Saturday, May 2, 2009

God is so good, He burned my house down!

Nothing's actually happened to my house. My house is fine.

But I've been thinking lately about all those news stories, when people were saved from disaster, or had something go their way, and they say, "God is good!"

Now, let's say I was accused of cheating on a test. I get called before the principal. After he examines all the facts, he concludes that I did not in fact cheat. I then say that the principal is a good man.

My statement about how good the principal is is directly dependent upon him judging in my favor. The two are connected. If he were to say that I did cheat and then punish me for it, when I did not in fact cheat, I would conclude that the principal is not good.

God is often treated in the same manner when people are praising Him for a wonderful outcome. He is good because He made a good thing happen. Yet if something bad happens, we never see believers then conclude that God is bad. Rather, He's mysterious, or His ways aren't our ways. In this situation, God's goodness is a simple matter of fact, independent of the outcome.

But when this is the case, does it mean anything to praise God when good things happen? God's not good because He did a good thing. He's good, period. I almost find it a useless means of praise, because it's just a blanket statement.

Unless the saying is there to re-enforce just how good God is? Except I still think we'd run into the same problem, if a good event is used as a reminder to just how good God is. Because God's goodness is once again dependent upon the event, rather than the nature of God.

12 comments:

The Rambling Taoist said...

Just once, I'd like to hear an athlete praise God after his/her team has been trounced and roundly embarrassed! I'd like to hear something like, "All praise to God for our miserable showing today. We stunk about the field today. God obviously wished to teach us the lesson of humility and I will go out to celebrate that lesson. Sure, I would have liked to have won today's game, but being on God's team is a far better glory."

Of course, no athlete says that. We only hear how great God is when his/her team wins -- like an all powerful deity would really care about a stupid game!!!

societyvs said...

"Because God's goodness is once again dependent upon the event, rather than the nature of God." (OSS)

I think God is good - even in the midst of pure sh*t (ie: going through a seperation with my wife a few months back - we didn't seperate). In my time of turmoil I didn't turn and think 'God you suck now'...because life does not hinge upon me solely (in this case) and the track record of God - for me - is pretty neat.

For me, God can be good and yet sh*t still happens to me - because maybe God is way more complex than I want to admit. Plus my experience is not swayed by one tragedy in a hoarde of goodness - like how life is called life although we 'die' once in it.

Some of this may be a track record thing also.

OneSmallStep said...

The Rambling Taoist --

That would be a nice thing to see. "All praise to God for giving us a lesson we so obviously need since we lost!"

It would be consistent, at least.

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

**For me, God can be good and yet sh*t still happens to me - because maybe God is way more complex than I want to admit.**

I can understand that. I was just struck recently by a story where a woman won a case and praised God for His goodness, and how the connection between the two comes across as though God is good because He provided a good outcome -- and how often that impression is given.

Lorena said...

When you are a Christian and you go through problems, you have to deal with a couple of things on top of your pain.

(1)The Bible says that you have to rejoice always, and that when you pray you have to do with thanksgiving. So, the believer, must bend his/her knees, cry bitter tears of pain, and also say "Thank you Lord for this Tribulation. I rejoice that you are with me."

To me that felt as if I was being tortured and the perpetrator wanted me to love him and thank him.

(2) Christians are very good at reminding you that you are supposed to be joyful and thankful. There is no receiving pity from the pious believers. What you receive is a rebuke because you are not being joyful for the shit. You are not being thankful. In fact, maybe there is hidden sin in your life, and that's why this is happening.

Not only God has decided that you should walk through the valley of death, but your fellow believers won't give you a pad on the back or a listening ear.

Just remembering that stuff brings up the PTSD.

Mystical Seeker said...

God is often treated in the same manner when people are praising Him for a wonderful outcome. He is good because He made a good thing happen. Yet if something bad happens, we never see believers then conclude that God is bad. Rather, He's mysterious, or His ways aren't our ways. In this situation, God's goodness is a simple matter of fact, independent of the outcome.
There is definitely a double standard there. If you are going to praise God for outcomes you like, you should also praise God for outcomes you detest. Because if God is responsible for the outcome of events, and if God's goodness is indisputable, then everything that happens must be for the good. But then, that would imply, for example, that the Nazi Holocaust was God's will, wouldn't it.

This summarizes the whole problem with attributing to God what happens in the world, which in turn calls into question the whole doctrine of divine omnipotence. Of course, many believers in omnipotence claim that God isn't responsible for everything that happens, but instead just pulls a few strings here and there from time to time. But if that is the case, then anyone who says "God is good" in response to a specific event that they like really has no knowledge that God had anything whatsoever to do with that event in particular.

On the other hand, I can see value in praising the goodness of God in response to positive events, as long as the praise is not an assertion that God was specifically responsible for that event through an act of omnipotent intervention. One might not think that God pulls the strings of the natural world in order to make specific events come out in your favor, but still see God as a compassionate and virtuous presence who is in some way the source of the world, which includes those things in the world that we like. My guess is, however, that those who thank God after positive outcomes are not thinking of it that way, and are probably giving God direct interventionist responsibility for that specific outcome. I guess the free will argument pretty much gets thrown out the door then, in that case. (Those who use the free will argument to explain away the problem of theodicy never seem to explain how it is that an omnipotent and interventionist God does intervene from time to time.

OneSmallStep said...

Lorena,

And yet, there seem to be quite a few Psalms that contradicted the idea of being constantly joyful. Some of those Psalms really let God have it, in terms of the suffering they're enduring.

This is just speculation on my part, and I have a bias towards fundamentalism anyway, but one of the things I feel fundamentalism does is that it doesn't really care about other people. It treats them as two-dimensional objects, and ignores all the emotional aspect.

So if fundamentalism is insisting that the believer always be joyful no matter what, maybe that's to lighten the load on those practicing it. It take a lot less effort to interact with those who are joyful compared to those who are suffering.

OneSmallStep said...

Mystical,

**On the other hand, I can see value in praising the goodness of God in response to positive events, as long as the praise is not an assertion that God was specifically responsible for that event through an act of omnipotent intervention.**

Yes. One of those ideas that good things happen because God created people with good impulses, or something. God didn't directly make the good thing happen, but He put the possibility out there through what He created.

**(Those who use the free will argument to explain away the problem of theodicy never seem to explain how it is that an omnipotent and interventionist God does intervene from time to time.**

Especially if it causes someone to do something totally out of his/her character. Or even look at some of the prayers that might be out there -- God, please don't let him see me/God, please don't let him hurt me, and so forth. Once you are praying for God to stop someone from doing something, aren't you praying that God interferes with the other person's free will?

Lorena said...

You are right, the Christians I knew totally ignored the emotional aspect of a person. But I feel that it is not only the fundys. Like I and the immigrants I know here in Canada say, "The white people are like that."

At least here, it seems to be a malady the culture inherited from Christianity, or from the "dignified" Queen of England. Choose one.

You are right, also, in that they ignore the Bible passages regarding deep emotional displays. I never did notice that.

OneSmallStep said...

Lorena,

**You are right, the Christians I knew totally ignored the emotional aspect of a person.**

In my personal opinion, I think a lot of this can be traced back to a belief in hell. If you truly believe that every single person out there deserves nothing more than to be tormented for an eternity, then I think that would color how you'd interact with people on a day to day basis. You almost can't feel compassion for their situation, because they deserve it in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Does the whole world forget that there are two forces in the world - GOOD & EVIL? There is a battle raging - why do people continue to credit God for all the evil that goes on in the world & especially when things don't go "their way". Let's give credit where credit is due. satan is the master and coordinator of all evil... but his day will come. Quit blaming God for satan's handiwork.

OneSmallStep said...

Anon,

**God for all the evil that goes on in the world & especially when things don't go "their way".**

Your word choice here serves to greatly diminish the suffering that people go through. If someone gets raped and asks God why that happens, or holds God accountable for that evil, is she really just upset that things didn't go "her way?" If a man watches his entire family get murdered, and holds God accountable, can his agony really be reduced to "Oh, he just didn't get his own way."

Even if Satan is the master and coordinator of evil, you still run into the problem of God -- who is more powerful than Satan -- allowing Satan to engage in evil works.