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Goodness #4b — Good Connections

In the midst of this series on goodness I thought it might be helpful to show the connections between God’s goodness and other qualities we associate with him. The following two paragraphs, from some correspondence with a friend, provide a look at the way I construe these relationships:

You asked if “explaining God’s holiness as his burning desire to be as servicing as possible to as many as possible” would clarify the concept of “worth” (from the sentence “To say that God is holy is to say that he has infinite, unexcelled and irreplaceable worth.”). I think we should connect his desire to serve people with his worth, but not equate the two ideas. When we say God is holy, we are using one term to communicate something about the quality of the sum of all that he does in the ad intra work of the Trinity. In his wisdom, by his power, he orders his existence to be such that he is valuable to himself, in that as he contemplates himself in the Son, he is delighted with what he sees. When God puts this value to work on behalf of his creatures, we call it “goodness;” or we say that God is good, meaning that what God does is beneficial to those who experience it. We use the term “glory” to indicate how wonderful this goodness is. And “grace” is the term we use to indicate the actual movement/working of God from his joy in himself toward our joy in him. So to be holy is to have an exceedingly great potential for being good for someone/thing. This fits with Isaiah’s declaration (51 times) that God is the “holy one of Israel,” meaning that he sets himself up to be their source of good; not just “a” source of good, but the best possible one. So it makes sense when he says we must “treat [him] as holy” (Numbers 20:14); and that he will prove/show himself to be holy by doing more good than anyone else can (Isaiah 5:16; Ezekiel 36:43) — isn’t this why the arguments of Exodus 20:1 and Leviticus 19:2, 36 are so similar? And this understanding certainly seems to fit with Hebrews’ promise of “obtaining a share in the holiness of God,” if, like Jesus, we are willing to give up everything else in this life that holds promise of joy. And it fits with the idea of purity that often accompanies holiness language; for pure things are much more capable of being beneficial than impure (cf. Romans 9:21).

 As for the “burning desire,” the only language convention I know of which encompasses the affection of God in relation to his doing good to his creatures is “love.” But I’m not aware of any texts which lend direct support to the idea that love is the affection that moves God to prove himself holy by graciously doing good in such a way that we glory/boast in what he has done. Nevertheless, the relationships expressed in this last sentence seem to me to be a helpful way of associating all these concepts. Maybe another dimension in this is that because God sees himself as holy, his need to be righteous causes him to prove he is ultimately valuable. In this way both necessity and freedom are at work in the movement to apply his holiness to his creation.


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