Dear Jim, If "God is good all the time," then why....?

Updated: Mar 22, 2019

Dear Jim:

I have a decorative plaque on the wall in my hallway that says, "God is good all the time." In my bedroom I have another decorative plaque that reads, "Our God reigns with power and love." I got to thinking about it... if God is good all time and God reigns with power and love... why do bad things happen in the world? Sincerely, Bewildered Brenda ***

Dear Bewildered Brenda: Do the conditions of our world supply ample evidence in the idea of an all-powerful and good God? For a season I traveled with an international human rights agency that worked cases of forced child prostitution around the world. 1 million new girls each year are forced into child prostitution. I was part of an operation and sting to raid brothels that forced 12-15 year old girls to provide sex to "customers" 4-5 times a day, six days a week. So let's pick one of these 12-year-old girls that get raped 5 times a day, six days a week. If God is all-powerful and good (in other words, God has the power to stop this 12-year-old girl from being repeatedly raped) but doesn't stop it, could it actually be that God is truly all-powerful and good? Maybe God is good but not all-powerful. That would make sense. Of course God would not want a 12-year-old girl to be repeatedly raped, but God can't prevent or stop it. Maybe God is all-powerful but not good? This could also make sense. God could stop it but doesn't because he does not care. Some people resolve this by referring to such things as "God's passive will." In other words, God doesn't directly cause the 12-year-old girl from being repeatedly raped, but allows it. To this I ask you: Would you stand by and allow your 12-year-old daughter to be raped? And if you did, could you still be called "good." Other people might have a philosophical conversation about the dualistic categories of "good" and "bad." They ask: What is truly "good" or "bad"? To which I reply by saying let's ask the 12-year-old girl who is being repeatedly raped what she thinks? Someone might say "God works in mysterious ways" or "God's ways are higher than our ways." If I stood by and allowed my 12-year-old daughter to be repeatedly raped, would you call this act "mysterious" or "higher"? Others might say, it's tragic but this girl has an eternal reward that far outweighs her momentary afflictions. Well hold on; that only applies if she happens to have the correct theology by being born into a Christian culture, otherwise her fate is conscious eternal torment. Maybe someone says, yes but this girl will get through it with God's help and be stronger and will be in a unique position to especially help others who suffer horrific life circumstances. Is this a reasonable rationale for permitting such a thing to happen? Another person defends God by saying that he (or Jesus) was present the entire time as the girl was being victimized. Like Footprints in the Sand, the idea is that God was not absent during the girl's ordeal but present, perhaps in tears, "carrying her" through it. To this I reply: Why would a "good" God be present during such a horrific circumstance and not intervene? I chose the example of the girl not as some kind of extreme outrageous theoretical situation. I chose it because I sat in brothels in SE Asia posing as a customer, locking eyes with 12-year-old girls on a cat-walk moments before they were selected to be forced into sex. Do I ask these questions about "God" because I want to stir up a big debate? No. I raise these issues because I believe humankind can do better than the notion of "God" cooked up by religion. In fact, rather than debate and argue theological positions about the goodness and power of God, why don't we instead come to terms with the following reality: 1. Human beings are responsible for the evil and suffering in the world 2. We don't have to cause evil and suffering in the world 3. We are free to choose differently 4. We are capable of living lives of goodness 5. Until we do, expect nothing to change 6. We invented the God of religion to either blame or shirk our responsibility for the condition of the world 7. Consider the possibility that "God" is your, my and our commitment to alleviating the suffering and contributing to the flourishing of our world Hope this helps, Jim

©  2009 Jim Palmer Author. All Rights Reserved
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