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Review: The Lord Is Good

IVP Academic, 2018. 224 pp.
The psalmist proclaims that God is good and does good (cf. Ps. 119:68, 100:5, 136:1, 34:8). By far, the most common attribute of God in the Psalms is goodness. Yet this is an attribute of God often overlooked in Christian faith and practice. Moreover, it is sometimes denied, with the goodness of God being contingent on what humans believe to be “good” living. In The Lord is Good: Seeking the God of the Psalter (IVP Academic, 2018), Anglican priest and theologian Christopher R.J. Holmes believes that the doctrine of divine goodness is assumed by Christians, but he himself does not assume its veracity. Instead, he probes its development through the book of Psalms and comes to the conclusion that the Psalms serve as a case study for exhibiting God’s goodness, a trait that carries through the rest of Scripture.

Holmes begins by establishing a sound doctrine of God. What does it mean for God to be “simple” and “good”? How does the doctrine of the Trinity affect God’s goodness? Along the way, Holmes interacts with theologians past, including Augustine, Calvin, Barth, and, most particularly, Aquinas. Holmes writes with a Thomistic tone and purpose, moving from speculative analysis and toward practical application for the Christian life.

Holmes himself confesses that this study is limited insofar as human knowledge of God is limited, writing, “Yes, we cannot find words, and so on the one hand this study will fail, and that is fine; and yet, nonetheless, the utter delight to be had in the one who is good encourages us to persevere in receiving what the Lord is to himself” (53). Nonetheless, to Holmes, God’s goodness is both communicable and incommunicable. Christians are invited to participate in the divine goodness. To that end, the author discusses the influence of God’s goodness on the rest of the Bible and how this affects the Christian teachings of sin, Christ, and sanctification.
“The good God has to be perceived and experienced—tasted---before it can be described, doctrinally. Indeed, without experience of God’s goodness, the good done by God remains inaccessible” (76).
This excellent book combines theological inquiry with reflective meditation. Holmes often stops his lofty diatribes to speak an eloquent, meaningful message that causes one to grasp the goodness of God. Holmes shows readers that “good” is both an adjective and a verb: God is good and does good. This book is accessible to an intermediate academic audience, with some prior assumptions of church figures and theology. I highly recommend this fantastic book for those who seek a detailed answer, which draws from Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience, for why Christians celebrate God as good. Readers will close this book with a greater understanding of the truism, “God is good”—and it will never depart one’s lips in the same way.

Purchase this book

(My thanks is given to IVP for providing a complimentary review copy in exchange for an honest review.)

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