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Divine Goodness


That God is good sounds like a pretty uncontroversial claim; Godís goodness, surely, is agreed upon by all theists. Godís goodness, it seems, is entailed by his perfection. It is also an important reason why God is worthy of worship. Precisely what Godís goodness consists in, though, is a matter of some debate.

God Meets the Standard of Goodness

Some theists are happy to say that Godís goodness is a simple matter, that there is a standard of goodness that God meets and that he is therefore good. Others, though, find Godís goodness more problematic. The difficulty is that God is often seen as a moral authority, not just as someone who meets the standard of moral goodness but as one who is able to define what goodness is. This, though, makes it difficult to see how God can be good in any significant sense.

God is the Standard of Goodness

If, as this view suggests, God is the author of morality, then explaining Godís goodness becomes difficult. If God is himself the standard of goodness, then is an empty truism that he is good. If God is the standard of goodness, then no matter how he is he will meet the standard of goodness: himself. If God were a liar, a cheat, and a thief, then lying, cheating, and stealing would be good, and so God the lying, cheating thief would be good. Goodness, on this view, is stripped of all of its significance. Godís goodness, though, as has been said, is supposed to be a reason to worship him. This account of his goodness, therefore, cannot be correct.

God is not Morally Good

Though it may seem uncontroversial to say that God is good, some theists (Brian Davies, for example) have responded to the above by denying that Godís goodness is moral goodness. Moral goodness involves doing oneís duty, doing what one ought to do. God, though, being sovereign, has no duties, and so it makes no sense to talk of him fulfilling his duties. Godís goodness, therefore, cannot be moral goodness; God must be an amoral being.



Is God Good?
Can denying Godís moral goodness help the theist to evade the problem of evil?