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Man’s Love–God’s Love: can there be an analogy between them?

February 14, 2008

A little while ago, Bnonn had a debate with this hypercalvinist. Bnonn posted his very thoughtful and insightful response here. Part of the argument was this denial of the rightness of our extrapolating from human love to divine Love. Anyway, Bnonn lays it all out.

I was reading Bucer and I came across this:

This Spirit therefore also produces in all such a firm hope in all the grace and help of God, and in eternal lie. By means of and along with these attitudes of true faith, trust and hope in God and in Christ our Lord, the Holy Spirit also produces in the children of God a deep love for God, a joyful confession and hallowing of his name in all their words and works and in the courageous acceptance of consequent sufferings and even of torments and death (2 Cor. 4. 8-11; 6. 4-9; Phil. 2. 7 f.). In like manner the Spirit endues us with an eager obedience towards all his commandments, for the Lord says, ‘He that loves me keeps my commandments’ (John 14. 15). And so also he creates in us a true, faithful and active love for all men, whether their attitude towards us is good or evil (Matt. 5. 43 f.; Luke 6. 27-34). For this is the Lord’s new commandment, and by this love we are recognized as being his disciples (John 13. 34 f.; 15. 12). This love is the fulfillment of the law of God, in that by it a man is led to learn, do, suffer or avoid everything according as it will best promote the temporal and eternal welfare of his neighbor (Rom. 13 8 ff.; Gal. 5.14; 2 Cor.. 13, 11; 1 Cor. 9. J9-23).

Martin Bucer, Common Places, Trans., and Ed., by D.F. Wright (England: The Sutton Courtenay Press, 1972), 80.

I know this is not a bullet proof exegetical argument–I am not even pretending do table such. What strikes me here is that intuitively what Bucer says here is just common sense. But if the hypercalvinist was right, it would entail God creating in his a love, a trait, and a quality which he himself is unable and/or unwilling to exercise. It would mean that God imposes upon man a law which he himself is not bound to. I wonder too, how Christ would fit into this. Did Christ as the God-Incarnate love all men?

A little later, Bucer nails it:

The words ‘in love’ allow of two senses: either of our kindness and love towards our neighbour through which imitating God himself as best we can through his Spirit dwelling within us, we eagerly do good to all men; or of the love of us in an objective sense, the love wherewith God has loved us-so that we have a further mention of the cause of our election, which is solely the boundless love of God with which he embraces us in his Son.

Martin Bucer, Common Places, Trans., and Ed., by D.F. Wright (England: The Sutton Courtenay Press, 1972), 113.

Just thinking…

David

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 14, 2008 5:33 pm

    Hey David; good find. I’d be careful about speaking of God imposing laws on us which he himself is not bound to, as if this is problematic in principle. He does, of course, impose many such laws—and hypercalvinists generally have no problem with the idea of God being entirely ex lex. I think it is better to focus specifically on God’s character, and the sorts of absurd inconsistencies which arise if you assume that the very essence of the law is actually at odds with that character.

    I also think you’re right on track with regard to how we can look to Christ for answers on this topic. Many fruitful examples of God’s love could be found in Jesus’ actions. However, I didn’t want my post to become too long, and there are many qualifications and extraneous issues which sometimes arise when we examine the life of Jesus in the pursuit of formulating theological doctrines—so I decided to leave it be. But an obvious example that comes to mind, not in regards to love but rather in regards to how God does not desire preceptively that which he nonetheless desires decretively, is John 11. Here, Jesus is “deeply moved and troubled” in his spirit at the death of Lazarus. Yet we know that, from eternity, he desired and determined that Lazarus would die. Ron’s view would seem to make it impossible for God to have such “conflicting emotions”. Frankly, Ron needs to read more Scripture and spend less time deciding what the Bible must say on the basis of his philosophical presuppositions (and I can speak from experience in making this rebuke).

    Regards,
    Bnonn

  2. Flynn permalink
    February 15, 2008 3:45 pm

    Hey Bnonn,
    Bnonn says: Hey David; good find. I’d be careful about speaking of God imposing laws on us which he himself is not bound to, as if this is problematic in principle. He does, of course, impose many such laws—and hypercalvinists generally have no problem with the idea of God being entirely ex lex. I think it is better to focus specifically on God’s character, and the sorts of absurd inconsistencies which arise if you assume that the very essence of the law is actually at odds with that character.

    David: Okay I can modify the point. The moral laws God imposes upon man are also moral laws by which God himself necessarily obtains to. As to the ex lex and nominalist-conceptualist idea, I just reject that. Would the same people say that God can create square circles? Make 2 plus 2 equal 5?

    Bnonn: I also think you’re right on track with regard to how we can look to Christ for answers on this topic. Many fruitful examples of God’s love could be found in Jesus’ actions. However, I didn’t want my post to become too long, and there are many qualifications and extraneous issues which sometimes arise when we examine the life of Jesus in the pursuit of formulating theological doctrines—so I decided to leave it be. But an obvious example that comes to mind, not in regards to love but rather in regards to how God does not desire preceptively that which he nonetheless desires decretively, is John 11. Here, Jesus is “deeply moved and troubled” in his spirit at the death of Lazarus. Yet we know that, from eternity, he desired and determined that Lazarus would die. Ron’s view would seem to make it impossible for God to have such “conflicting emotions”. Frankly, Ron needs to read more Scripture and spend less time deciding what the Bible must say on the basis of his philosophical presuppositions (and I can speak from experience in making this rebuke).

    David: Oh yes there are gobs of possible counter-factuals to the hyper’s claim there. “As you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” That has to regard the ethical life of Christ. Your exegesis was spot on too. It’s the irony with regard to these guys who claim to be Reformed.

    Take care,
    David

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