Wednesday, June 26, 2013

God is Love, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace 1 John 4

I was having a theological conversation with a reformed friend of mine a few months ago and, like I will often do, I brought up the phrase found in 1 Jn. 4:7, 16, "God is love." He responded the way many respond to this verse by saying that God isn't just love, but is also holy. He added that we have to realize that "God is complex and that there are multiple levels and aspects of His will and character." Thus, "as a person is not easily boiled down into one all-encompassing emotion or state of mind all the time," so we should not boil the transcendent God down to one all-encompassing characteristic

The problem is that Scripture defines God with the word love. "God is just," is a descriptive statement that uses an adjective. All of God's character is not presented in this statement because 'just' is just one adjective. "God is love," on the other hand, is a descriptive statement that uses a noun. The point here is that God = love. John says this to emphasize that God can be "boiled down" to one all-encompassing characteristic: love. It's not that there are "multiple levels and aspects" of God that are seemingly paradoxical, but that every level and aspect of God can be understood through the lens of love. This concept is difficult for many, like D.A. Carson, the author of The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, but if you have a theology in which the love of God is difficult, you need to re-evaluate, because this God is defined by love.

Larry Hart notes that love is not the only noun said to be equal to God. He brings up the statement, "God is light" (1 Jn. 1:5) to say that God is also holy.(1) God's justice and wrath are then thrown under the "God is holy" section. This is a flawed understanding. Hart, my reformed friend, and many others assume that God's holiness somehow balances out his love with all of his qualities that are less loving. I can't remember who I read this argument from, but I remember reading a theology book in which the author said something like this: "Where God's love would disregard man's actions and have mercy on all and save all, God's justice recognizes the need for judgment. And where God's justice would abandon all and send them to hell, God's love comes in with a desire for mercy and an offer of salvation."

Similarly, when I posted my blog about universal reconciliation (here), including my argument that God is love and love never fails, a friend of mine said, "Yes, God is love, but he is also just"--as if, the 'love' part of God purposes to save everyone, but the 'just' part of God balances him out. This creates a conflict within God's nature that can be avoided if we join John in his scandalous claim that God actually is love! That means his holiness and justice are defined by his love. His wrath is defined by his love. His will is defined by his love. His complexity is defined by his love. His followers should be defined by his love (Jn. 12:35). All of his characteristics are in harmony with and defined by his love.

Notes
(1) Larry D. Hart, Truth Aflame, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 86.

2 comments:

  1. "His wrath is defined by his love."

    Absolutely, which is ultimately why justification by faith alone and once saved always saved are false. God cannot let the childmolestor into heaven, because God is love and his love for the victims will not allow it even if the childmolester believes in Jesus.

    Read Psalm 37:20 "The wicked shall be like the fat of lambs--they shall consume, they shall consume away into smoke." Much more loving than the belief in eternal torment for simply not believing in Jesus, isn't it? God is love, but Paul's god is not, and the god of modern Christianity with his never-ending hell for nothing is not. But the God of Psalm 37 is love: the wicked cease to exist and the righteous abide forever.

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  2. Herein our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are in this world [Bible not say India any corner or Uganda like nation underground]. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth our fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he can love God whom he hath not seen? This question second term win US President Obama front – that main reason in God hand falling top danger [ both related] !!!!!!!
    And this commandment have we from him[God], That he have loveth God his brother [ Not up to US Democratic and it leadership top [trillion K.M] difference and loose making manifesto] !!!!!! He that feareth is not made perfect in love -- But destruction and dead by production top worst after the entire matter real truth latent one after another six foot soil covering that tough trial critical stage 2011 end after in USA history and White House Administration from change start !!! Other way perfect love touch without awake $ 16 trillion loose and so and so X 4 times improve way open that worst politic bondage and no free !!!!!



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