Distorting the love of God

This post is about love of God and how it can at times become distorted in our human perspectives. This comes from chapter 1 of the book “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God” by D.A. Carson. The hope of this post is to share with you some thoughts from Carson on why the love of God is sometimes distorted. I found this book interesting and thought it would be good to share with each of you.

DA Carson: On distorting the love of God

  1. When Christians talk about the love of God, they mean something very different from what is meant in the surrounding culture. Worse, neither side may perceive that that is the case.
    1. Films that show love as good and winner help people indirectly to appreciate the sheer goodness and love of God.
  2. WE live in a culture in which many other and complementary truths about God are widely disbelieved.
    1. The result is that the love of God in our culture has been purged of anything the culture finds uncomfortable. The love of God has been sanitized, democratized and above all sentimentalized.
    2. Many people have far more difficulty believing in the justice of God, the wrath of God, and the non-contradictory truthfulness of an omniscient God.
    3. God is more likely to feel than to act, to think than to say
  3. The only heresy that is left is that there is such a thing as heresy. All religions are fundamentally the same.
    1. Postmodernism powerfully reinforces the most sentimental, syncretistic and often pluralist views of the love of God, with no other authority base than the postmodern epistemology itself.
    2. Makes the biblical doctrine of God and love extraordinarily difficult
  4. Christians have sometimes been swept along to the extent that we have forgotten that within Christian confessionalism the doctrine of the love of God poses its difficulties.
    1. All the travesties make it hard to see the love of God (WW 1 &2, starvation, etc…)
    2. Dangerous results of the impact of contemporary sentimentalized versions of love on the church is our widespread inability to think through the fundamental questions that alone enable us to maintain a doctrine of God in biblical proportion and balance
  5. Portrayed differently than it really is.

Ways the Bible speaks of the love of God

  1. The peculiar love of the Father for the Son, and of the Son for the Father
    1. This intra-Trinitarian love of God not only marks off Christian monotheism from all other monotheisms, but is bound up in surprising ways with revelation and redemption
  2. God’s providential love over all that he has made
    1. All that He has made to be good, product of a loving Creator
    2. If this were not a benevolent providence, a loving providence, then the moral lesson that Jesus drives home, viz. that this God can be trusted to provide for his own people, would be incoherent
  3. God’s salvific stance toward his fallen world
    1. John uses world as the primarily the moral order in willful and culpable rebellion against God. Not to so many people as to such wicked people
  4. God’s particular, effective, selecting love toward his elect
    1. Directed toward Israel in a way it is not directed toward other nations
  5. God’s love is sometimes said to be directed toward his own people in a provisional or conditional way – conditioned, that is, on obedience.
    1. Someone might not keep themselves in the love of God
    2. His love is set over against his wrath. His people live under his love or under his wrath, in function of their covenantal faithfulness
    3. Obey his precepts

preliminary observations

  1. cannot use the five biblical ways as an absolute or a grid
    1. could be seen as exclusive to some people or leave out important aspects, exclusivity, elect, legalism
    2. we need all of what Scripture says on this subject, or the doctrinal and pastoral ramification will prove disastrous
  2. we must not view these ways of talking about the love of God as independent, compartmentalized, loves of God
    1. we must learn to hold these truths together and integrate them with balance
  3. How do clichés stand up?
    1. Important to know what passages and themes apply at certain times

Christian faithfulness entails our responsibility to grow in our grasp of what it means to confess that God is love.


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