“Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8). In his new book, The Lord is Good: Seeking the God of the Psalter, Chris Holmes says that “God’s goodness is a spiritual and moral good that must be experienced before the theology is truly understood” (7). David calls out to God to be something God hasn’t been to him before—his helper. David knows God will be his help because God is good. Holmes says, “God does good because God is essentially good. God is what he always is, his own goodness, world without end, and thus does good” (32). In fact, “Goodness and God are one in the same, even if there were no world” (29). It is not only God’s works that are good, but God himself who is good. God’s goodness is why everything he does and says is good. God doesn’t aiming at perfection. Rather, he is perfection. He is the standard to which we compare everything else.
In this work, Holmes uses systematic theology to examine how the Lord can be called good, and it is done primarily within the Psalter. Why is the Lord called “good,” his law is “good,” and his wonderful works express his “goodness”? Psalm 119.68 says, “You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.” What is it about God that is so lovable and desirable that his people want to know his law, and how can they say it is “good”? It is through the law that Israel could know God, though not so fully as in Christ, the perfect image of the good God.
Throughout his book Holmes has a chat with Aquinas (particularly from his Summa Theologica), Augustine, Calvin, and Barth. The point here is to listen to those who have spoken about many of the Bible’s grand ideas and to think about how they relate to the Psalter’s language of God’s goodness (Pss 4:6; 23.6; 25.8; 86.5). Holmes is not trying to impose anything on the Bible (as he notes in his first chapter on God’s simplicity). He is merely using certain systematic ideas (such as ‘simplicity’) to show certain patterns in the language of Scripture. Gos is love, is honest, is loyal, is good, is holy. His goodness is a loving, holy goodness; his honesty is a loyal, holy, loving honesty. We die because we do evil (Ps 14.1, 3; 53.3) and move away from the perfect One. Like David, we should cry out to God to teach us his ways that “to heal us of our propensity to invert and reverse the Creator/creation relation” (113). God’s law teaches us that we belong to him who is good and who belongs to no one else.
For a short book, this requires a slow read. One should not zoom through Holmes’ work. With topics ranging from the Trinity, to God’s creating works, to evil, to the law, to Jesus, there is plenty for of space for readers to become absorbed in. Readers interested in the Psalms and/or systematic theology will enjoy eating up this book. Biblical theologians shouldn’t be ruled out, though this book isn’t so much on the Psalms as it is on God’s goodness as seen in the Psalms. Holmes doesn’t examine most of the psalms, nor does he try to show a psalm’s original context or meaning. Looking at the whole of Scripture, and particularly Psalms, how can the Psalter say and know God is good? Holmes gives his readers plenty to feed on to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34.8).
- Series: Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture
- Author: Christopher R. J. Holmes
- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: IVP Academic (January 30, 2018)
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Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.