The love of God in biblical and Reformed theology

Reid, John William (2013) The love of God in biblical and Reformed theology. MTh(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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God’s love in Biblical and Reformed theology is a love that is both general and particular. The Old and New Testaments both show that God has a general love that He manifests upon all people, regardless of who they are. This general love is seen in His providence, His common grace and the free offer of the gospel. God’s particular love is evidenced in His relationship with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and the Church in the New Testament. Other examples of this particular love are God’s love for certain individuals, such as Abraham and David, as well as His love for groups such as aliens. God’s love does not just focus on nations, groups or individuals; He also loves cites such as Jerusalem, the place where he dwelt with His people. He also loves righteousness and those who actively pursue it. One aspect of His love that is focused on in the New Testament is His love for His Son, Jesus, whose love for His Father is also a key motif. It is this love of God that sends Jesus to be an atoning sacrifice for sinners at Calvary, which is where the love of God and the righteousness of God are seen. It is at the cross of Christ that God’s love is seen in its greatest manifestation in contrast to God’s love seen in creation and His providence. God’s love supremely revealed in Christ is not just a self-giving love; it is a desiring love that jealously desires the complete commitment of God’s people in return. That God desires to love those outside of His Trinitarian relationship does not affect who God is, for if He had chosen not to love anyone, He would still be a loving God and a God of Love. That God chooses to love others, though that love is often rejected, does not mean that God is changed by the love that He does or does not receive, for He is an impassible God who cannot be affected by that which is outside of Himself. This does not mean that God has no emotion or feeling, for He could not be a God of love without having feelings or emotions. The fact that evil exists in God’s world does not mean that God does not love or is not love, for He has allowed humanity free will. While He allows sin and evil to enter into His creation, He is not responsible for it, yet has permitted it within the eternal counsel of His will. God’s fore-ordination does not take our free will away but allows and permits it. The love of God is one of the attributes or perfections of God, but it is not the only one. God is God because He is the sum total of all His attributes or perfections. Reformed theology has generally placed the attribute of love within the goodness of God, yet one must question whether this goodness of God actually reflects the New Testament teaching on the Trinitarian love of God, or the atoning death of Christ. It appears that the New Testament highlights the love of God rather than His goodness. Reformed theology is distinct among other theologies because it believes that God is sovereign and chooses to manifest His saving love to some people, the elect, and that He has chosen to pass over others leaving them in their sin (reprobation). This is not based on His foreknowledge of a person’s faith, repentance, perseverance or good works, but because God has chosen to enter into a saving and loving relationship with not all people, but some people. Critics of this doctrine of reprobation question whether this is consistent with His loving nature and His desire to save all people. The reality is that God does not need to save anyone; the fact that He does choose to save some is a testimony to not only His loving nature but His sovereignty also. Reformed theology guarantees the salvation of at least some people because God ensures that some are given the ability to respond to the free offer of the gospel. The doctrine of a universal grace of God that pursues and invites sinners to come to Christ does not do justice to the doctrine of total depravity, which says that none can respond to God unless God Himself originates spiritual life in them, for we have no ability to believe and repent apart from His work in the human heart. Neither should it be doubted that God loves those who do not hear the good news of Jesus. He loves them with a general love. That they do not hear this good news for whatever reason shows us that they were not among the elect of God, for if they were He would have ensured that they heard it and responded to it. There is no firm evidence to suggest that those who do not hear of Jesus will be saved apart from a conscious knowledge of Him because of the sovereign grace of God; this is because they are condemned not because they did not hear of a saviour called Jesus, but because of their sin which makes them an object of God’s wrath.

Item Type: Thesis (MTh(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Love, common grace, unevangelized, sovereign grace, election, reprobation, goodness, atonement, agape, hesed, aheb, eros, impassibility, evil,
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BS The Bible
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BT Doctrinal Theology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts
Supervisor's Name: Macleod, Professor Donald and Jasper, Professor David
Date of Award: 2013
Depositing User: Mr John William Reid
Unique ID: glathesis:2013-5137
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2014 11:53
Last Modified: 26 Jun 2014 11:55

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