Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Self-Communication of God's Love

When mention is made of the love of God, it often is the case that this love is made to be grounded on the worthiness or comeliness of the object. We have heard it spoken that, "Even if you were the only person on Earth, Christ would have still come down and died for you." Of course, such musings about alternate universes are neither predicated upon good reasoning nor are they productive, as if counterfactuals had the being of actual facts themselves. What the phrase simply indicates is the sentimental, self-centered, humanistic notion of love that has captured the wider audience. It served Norman Vincent Peale well in his crusade for self-esteem but it does no good for the Christian fully devoted to the 5 solas of the Reformation.

Simply put, when we affirm that God is love, and how this bears upon its object, what we are really saying, if we are to be faithful to Scriptural import, is that God loves Himself as He sees Himself in the object. For humans to claim the same is the height of narcissism—though it is but an all too common instance of total depravity that we love those like us and hate those that differ—but for God it is the necessary corollary of His perfections. For God to be God, His love must always entail the proclamation of His glory. Indeed, for a person to truly say that he loves another, he must desire God's glory to be manifested in that person.

God's love then is "...that perfection of God by which He is eternally moved to self-communication. Since God is absolutely good in Himself, His love cannot find complete satisfaction in any object that falls short of absolute perfection. He loves His rational creatures for His own sake, or, to express it otherwise, He loves in them Himself, His virtues, His work, and His gifts. He does not even withdraw His love completely from the sinner in his present sinful state, though the latter's sin is an abomination to Him, since He recognizes even in the sinner His image-bearer. John 3:16; Matt. 5:44,45. At the same time He loves believers with a special love, since He contemplates them as His spiritual children in Christ. It is to them that He communicates Himself in the fullest and richest sense, with all the fulness of His grace and mercy. John 16:27; Rom. 5:8; 1 John 3:1." — Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, ch. 7, p. 71. 

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