The Goodness
of God

Truth, beauty, and goodness are the three cardinal, objective, universal values in the universe. As philosopher Peter Kreeft explains, these “are three things that will never die.”1 “These,” he contends, are the three things we all need, and need absolutely, and know we need, and know we need absolutely. Our minds want not only some truth and some falsehood, but all truth, without limit. Our wills want not only some good and some evil, but all good, without limit. Our desires, imaginations, feelings or hearts want not just some beauty and some ugliness, but all beauty, without limit.”2

The modern world, however, has sought to escape from the truth, from goodness, and from beauty. Having denied objective reality, many have embraced postmodernism, relativism, and moral subjectivism and, therefore, if they are logical, “must regard all sentiments as equally non-rational, as mere mists between us and the real objects.”3 In other words, are values such as goodness, truth, and beauty merely in the mind of the beholder? C.S. Lewis forcefully argues that “if nothing is obligatory for its own sake, nothing is obligatory at all.”4 Theologian Carl F.H. Henry captured the zeitgeist (spirit) of the age when he wrote: “Final truth, changeless good, and the one true and living God are by default largely programmed out of the real world.”5 The consequences are severe.

More is sacrificed by defecting from the truth of revelation than simply the truth about God and man and the world; loss of the truth and Word of God plunges into darkness the very truth of truth, the meaning of meaning, and even the significance of language. To sever the concerns of reason and life from the revelation of God as the final ground and source of truth and the good accommodates and accelerates the contemporary drift to nihilism.”6 

On the other hand, those who truly know God through Jesus Christ, clearly see His infinite goodness – and regularly give thanks. They embrace the truth of His goodness as reflected in the beloved Psalm 23 and make His promise their own: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (23:6). They are keenly aware that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Jas. 1:17), and refuse to offer glory to another. And, so, it should not surprise any believer to learn that every man, woman, and child is invited to “taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps. 34:8b). All of our longings are fulfilled in Him. Augustine understood this truth when he wrote his Confessions: “Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”7

The following definitions by various leaders in Christ’s church are provided to deepen your appreciation for God’s goodness. As Peter Kreeft reminds us, “When we see the face of God, we will know that we have always known it.”8 

Wilhelmus á Brakel: “The goodness of God is the loveliness, benign character, sweetness, friendliness, kindness, and generosity of God.”9 

Stephen Charnock: “Pure and perfect goodness is only the royal prerogative of God; goodness is a choice perfection of the Divine nature. This is the true and genuine character of God; he is good, he is goodness, good in himself, good in his essence, good in the highest degree, possessing whatsoever is comely, excellent, desirable; the highest good, because first good: whatsoever is perfect goodness, is God; whatsoever is truly goodness in any creature, is a resemblance of God.”10

John M. Frame: “In a broad sense, goodness is conduct (by man or by God himself) that measures up to God’s standards (e.g., Gen. 3:5; Lev. 5:4; Num. 24:13; Rom. 2:10; 3:12). As such, it is more or less synonymous with righteousness….Goodness is, first of all, God’s own character. It is an attribute of God himself.”11 

R.C. Sproul: “God’s goodness refers both to His character and His behavior. His actions proceed from and flow out of His being. He acts according to what He is. Just as a corrupt tree cannot bear incorrupt fruit, neither can an incorrupt God produce corrupt fruit.”12

J.I. Packer: “God’s generosity in bestowing natural blessings is acclaimed in Psalm 145: ‘The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made….The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing’ (vss. 9,15,16; cf. Acts 14:17). The psalmist’s point is that, since God controls all that happens in His world, every meal, every pleasure, every possession, every bit of sun, every night’s sleep, every moment of health and safety, everything else that sustains and enriches life, is a divine gift. And how abundant these gifts are! ‘Count your blessings, name them one by one,’ urges the children’s chorus, and anyone who seriously begins to list his natural blessings alone will soon feel the force of the next line – ‘and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.’ But the mercies of God on the natural level, however abundant, are overshadowed by the greater mercies of spiritual redemption. When the singers of Israel summoned the people to give thanks to God because ‘he is good: for his mercy endures forever,’ it was usually of redemptive mercies that they were thinking…”13

Thomas Manton: “He is originally good, good of Himself, which nothing else is; for all creatures are good only by participation and communication from God. He is essentially good; not only good, but goodness itself: the creature’s good is a superadded quality; in God it is His essence. He is infinitely good; the creature’s good is but a drop, but in God there is an infinite ocean or gathering together of good. He is eternally and immutably good, for He cannot be less good than He is; as there can be no addition made to Him, so no subtraction from Him.”14

By: John Musselman

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1 Peter Kreeft, “Lewis’ Philosophy of Truth, Goodness and Beauty,” in C.S. Lewis as Philosopher, eds. David
   Baggett, Gary R. Habermas, and Jerry Walls (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 23.

2 Ibid.

3 C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1965), 31.

4 Ibid., 53.

5 Carl F.H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority, in 6 vols. (Waco, TX: Word Books, Publisher, 1976), I:19.

6 Ibid., I:29.

7 Philip Schaff, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, in 14 vols, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979), Vol. 1, Book 1, Chapter 1, The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustine, 45.

8 Peter Kreeft, Lewis as Philosopher, 29.

9 Wilhelmus á Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, trans. Bartel Elshout, 4 vols. (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications,1995, I:122.

10 Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, 2 vols. in 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: BakerBooks, 1996), II:214.

11 John Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013), 234.

12 R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992), 49.

13 J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 147.

14 Thomas Manton, as cited by A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God (Pensacola, FL: Chapel Library, 1993), Kindle eBook, 63 of 115.