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April 20, 2013 / thatsarahdean

Nice – the blandest word in the English language.

First published in Reform Magazine, May 2013. 

My infant teacher Mrs Thompson banned the use of the word nice in her classroom. By forbidding one of the only positive adjectives her class of six year olds knew, we were forced to expand our vocabularies. From that point on kittens were “adorable”, cake was “delectable”, and dinner ladies were treated to some pretty Jane Austen sounding exchanges between under eights in the playground – ‘Why are you crying?’ ‘Because Kelly-Ann wasn’t being very genial to me.’

Thirty years later the legacy of Mrs Thompson’s prohibition of this over-used four letter word is that I still regard using nice as lazy. There are plenty of other more specific adjectives you can use before having to resort to the positive but ultimately unrevealing descriptor of ‘nice’.

I would go as far as to say that the only times it is really appropriate to use nice on it’s own would be when offering someone “a nice cup of tea” or complimenting their body odour – “you smell nice,” And at a push any combination of the two – e.g. “This cup of tea smells nice” Or “Your body odour smells of Earl Grey. Nice!”

Given my 30 year prejudice against the blandest word in the English language, can you guess what my answer is to the question is God nice?  My answer is NO! GOD ISNT NICE! Try a bit harder! This is God we’re talking about, the creator of heaven and earth. He sent his son..to die….for us. Nice doesn’t even cut it! And put Roget’s Thesaurus down, because God isn’t genial, or amiable or pleasant or peachy even.

Trying to answer the question, Is God nice highlights the key problem theologians and preachers have struggled with for years – applying a human character trait to God is both inadequate and pointless. It tells us in the Bible that the mind of God is unknowable and as the writer Revd David Bryant points out we are on dangerous ground if we try to apply character traits and personality onto God – “Faith is not the progressive unearthing of God’s nature but a recognition that he/she is fundamentally unknowable.”*

Whilst we can’t and shouldn’t try to know the mind of God, we do know about God’s deeds, and these are the evidence for the answer to the question ‘Is God nice?’ Yes God is nice, because God’s deeds in the lives of others, in our own lives and recorded in the Bible demonstrate time and again God being nice to disobedient humans. Or as Mrs Thompson would prefer me to phrase it – demonstrate time and again God being benevolent, considerate and generous to disobedient humans.

* ”God is unknowable – so stop looking for him – and you will find faith” – David Bryant, Comment is Free, The Guardian, 8 Jan 2013

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