Addressing Omnibenevolence Part I: Why God’s Love Is a Difficult Doctrine

Donald Carson has written a very insightful book called The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000). This short, 94 page book is broken down into four chapters: On Distorting the Love of God, God Is Love, God’s Love and God’s Sovereignty, and God’s Love and God’s Wrath. Carson has addressed some of the key issues with the love of God, not the least of which is how God’s love is to be understood in light of His other perfections. Subsequently, as we begin to discuss the doctrine of omnibenevolence, I believe it is fitting to start with Carson’s five reasons why the doctrine of the love of God must be judged difficult. These five reasons are below and do not include my personal commentary; however, I would be interested in hearing yours.
5 Reasons Why the Doctrine of the Love of God Must Be Judged Difficult

  1. If people believe in God at all today, the overwhelming majority hold that this God—however he, she, or it may be understood—is a loving being (9).

Quote: “This widely disseminated belief in the love of God is set with increasing frequency in some matrix other than biblical theology. The result is that when informed Christians talk about the love of God, they mean something very different from what is meant in the surrounding culture. Worse, neither side may perceive that this is the case” (9-10).

  1. We live in a culture in which many other and complementary truths about God are widely disbelieved (11).

Quote: “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).

  1. Some elements of the larger and still developing patterns of postmodernism play into the problem with which we are dealing (13).

Quote: “In short, the most energetic cultural tide, postmodernism, powerfully reinforces the most sentimental, syncretistic, and often pluralistic views of the love of God, with no other authority base than the postmodern epistemology itself. But that makes the articulation of a biblical doctrine of God and of a biblical doctrine of the love of God an extraordinarily difficult challenge” (14).

  1. The first three difficulties stem from developments in the culture that make grasping and articulating the doctrine of the love of God a considerable challenge (15).

Quote: “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).

  1. Finally, the doctrine of the love of God is sometimes portrayed within Christian circles as much easier and more obvious than it really is, and this is achieved by overlooking some of the distinctions the Bible introduces when it depicts the love of God (15-16).

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Addressing Omnibenevolence Series:

Denying the ‘Core and Classical Attribute’ of Omnibenevolence? 05.26.06

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Explore posts in the same categories: Doctrinal Issues, Omnibenevolence

5 Comments on “Addressing Omnibenevolence Part I: Why God’s Love Is a Difficult Doctrine”

  1. Gordan Says:

    Great post. I’d like to see someone seriously address the hatred of God as well, as expressed in places like Psalm 5:5 and Romans 9. (What?! God hates some people??? Say it ain’t so!)

    One dread consequence of distorting God’s love within the churches is that we then turn around and say that our job is to show God’s love to the world. But we have a totally skewed and unbiblical idea of God’s love to begin with, so how’s that gonna work out for us? Showing “God’s love” becomes something that dovetails quite nicely with the culture’s obsession with Tolerance and universal, uncritical acceptance of whatever perversity, all in the name of being “Christlike.”

  2. Timmy Says:

    Gordon,

    In the near future I will add a few excerpts from this book where Carson deals with God’s Love and God’s wrath. He disagrees with the cliche “God loves the sinner and hates the sin” and thinks it should be done away with.

    More to come . . .

  3. Francesco De Lucia Says:

    I also personally think that THE SCRIPTURE doesn’t make the distinction “hating sin and not the sinner”.

    I think God hates sinners who are outside of Christ (who are only in Adam, and not united legally and spiritually with Christ).

    There are MANY passages which say God HATES PEOPLE, not just their sin. See, for example, Psalm 5:5,6, Lev. 20:23, Prov. 6:16-19, Hos. 9:15, Psalm 11:5-7.


  4. […] « Addressing Omnibenevolence Part I: Why God’s Love Is a Difficult Doctrine […]


  5. […] Addressing ‘Omnibenevolence’ 05.24.06 Denying the ‘Core and Classical Attribute’ of Omnibenevolence? 05.26.06 Addressing Omnibenevolence Series 05.31.06 Part One: Why the Love of God Is a Difficult Doctrine 06.01.06 Part Two: How the Bible Speaks of the Love of God 06.02.06 Part Three: God’s Love and God’s Sovereignty 06.03.06 […]


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