Feb 25, 2016
God’s Goodness & Trustworthiness
Going Further, 2011
Life is like an omelette, and jazz
Defining God’s goodness & trustworthiness
God is good and God is trustworthy because God takes responsibility for all that God
So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live … You must
observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these
statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!” For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as
just as this entire law that I am setting before you today? (Deuteronomy 4.1–8)
• for our ‘well-being’ (Deut 4.40)
• ‘for our lasting good … to keep us alive’ (Deut 6.24)
• our ‘very life’ (Deut 32.47)
• that which enables human life in the first place: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord’ (Deut 8.3)
God ‘has not left himself without a witness in doing good – giving you rains from heaven and fruitful
seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy’. (Acts 14.17)
‘Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with
whom there is no variation or shadow due to change’. (James 1.17)
• ‘Good and upright is the LORD’. (Ps 25.8)
• ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him’. (Ps 34.8)
• ‘For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations’. (Ps 100.5)
• ‘Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good’. (Ps 135.3)
• ‘The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made’. (Ps 145.9)
• ‘Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!’ (Jer 33.11)
•‘The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy’. (Ps 111.7)
• ‘No one is good but God alone'. (Mark 10.18 and Luke 18.19)
Suffering – the challenge to God’s goodness & trustworthiness
‘Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.
Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never’. (Elie Wiesel)
‘In truth, Auschwitz signifies not only the failure of two thousand years of
Christian civilization, but also the defeat of the intellect that wants to find
Meaning – with a capital M – in history. What Auschwitz embodied has none.
The executioner killed for nothing, the victim died for nothing. No God ordered
the one to prepare the stake, nor the other to mount it. During the Middle
Ages, the Jews, when they chose death, were convinced that by their sacrifice
they were glorifying and sanctifying God’s name. At Auschwitz the sacrifices
were without point, without faith, without divine inspiration. If the
suffering of one human being has any meaning, that of six million has none. Numbers have their importance; they prove, according to Piotr Rawicz, that
God has gone mad’. (Elie Wiesel)
Epicures (341–270 BCE):
1. God wills to remove evil but cannot.2. God can and will not.3. God cannot and will not.4. God wills to remove evil and can.
C.S. Lewis: ‘My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust’.
(a) there is evil in the world + (b) evil is incompatible with God = (c) therefore God does not exist.
‘How is life with God still possible in a time in which there is an Auschwitz? … Can one still hear His word? Can one still, as an individual and as a people, enter at all into a dialogical relationship with Him? Dare we recommend to the survivors of Auschwitz, the Job of the gas chambers: “Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endureth forever”?’ (Martin Buber)
Suffering: Some Inadequate Responses:
1. Suffering is an illusion.2. Suffering is a product of dualism.3. Suffering represents the unalterable will of God.4. Suffering is a punishment for sin.5. Suffering happens because God is finite or limited.6. Suffering serves some greater good.7. Suffering is inevitable.8. Most suffering – not all – happens because love requires the free to
do good or evil.9. Pain is ‘good’ when it alerts us to problems that require attention. But
pain is ‘evil’ when it makes no sense, when it seems to produce harm not good.
10.The religion of the Bible puts human suffering into a cosmic context: the battle of good and evil, God and Satan.
11.God both allows and sends suffering.12.It’s not our suffering that matters most but our response to it.13.Suffering can deepen our relationship with God and with one another.14.Suffering forms us for service.
‘Terrible things happen to wonderful people. Wonderful things happen to awful people. We cannot look around the world we live in and build a case that sinners are
punished and righteous people are blessed. Reality simply does not bear this
out’. (James Bryan Smith)
‘We do not know why God's judgment makes a good [person] poor, and a wicked [person] rich … Nor why the wicked [person] enjoys the best of health, whilst the [person] of religion wastes away in illness … Even then it is not consistent
… Good [people] also have good fortune and evil [people] find evil fortunes …’ (Augustine of
We can’t know that God is good by looking at history.
We can’t know that God is good by looking at creation.
So where can we look?
Jesus – the revelation of God’s goodness & trustworthiness
‘The world looks different now. The pinks have become purple, the yellows brown … Sorrow is no longer the
islands but the sea … I’ve become an alien in the world, shyly touching it as if it’s not mine. I don’t belong any
more …’. (Nicholas Wolterstorff)
‘For a long time I knew that God is not the impassive, unresponsive, unchanging being portrayed by the classical theologians. I knew of the pathos of God. I knew of God’s response of delight and of his response of displeasure. But strangely, his suffering I never saw before.
God is not only the God of the sufferers but the God who suffers … to redeem our brokenness and lovelessness the God who suffers with us did not strike some mighty blow of power but sent his beloved son to suffer like us, through his suffering to redeem us from suffering and evil.
Instead of explaining our suffering God shares it …’
God’s goodness demands an eschatology
es· cha· tol· o· gy: the branch of theology dealing with last things, such as death, immortality, resurrection,
judgment, and the end of the world.