November 19, 2011

Is God Good? Is God Angry? part 1

Posted in Reading List, Spiritual Life tagged , , , at 10:58 am by Mo Dardinger

When someone who claims to know God well misrepresents Him, it’s annoying. Just as if he were misrepresenting your best friend or your beloved husband. It makes you want to chuck his book out the window rather than read on.

At my small group, we are now studying The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith, ©2009. This week we’re reading Chapter 2, “God Is Good.” If we hadn’t studied it before, I would at this point think the author had some serious problems with understanding both God and the Bible. And I’d likely quit reading it and turn to reading a different, more profitable book.

Since I’m still a bit under the weather, I’m going to just do the easy thing here and go through the chapter in the order it was written to discuss the difficulties that I find in it. If this gets to be too long, then it will become a series of posts rather than one humongous blogpost.

The author and his wife experienced great sadness when they learned that their second child, a girl, would probably die at birth. He says, “During that time both my wife and I felt as if we had been kicked in the stomach — repeatedly.” A perfectly understandable reaction to a situation that no one would have wished on them.

Then along comes this fellow — a pastor, the author claims, though this is scarcely believable — who takes him out to lunch. He makes a truly vile, thoroughly unchristian assertion: either Jim or his wife must have sinned or their daughter would not have a chromosomal disorder. And the author entertained this thought! For a while, James Bryan Smith actually listened to this “pastor.” Scripture does not back up this claim. Science does not back up this claim. It is made of whole cloth.

The little girl lived for two years. There were other believers who said odd things, too, during that time and after her death. I suspect that we all can relate to how hard it is to find something positive or uplifting to say to grieving parents. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing at all.

The statements that wounded Jim and his wife were these:

  • It’s okay, honey, you can have another child.
  • Sometimes children are too beautiful for this earth.
  • I guess God just wanted her in heaven more than he wanted her here.
  • Well, I am sure the Lord had a reason for this.

The reasons that the first statement could be wounding or offensive seem obvious. The second and third are marginal. But the reason anyone would take offense at the fourth statement is obscure. In fact, later on in the chapter, the author himself makes the fourth claim (just as an expanded version of the thought).

Is this not the very same thing? James Bryan Smith imagines an ideal pastor saying to him, “One day you will fully understand why God allowed your daughter to be born with a birth defect and why she died young, and I believe that when you understand why, you will see that God was not only just, but good.” In other words, “Well, I am sure the Lord had a reason for this.” He is in charge, He is good, and He knows exactly what He’s doing. Exactly, down to the last detail.

The rest of Chapter 2, which largely discusses whether God is angry, will wait for a later post. This is enough to cover for now. God is, indeed, good, though His goodness and His overall purpose for what He allows or causes is often veiled.