goodness, perfect

goodness, perfect
   God's perfect goodness is his being unsurpassable in morality. Sometimes this is called 'omnibenevolence', but that label would seem rather to refer to the different doctrine that God is benevolent in every way to every one. Obviously discussions of God's perfect goodness inherit the general problems of discussions in ethics. A deontologist, for example, would tend to define God's perfect goodness as that he always does the best action (because it is the best action) if there is one, and if there isn't one then he does a good action (because it is a good action) if there is one, and he never does a bad action. A virtue ethicist would claim that God's perfect goodness consists in his having the greatest possible combination of virtues. A consequentialist would claim that God always actualises the best possible state of affairs (because it is the best one) if there is one, and if there isn't one then he actualises a good one (because it is a good one) if there is one, and he never actualises a bad one. Perfect goodness, however, is usually held to go beyond this and to have a modal component, such that God's perfect goodness consists in its being impossible for him to be less than good. Various questions then arise in connection with this assertion that God cannot sin: (1) can he then be truly praiseworthy for not sinning? (2) does this not compromise his perfect freedom or aseity? (3) is this consistent with God's omnipotence? Christian philosophers have devoted much time to discussing these questions; the most plausible answer to (1) and (2) seems to be that God's perfect goodness is something from within his own nature, rather than an external constraint, and that this does not compromise his freedom or praiseworthiness. The question about omnipotence has traditionally been answered by denying that sinning is an action of the kind with which power is concerned.
   Further reading: Hill, Daniel J. 2005; Morris 1991

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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