Consider the following premise.

Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence (either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause).

God is sometimes viewed as existing by His own necessity. However, the Christian God who has properties such as goodness and love is obviously not necessary since we can easily imagine a God who does not have these properties. This presents an enormous challenge to Christian theology since that would mean that the Christian God exists neither by necessity nor in an external cause, in sharp contradiction to the premise listed above (which is supported by most Chrisitan philosophers).

Is there any way out of this?

  • 2
    the claim that we could imagine a God without a specific property is like saying we could imagine a carpet cleaner that doesn't clean carpets. It's just denying a definition. A being that doesn't contain the property of omni-benevolence is not God, at least not from the Christian perspective. Also, a being can necessarily contain a property, even if that property may appear contingent.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented May 27, 2022 at 23:21
  • 2
    This is Thomist philosophy, not Christian theology. Christian theology bases its view of the characteristics of God on the testimony of people who are believed to have interacted with God. It is more like legal reasoning than metaphysics. Thomist philosophy tries to infer the attributes of God through a priori reasoning. It is not particularly popular outside the Catholic Church. However, Aquinas does have an answer to your question. I doubt anyone here will answer it, but there are modern writers who follow Aquinas if you want to research it. Commented May 28, 2022 at 5:17
  • David Gudeman If someone supports the premise that everything that exists has an explanation of it's existence, either by necessity or an external cause, how can they explain the existence of the God of the Bible?
    – user7348
    Commented May 28, 2022 at 5:33

4 Answers 4


God do not have a property of goodness ; Goodness is a property of God.

There isn't anything pre-existed like goodness property which was followed or chosen by God, it is just one of the special properties of God which we recognise as goodness.

"If someone supports the premise that everything that exists has an explanation of it's existence, either by necessity or an external cause, how can they explain the existence of the God of the Bible?"

God is from always . You should not worry about it because ideas of infinities are not just mathematical or bookish, but they exist in reality also.

  • Note that christianity, judaism and Islam, all three have these same basic notions about God.
    – Meow Meow
    Commented May 28, 2022 at 7:17

Surprised that no one has mentioned this, but one might cast this argument as relying on something akin to the following

(a): conceivability implies possibility

( in particular, the following: we concieve of some K such that it is God, but not good, hence it is possible that God is not good, hence a good God is not necessary).

the typical party line will be that conceivability is an epistemic notion, but that the relevant notion of possibility is metaphysical. For more, see Chalmers argument on Zombies against physicalism, which famously relies on a similar notion.

for a reason on why philosophers have typically treated God as good, see my answer on the following :

Why have philosophers historically defined God as omni-benevolent?

  • The question asked by Joseph is the same question as I've asked here. I did not notice it before I published my redundant question. In your answer, you equate omni-benevolence with greatness, what is your basis for that?
    – user7348
    Commented Jun 2, 2022 at 16:27
  • i don't equate the two, so there is no basis for that. rather, O-benevolence is a greatness making feature-Nagisawas terminology I believe.
    – emesupap
    Commented Jun 2, 2022 at 17:46
  • How does omni-benevolence make someone greater?
    – user7348
    Commented Jun 2, 2022 at 20:52
  • one way to see it might be this: take some axiology, and allow benevolence to be valued higher than lack thereof. Then, allow a partial or total ordering - call it greatness- of agents by how valuable they are wrt the axiology.
    – emesupap
    Commented Jun 2, 2022 at 21:45
  • 1
    sure! here's one more, if you're interested- rasmussen(?) has an argument that the other big O traits entail omnibenevolence. something along the lines of perfect moral knowledge in addition to perfect rationality would mean that an agent with enough power would be the perfect moral agent.
    – emesupap
    Commented Jun 3, 2022 at 0:15

Because it is the natural order of all things living.

Religions are based on our collective knowledge of the human nature since the dawn of times - and are usually surprisingly correct.

Today you do not need to rely on ancient dogma - game theory - the underlying driving force of evolution - and by extension our Creator - gives you a mathematical proof.

The best long-time survival strategy is to be good.

  • This is an inspiring argument, I think. Forgive me if I misrepresent you, but might we say: (1) The essence of all things tends towards goodness. (2) The essence of God tends towards maximal ultimacy. (3) Therefore, the essence of God tends towards maximally ultimate goodness. ...? And as these are supposed to be essential truths, they are not contingent, and as far a "tendency" in God goes, the "process" occurs all at once in eternity, establishing the valor and glory of the Creator forever and ever? Commented Jul 1, 2022 at 0:45
  • My point was that with game theory, you do not need classical religion for this - all of the traditional properties of God - our Creator, the goodness, the infinity, the ultimate judgment - they are still the same whether you believe in one of the classical religions or you simply interpret the mathematical foundation of the theory of evolution. I never understood the intelligent creation debate - as all the fundamental ideas are essentially the same. Commented Jul 1, 2022 at 1:42

... the Christian God who has properties such as goodness and love is obviously not necessary since we can easily imagine a God who does not have these properties.

The question of "what happens to the divine nature" when It exercises Its faculty of absolute free will is a labyrinthine one in the history of Christian theology especially (since Trinitarians also have the problem of explaining how the Second Person of the Trinity, with two wills to His name as of the Incarnation, exercised these wills not only in actually perfect harmony but also without the normal human possibility of sin). Here's a quote from a section of an SEP article introducing exactly this topic:

Another frequently-raised objection to the prospect of necessary perfect goodness concerns the relationship between freedom and moral goodness (see, for example, Pike 1969, p. 215; Reichenbach 1982, pp. 133–134). Not all beings are subject to moral assessment; we do not judge rocks to be dutiful because they never violate a moral duty. It is plausibly thought that one of the features that a being must exhibit in order to be subject to moral assessment is freedom. We frequently take as an excuse for morally bad behavior that the agent was not really free not to act badly; such excuses function by claiming that the conditions under which the agent acted preclude the agent’s behavior from being used as a basis for morally assessing the agent. Generalizing from thoughts such as these, it is plausible to hold that God is subject to moral assessment – including the assessment ‘perfectly good’ – only if God acts freely. And even apart from the connection between being free and being subject to moral assessment, it seems to be a great-making feature of a being that its agency is free agency. (See the entry on divine freedom.)

It seems, then, that we must think that God is free. There seems to be no conflict between holding that God is free and that God is perfectly good. A free being may have a perfectly good set of desires, slate of character traits, and career of actions. It may even be true that every counterfactual about what that agent would freely do were circumstances somewhat different involves that agent’s agency being perfectly good. But there may be a conflict between holding that the agent is free with respect to issues of moral relevance – what has been called being “significantly” free (Plantinga 1979, p. 166) – and being necessarily perfectly good. For many hold the view that freedom of action involves a capacity to act otherwise – that if an agent is free with respect to φ-ing, then it is possible that A φs and it is possible that A refrains from φ-ing. But if freedom involves the possibility of acting either way with respect to matters of moral relevance, then a free being cannot be necessarily perfectly good. For there is no possible world in which a necessarily perfectly good being acts wrongly; but for every significantly free being there is a possible world in which that being acts wrongly.

Maybe if the Trinity "is Love [or rather Agape?] Itself," as some would say, then we might go on to try to derive the other "properties" of God from this base, seeing love as a form of knowledge, power, and goodness. Then at least in this sense, the God of Love is necessarily good as such?

But unfortunately or not, Christians often try to say things about the ultimacy of the divine nature that make those kinds of extrapolations much more difficult to describe. The doctrine of divine simplicity is a, or even the, case in point: the best that anyone's ever done to reconcile God sustaining exactly one monadic divine predicate with the plurality of the divine Persons, is what Aquinas argued, that the Persons are polyadic predicates, relations, of the one divine nature to Itself (and each other). Whether this absolutely comports with the intended image of the simplicitarian God, I don't know, seeing as I don't know that the doctrine in question is true, and I might even be willing, if pressured, to say that I know that this doctrine is false. However, that is another story for another time...

Another option is to imagine that for God, there is some sort of thing we might call "super-goodness":

This is not to suggest that Henry [of Ghent] denies positive attributes in the more general sense of positive attributes inherited from the previous philosophical tradition, however. Henry grants positive attributes according to the Dionysian way of pre-eminence and the Anselmian method of attributing pure perfections to God, but these perfections are qualified by the addition of the prefix “super”. An example of this is the modification of “goodness” into “super-goodness.” This modification, however, signifies excess, and by it humans do not understand what they signify, rather only what they intend to signify.

If we do not understand, and if it is perhaps not even for us to understand, divine "super-goodness," it is less clear what it would mean to question whether God is necessarily "super-good."

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