Thursday, September 28, 2006

What Is Love?

Recently I had to read a paper by Fritz Guy, in a book advocating a non-Calvinistic, Arminian position, called The Grace of God, The Will of Man. In Guy's chapter (called "The Universality of God's Love"), he describes the Divine love as "God wills what is best for every created entity". Guy upholds this definition, and essentially says that God must do everything within his (limited!) power to achieve the best for every single created entity, there can be no selectiveness. But this does not hold up to Scriptural scrutiny, as nice as it might sound.

For a start, such a definition immediately breaks down when one considers the devil and his demons. God gives them no opportunity for salvation at all (cf. Heb. 2:16), and they are not treated the same as humans. Already God is selective in his love and doesn't seem to "will what is best for every created entity". Further, the Scriptures are unambiguous that God is also discriminating and selective in some ways he shows his love towards mankind, such as in his loving selection of Israel rather than other nations (Deut. 7:7-8; 10:15), or in reference to Jacob and Esau (Mal. 1:2-3; cf Rom. 9:10-13). And this is just dealing with very clear texts, without specifically even getting into the whole issue of individual election unto salvation, or of considering the implications of real experience (like the fact that some people never hear the gospel, or that some people might die from famine, drought or disease, but others do not, etc).

Therefore to flatten out God's love to say there can be no particularity at all is to impose a false conception onto the Scriptures, rather than let them speak for themselves. Better to say with J. I. Packer that there is both particularity and universality in God's love: "it appears, first, that God loves all in some ways..., and, second, that he loves some in all ways... This is the clear witness of the entire Bible" (quoted out of his article entitled "The Love of God: Universal and Particular").


  1. Hi Craig:
    God's love is universal, for God is love in the most holy way. His love is an eternal attribute that we as humanity are called to share, both with Him and with one another.

    Firstly, we are created in His Image "like His Likeness" "kidmutaynu". Therefore, humanity from the least to the greatest are all invited to partake of His love which is manifested in it's fulness in our LORD Jesus Christ.

    All of humanity wallows in sin so the primary manifestation of God's love is in the giving of His Son to die for the sins of the world. It is therefore incumbent upon each and every human soul to receive Christ, Whom has satisfied the costly atonement for sin and to faithfully and then to obediently serve God in Christ, for there is no other name under heaven, given among humanity whereby we must be saved.

    God's justice is satisfied in the substitutional atonement of Christ and this is affected by grace through faith. Without faith it's impossible to please God so the reasonable response to God's love must be faith in Christ.

    Humanity was given the "breath of God" and this is what distinguishes him from all other living creatures. Angels were not made by the "breath of God as man was. It is unrevealed to us just what makes up the angelic soul. Scripture only speaks of "their first estate" and that they have the power to choose to either remain in their first estate, before God beholding His face or to rebel and face eternal darkness.

    Animals (all living creatures) have nefesh khayia like humanity, but do not have nishmat khayim (living breath of God). Animals do not possess an eternal soul like every human being does.

    Man's soul is eternal, like the angels, but provision has been made by the very one who breathed into Adam's nostrils for eternal salvation, Himself being the True Light that lights every human being coming into the world.

    Just like the angels, and even God Himself, each human being chooses to receive Christ by grace through faith or to reject salvation.

    Thank you for allowing me to share my response to your post.

    Stephen Silver

  2. Hi Stephen.

    You seem to be busy at my blog :-)

    Have I met you online elsewhere?

    Can I ask what church you belong to, or how you would generally identify yourself theologically? I usually find it is helpful to have a bit of an idea where someone is coming from, though trying not to put them in a box too much ;-)

    BTW I checked out your blog, Peshitta New Testament. I remember one time meeting a man in Cairns who was out evangelising on behalf of the Syrian Orthodox church. They also believed the NT was originally in Aramaic, as I expect you will know. Anyhow, just some interesting trivia!