Omni-Benevolence part 1
In my theology classes I do not remember talking about Omni-Benevolence. There was always the traditional Al powerful, All-knowing and Present everywhere God but not the specific phrase Omni-Benevolence. Of course “God is love” was mentioned all the time and emphasized as the reason behind ALL of Gods actions as seen in the Bible. I just find it curious an “ALL GOOD GOD” did not accompany the three traditional Omnis.
Omni-Benevolence is the most important of the Omnis. In fact it is the one major revelation of God that is not automatically apparent when viewing the natural world which could account for “Omni-Benevolence” not being accounted among the Omnis. Also in our need to anthropomorphize God an ALL good supreme being is a difficult concept to grasp since we rarely see in man or nature examples of this quality. Nature can be extremely cruel, unforgiving, impersonal and destructive. And that is just nature. Human nature can take on such a turn of evil upon any slight or offense real or imagined. The endless struggle for sustenance and the watching out for predators both animal and human plus random acts of unprovoked violence often leaves people so afraid they won’t leave their own homes. Life does not appear to be ‘good’ ALL the time.
If there was any quality of God that must be ‘revealed’ to us it is that God is good. An all knowing, all powerful and all present God who is also good and loving and kind ALL the time is really counterintuitive. In scripture we often find an all powerful God being the instigator of many events we consider not good at best and when looked at thru modern eyes downright evil.
The first mention of ‘goodness’ being associated with God found in the Bible is in Genesis when God finished creating the world he called it good. This linking the works of God to goodness was part of the oral traditions of the Hebrew people probably long before it was written in the middle 5th century BCE. It appears though this goodness was always provisional based upon the behavior of His chosen people. They had to be commanded to love their God and to treat others as best they could. Commanding obedience or else sets up a relationship of fear not of love. Obviously submitting obedience to a good ruler is much better than a murderous dictator however the idea we will be punished for not submitting rankles in the hearts of people who love freewill and are naturally prone to want to live as they please. Hence all the ups and downs of the Hebrews described in the Jewish scriptures as the result of the conflict between a Good God who orders subservience and people who exercise their freedom of choice.
This ‘good world’ created by God was often seen as the very instrument God would use to punish disobedience making God seem not so good at all.
Gods commands to love him first and completely and to treat our neighbors like we would want to be treated is of course for our own well being as well as our neighbors if followed as a rule of life would indeed lead to a very harmonious society.
All I’m trying to point out here is we do not have any idea what an all good being is. We are cemented in the world of duality a world of good and evil. This was the lie of the serpent that we would be like God if we came to know both good and evil. Believing that God “knows” evil would not make him an ALL good God. In my view real knowledge and being are the same thing. In God there is no knowing about like we humans know about many evil things but are not evil ourselves. We are kinda of all mixed up about the whole good and evil conundrum, sometimes showing great acts of both goodness and evil. Many heroes in our mythologies and current dramas are the ones who battle their own evil tendencies and once conquered become the savior of the day. This is not God though. An ALL good God has no evil tendencies to conquer. God does not know evil nor does he know about evil. Evil could never enter his mind.
This knowing that I’m talking about is like we know how to walk. We are walking beings. It is our identity as humans. We rarely think about it unless something happens which interferes with this aspect of out being. Even learning how to walk would not happen if it weren’t a part of out genetic inheritance. Having two legs is part of the definition of humanness.
God is good and does not know evil. God was good before creation. Creation comes out of his goodness. God never changes and so would not change after humans decided to not follow his injunctions. God had no reason to be angry before creation and we have not made him angry after creation. It is we who are trapped in the world of duality and believing we are like God in knowing both good and evil. This is not the truth.
Here is an interesting quote from the 7th century CE saint Isaac of Nineveh; “A handful of sand, thrown into the sea, is what sinning is, when compared to God’s Providence and mercy. Just like an abundant source of water is not impeded by a handful of dust, so is the Creator’s mercy not defeated by the sins of His creations.”
More on the Omni-Benevolence of God later.
Have a blessed day everyone.