God Is Love–And Many Other Things

I just finished reading The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson. The Kindle version is on sale right now for $3.99. It’s aimed at new Christians, but with all due respect, I don’t think he is one to write a book for new Christians. I learned a lot. He’s a quote machine. Because of that, it took me a long time to get through the book. I’ve been taking notes on books I read, and I was taking notes and blogging (first four links) on so much of what I read, it seemed to take forever.

I highly recommend it. The book is friendly to new Christians who like to read and investigate more than just the basics. It’s also great for seasoned Christians. He mainly uses Genesis, John and Revelation to talk about who God is and how he deals with people.

The quote below is something I think about a lot. It seems like there is so much focus on the fact that God is love, it’s to the exclusion or diminution of all of the other things God is, as well as having a distorted view of his love as you’ll see below. God is to be feared (which shouldn’t need to be qualified), God is awesome (in the traditional sense of the word–not how it’s used now), he is a God of wrath, judgement, anger, he hates. For those in his Kingdom, these can be comforting things, in addition to warnings. I hope you like the quote.

Why People Today Find It Easy to Believe in God’s Love

If there is one thing that our world thinks it knows about God–if our world believes in God at all–it is that he is a loving God. That has not always been the case in human history. Many people have thought of the gods as pretty arbitrary, mean-spirited, whimsical, or even malicious. That is why you have to appease them. Sometimes in the history of the church Christians have placed more emphasis on God’s wrath or his sovereignty or his holiness, all themes that are biblical in some degree or another. God’s love did not receive as much attention. But today, if people believe in God at all, by and large they find it easy to believe in God’s love.

Yet being comfortable with the notion of the love of God has been accompanied by some fairly spongy notions as to what love means. Occasionally you will hear somebody saying something like this: “It’s Christians I don’t like, I mean, God is love, and if everybody were just like Jesus, it would be wonderful. Jesus said, ‘Judge not that you be not judged.’ You know, if we could all just be nonjudgmental and be loving the way Jesus was loving, then the world would be a better place.” There is an assumption then about the nature of love, isn’t there? Love is nonjudgmental. It does not condemn anyone. It lets everybody do whatever they want. That is what love means.

Of course, it is sadly true that sometimes Christians—God help us—are mean. Certainly it is true that Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matt. 7:1). But when he said this, did he really mean, “Do not make any morally discriminating judgments?” Why then does he give so many commands about telling the truth? Don’t such commands stand as condemnation of lies and liars? Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves: doesn’t that constitute an implicit judgment on those who don’t? In fact, in the very text where Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” he goes on to say just five verses later, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs” (Matt. 7:6), which means that somebody has to figure out who the swine are.

In other words, when Jesus says something as important as “Do not Judge, or you too Wlll he Judged,” there is a context to he understood. Jesus, after all, cuts an astonishingly high moral swath through his time. So if people think “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” means that Jesus is abolishing all morality and leaving all such questions up to the individual, they have not even begun to understand who Jesus is. Jesus does condemn the kind of judgment that is judgmental, self-righteous, or hypocritical. He condemns such judgment repeatedly and roundly. But there is no way on God’s green earth that he is condemning moral discernment or the priority of truth. In any case there is more to God’s love, to Jesus’s love, than avoiding judgmentalism.

That means that when we think of God’s love, we need to think of God’s other attributes too—his holiness, truthfulness, glory (his manifestation of his spectacular being and loveliness), and all the rest–and think through how all of them work together all the time. Sadly, precisely because our culture finds it relatively easy to believe that God is a God of love, we have developed notions of God’s love that are disturbingly spongy and sentimental and almost always alienated from the full range of the attributes that make God, God.

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