The Goodness of God

Essential Truths of the Christian Faith

The Goodness of God
One of life’s amusing moments comes when we
observe a puppy or a kitten
chasing its own shadow. It tries in vain to catch it. When it moves, its
shadow moves with it. Not so with God. James declares:
“Every good gift and
every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from
the Father of lights,
with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning”
(James 1:17).

God never changes. With him there is “no shadow of
turning.” This suggests not
only that God is immaterial and therefore
incapable of casting a shadow, but
also that there is no “shadow side,” in a
figurative or moral sense, to God.
Shadows suggest darkness, and in spiritual
terms darkness suggests evil. Since
there is no evil in God, there is no hint
of darkness in Him either. He is the
Father of lights.

When James adds
that there is no “shadow of turning” with God, it is not
enough to understand
this merely in terms of God’s unchanging or immutable
being. This reference
is also to God’s character. Not only is God altogether
good, He is
consistently good. God doesn’t know how to be anything but good.

closely linked is goodness to God that even pagan philosophers such as
equated ultimate goodness, the highest good, with God Himself. God’s
refers both to His character and His behavior. His actions proceed
from and
flow out of His being. He acts according to what He is. Just as a
corrupt tree cannot bear incorrupt fruit, neither can an incorrupt God produce
corrupt fruit.

The law of God reflects His goodness. God is
said to be good not because He
obeys some cosmic law outside of Himself that
judges Him or because God so
defines goodness that He can act in a lawless
manner and by the sheer power of
His authority declare His actions good.
God’s goodness is neither arbitrary
nor capricious. God does obey a law, but
the law He obeys is the law of His
own character. He always acts according to
His own character, which is
eternally, immutably, and intrinsically good.
James teaches that every good
and perfect gift comes from God. He is not only
the ultimate standard of
goodness; He is the Source of all

One of the most popular New Testament verses is Romans 8:28:
“And we know that
all things work together for good to those who love God, to
those who are the
called according to His purpose.” This text on divine
providence is as
difficult to comprehend as it is popular. If God is able to
make everything
that happens to us work together for our good, then
ultimately everything that
happens to us is good. We must be careful to
stress here the word ultimately.
On the earthly plane things that happen to
us may indeed be evil. (We must be
careful not to call good, evil or evil,
good.) We encounter affliction,
misery, injustice, and a host of other evils.
Yet God in His goodness
transcends all of these things and works them to our
good. For the Christian,
ultimately, there are no tragedies. Ultimately, the
providence of God works
all these proximate evils for our final

Martin Luther understood this aspect of God’s good providence
when he said,
“If God told me to eat the dung from off the streets, not only
would I eat it,
but I would know it was good for me.”

Creatures have
shadows cast by the darkness of sin.

There is no shadow side to

God is not under Law.

God is not apart from Law.

is a Law unto Himself.

Essential Truths of the Christian Faith.
Copyright © 1992 by R. C. Sproul. All rights reserved.

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