What does the “Goodness of God” Mean?

Romans 2:4 says that people repent because of the goodness of God. To not repent, to continue on your own way, is to despise the riches of God’s goodness.

Goodness means, according to Thayer’s Definitions, “moral goodness, integrity, benignity, kindness.” According to Strong’s Dictionary it means, “usefulness, that is, moral excellence (in character or demeanor): – gentleness, good (-ness), kindness.”

God’s goodness is what brings people to Him. If God were bad, if He did morally questionable things where His kindness was fickle and couldn’t be counted on, who in their right mind would take a chance of approaching Him?

Some of you had bad fathers. You never knew what dad you were going to get. You never knew what would set him off next. Living in that situation made you tentative to approach your dad. You probably stayed as far away from him as possible.

We would do that with God too, if He were not good. But He is good. Paul also assumes that we know He’s good, because this is what brings us to repentance. We didn’t see He was good sometime after we repented, but beforehand, which led us to repent. In other words, even a non-believer can see that God is good.

Knowing that God responds to us out of His goodness is what gives us the confidence to approach Him.

In order for people to know that God is good, God must do things that we recognize as being good.

The goodness of God means God must do things that appear to us to be morally excellent, kind, gentle, and the other words listed above that defined “goodness.”

Unfortunately, there are some who think God is good and therefore, by default, everything He does is good because He said it was good, regardless of whether it is morally excellent or kind.

I mentioned this the other day in a discussion I had with a Calvinist (as per yesterday’s post, it was on a non-Calvinist web site: the Calvinist started the argument, not me!). They maintained that God does not have to be merciful to still be good, because God is good.

A huge problem arises with this point, and I see a lot of Calvinists falling into this hole. The Bible says whosoever will may come. It says Jesus Christ was the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. That God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son.

Yet Calvinism, according to Limited Atonement, says Christ only died for the elect. That not all can come. That God has to make people come, which also means if they don’t come, it’s because God didn’t want them to come. That God’s expressed love in the Gospel for all people, really isn’t for all people.

In other words, God isn’t good.

At best He’s deceitful by saying He wants all people to come to repentance while also, apparently, keeping people from repenting. In no logical, nor moral sense, is God good anymore.

“Yes He is! Everything God does is good, because God is good,” is the defense, which is no defense. It’s merely saying that whatever God does is good because God did it. “Good” ceases to mean anything and dictionaries become pointless.

If whatever God does defines what good is, and good doesn’t mean anything besides “whatever God does,” then might makes right. Goodness isn’t moral excellence, it’s just whatever the Boss does.

Now, I do believe that whatever God does defines what goodness is. Not because whatever God does must become good, but because God is good first, which is why He does good things.

Both I and the Calvinist in the discussion think God is good. I think He’s good because He said He was good and “good” means something and His goodness is recognized as being morally excellent.

The Calvinist thinks God is good, but good is rather arbitrary and shifts based on what God does. Since God determines all evil, even child rape, child rape on some level is good, usually because it “brings God glory in some mysterious way.”

And this is where I would part company with the five-pointer Calvinist. I believe child rape is evil. If God is making people rape children, then God is not good. The Calvinist/determinist would maintain that God is good and that somehow child rape is good, because God made it happen.

If child rape is good, then “good” ceases to have any meaning. Playing gymnastics with words is a dangerous game. If your theology forces you to rewrite dictionaries, then your theology might be off at some point.

God is good and His goodness can be recognized by us. Therefore, His goodness must inherently be good. It’s not good by fiat; it’s good because it is morally excellent.

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