Wednesday, June 6, 2007

D.A. Carson & Ray Anderson:On Love

D.A. Carson. The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God

“I do not think that what the Bible says about the love of God can long survive at the forefront of our thinking if it is abstracted from the sovereignty of God, the holiness of God, the wrath of God, the providence of God, or the personhood of God—to mention only a few nonnegotiable elements of basic Christianity. The result, of course, 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.” (11)

“Today most people seem to have little difficulty believing in the love of God; they have far more difficulty believing in the justice of God, the wrath of God, and the non-contradictory truthfulness of an omniscient God. But is the biblical teaching on the love of God maintaining its shape when the meaning of “God” dissolves in mist?” (12)

“The transcendent, majestic, awesome God of Luther and Calvin…has undergone a softening of demeanor through the American experience of Protestantism, with only minor exceptions…Many of the sermons depict a God whose behavior is regular, patterned, and predictable; he is portrayed in terms of the consistency of his behavior, of the conformity of his actions to the single rule of ‘love.’” (13)

“…one of the most 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.” (15)

“If the love of God is exclusively portrayed as an inviting, yearning, sinner-seeking, rather lovesick passion, we may strengthen the hands of…those more interested in God’s inner emotional life than in his justice and glory, but the cost will be massive.” (22)

“We too quickly think of our salvation almost exclusively with respect to its bearing on us. Certainly there is endless ground for wonder in the Father’s love for us, in Jesus’ love for us. But undergirding them, most basic than they are, is the Father’s love for the Son.” (35)

“There has always been an other-orientation to the love of God. All the manifestations of the love of God emerge out of this deeper, more fundamental reality: love is bound up in the very nature of God. God is love.” (39)

“Strange to tell, not once is Jesus or God ever described in the Bible as our friend. Abraham is God’s friend; the reverse is never stated.” (41)

“The Westminster Confession of Faith asserts that God is ‘without…passions.’ …at its best impassibility is trying to avoid a picture of a God who is changeable, give over to mood swings, dependent upon his creatures. Our passions shape our direction and frequently control our will. What shall we say of God?” (48-49)

“If we picture the crucifixion of Jesus Christ solely in terms of the conspiracy of the local political authorities at the time, and not in terms of God’s plan…then the entailment is that the cross was an accident of history. Perhaps it was an accident cleverly manipulated by God in his own interests, but it was not part of the divine plan. In that case, the entire pattern of antecedent predictive revelation is destroyed: Yom Kippur, the Passover Lamb, the sacrificial system, and so forth. Rip Hebrews out of your Bible, for a start.” (53)

Rightly conceived, God’s immutability is enormously important. It engenders stability and elicits worship…He is unchanging in his being, purposes, and perfections. But this does not mean he cannot interact with his image-bearers in their time…Even the most superficial reading of Scripture discloses God to be a personal Being who interacts with us. None of this is meant to be ruled out by immutability.” (54-55)

“If God is utterly sovereign, anD if he is utterly all-knowing, what space is left for emotions as we think of them? The diving oracles that picture God in pain or joy or love surely seem a little out of place, do they not, when this God knows the end from the beginning, cannot be surprised, and remains in charge of the whole thing anyway? From such a perspective, is it not obvious that the doctrine of the love of God is difficult?” (58)

“The impassibility of God…is trying to ward off the kind of sentimentalizing views of the love of God an of other emotions (“passions”) in God that ultimately make him a souped-up human being but no more.” (59-60)

“God’s emotions, including his love in all its aspects, cannot be divorced from God’s knowledge, God’s power, God’s will. If God loves us, it is because he chooses to love; if he suffers, it is because he chooses to suffer. God is impassible in the sense that he sustains no “passion,” no emotion, that makes him vulnerable from the outside, over which he has no control, or which he has not forseen.” (60)

“Our passions change our direction and priorities, domesticating our will, controlling our misery and our happiness, surprising and destroying or establishing our commitments. But God’s “passions,” like everything else in God, are displayed in conjuction with the fullness of all his other perfections. In that framework, God’s love is not so much a function of his will, as something that displays itself in perfect harmony with his will—and with his holiness, his purposes in redemption, his infinitely wise plans, and so forth…This approach to these matters accounts well for certain biblical truths of immense practical importance. God does not ‘fall in love’ with the elect; he does not ‘fall in love’ with us; he sets his affection on us. He does not predestine us out of some stern whimsy; rather, in love he predestines us to be adopted as his sons (Eph. 1:4-5). The texts themselves tie the love of God to other perfections in God.” (60-61)

Ray S. Anderson. The Soul of God

“We can say that God is love, but the reverse cannot be said: love, by human standards, is not God. The reductionism of divine love to human love leads to a confusion of tongues.” (76)

“We should not shrink from expressing God’s love in terms that reflect the passion of God by which he enters into the human situation so fully that it requires him to enter the depths of human estrangement.” (79)

“If divine love is troubled, it is not by anxiety or unrest within love itself. What arouses passion in the love of God is not an unfulfilled need, but a longing to embrace the diving image in another. This longing is the fulfillment of love which may yet suffer the contingencies of time and chance in this temporal life.” (80)

“[D]ivine impassibility—the theory that God does not experience emotion and feelings such as humans do. This view of God’s being held that for God to experience emotion would introduce change in God’s being, which would conflict with another theory that God was unchangeable and immutable…Professor Torrance was somewhat resistant to my suggesting that God surely must experience emotion and have deep passion as Jesus did.” (80)

“And when the Father did not spare his own Son but freely delivered him up for us all in atoning sacrifice, the Cross became a window into the innermost heart of God and the nature of his love. It tells us that God loves us more than he loves himself.” (81)

“To suffer is to hope for something with such passion that we are bound to be disappointed.” (83)

“They finally accept the tragic as due to sin, but not as a reality of love. Thus, the love of God is preserved (in their minds) as an ideal form of love, and their sense of God’s presence and favor as fragile as their faith.” (84)

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