Thursday, November 08, 2007

God is Love

Today in Doctrine of God we had a disputation (a bit like a debate) on the following proposition;

'God is an eternal trinity of love. This means that it is unthinkable for him to act toward any creature in a way that does not pursue that creature’s highest good. We cannot, therefore, believe in the Calvinist doctrine of election, the limitation of the atonement to the elect, or the abhorrent idea that anyone might be abandoned to eternal punishment.'

How should such a statement be argued against? Some of the points emerging from class-time were;
  • All depends how you define 'good' and 'love'.
  • God is love, but he's also a lot of other things too. These attributes are not in competition - God is 'simple' in this sense.
  • A lot of biblical texts seem to talk about election/ particular redemption/ eternal punishment. How can we just write them off?
  • God is most concerned for his glory. That is, his trinitarian love commits him to seeking the good/ honour/glorification of himself. He is glorified when he punishes sinners as well as when he saves them.
  • The Father really really loves the Son and wants him to be firstborn of many brothers.
  • The Father really really loves the Son and that is bad news for those who disobey the Son.
What did emerge is that those arguing from a reformed perspective need to reckon with the fact that (in many communication situations in present-day UK) the truth of the proposition above carries a great deal of emotional weight. This is especially true when someone presses the question of just how God can be glorified/ find pleasure in the sending of many people to eternal punishment. "How can a loving God send people to hell?" is an instinctive question to ask, and people feel that the bible is on the back-foot on this one. If we want to win over hearts to God's word, we need to think about how to defend the truth emotionally as well as logically.


Celal Birader said...

Hello Pete,
God may be a "an eternal trinity of love" but i don't see that it follows from this that He must "pursue the creatue's highest good". Wouldn't that make the creature 'God'?

Pete said...


In fact, since he's an eternal trinity of love, he can't tolerate wickedness. And the Father especially won't tolerate dishonouring the Son, because he loves him.