On the Incarnation of the Word 6 – God’s Goodness

God’s goodness is the phrase I hear echoing in this chapter of Athanasius’ treatise.

For it were not worthy of God’s goodness that the things He had made should waste away, because of the deceit practised on men by the devil. Especially it was unseemly to the last degree that God’s handicraft among men should be done away, either because of their own carelessness, or because of the deceitfulness of evil spirits.

I wonder at the strength of the text in the original that led this translator to the awkward phrase, unseemly to the last degree. I sense the strand of the idea that true goodness compels action on behalf of others. Athanasius continues in this vein.

So, as the rational creatures were wasting and such works in course of ruin, what was God in His goodness to do? Suffer corruption to prevail against them and death to hold them fast? And where were the profit of their having been made, to begin with? For better were they not made, than once made, left to neglect and ruin. For neglect reveals weakness, and not goodness on God’s part—if, that is, He allows His own work to be ruined when once He had made it—more so than if He had never made man at all. For if He had not made them, none could impute weakness; but once He had made them, and created them out of nothing, it were most monstrous for the work to be ruined, and that before the eyes of the Maker. It was, then, out of the question to leave men to the current of corruption; because this would be unseemly, and unworthy of God’s goodness.

Our God is good. We say it, but then we often describe God in ways that make him seem something other than good. I think we often cannot grasp what it means to be unfailingly good. We chase after angry or neglectful gods for we understand those gods. We are often angry. We are often neglectful. But the Christian points to Christ as the fullness of the revelation of the true God who is not angry, who is not capricious, who is unswervingly faithful, and who is unfailingly good. This is the God who begrudge any of his creation, the just or the unjust, existence. This is the God who saves.

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