Is Everything God Made “Good”?

IRSHAD MANJI

This post is prompted by my having recently seen the phrase “Everything God creates is good” in a highly misleading way.  I first saw it in a book entitled The Trouble with Islam Today, written by Irshad Manji, who is a practicing Muslim who also happens to be a lesbian. In her book she writes:

How can the Koran at once denounce homosexuality and declare that Allah “makes excellent everything He creates”? [1] 

She justifies the claim with this verse from the Koran: 

“Who made everything He has created good, and He began the creation of man from clay.” (As-Sajdah 32:7)

She puts forward the same logic in an interview with Al-Arabiya.net.  She says:

Now to the really controversial part: lesbian. I could have been dishonest and hidden that part of myself. But as a creature of Allah, I decided it is better to pay tribute to God’s wisdom. I acknowledge that the Quran contains passages implying that homosexuality cannot be tolerated. It also contains passages implying that Allah knows what He is doing when he designs the world’s breathtaking diversity. In addition to the verse that says, “God makes excellent everything He creates,” there are other verses that say “God creates whom He will” and that nothing God creates is “in vain.” How do my critics reconcile those statements with their utter condemnation of homosexuals?[2]

So, basically, the argument is an apologetic for the normativity of homosexuality; God made me this way, and everthing God makes is good, so therefore, homosexuality is morally justifiable.

CHRISTIANS TOO

It should be noted that not all who espouse this logic are Muslim.  I know some practicing gays who are a part of the Christian church who also employ the same kind of argument to state their approval of homosexual practice.  While I haven’t engaged them over the issue directly I would suppose they might refer to Genesis 1 where it says: “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (1:31).  Ms. Manji is incredibly popular and it is likely that some of my friends gathered the argument from her and “Christianized” the major points. 

Let me make a quick parenthesis on the subject of Ms. Manji.  She has tremendous influence; just click here and browse around.  She has created a monumental amount of controversy in the Muslim community.  But her ideas have also found a massive amount of air-time and support in circles in the USA.  She was the winner of Oprah Winfrey’s first “Chutzpah Award,” and PBS did a documentary on her entitled “Faith without Fear.”  She also does a column for the Globe and Mail entitled “A cosmopolitan perspective from a unique Canadian voice” and is Professor of Leadership at New York University.  Her more recent book The Trouble with Islam Today: A Wake-Up Call for Honesty and Change (2011), has already been published in 31 different languages. 

All that to say, it is likely that she has been one of the main sources for this argument that has now found popular support even in some Christian circles.

The fact that Christians make this argument to me is unsettling.  All things Muslims say about religion and God are not totally incompatible with Christian belief and practice.   However, on this topic we must be extremely cautious about drawing tight connections.  There are various theological categories that have bearing on this subject like, creation, sin, the Fall of mankind, human nature, good and evil, that are not equal in Christianity and Islam.  Not by a long shot.  Here’s a small sample of one difference from Colin Chapman’s book Cross and Crescent:

If Christians trace the problem of human nature back to the fall of Adam and the inherent sinfulness of human nature, Muslims believe that we take an unnecessarily serious view of the human condition.  They do not see Adam’s sin as a “fall” affecting the whole human race but rather believe that every person starts life completely innocent before God.[3]

The difference may seem small, but it is actually quite large.  In fact, I think that Muslims would have a harder time refuting Manji’s argument given their views on sin and the innocence of man.  However, as we will see in a moment, the Christian faith does not run into the same conundrum. All that to say, I think my Christian friends that push this argument need to be very careful—are they advocating a view of sin and human nature that their own religion doesn’t embrace? 

CRITIQUING THE ARGUMENT

Disregarding all the technical difference for a moment, let’s look at the core of the argument.  

The logic goes something like this.

(1)   Everything God creates he makes “good”

(2)   There are homosexual people in the world

(3)   Homosexuals were created by God

(4)   Therefore homosexuality is “good”

There have been a whole host of responses to Manji’s ideas, many from the Muslim community.  One individual seems to have devoted himself almost entirely to refuting her ideas, titling his website: “Silence the false propaganda of Irshad Manji.”  Here’s an example of one of his articles.

Below I jotted a few of my own thoughts on the issue.  All of them are related.  I openly recognize that these will simply not satisfy many of my friends (especially my homosexual ones).  But consider it food for thought:

(1)   Remember the Fall.  The first premise above is flawed because it disregards the Fall in Genesis 3.  The Fall brought a curse upon the world which resulted in death, brokenness, and decay, all of which effect every single aspect of the entire cosmos.  Nothing is left untouched by this corruption.  Everything that existed before and after the Fall, therefore, was no longer “good” in the sense spoken of in Genesis 1:31.  To imply that it was simply ignores the curse which all of us experience each and every day of our lives.  

(2)   Define “good.”  The first premise is flawed in another sense as well in that it suggests that everything that God creates now after the Fall is totally good in every way.  If God is the maker and sustainer of all things (Rom. 11:33-36; Heb. 1:3) how do we rationalize the existence of evil?  To simply say that something is good because it exists and was created by a good God is erroneous.  Was Hitler good?  Is torture good?  Both are allowed and sustained and even created in a sense by God, but does that make them “good” in the sense that folk who use this argument for homosexuality seem to imply?  Of course not.  Everything God does is good in the sense that it is always right and stems from a totally pure motive and design.  God cannot create anything that for Him is evil.  However, the outworking of what He creates may involve much objective evil for us.  The crucifixion of the perfectly blameless Son of God is the clearest example of this.  Was it evil for God to have Jesus put to death—No.  Was it evil for us to put Him on the cross—yes.  Therefore we must be more careful about defining “good” in a way that would end up justifying the most horrific kinds of behavior by suggesting that whatever God allows is “good.”  This confuses what theologians have called God’s will of decree and his will of command.  (Click here for more on this.)

(3)   What becomes of sin?  By the logic of the argument above, sin is annihilated.  God’s goodness and God’s creation somehow combine to equal the goodness of everything!  But this is absurd.  Not only are all things ontologically flawed, but all people are morally flawed too.  (1) Ontological flaws: Not everyone is born with a “good” body.  Would we say that paraplegics have “good” bodies?  To say so implies that there is no problem with their body’s functionality; that we can’t conceive of their body being any better.  Would you say your new, pre-ordered Jeep Cherokee was “good” if it came off the assembly line with no drive train or transmission?  And the same is true of the rest of the created world too (Rom. 8:18-25).  When a tornado rips apart a hospital in Kansas you know something is not right with the world…  (2) Moral flaws: There is a way people “ought” to act.  Any action (or thought, or omission of either) that contradicts God’s intended design (how things “ought” to be) is sinful.  Scripture clearly teaches that everybody since Genesis 3 has failed to do all that they “ought” to do (or not to do) (Ps. 130:3; Rom. 3:10-18, 23).  It also teaches that without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, every action of every human is rooted in sin; in other we cannot do the right thing apart from God’s work in our hearts (Ps. 119:35; Jn. 3:3-8; Eph. 2:1-2; Heb. 11:6).  These teachings are at the core of the Christian faith.  The logic of this argument for the “goodness” of homosexuality implies a denial of core Christian teaching.


[1] The Trouble With Islam: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2005), 25.

[2] See https://www.irshadmanji.com/sites/default/files/news/IM_AL-ARABIYAinterview_070911.html.  In this same interview, Irshad advocates for pluralism too.  She says:

“It seems to me that no matter how you slice it, Muslims who wish to live “by the book” have no choice but to make choices about what to emphasize and what do downplay. Selectiveness is inevitable. I recognize my own selectiveness, but at least I am honest enough to admit it.

And so I select – I choose – to see the bigger point that the Quran makes about diversity: ‘If God had pleased, he would have made you all one people. But he has done otherwise, that he might try you in what he has given to you.’ In my view, what a passage like this shows is not just the virtue of tolerating difference. It shows that pluralism is both divine and deliberate. If that is a far-fetched interpretation, then it is a mistake for which I shall pay on the Day of Judgment.”

[3] Cross and Crescent: Responding to the Challenge of Islam (Downers Grover: IVP, 2003), 257.

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