Saturday, February 19, 2011

Does God Love of Necessity?

When we say, with the author of 1 John, that "God is Love," what do we mean by this?  According to this text, if taken quite literally, it is not simply that God loves whom God chooses to love, but God's essence is love.  It is a divine attribute, just like omnipresence, et al.  So what does this mean, especially as it regards God's relationship with humanity?

First we start with a definition of love and I have found Tom Oord's basic definition to be quite useful in this regard. 
To love is to act intentionally, in sympathetic/empathetic response to God and others, to promote overall well-being.  (Oord, Nature of Love, p. 17).
 From this basic definition he suggests that love exists in three forms, in spite of love (agape), because of love (eros), and  alongside of love (philia).

Now the question is -- does God love us of necessity or does God chose to love?  Tom Oord suggests that if God is love, then God must love of necessity.  Now some would say, yes God loves within the Trinity (that was Augustine's view) but God does not of necessity love the creation.  Oord, however, making use of the Hebrew statements about chesed  (see Ex. 34:6; Ps. 136), God's steadfast or everlasting love, suggests that "the God whose love for creation is everlasting and endures forever must be the God who necessarily and essentially loves creatures" (Oord, p. 130).

It is in this sense that we can say that God's love is unconditional. Oord writes:

God essentially loves creation, because God's essential nature includes love for the world.  If God's nature did not include love for creation, Christian appeals to God's unconditional love would be baseless.  (Oord, p. 133).
So, my questions are, based on what Oord has written, does God love us of necessity?  And what does that mean?

3 comments:

Rick said...

Jesus was very practical. He touched people at their point of basic needs. He didn't give them bigger and better chariots, houses, etc. He gave them food, clothed the naked, healed the sick, visited those imprisoned, and set the captive free. He told people to go back to their homes and share the message of deliverance and hope rather than just following him and soaking up more data. A widow's mite was seen as more valuable in God's eyes than the coffers of the elite. We would all do well to look for those who are naked, hungry, imprisoned and otherwise in bondage. All people: rich, poor, no distinction by sex, nationality, creed or color. Love, like light, will penetrate anywhere it is present. If it doesn't go there, it isn't love.

Allan R. Bevere said...

A good question to ponder...

dcsloan said...

The love of God is a facet of the consistent and constant unchanging character of God.

Here in this mortal plane, there are people who are huggers. When you meet one of these people, you are going to get a hug. If are you familar with one of these people and you do not get a hug, first you are disappointed, then you are concerned about the well-being of this person. Being a hugger is a defining characteristic of who this person is.

God is more than a hugger, more than mortal, even more than immortal. God is consistent and constant and unchanging. God is capable of not loving us, but will always love each of us - it is just who God is.

God is relational. Each of us has a unique loving relation with God. Our uniqueness will color and affect, maybe even warp, that loving relationship. We might be blind and numb to that love and relationship - still the presence of God is with and within each of us.