by Matt Slick
Answering the question, "How do we know that God is good?" is inherently problematic. How would we judge? What standard would we use? Where would we get it? Also, it has to be a standard that is applicable universally, to all people. After all, how can we justify a moral requirement for God that we ourselves are not also subject? This would imply that any moral standard we come up with has to be universally applicable. So, how then would anyone justify a moral standard that could be applied to God?
Let's take a look at some options proposed to establish a standard of morality.
- Society: If we say that the standard of goodness is society, then there is a problems. What society a says is good one year may not be what is good next year. Also, different societies have different morals. Which society would have the right morals with which to judge God's goodness? How would we know and how would we judge without a standard to begin with? So that can't work.
- Individuals: If we use ourselves as individuals as a standard of what is good, then how do we know that any individual has a proper moral standing? After all, different people have different morals. And, how would any individual be validated as being morally correct in all areas so that others could be judged, God included? Again, we'd need a standard to use, but where do we get this standard? So that can't work, either.
- Inherent Moral Value: Some people say that there is just an inherent quality of goodness that we discover in peoples' actions and attitudes. But this is also problematic. How do we determine if any particular action or attitude is "inherently good" or "inherently bad?" Is the action of dropping a rock good or bad? Or how about dropping a rock on someone's head? Is that good or bad? Also, how does an action have inherent moral quality, if at all? How would we determine what it is and if its good or bad? Most people would say that context and motives determine what is good and bad. But then we would have to know every context and be able to determine all people's motives in order to discover what is good and bad. But, wouldn't we need a standard of good by which we could judge any actions? Then we're back to the same problem as before. Therefore, this also cannot work.
So, as you can see, coming up with a moral standard that we could use in order to say that God is or is not good, is inherently problematic. I see no way to justify having a standard of right and wrong by which we could determine if God is good.
If we cannot logically justify the existence of an objective moral standard against which we could compare God, the only thing left is to do is say that God himself is the standard of good. After all, we either use God as a standard of goodness or we use a different standard. But, as I've already asked above, what standard with that being how do you justify it?
God has revealed himself in the Bible. He is the eternal being (Psalm 90:2), the perfect one who knows all things (1 John 3:20). Because he knows all things and because he is holy (1 Pet. 1:16), then morality must be based on his character. We know that God is good because that is his character. We learn what is good by looking at him. We don't learn what is good by looking under rocks, into society, or into our personal preferences.
Since we are made in God's image (Gen. 1:16), we are able to recognize good and bad. Goodness is what God is. But, again, to ask how we know God is good is to ask for a standard to judge God. But that would make no sense. By definition, there can be no greater, better standard than God. If there were, then God would not be God according to the Bible. Therefore, God reveals what he is and he says he is good. That is the only way we can know what good is, by looking to God. And, finally, asking how we can know God is good can only properly be answered by looking to him.