1619) Is God Good? (a)

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By best-selling author Lee Strobel with Boston College philosophy professor and author Peter Kreeft


 “Is God really ‘all-good’ as Christians believe?” Peter Kreeft was asked by Lee Strobel.

      “Good is a notoriously tricky word,” Peter Kreeft began, “because even in human affairs there’s such a wide range of meaning.  But the difference between us and God is certainly greater than the difference between us and animals, and since good varies enormously between us and animals, it must vary even more enormously between us and God.”

     “Granted,” I said.  “But if I sat there and did nothing while my child got run over by a truck, I wouldn’t be good in any sense of the word.  I’d be an evil father if I did that.  And God does the equivalent of that.  He sits by and refuses to perform miracles to take us out of dangers even greater than being hit by a truck.  So why isn’t he bad?”

     Kreeft nodded. “It looks like he is,” he said.  “But the fact that God deliberately allows certain things, which if we allowed them would turn us into monsters, doesn’t necessarily count against God.”

     I couldn’t see his reasoning.  “You’ll have to explain why that is,” I said.

     “Okay, let me give you an analogy in human relationships,” he replied.  “If I said to my brother, who’s about my age, ‘I could bail you out of a problem but I won’t,’ I would probably be irresponsible and perhaps wicked.  But we do that with our children all the time.  We don’t do their homework for them.  We don’t put a bubble around them and protect them from every hurt.

     “I remember when one of my daughters was about four or five years old and she was trying to thread a needle for a Brownies project.  It was very difficult for her.  Every time she tried, she hit herself in the finger and a couple of times she bled.  I was watching her, but she didn’t see me.  She just kept trying and trying.

     “My first instinct was to go and do it for her, since I saw a drop of blood.  But wisely I held back, because I said to myself, ‘She can do it.’  After about five minutes, she finally did it.  I came out of hiding and she said, “Daddy, daddy — look what I did!  Look at what I did!’  She was so proud she had threaded the needle that she had forgotten all about the pain.

     “That time the pain was a good thing for her.  I was wise enough to have foreseen it was good for her.  Now, certainly God is much wiser than I was with my daughter.  So it’s at least possible that God is wise enough to foresee that we need some pain for reasons which we may not understand but which he foresees as being necessary to some eventual good.  Therefore, he’s not being evil by allowing that pain to exist.

     “Dentists, athletic trainers, teachers, parents — they all know that sometimes to be good is not to be kind.  Certainly there are times when God allows suffering and deprives us of the lesser good of pleasure in order to help us toward the greater good of moral and spiritual education.  Even the ancient Greeks believed the gods taught wisdom through suffering.  Aeschylus wrote: ‘Day by day, hour by hour / Pain drips upon the heart / As, against our will, and even in our own despite / Comes Wisdom from the awful grace of God.’  (continued…)