The church has at times struggled with the Sovereignty of God and His goodness. Marcion was an early church trouble maker who eventually was “excommunicated by his own father.” He was trained by Gnostics but developed his own dualism. Not a dualism confined to matter and spirit – but one that extended to God himself. God was both evil and good. For Marcion, and many today for that matter, the God in the OT was evil and arbitrary – and only in Christ (who was God but not really man according to Marcion) was God good.
Any student of the Bible will understand that in isolation texts can be found that appear to bolster Marcion’s complaint. 1 Samuel 3:14 is possibly such a text. God swears that the house of Eli shall not be atoned for and Eli’s response is “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.” (1 Sam 3:18). Much like David’s resolve in 2 Sam 15:26 when he fled from Jerusalem because of Absalom’s revolt.
Are these indicating that God is arbitrary? Do we serve a God that is powerful but not good?
The answer to these difficult questions is not in mystery or paradox. Nor is it in a false duality like Marcion imagined. No the answer is history. Yes, “His-story”!
omnipotent meets omnibenevolent
Philosophers have long cringed over this paring. The idea is that if, as St. Augustine says, “He is called omnipotent on account of His doing what He wills” and Human history is full of tragedy and suffering, then God must will/want bad things and not be all good. However, this assumes that omnibevenolence (or “all goodness”) must show itself according to our own paradigms. Perhaps Augustine, David and even Eli were on to something when they said – “let God do as he pleases”?
And what is it that God pleases to do?
Well here is where history comes in. History is the volume of God’s interaction with man. This omnipotent God has not only condescended to His creation, but has expressly shared himself in the most intimate way with us. What seemed good to God was to sacrifice all that he had for man’s sake. What seemed good to God was to anchor all of history to that event where the Father would send the Son to live a perfect life for us; where the Son would sacrifice himself completely; and the Spirit would bring life to us and live in us.
Have you ever pondered the depth of God’s love and goodness in that he uses all his power – for us! His omnipotence is always executed in omnibenevolence. Now consider again that well tread verse by Paul Rom 8:28 with this light – “for the called, God’s working of all things is together all good!”