God who is good does not overcome evil with evil; he powerfully overcomes evil with goodness that which conforms to love. If God overcomes evil with evil the lines between good and evil become blurred, and our ability to discern the two becomes impossible. We say that our God is good. If he is truly good, and he cannot deny himself, then he cannot do evil, and therefore must always use God’s own good, his very nature to overcome evil. To say that God ordains everything is to say that he ordains sin, and to say that he ordains sin is to say that God is sinful for he would be the author of sin. The two are incompatible. God cannot ordain everything, because he cannot ordain evil, because this would contradict his character. It seems to be natural to say that the raping of a little girl is evil, yet some say God’s ordaining of such a thing is not evil if it has a greater outcome, if it glorifies him. If you say that God’s glory is defined as recognizing his greatness and being praised for that, there are two problems with that. It is selfish, and personally I do not believe I am friends with a selfish God, and two, even if that is what God’s glory is all about (glory being a self glorifying thing) I would hope you do not think that God’s fame is completed through the act of ordaining any kind of evil let alone the raping of a little girl; simply because it goes against what seems to be our innate sense of morality distinguishing between good and evil. But one might say, “We cannot know what is good or evil, because we are totally depraved.” 7However, there is a problem with this response, if Genesis 1-3 is interpreted “literally.” For, is it not written that the man and woman ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and is it not recorded that God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil (emphasis mine)…?” For the ability to distinguish between good and evil came as a result of the fall, rather than it being lost in the fall; at least according to a literal/historical interpretation of Genesis 2-3.8
It would seem, at least from daily experience, that we have an innate sense of morality that can clearly judge, to some degree, something as evil or good. But where does this ability to distinguish between good and evil come from?9 I’m totally spit balling here but hear me out. In his book “On the Incarnation” Athanasius says a couple of things that may give us some sort of help. First he says that, “For God is good, or rather the source of all goodness…”, and then he says a bit later, “…evil is non-being, the good is being, since it has come into being from the existing God.” Since we ourselves our being, that which exists, might we be able to discern what is evil, or non-being, non existence, in relation to our own being or existence? Let me give an example that might help clarify what I’m getting at. I have heard that darkness doesn’t really exist it merely is the absence of light. And we know what darkness is (or what its not since it doesn’t actually exist) only in relation to light which is something that actually exists. In the same way maybe we can know what evil/non-existence is in relation to what is good or what actually exists that which is being.
However if we cannot at some level recognize what is evil and good, then in all practicalities this whole conversation is null and void. And so we again find ourselves with the problem of God creating evil, this problem, as far as I can see, only goes away if God does not determine all things. Furthermore to define God’s glory as self-glorying, self-seeking, seeking to make himself famous, to show everybody just how great he is, to receive the dignity, praise and worship that he deserves; this I think logically leads to a selfish God, and even more so if he ordains everything, including evil so that he can be recognized and receive his due honor. Similar to what a dictator or warlord may proclaim, “Look at how great and powerful I am!” Rather I think God’s Glory must be understood as self-giving, others empowering, something that always seeks the welfare of the other over and against God’s own welfare, it is always focused on the other and never focused on the self. This is the Glory we see displayed in Christ as he lay dying on a cross. In fact this is the Glory that Christ as God through the Incarnation shows us. Christ was, and is more concerned for the welfare of the world than for his own wellbeing.
But I think the common definition of God’s glory misses the whole point of Christianity; and this brings me to a quote from the great C.S. Lewis found in his book Mere Christianity, “We must not think Pride is something God forbids because He is offended at it, or that Humility is something He demands as due to His own dignity-as if God Himself was proud. He is not in the least worried about His dignity. The point is, He wants you to know Him: wants to give you Himself.” For the point of Christianity is that God wants to give himself to us that we may know him. Christianity is not about a God who does everything so he can get his, so he can be recognized and have his ego satisfied, (all of this sounds more like a depraved human10 than a Loving perfect God), rather it is about the preexistent God who is Love that came down to meet with humanity in the person of Jesus Christ not to demand his own dignity but to pour himself out on the cross, to take the rejection and hatred of the world upon himself so that we could have eternal life. Which Jesus defines as Knowing God.11 This to me sounds like a God who could cares less about his dignity, about himself, and cares infinity more about creation; God’s concern and focus is not inward upon the self but is outward towards the other. 12
I see rather that this self-seeking God is not our God. Yet because God is truly good; God does not seek honor and praise. We know that one who seeks their own honor are not worthy of it. But because God is not concerned for obtaining honor or fame he is truly good, and thus truly deserves all honor and praise. For a God who is truly great has no need to prove it. And I think this is exactly what we see in Jesus. A God who is willing to shed his own blood that we may have the choice to Know him in a deep, intimate, covenantal relationship. His glory I believe is his very essence, which is Love. When God seeks his own glory he’s seeking that people would be given his love, which begins with the choice to Know him, and this is not a self seeking glory. The most loving thing he can do is satisfy us with the only thing that can ever do that, and that is giving himself to us in relational intimacy.