God is Love

Let me write a brief reflection post on how Evangelical Calvinists (of the style that Myk Habets and myself are) understand God’s predisposition in himself, and then for us, as Love. I am going to provide a quote that I used in my personal chapter in our edited book Evangelical Calvinism: Essays Resourcing the Continuing Reformation of the Church; the quote comes from James K. A. Smith (not an Evangelical Calvinist, in the kind of Torrancian-Barthian-Calvinian gethsemnesense that we operate from), and an observation he has made in regard to the feeling or sense of God that comes through his reading of the Heidelberg Catechism V. his reading of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Smith writes:

But I have to confess that when I discovered the Heidelberg Catechism, it was like discovering a nourishing oasis compared to the arid desert of Westminster’s cool scholasticism. The God of the Heidelberg Catechism is not just a Sovereign Lord of the Universe, nor merely the impartial Judge at the trial of justification; the God of the Heidelberg Catechism keeps showing up as a Father. For example, when expounding the first article of the Apostles’ Creed (“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth”), the Heidelberg Catechism discusses all the ways that God upholds the universe by his hand, but also affirms that this sovereign Creator attends to me, a speck in that universe. And it concludes the answer to question 26 by summarizing: “He is able to do this because he is almighty God; he desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.” [James K. A. Smith, “Letters To A Young Calvinist,” 55 quoted in Evangelical Calvinism, 109.]

As Evangelical Calvinists, we resonate with the Heidelberg Catechism’s emphasis upon God as Loving Father of the Son by the Holy Spirit, and we see this Divine dance (so to speak) as definitive of God’s Self-Given being as love. And we see God’s life of Triune love, which has always already been the reality of His life—like prior to creation—as the reality and motivation from which He created to begin with; He created because He loves the other, in His own life (which defines His life of love); and so He created us as a natural counter-point upon whom He could share this life of love with, and shower His effulgent love upon us that we might love Him (and He showers us with this love from Himself, by becoming one of us, in Christ, and united us to Himself in the love that He has always shared in His own life as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

And so when humanity sinned, He became man because He loved us. His relation with us has always been grounded in who He is as love and gracious act. He never intended for our relationship with Him to be a burden; He never intended Law-keeping to be the condition by which we relate to Him; and so when He came to die for us and be with us, He didn’t do so to meet the consequences of our failed Law-keeping, or to pay for ‘just’ those consequences. He came, first and foremost, because He first loved us that we might love Him. He fulfilled the Law and became its curse in our stead, not so He could love us after He payed for these consequences; He fulfilled the Law before the Law as its giver and Creator, in the way that only He could. In other words, God’s relation to us is based upon who He is eternally as loving Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and not based upon meeting the conditions of the Law. God gave the Law to point us to Him, and not ourselves.

In short, God is love.

I have more to say, and more to clarify. But this will have to suffice for the moment …

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5 thoughts on “God is Love

  1. Matt,

    For some, nothing.

    But what we have attempted to do with EC is to tie it into the Scottish Theology that Thomas Torrance is into. So from that angle, it is an approach that constructively retrieves historical theology from a Calvinian and more classic approach. EC, thus far, really isn’t a modernist (like Barth through Hegel et al) project; even if we employ–more through TFT than Barth–a reified concept of election/reprobation. And unlike Barthians of today (at least most of the PTS ones), we think classically, we do not believe that election, per se, constitutes God’s being etc. Our themes are much more Calvinian than Barthian, which the chapters in our edited book attest to.

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