Is God Omnibenevolent?

From a discussion on the Calvin page, on the concept of God’s Omnibenevolent.

Sacred struggler writes:

I’m talking about God’s omnibenevolence, not the world’s. This is all about God’s character here. I can’t imagine anyone trying to argue that the world has no evil in it.

“Omnibenevolence (from Latin omni- meaning “all”, and benevolent, meaning “good”)[1] is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “unlimited or infinite benevolence”. It is often held to be impossible, or at least improbable, for a deity to exhibit such property along side omniscience and omnipotence as a result of the problem of evil. However, some philosophers, such as Alvin Plantinga, argue the plausibility of co-existence. ” This is from the article. This is what we’re talking about. Of course it’s hard to defend that God is good, it doesn’t make it false though.

My response:

Not sure I’m buying the term itself perhaps because of the idea of benevolence itself. I believe God is infinitely good, but has a hatred of that which is evil. Infinite benevolence seems to suggest that He is infinitely good apart from His anger and wrath toward a rebellious world. In other words, He is infinitely good toward the rebellious, which one could argue He does the moment He shows any goodness or kindness to anyone. But does this infinite goodness, being all present at all times in every place completely and beyond measure, be present in a world in which evil exists at all?

Comment in comment section.

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15 thoughts on “Is God Omnibenevolent?

  1. I think what I’m trying to say is the term is describing something about God that Scripture may not support. Yes… He is infinitely Good. But no, His goodness does not continue toward His creation infinitely. So in His character, there is no darkness or sin, no evil at all, but the creation that He created had room for evil to exist, and it does.

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  2. I think Jesus might have answered that question in Luke 17: 1,2:
    ‘ And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” ‘

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  3. I think that many people like to (conveniently) confuse “all-good,” with “ONLY-good.” While the Christian God is all-good, He is not restricted to being ONLY good, to the exclusion of all other characteristics. This view directly conflicts with how God is described in the Christian scriptures.

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    1. phoebehb

      I think many people like to think that God & humans share the same definition of “good”. Or “love” in that first Bible vs. little children learn as Sunday School Beginners: “God is love”. Too many of us assume we know what love is–unfailing approval, unlimited indulgence, therefore we know all about Him.

      I think what John is actually saying is that until we know God, we don’t have a clue what the word “love” means. Same goes for the word “good”.

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  4. Cool, it’s still on your mind too.
    That’s the thing about goodness. God can still be all-good and reject evil vehemently. In fact, I believe that if God didn’t reject evil and seek to destroy it, God would not be all-good. That’s where the tension comes from. If God has the power to eradicate evil, why would a good God let it live? If God created us knowing that we would be evil, why would God do it being a good God? Why wouldn’t God simply create only the ones who would go to Heaven?

    Is it goodness to show kindness to a child you made do wrong? Would you punish a child for touching something you told them not to touch, then held their hand and forced them to touch it and retain the title of Good?

    We use good as a base superlative and a generic word. But good encompasses so much more.

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    1. That’s the point I was trying to make in quoting Luke 17:1,2. In that one sentence of Jesus’ we see that love of the good = hatred of the despoilers of good.

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      1. I think that other person made a good point too about the way we use good. All good doesn’t mean only gracious. To be truly good one must work against evil, not simply accept it.

        I think that’s why it’s good the Timothy and I wrote a separate post with what we were thinking. it’s hard to make a point in a comment instead of a steady stream. I think we agree more than he realizes, but it’s hard to see it unless you write it all out.

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  5. Pingback: New Theology: Omni-benevolence? | Sacred Struggler

  6. Sacred,
    I think the problems I had with your representation is the way you presented free will. It came across as the charge that Calvinism teaches and preaches free will, in that we are nothing more than automatons. We do have free will on a certain level. The point is that we cannot choose to be what we are not. In other words, those who are dead spiritually will never choose Christ in a saving way because spiritually dead people don’t want Christ. However, they choose freely from that point on.

    We also say that God is not responsible for the sin of mankind. I know that this is where many have problems with Calvinism, but this is what we believe. God doesn’t cause men to sin, even when He decrees that they will sin. We sin because we freely choose to do so, in fact, that is all we can choose to do, it is only when we have become born again that we are free NOT to sin. God is not causing fallen mankind to sin, just allowing them to be what they are.

    It is only when God shows someone grace that they are redeemed and then they have the choice not to sin. I know at this point the question becomes: “why does God then hold us responsible?” Because we are still responsible and He is still just in His judgment of those who are not redeemed. This is where Romans 9 comes into play and helps us understand our positions.

    BTW, one other point. You described Calvinist as those who follow Calvin’s theological treatise. I wouldn’t put it that way. Calvinist become Calvinist by studying Scripture and realize that this is the system that our beliefs naturally fall under. For example, I was accused of being a Calvinist before I knew what one was. I was simply teaching and preaching God’s word and the accusation came flying at me. The key difference between Calvinist and say a Lutheran is that we use the Scripture to defend our positions, not Calvin, where as the Lutheran uses Luther, Catholics use ecclesiastical bodies, and evangelicals quote John 3:16. OK, the last one was a joke, but you get the idea.

    Blessings

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    1. Okay. I understand. And you’re right. That was my tension with it. It doesn’t make sense to me.
      What I meant by saying that Calvinism comes from his apologia is not necessarily that you follow him rather than scripture simply that the idea that one could be a Calvinist exists because he wrote out his own theodicy. Much like many people look to Matthew Henry to check that they are interpreting a piece of scripture correctly. We all, as Christians, need to come to a place where we have an issue with evil and have to decide how we are going to solve it. I understand coming to the Calvinist conclusion from scripture, I just don’t agree with it. Much like I understand where Methodists get their idea that salvation can be lost. I see where they get that from the verse, I just don’t think that’s really what we should believe.
      The truth is only God knows the whole truth and we’re here trying to make peace with who we know God to be and who we think God should be.

      I’m really glad we had a chance to talk more. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it because of an understanding. I’ll try to edit my blog to be more fair to your views. Though, it’s quite difficult for me to understand the subtle distinction.

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  7. Yes, I agree that we don’t have a perfect theological system, simply because we are fallen, trying to figure out that which is perfect, from Someone who is perfect. But I do believe the Calvinistic/Reformed position is the best expression of theology we have. Yes, I’m glad you wrote out what you were saying and gave me a chance to do the same. That has been helpful. And thanks for not writing me off so quickly. 🙂

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