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God Is Great

‘God is great, God is good, now we thank him for our food. ’ This simple prayer reflects twin commitments in Christian belief to God’s greatness and God’s goodness. Yet Christian theodicies have often averred to God’s greatness to the detriment of his goodness.

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Let us interpret God’s greatness in a manner other than power. Indeed, let us consider God’s greatness, as the medievals understood God’s goodness, in terms of being: goodness and being are interchangeable; 1God is the most real being; hence, God is the greatest being. God is great.

Let us interpret God’s goodness in a manner analogous to human goodness. I take God’s goodness as analogous primarily to the parent-child relationship; God is good, according to this analogy, as a father or mother is to his or her children. 2Caring for one’s children is a paradigm metaphor in Scripture for God’s carefor his creatures. God is good. The purpose of this essay is to explore the ramifications of these two views for the problem of evil and especially for the problem of hell. Judgements typically viewed hell as an eternal torture chamber perhaps with God himself as the torturer.

I shall expound both views of divine goodness, present some arguments in their defense, and then locate them within the context of a Theodoric of human suffering. I shall argue that neither is singly adequate as an understanding of the divine nature; but, if both are maintained, a trilemma arises for the traditional doctrine of the eternal punishment of the damned. That is, I shall argue that one can hold the following three views only on pain of inconsistency: 1. God is great. 2. God is good. 3. There is a hell (an eternal torture chamber).