Tag Archives: love

The law of love

Here is a snippet from a comment series on a previous post that I thought was worth highlighting:

Incest was necessary given the nature of God’s creation of human lineage. And polygamy and concubines run rampant in the Old Testament among those deemed righteous.

Incest is not unnatural in the biological sense. One could, and rightly so, argue that it is a very bad idea today given the degree of genetic mutations. However such genetic factors are not a guarantee nor is our present revulsion at the notion a negation of the biological reality of procreation.

You are correct that polygamy and concubines run rampant in the OT. And many who participated in the practice were considered righteous. However none of them were considered righteous for their polygamy or marital indiscretions. In fact, it is abundantly clear that these men were deeply flawed individuals and only considered righteous through grace on God’s part. So to assume their righteousness incorporated all of their deeds is to commit the basic fallacy of assuming salvation or favor with God is merited through works and not through grace.

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Is God a “God of wrath”? Several reasons why He isn’t.

A rather interesting discussion on Facebook began when a friend of mine posted the following:

The Prince of Peace also is the holy, righteous, and just God of wrath.

Justice is the reason for wrath

Justice, not wrath. In order for God to be a “God of wrath” there would need to be something for God to display his wrath to for eternity, making sin a necessity, which would entail dualism.

Peace and wrath are incompatible as eternal states of being. Wrath may be displayed in order to bring about peace, but in that case it is merely a means to an end, namely a just or peaceful state of affairs.

Further, wrath, like hatred, is nowhere stated as being a part of God’s character. Presumably because before God chose to create, when there was naught but the trinity in a state of complete perfection, there was no need for God to hate or display his wrath to bring about a just state of peace.

But doesn’t the Bible say that God is also wrathful?

Hebrews 1:9 says, “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.” God’s attributes are perfectly balanced in His divine perfection. The wrath of God is always perfect just as is His love, always. Man has a hard time understanding this because man’s wrath is almost always compromised by the presence of sin, therefore they cannot place that attribute upon God. The word says, and I believe it.

This is not something you can make an appeal to mystery for and then just walk away and pretend as if you’ve avoided the issue. The fact remains that if wrath is a part of God’s character as opposed to merely something God employed in time in regards to finite beings, there would need to be a timeless, infinite object of God’s wrath. That would raise such an object of wrath to a position of sharing other attributes God alone possesses. Namely being a necessary as opposed to contingent being.

So just as wickedness is not eternal, neither is the need to punish it. Justice, and love, however, are.

Let’s approach this from another angle: If wrath is a part of God’s character, who was God displaying wrath to for eternity past? Sinners? Are we willing to say that men and angles are uncreated eternal beings?

There is a difference between God’s actions in time vs. character traits that are a part of God’s nature. So no, God is not jealous in that He was jealous before time began since that would also require there to be something God is jealous of.

I suppose a point of difficulty for us1 is our notion of time and God’s relation to it. I would maintain that God is not immutable in the sense that most reformed people view Him as (which would also make it impossible for God to think, act, speak, etc.) but that God entered into time when He decided to create so that there are some tensed truths we can say of God now that have not always been and will not always be true. Being wrathful is one of those truths, as is being jealous.

And as fine a point as it may be2, I believe it is important to make a distinction between the means and the ends. God’s wrath is not an end in itself but rather a means to an end. The same goes for God’s jealousy.

Isn’t wrath an integral part of justice? Who did God display justice to before man was created?

Wes, your first response to the “God of wrath” statement was, “Justice, not wrath. In order for God to be a “God of wrath” there would need to be something for God to display his wrath to for eternity, making sin a necessity, which would entail dualism.”

Under your hypothesis, Wes, how could He be a God of justice, because as you later stated, “Let’s approach this from another angle: If wrath is a part of God’s character, who was God displaying wrath to for eternity past? Sinners?”

Let’s approach it from your angle, Wes. If you deny the God of wrath because there were no sinners in eternity past for His wrath to be displayed upon, why can you freely accept the God of justice prior to the need for justice under the same conditions? Who would He need to display justice to? (emphasis mine)

Himself.

Justice is indeed needed, but there can be a just state of affairs without the need for anything to be done to maintain that state of affairs.

God is wholly just and therefore complete in Himself. The question of God’s character including wrath has a direct bearing on His aseity or completeness within Himself.

The key here in my estimation is to remove man from the equation completely lest we get sidetracked by immaterial issues when discussing what constitutes the character of God.

So in the case of wrath, we should ask how that character trait was expressed before man was ever created. When we talk to others about God being a God of love, for example, we gain a distinct advantage over those who also claim God is love but do not accept the trinity (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, etc.). In this case we can say that God was, in eternity past, in a loving relationship in the trinity so that love and community itself become necessary character traits of God and not merely derived character traits that only come into existence after other agents were created.

Conclusion

I’ve found that people who are intent on portraying God as a “God of wrath” are bad philosophers who are often unaware of the problems, the mental time bombs, they create for others. Many times I’ve found people who adopt a view of wrath being a part of God’s character are, themselves, quite bitter and otherwise unpleasant people. In those cases it appears that the attribution of wrath to God is little more than a projection of themselves.

However we must, if we are serious about maturing and become approved workmen in the Kingdom of God, examine this issue carefully. We must pay close attention to the implications of our assertions.

God does display his wrath to sinners. But that wrath is not an end in itself. Wrath is something God uses in relation to the justice and holiness that make up God’s character.

  1. By “us”, I mean those who prefer to picture God as being eternally wrathful. []
  2. At this point, some were whining about this being a pointless argument. A tactic that is taken by those who wish not to think too deeply about an issue. []

Thanks to Whom?

Last year my daughter helped shed some insights into Thanksgiving. And since she reminded me of her insights again this year, I thought I would share them with everyone. Enjoy!

My daughter’s recently had a week where the emphasis was on “being thankful” before Thanksgiving this year.

Curiously, or typically rather in our politically correct society, she and her classmates weren’t told who they were supposed to be thankful to. Just to have a general attitude of thankfulness. But that raises an interesting question:

Thanks to whom?

My wife immediately recognized the problem such an ungrounded view of “general attitude of thankfulness” presents. We’ve been teaching our children to pray and they typically begin “Thank you Jesus…” Right from the start we’ve tried to make them understand that what we have is not our own1 and that the thanks we offer has a specific object in the form of Jesus Christ, the creator and sustainer of all things Colossians 1:16-17.

Whether you have a deity such as Krishna, Allah, or the I AM of the Bible, or an inanimate object like genetics, “mother earth”, or an impersonal force like fate, our thanks must be directed at something.

So this season our goal has been to further instill (as much as possible with a 4 and 2 year old) the understanding that thanksgiving without an object is a contradiction in terms. Who knows, maybe they will be able to pass that bit of information on to their deistic friends. Wishful thinking, I know, but hey stranger things have happened.

Happy thanksgiving!

  1. That is, not of our own making. We may earn the physical things we buy but the existence of those things is beyond our control. In fact, even the ability to gain the resources needed to obtain the things we are thankful for are beyond our control. So while we work hard and want to teach our children to do the same, we also want to teach them that every moment we’ve been given is a gift from above and we should be thankful for even the very breath in our lungs. []

A brief exposition of John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16

World is not merely nations in this text. Such a distinction, while required in order to prop up the doctrine of limited atonement, is simply not found in the text. What the text does say, however, is that God loves the whole world (without distinction so that we understand God to love all men, as is his revealed character throughout Scripture) in such a way as to give his only begotten son for the same (that is, all men without distinction, elect and non-elect, chosen and non-chosen) and that whosoever will may believe in Jesus and be saved (indicating how one may go from being one of the not-saved to one of the saved or non-elect to elect “in Christ”).

The glory of God here is that God is both willing (so loved) and able (that he sent) to save all men without distinction so that there is hope (whosoever will) for all men.

Curiously this verse does not say that God only loved the elect, only died for the elect, and that only the elect will (through irresistible and forceful changing of a person’s will against their desires/wishes/choice) be saved.

The epistemology of pornography

Much has been said regarding pornography. It’s use, it’s consumption, it’s effects on both groups, and it’s effect on society.

I want to step back, however, for a minute and discuss how pornography itself constitutes a “way of knowing” regarding sex and how this method of knowing, this ideological grid, colors how we think about sex in general and our own personal sexual relationships in particular.

To begin with, we need to take a look at what pornography is, and isn’t.

The etymology of pornography is basically “writing about prostitutes/harlots/whores”. For our purposes we’ll take the first definition from The Free Dictionary: writings, pictures, films, etc., designed to stimulate sexual excitement So pornography is not merely a subjective description but one which is based on the intent (either stated or implied) of the author.

With that in mind we need to look at how pornography is often transmitted. The preferred medium pornography uses is often pictographic.

Videos and images.

Sure, there is such a thing as text-based pornography in the form of erotic stories and harlequin romance novels. However these are not what has propelled the pornography industry into a multi-billion dollar enterprise1.

Why is it important that most pornography is conveyed in the medium of images? Because the medium shapes the message.

In short; Context.

Pornographic images and even videos do not generally convey much context. Aside from a small amount of foreplay, mood-setting pretext, and, on the rare occasion, an “ending” to round things out, not much time is spent in pornography delving into the actor’s thoughts or feelings. Aside from obvious physical compatibility, the viewer is left not knowing what kind of person either participant is.

And herein lies the rub.

Pornography systematically destroys the context wherein sex normally lies and thereby produces a wholly unrealistic fantasy world.

Unfortunately many people in our culture, no doubt conditioned through countless hours of exposure to both soft and hardcore pornography, have tried to live out in real life what they have seen acted out in pornography. They embark upon serially monogamous relationships. Or, as is becoming more common, they embrace “open relationships”, “friends with benefits”, and the lure of so-called sexual liberation with wild abandon.

Why? What are they looking for?

Cheap entertainment.

You see, the antithesis to this sort of sexual epistemology is the one that has been traditionally accepted throughout the ages. That is, the idea that sexual activity takes place within the context of a long-term monogamous relationship. Or, to put it more specifically; the sexual epistemology of the past was rooted firmly in traditional marriage and family.

In the end, there are really only two ways of thinking about sex. Either it is within a specific context or it isn’t. Context-less sex is made to be appealing through the widespread proliferation of context-less pornography.

  1. You’ll be waiting quite a while if you’re waiting on a “Girls Gone Wild” novel. []

For Esau I have hated.

One of the most common proof-texts used to show that God arbitrarily elects some to salvation while damning others without merit or cause is Romans 9:13

As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

Many people have a hard time with this passage as it is often posited as evidence of God’s sovereign choice unto election of Jacob and express damnation of Esau “before he had done good or evil”.

The first thing to note about this section is that the phrase “for Esau I have hated” is derived from the words of the prophet Malachi who, in Malachi 1:2-3, was talking about the nations of Edom and Israel. In the same manner Paul, writing in Romans 9 after a lengthy discussion regarding the need for his fellow Israelites to repent, was discussing the lineage of the chosen Messiah. It is a very large exegetical stretch to come to the conclusion that Romans 9 is talking about individual salvation since the context is the messiah’s lineage. consequently, the pots mentioned in Romans 9:19-26 are not people but nations.

At this point, many (primarily from the reformed camp) will argue along the lines that “nations are made up of people”. While this is true, we are still a long ways away from a particular view of election.

Hebrews 12:16 seems to indicate that Esau was a profane man but you don’t seem to think that God foreknew that or that such a knowledge could have played a part in God’s choosing. It seems plausible that the foreknown, freely made choice to sin was the basis for God’s hatred and condemnation of both the person of Esau as well as the nation that sprung from Esau’s loins; why then would we think that the same sort of freely chosen and foreknown transgressions wouldn’t be the basis of God’s choice to bring the promised seed through one and not the other?

For a more in-depth treatment of this subject I encourage you to listen to:

How are women portrayed in the Koran vs. the Bible?

[HT Answering Muslims]

Here are videos from an excellent debate between Mary Jo Sharp of Confident Christianity and Tabassum Hussain PhD. on the topic: “Women: The Bible and The Quran.”:

OPENING STATEMENTS

1ST REBUTTALS

2ND REBUTTALS/Q&A

CONCLUSIONS

Love thy enemies

In a previous post I laid out an ontological argument (following Descartes’ formula) for God’s loving the whole world (on contrast to the rather limited view of love posited by the reformed doctrine of Limited Atonement). Here I will attempt to provide a Biblical case from the standpoint of Christ’s words to “love thy enemies”.

1. We were all sinners (Romans 3:23), separated from God at one point in time. That is, we were under the penalty of death (Eph 2:1) and enemies of God (Romans 5:10).
2. Jesus told his followers to love their enemies, and not just their friends. (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27, Luke 6:35)
3. Therefore God loves all men (John 3:16) and even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6, 5:8)

Several conclusions can be drawn from this chain. Namely that all men are in the same boat at some point in their lives. That is, we are all separated from Christ. Additionally, for those who are saved, we have truly passed from death to life (John 5:24). And finally, this change in position before God is a time-bound stance such that there truly was a time we were heading to hell and for those of us who are saved our eternal destination truly changed from “heading to hell” to “heading to heaven”.

The sad reality, though, is that while everyone is dead in their sins and an enemy of God, and while Christ loves all men who are, by nature, his enemies, not everyone is made alive. Why? is it a lack of love on God’s part? Or is it a lack of acceptance on ours?

You see, only one option leave God’s love undiminished.

God is love. (1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16)

Choose life. (Deut 30:19)

God and evil, two views

From a conversation via Google Buzz1:

I can’t help but coming to the conclusion that, outside of open theism where God has no clue what the future holds, God is always in some way ‘responsible’ for sin and evil in the world. I say that with reverence and a few qualifications, of course. But God created the world at least knowing the sin and evil that would come from it. He also sustains the world and the wicked in it. He gives them life, breath, health, cognitive ability, opportunity, freedom of conscience, He doesn’t restrain their evil, and He doesn’t always save the innocent (though having full power to do so).

So if you really want to talk about ‘responsibility’, then God is most definitely the ultimate cause of all things. Without Him this world would not exist.

If we’re going to use our fallible understanding in determining if God is ‘responsible’ or not, which IMO is what Molinism is trying to do, then by anyone’s book the definition above applies full guilt and responsibility to God.

There is a big difference between 1a) God choosing to actualize (or create) a world where in evil is possible and 1b) further choosing to sustain it’s order in spite of the free choice to sin and perform evil by free (in a limited capacity) causal agents and 2) God’s being the direct cause of all that happens in the world such that all things that happen do so as a direct result of his will.

In the first instance we can show how God is truly holy and unconnected with sin who can nonetheless use it or direct it to good ends.

In the second case we are left wondering how God could be against something he causally directs. We are left with a dualistic view of evil’s being necessary for the existence of good which is something that ought to bother us since God declares his absolute disdain of evil.

We can also see that only in the second sense can God truly be at war with evil, sin, and death. Whereas the second view of God’s direct involvement in the promulgation of sin calls into question God’s commitment to it’s destruction, the first view is able to logically account for evil as being the sole product of limited free causal agents outside and independent of God.

Or, as Ravi Zacharias put it in a recent open forum: God gave us the tools of free will and love and we chose to misuse those tools to produce slavery and death.

  1. I love Google Buzz. []

Dating, what if we have it all wrong?

[HT The Ruth Institute]

What if our culture’s assumption that “freely chosen relationships” is not true?

We’ve long held in our culture that arranged marriages are inherently evil for depriving couples of the freedom to choose their (supposedly) life-long mates. However, what if we discovered that instead of love being diminished by the removal of the prospective spouses’ free choice of whom to wed, we discovered that love is actually increased?

Sounds like an oxymoron, huh? But a recent article discussing the failings of how our criteria of freely choosing mates based purely on our chemical highs (which we mistakenly label “love”) has some very interesting tidbits, including:

Imagine a dating world turned on its head, in which people were not given the freedom to opt into or out of a relationship — such as a culture that practices arranged marriages. What researchers have found will be shocking to Westerners weaned on the idea of romantic love.

According to a 1982 study by two Indian researchers, the level of self-reported love in arranged marriages increased over time until they surpassed the level of self-reported love in marriages that were freely chosen. Incredible as it sounds, people with a very limited say in choosing their own spouses eventually became happier with their relationships than people with the freedom to choose anyone they wanted.

This really shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially Christians, since marriage ought to serve as institutional guide-rails for fledgling relationships. Offering clearly defined roles for both spouses along with clear standards of what is and is not acceptable. Meaning infidelity is scorned and unconditional love is praised among other traits.

I only hope I can get these ideas across to my children before they reach the age they decide to start dating…