26 November 2005

God is always good.

Last week I wrote briefly on the certainty of God's plan. I brought up Pharaoh and those who crucified Jesus as examples of those who were committed to frustrating God's plan but only served to further it.

These thoughts raise the question of God's relationship to evil, and that is question I am not prepared to answer fully here. I am comfortable with the compatibilist position which says that we can show that absolute divine sovereignty and human responsibility are compatible with each other, though we may not always be able to show "how they are compatible" (D. A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God [Wheaton, IL: Crossway 2000], p. 52).

While a full-fledged discussion of compatibilism is beyond my purpose here, I would like to point out a Biblical story which shows that God is always good, or that he always does the right thing though we may not understand it. The example that I want to point out is Job. The story, as I understand it, really starts when Job curses the day of his birth (Job 3). Because Job's friends were apparently expecting a confession of sins (5:17, 8:5-6), they jump all over him. They recognize, as later becomes clear in the story, that Job is challenging the unquestionable justice (or unimpeachability) of God's actions (27:2).
While Job's friends understand that God's justice can never be brought into question, they understand his justice as a cosmic gumball machine: You put your quarter in; you get your candy out. In other words, while they rightly said that God's justice is unimpeachable, they wrongly denied that God's justice is incomprehensible. Job, on the other hand, knew very well that God's justice was incomprehensible, but he couldn't help but think that this made his justice also liable to accusation.
In the end they are both working off the same thinking: If God's justice is always good, then it must always make sense to me. Job knew it didn't make sense, so he questioned whether or not it was good. Job's friends knew it was good and therefore assumed that they understood it perfectly in Job's case.
The tension between them is unresolved until, in chapters 38-41, Yahweh steps in. His purpose throughout seems to be to destroy the thinking that both Job and his friends had eventually come to. Imagine the repentance of Job when he realized that in protesting his own innocence he had brought God's into question (40:4-5, 42:1-6). Imagine the shock of his friends when they realized that Job was innocent but had suffered anyway (42:7-8).

They all came to realize a very important truth: We may not always understand it, but God is always good.

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