When we speak our words paint a picture, something that tries to define truth. The sounds that create our spoken sentences are like a pencil marking a blank canvas, which is why we must always speak carefully because we are trying to communicate truth. How much more infinitely important is it then when we speak about the ultimate truth – God. When we are using our words to paint, we must be wary of ruining the mystery of the masterpiece and stand confidently in the truth that we can only grasp a speck of the depth of Gods Nature. We are like children standing unaccompanied before the rarest of Picasso with a beauty our eyes have never seen before, beyond the comprehension of our minds. We can take a pencil and start to trace onto a page some interpretation of the beauty before us, yet a point in time will come when either out of frustration or awe that we stop and settle with the reality that there is mystery in the beauty that does not take away from it but completes it. We could finish our drawing of the painting and show it to others, trying to use it to declare something of the majesty of the original, but we know it would never compare because the mystery is beyond words, beyond describing: It is the same when we speak of the things of God and with good intent try to simplify the depths of Gods nature and the mystery that holds it up by adding on to it by saying something like: ‘God is in a good mood.’ I can tell you a lot about God, that he is sovereign, merciful, loving, strong, powerful, wrathful and just. I can also tell you that God is not weak, insecure, limited in any way, fearful, bad, envious, desiring anything and he has no moods. Let us consider a few things: The limits of human language when talking about the truths of God; the importance of maintaining the mystery within our language when we talk about God; how society understands good and a proper biblical understanding of ‘good’ is in relation to God. Once we frame the consider, we can be confident in the simple truth – if God had moods, he would not be worthy of our praise.
The limits of Language
When we speak we paint. When a friend starts to describe someone you begin to build somewhere in the mind an image of what you perceive they look like based on the words being used to describe. Humanity is a pictorial, so often it is the story full of detail that captures our minds rather than the lifeless retelling of an event where our mind either wonders to somewhere far off with more colour. Language is a powerful image-bearing tool, which is why we are both captured by people who use it well and wary of people who overdo it. The words we use describe the reality we are trying to communicate, but like everything language has a limit and when we reach that point we can feel the frustration of being unable to explain, especially within the realms of theology – The things of God. This is why there is a considerable difference in the truths of saying ‘God is Good’ and ‘God is in a good mood.’
Christianity is a faith that makes claims about truth in some many different spheres: creation, the nature of life, the nature of the Creator. Nevertheless, within the fullness of our truths, there is a realm of mystery because historically the greatest Christian minds have accepted the limits of our thinking and as a result our everyday language. Yahweh could not be God if his every detail could be described and understood. This is why when we as Christians consider complex issues like the trinity, salvation, justification, sanctification, the hypostatic union and many others, we can describe them without fully explaining them. We can speak about them within and maintain the mystery of their depths. Consider the trinity. I can say ‘God is three in one,’ ‘Each person within the Godhead is fully Divine’ and ‘God is one’. When we speak of the Trinity in this way we somehow grasp certain realities of the truth yet still protect the mystery of the Doctrine. Nevertheless, if we are not careful when we think and speak of the trinity, our language can soon distort the monotheistic nature of God and reduce the Trinitarian union to Tritheism (the teaching that the Godhead is three separate but equal Godhead who exists together) teaching which can appear almost identical to Trinitarian thinking. Teaching that when studied in-depth, amounts to heresy and destroys how we understand the very nature of God and in turns affects every area of Christian Doctrine and this is one example of language and the dangerous effects it can have.
The language of Good
Fundamental to the Christian worldview is the truth that God is Good, meaning that his every action, deed or thought is good, loving, kind and absent of malice. His goodness is essential to who he is, and is the very reason we trust him and why he is worthy of our praise. One danger in describing God as ‘Good’ is a misunderstanding of the word.
How we define something is often based on the perspective of which we are looking at it. Consider this; two people are at a betting shop on a particular day, they both come in and place money on the same race but on two different horses, one wins and doubles his bet while the other loses it all. Both leave the shop with a different perspective on the day; the winner leaves thinking he has had a ‘good’ day because his assessment is based on the positive impact on himself, the other leaves frustrated because of the negative impact. There are so many different ways to define good; for some, it might be a measurement of time; if the last ‘while’ have been successful then things are good, contrariwise. if the last ‘while’ has seemed bad then things are not good even if the negative experience is held against a bigger scale. Other ways people measure ‘goodness’ might be niceness, political correctness, spirituality, a non-judgmental tolerance of sin and on and on you go.
When we speak of good it can mean so many different things to so many different people – even within the church. That is why It is vital as Christians that when we speak about the goodness of God we are all speaking from the same page, with the same understanding of an important word. Even within the bible the English ‘good’ can have many different meanings, but when we speak about it in relation God there is one meaning, because If we read the bible properly, we come to realise that how we understand the goodness of God is in relation to his plan of Salvation for mankind. We know God is good in relation to us because he offers Grace and Mercy.
The reason that all things exist for God and of God is to bring God all that is due to him, not because God is self-obsessed but because God is the best option available to man. God is good and this is shown from the first chapters of Genesis when Jesus hung on the cross and now in the every-day when Christians live out a Gospel life through the power of the Holy Spirit. Striving to become more like Jesus. Every act of God as seen in Scripture reveals something more of his character and nature – his goodness. Every act of intervention in the story of mankind reveals something more of the goodness of God. From the tree of good-and-evil in the Garden of Eden to the giving of the law, to the Cross and the sending of the Holy Spirit – it is all for one purpose, his Glory and reveals one thing: his goodness.
So when the bible speaks about the goodness of God:
- The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” -Psalm 145:9
- “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” – Psalm 100:5
- “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” -James 1:17
- “And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant.” -2 Samuel 7:28
- “So that we may boldly say, The Lord [is] my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” -Hebrews 13:6
We have to come at it from a proper understanding, not with our preconceptions of what good is to us, because then we are able to grasp something of the beauty of God, and we don’t try to add in order to better explain it because as we have seen previously it can damage the very nature of how we understand God.
God is simply Good
The reason God can never be in a good mood, is not that he is incapable of good, it’s that he is incapable of having a mood: ‘Mood’ means ‘a temporary state of mind or feeling.’ Mood as a concept, when applied to God, is limiting and dangerous because it in some way implies that God’s goodness may someday know an end, even if God’s good mood is eternal for us, to use such language suggests that someday God may no longer be in such a mood and gives authority to the idea that God’s goodness can in some way be influenced by circumstance or environment – because that would be the only way his mood would change.
So when we speak of God’s goodness which is every ounce of his essence and, in relation to us, his plan of salvation even with the right intentions let us not add to it because in doing so we limit his goodness; apply human confusion to a Godly attribute; and create a God who is in some way limited and that is not my God