should be? (I’ll confess I’ve gotten into quite a number of arguments with God about his ideas for my life vs. my own.) And beyond this, what happens when we see things happening in the name of God that don’t match our own sense of morality and goodness?
I appreciate the tension in Jacob’s comment: I think that humility and faith (i.e. recognizing that we are imperfect and have much to learn and that God’s vision is more all-seeing than our own) are important. But I also agree that there is a point where you have to draw a line and say, “if goodness and perfection mean _______, then I don’t want any part of it.” As Jacob says, some things are “deal-breakers.” As evidenced by the various comments in the thread, the “deal-breakers” are different for each person.
What are they for you?
(As for me, I’m guessing my biases are probably showing. For me, cruelty and meanness and the destruction of other human beings could never be goodness. And love is goodness. I also have a strong conviction that goodness entails recognizing each person as an individual, and making sure that all individuals are treated equally–whatever that means, which I am still trying to sort out.)
- 23 April 2008