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“God Is Love” is the center stage of theology

GOD is Love

“Western theology has had a difficult time placing “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8) at the center stage when discussing the divine attributes. Instead, it emphasizes the more abstract and impersonal attributes of omnipotence and omniscience. In my opinion this results from the failure to place the discussion of the divine nature under the category of a personal God carrying out a project.

Despite its claim that God is a personal being, Western thought has paid insufficient attention to the specific sort of world God decided to create—a world in which God enters into reciprocal, interpersonal relationships. Discussions of God’s nature that begin with the notion of the “absolute” make it extremely difficult to speak of God’s love as anything other than mere beneficence, in which case God cares for us but not about us. Emil Brunner put it this way: “To think that it is correct first of all to deal with the metaphysical Being of God, and then with His Love, as His ‘ethical attribute”, means that the decisive element in the Biblical Idea of God has not been perceived.” To adapt a statement by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, only the personal God can help, for it takes a personal being to love. Whereas classical theism’s root metaphor is God as the pillar around which all else moves, the root metaphor for relational theism is a personal God in loving relations with creaturely persons.

A Trinitarian metaphysic is illuminating in this regard. Beginning with a Trinitarian God of love who enters into loving personal relations with his creatures gives some direction to the doctrine of providence. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit love one another. They are involved in a tripersonal community in which each member of the triune being gives and receives love from the others. Relationality is an essential aspect of God. The tripersonal God is the perfection of love and communion—the very antithesis of aloofness, isolation and domination. God is no solitary potentate forcing his will on others. The members of the Trinity mutually share and relate to one another. In this view personhood is the ultimate ontological category. Personhood, relationality and community—not power, independence and control—become the center for understanding the nature of God. Whereas the main motif of the Neoplatonic God concept is that of distance and unrelatedness, the Christian doctrine of the Trinity asserts that to be God is to be related in love.

Hence God did not need to create in order to love, for the Trinity experiences and manifests the fullness of love. The members of the Trinity experience the agape love of one another: an unselfish, nonmanipulative love. In loving freedom the triune God decides to create creatures with whom to share this agape love. The creation should be seen as the result of the openness of God’s love to establish others who could experience this love and enter into loving relationships with God. A God who is antecedently relational and self-sufficient is free to create significant others and enter into genuine reciprocal relations with them. The triune God as both lover and beloved is free to take the gracious initiative, in both creation and incarnation, of opening the love of the Godhead to others.

Paul’s characterization of love is appropriate for understanding the way of God with the world. God creates in love, elects in love, commands in love, judges in love, incarnates in love and redeems in love. The triune God is the perfection of love and brings into being other creatures to share in that love.” John Sanders, The God Who Risks – A Theology of Providence

 

The God Who Risks: A Theology of Providence
by: John Sanders
publisher: Intervarsity Pr, published: 1998-11
ASIN: 0830815015
EAN: 9780830815012
sales rank: 261518
price: $12.16 (new), $0.48 (used)

If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, can he in any way be vulnerable to his creation? Can God be in control of anything at all if he is not constantly in control of everything? John Sanders says yes to both of these questions. In The God Who Risks defends his answer with a careful and challenging argument. He first builds his case on an in-depth reading of the Old and New Testaments. Then Sanders probes philosophical, historical and systematic theology for further support. And he completes his defense with considerations drawn from practical theology. The God Who Risks is a profound and often inspiring presentation of “relational theism”–an understanding of providence in which “a personal God enters into genuine give-and-take relations with his creatures.” With this book Sanders not only contributes to serious theological discussion but also enlightens pastors and laypersons who struggle with questions about suffering, evil and human free will.

 

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