Mar 27, 2013

Is God really all that good?

I put up my post on God in the face of tragedy on the Yale-NUS blog, and someone asked:

Why should we allow the possibility that a “good” God exists is greater than the possibility that an “evil” God exists?

Here's my extremely long-winded answer. It probably went off-track somewhere, but it's 2am and I'm in no mood to look at it again and make edits, so here goes.
(Anyway, a lot of other great points to ponder about were raised by other readers. Check them out!)

I assume you mean ‘why should we believe that God is good more than bad?’ and not ‘why should we believe that Jesus is more powerful than Satan?’ It’s pretty obvious in the New Testament that He’s a God of love and compassion, who heals, hears and provides, and who wants us to love, and who rewards those who seek good, and will allow bad things in measured amounts to happen to good people to shape their character, with the reassurance that the true reward lies in Heaven when we return to Him. (I can provide verses for each characteristic I named, if you’d like, but it’s pretty obvious.) So I guess the question is more applicable when looking at the Old Testament, because with the wrath He brings upon people in the Old Testament, and all the deaths recorded, sometimes it’s easy to question.

Firstly, I’d like to reiterate my firm belief that death is nothing but a transition into a different kind of life.

I don’t know why God did some of the things He did in the Old Testament, and I’ve never been to the ‘other side of life’. I’ve have no idea why He killed armies in protection of this one special group of people, and what would’ve happened to the Gentiles in the armies He killed back then – are we not all His children and His creation?

I believe that for people who’ve never heard the gospel, God judges according to their conscience and how they deal with struggles and temptations to do what is right. Perhaps it was that way for the Gentiles of that time, too. I’ve no idea. And sometimes, in the Old Testament, He does seem like this wrathful, ‘evil’ God. I don’t know what happened to the people He killed, especially those in armies opposing ‘His people’, but I think it just goes to show how much God is willing to do protect and bring to victory those who belong to Him.

From what I’ve gathered from the covenant of the Old Testament and the covenant of the New Testament, and keeping in mind that He is ‘the same yesterday, today and forever’, all I can conclude for now is that God has always been a God of justice and judgement; He loves people, because He created them in His image, but He also hates sin. If God is good (and Xi Min introduced me to a new way of seeing that phrase: by making ‘good’ a noun, not just an adjective), and God gives life – physical, spiritual or eternal, then the opposite of God is evil, which translates into death – physical, spiritual or eternal.

And so, for a good God of justice who hated evil, He brought judgement against those who deviated from Him – and therefore, life, in any one of the three forms, or all. I definitely wouldn’t count the people He killed as those He judged, because, again, death is just a transition. And at the same time, the great men recorded in the Old Testament also had their own times of sin, but God forgave those on account of their love for Him.

People in the Old Testament could atone for their sins with animal sacrifices, but it wasn’t a perfect substitution for sin, and so when His own Son died and He put all His judgement and wrath on His own sinless Son, He made a perfect way for us – imperfect, sinful – to reach out to God as His own children. He still hates sin, but with the mark of His son’s blood on our heads, He remembers the stuff He made His son go through for us who are willing to accept the mark of the cross, and lets His own love for Jesus fall upon us who carry His mark.

My point is basically that now that Jesus has died, the God who hates sin is now able to see us sinful men as flawless and righteous, because we have the mark of that perfect sacrifice of a sinless Son. That’s why now, He seems so much less ‘wrathful’ than in the Old Testament times. In the Old Testament, there wasn’t that sacrifice yet, so perhaps, when sinlessness was coupled with deviating away from God’s love, God was less able to see past man’s iniquities. But do remember again that I don’t see death as His judgement!

Then again… Exodus 33:19 ‘Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”‘ and Exodus 34:6-7 ”The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty…”
- how does He choose who to be gracious to? What’s the difference between the ‘guilty’ and those who have ‘iniquity and transgression and sin’? The only difference I can think of is that those He forgives are those who love Him and try to keep a clean life. But I don’t know yet. Maybe I’ll learn in time to come.

I hope this helped somewhat! This is just my personal point of view, so don’t hold it against all Christians Anyway, I think a lot of what we can gather about God personally has to come through how He reveals Himself to us personally. I’m a very strong believer in spiritual encounters, and so much of how we see God has to come from what he reveals of Himself to us in these encounters. After all, through the centuries, God has been portrayed as so many different things – from a tough king to a merciful father. We have to find a balance, based on everything we read of His word.

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