Buckley’s Cough Syrup was first marketed in Toronto in 1920 and quickly became known for its bad taste and great effectiveness. Indeed, Buckley’s website has a page on the history of the concoction appropriately titled “A History of Bad Taste.” It has proven to be a brilliant marketing strategy, for it seems natural to associate good medicine with bad taste.
Some Christians seem to think about God in similar terms. Just as we should expect good medicine to taste bad, so we should expect a good God to present badly. How can God command genocide on entire populations? How can God damn people in conditions of maximal torture forever? How can God elect only to redeem a subset of his population? Rather than attempt to alleviate this bitter brew with a touch of corn syrup, some Christians embrace the bad taste as a sign of theological health and authenticity. The worse the flavor, the more likely that it is indeed God of whom we speak rather than a mere projection of human wishes.
Here’s the problem. In recent years Buckley’s has begun marketing cough syrups which they tout as equally effective even as they are “great-tasting”. It would seem that good medicine doesn’t really require a bad taste after all. Must good theology be bitter, or might it also be sweet?