From the Department of Posts That Affirm Stuff I Wrote Before, J. Warner Wallace writes on how God establishes the difference between right and wrong:
From a Christian worldview, God doesn’t simply tell us what is righteous, He is righteous. Goodness and righteousness are attributes of his innate character. While it’s tempting to think there isn’t anything God couldn’t do, this is not the case. God cannot act or command outside of his character. He is innately logical and moral; it is impossible for Him to create square circles or married bachelors, just as it is impossible for Him to sin. Objective moral truths are simply a reflection of God’s eternal being. They are not rules or laws God has created (and could therefore alter recklessly), but are instead immutable, dependable qualities of his nature reflected in our universe.
In my post on “Goodness” (which I gleefully re-link at every opportunity), I said it like this, with fewer big words:
…if God is a distinct, independent intelligence, you should be able to see His style in His creation.
Style isn’t something that you have to think about; it’s a revelation of your personality. When I write something, I don’t wonder, “What would Jason say about this?” I just write what comes to mind. When I buy clothes or furniture, I don’t have to stop and think, “What would Jason like?”
I just prefer some things over others. I think that those things are “good.” But they’re not good in an absolute sense; they’re just good to me. Since other people might have different preferences, they wouldn’t necessarily say my style is good, but they would say that it is indicative of my unique personality. Or, to say the same thing in a shorthand way, they’d say it’s “very Jason.”
If I created a universe, I would create one that was “very Jason.” The things that I liked would be the things that were considered “good,” and the beings that I created in my image would rejoice in those things like I do. And it would be that way not because I thought about it, but because it was a reflection of my nature as the creator. In my universe, 1 Corinthians 13 would say, “And now these three remain: peanut M&M’s, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Star Wars. But the greatest of these is Star Wars.” Come to think of it, this universe is probably better than mine would be. But the point remains: The stuff that we see as good is the stuff God likes; the reason we see it as good is because He likes it. This universe is indicative of His preferences; it’s “very God.” It all boils down to this, my one-liner Philosophy of Goodness:
When we say “God is good,” we’re not describing what God is, we’re describing what good is–good is God.