01 August 2012

Our Bad Taste

by Frank Turk

Louis Berkhof says that the Goodness of God is one of three primary moral attributes of God – the other two being God’s Holiness, and God’s Righteousness.  Just to get the smart person quotient satisfied early, here’s specifically what Berkhof says in his Systematic Theology:
We speak of something as good when it answers in all parts to the ideal. Hence in our ascription of goodness to God the fundamental idea is that He is in every way all that He as God should be, and therefore answers perfectly to the ideal expressed in the word "God." He is good in the metaphysical sense of the word, absolute perfection and perfect bliss in Himself.   …

But since God is good in Himself, He is also good for His creatures, and may therefore be called the fountain of all good, and is so represented in a variety of ways throughout the Bible. …

All the good things which the creatures enjoy in the present and expect in the future, flow to them out of this inexhaustible fountain. And not only that, but God is also the highest good for all His creatures, though in different degrees and according to the measure in which they answer to the purpose of their existence. (Systematic Theology, 70)
That’s quite a mouthful.

It’s obvious that Berkhof is working hard to be as precise as possible to make his point as clear as possible, but the Psalmist takes a different approach.  The psalmist here tells us where our hope lies.  And let’s be clear: the Psalmist, in Psalm 34, is hopeful.  The Psalmist is somehow aligned with the Presbyterians who wrote the Westminster Catechism 3000 years later.  When they asked the question, “What is the chief and highest end of man?”  They responded, “Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.”

TASTE AND SEE THAT THE LORD IS GOOD, he proclaims.  He is actually a little more emphatic than that, because the Pslamist doesn’t just say “the Lord” here in proper reverence: he says instead, “TASTE AND SEE THAT JEHOVAH IS GOOD!” “TASTE AND SEE THAT YAH-WEH IS GOOD!”  That is: this is not God-in-Theory. This is not a system of understanding an ineffable and incomprehensible God.  This is the God of Joshua, the God of Moses, and Joseph, and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, and Noah.  This is God who called Samuel by name and gave him explicit instruction to anoint David the King of Israel.  This is God in Person, God in Fact, The God who has a living history of making promises, and keeping them.

And that’s the Psalmist’s trope here: Somehow, we have a God who is as real as a delicious meal.  Somehow, we have to get our mouth ready to receive him.  That’s actually what John Calvin says about this Psalm: “the Psalmist indirectly reproves men for their dullness in not perceiving the goodness of God, which ought to be to them more than a matter of simple knowledge. By the word taste he at once shows that they are without taste; … He, therefore, calls upon them to stir up their senses, and to bring a palate endued with some capacity of tasting, that God’s goodness may become known to them.”

Without overstating it, the Psalmist is saying that God is REAL – and that the primary way we know God is REAL is that He is knowably Good.

This is actually our problem, isn’t it?  This is actually the problem that we as people face all the time.  We have lousy taste.  I’m not talking about the way we dress, or the colors we paint our homes or the way we decorate them, or even the kinds of jokes we tell.  I’m talking about keeping our sensibilities on what God intends for this world.  And when bad things happen – things which are inexplicably bad, things which, let’s face it, one Sunday school lesson cannot possibly explain – our bad taste tends to take over.

We forget the broad ways in which the fact that God is Good which must anchor us.


Tom Chantry said...

Short Version: Difficulty makes me say, "But I wanted a god after my imagination!" And only in my better moments do I realize that the God He is is infinitely better than the god I would create.

Nash Equilibrium said...

...and we have a taste for sin, too. Sin is bad, but tastes good to us. Impedes our ability to enjoy Him forever. The worst possible sense of bad taste.

Kerry James Allen said...

And on a lighter note, Frank may have another related problem called "Balding of the tongue:"

The peripheral end of the cell terminates at the gustatory pore in a fine hair filament, the gustatory hair. Some early experimental studies (Kirk and Grills, 1992)it was shown that subjects who were genetically predisposed to baldness were found to be 78% more likely to experience taste loss sensations in 5 out of 5 taste trials.It was hypothesized that this was due to 'balding' of the tongue.

Kerry James Allen said...

And on a serious note, our memories are too accurate regarding what we tasted when we lived in Egypt.Numbers 11:5-6.
Thanks, Frank.

DJP said...

That is really good, Frank. Thank you.

That is an incentive to spiritual growth, too, isn't it? As I've thought of how to express what "rewards" will mean in Heaven, I think in terms of capacity to enjoy God. I think of knowledge and understanding, and how they affect our ability to enjoy.

For instance, two people look at a painting. One knows a lot about art and the artist, and a lot about the background of the painting. The other knows zero. Both enjoy the painting, but obviously the first enjoys it at a level the second can only imagine.

Or, approaching your exact focus, wine. Two adults sip the same wine. Both taste the same wine. But the first has a trained and educated palate. The second is just a guy. The first gets hints of this and that, appreciates the acidity and all. The second just says "Ew, bitter," or "Mm, good." Clearly the first has the greater level of enjoyment.

Christian growth is a process of acquiring a greater and richer and deeper "taste" for the goodness of God.

Is that to your point?

The Damer said...

What a great encouragement. Thanks Frank for highlighting God's Goodness.

FX Turk said...

DJP: that is exactly my point. Wait until next week when we start talking about the context of Ps 34 as it relates to this systematic theology issue.

Kerry: The Leeks and the Garlic are always better when we don't have them.

Solameanie said...

Excellent post!

Morris Brooks said...

Yes, and amen, Frank, and the Psalmist in Psalm 119:65-72, 75 takes it to the next level.

65. You have dealt well with Your servant according to Your word.
67. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.
68. You are good and do good; teach me Your statutes.
71. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.
75 I know, O Lord, that your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.

First the Psalmist tells us that God has dealt well with him. Then he tells us that he has been afflicted and the affliction has caused him to keep His word. Then he has the nerve to tell us that God is good and does good, affliction was good for him, and follows that up by proclaiming that it is God who has afflicted him, but that in afflicting him God proves Himself good and faithful to the Psalmist.

So God deals well with us, is good to us, and is faithful to us when He brings about affliction (a lowly, humble, stunted position and also the means that gets us there) so that we will learn His word and live His word, so that we can enjoy Him all the more.

God is good to us in bringing affliction upon us (as He does not afflict us willingly, but faithfully). May we see His providential hand all the more, and in our affliction praise Him for His goodness to us, and say as the Psalmist, "It is good for me that I am afflicted."

Pam said...

This is one of the best essays you have ever written. Thank you. I appreciated it so very much and it brings comfort to the soul. What a wonderfully Good Shepherd we have and thank you for reminding us.

James Scott Bell said...

I always liked John Piper's re-visioning of the Westminster response: "...to glorify God BY enjoying him forever."

donsands said...

Nice word Cent. Gracias mi amigo.

I was thinking that the world, even the fasle-Christains will not understand this teaching of God's truth.
This is for His beloved saints. In fact I found my eyes with tears as I thought of my Lord as being so good to me in His goodness, and yet i am so unworthy.
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."-Jesus

Anonymous said...

But if you want to 'taste and see that the Lord is good' then you ought to have a theological methodology that reinforces that; like fides quarens intellectum, or 'faith seeking understanding'. Versus the kind of foundationalist kind of mode that seems to be informing the thinking in this post.

donsands said...

Hey theo-exeg,

you need to read DJP's comment again my friend.

Bottom line is Christ though, and His love for us.
He calls us by name.
How do we know He loves us?

The Garden of Gethsamane, where he actually prayed that the cup pass from Him, and yet He loved the Father so much Jesus humbly gave His life, for sinners and wretches like us:-all sorts of wretches.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

I love this series, Frank. Everything God does is for His glory; so when God allows evil it is good that it exists. By comparison to such wickedness, we can fully enjoy God's goodness all the more, and see our own depravity in greater dimensions.

Now, If I can just get this to post on FB.