“You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.” (Psalm 119:68)
The goodness of God has come under increasing scrutiny in our modern, secular age. Whilst many simply shrug their shoulders when it comes to the question of God, others of a more atheistic mindset will object that notions of God are tyrannical. To believe in God, they will object, is to place oneself under some sort of transcendental dictator. So it is that Christopher Hitchens published a book titled “God is not great”, which had the subtitle: “How Religion Poisons Everything”. I think it’s fair to say that he would have taken a dim view of any talk of the goodness of God!
And yet we do affirm that God is good. In fact, he is the measure by which all other goodness is to be judged. Is something good? Well, let’s see how it measures up to God. Is in accordance with his will or not? This is why the Psalmist asks God to “teach me your statutes”. To live in accordance with the commands of God is, by definition, to be good.
But what about Christopher Hitchens?
Problems arise when we begin to construct our own systems of morality and then assume God must think like us. We used to own a Golden Retriever, and his system of morality was based around having access to food at all times. He would sit by you as you ate, eyes fixed upon your fork, wondering why on earth that piece of chicken was headed into your mouth and not his.
Fortunately for his health, we didn’t think like him. Not all food was bound for his stomach, even if he thought that was not “good”. When children are vaccinated, they cry as the needle pricks the skin. From their point of view it is not “good”, but their parents have other standards of “good”.
It is only as we live in accordance with God’s statutes that we can be a reliable judge of “good”, and experience the fullness of goodness. Let God, not Christopher Hitchens or anyone else, be the arbiter of “good”