Saturday, November 17, 2007

Just Love? Is love God's central attribute?

I will post some more extracts from my two lectures on the doctrine ofGod at the North West Partnership Training Course in the coming week. One of the areas we covered was the attributes of God. I set a question for discussion as to whether there is a central attribute, and whether love is that central attribute. I'll post something on that soon but for now here is a helpful comment on it from John Frame's No Other God: A Response to Open Theism.

By way of introduction let me say that one of the positive responses and benefits that can come from dealing with heresy and false teaching is a renewed interest in particular doctrines. This can be true intellectually as we look at the exact teaching of Scripture and as we mine the great theological works of history. It can also impact the clarity and boldness of our proclamation. We may find that we have neglected to teach, or to teach well, or to declare, the very truths under assault. We may also find that some people just really don't like the truth that we teach.

Frame notes concerning the centrality of love among God's attributes that:
Rice wants to argue...that it is "more important than all of God's other attributes," even "more fundamental." He says, "Love is the essence of the divine reality, the basic source from which all of God's attributes arise." But never does he actually present any comparisons between love and any other divine attributes. Just to show the importance and centrality of love in Scripture does not justify that conclusion. (p. 53)

Ritschl is right to say that love is God's essence, but wrong to deny that holiness is. And that kind of error is sometimes linked to other theological errors. Often when a theologian makes God's love central, in contrast to other attributes, he intends, contrary to Scripture, to cast doubt on the reality and intensity of God's wrath and judgment. That was the case with Ritschl, and it is the case with some modern evangelicals. (p. 52)

1 comment:

Mike P said...

Your post reminded me of something I was reading the other day, not about the character of God, but about the atonement. It fits though with your theme of the benefits of dealing with false teaching; ‘We may find that we have neglected to teach, or to teach well, or to declare, the very truths under assault.’ Leon Morris says this in his ‘The Cross in the NT’ (p401):

‘[the] upholders of the penal theory have so stressed the thought that Christ bore our penalty that they have found room for nothing else. Rarely have they in theory denied the value of other theories, but sometimes they have in practice ignored them’

And in doing so, others rise up and stress other models to the exclusion of penal substitution almost as compensation. And so Evangelicalism gets in a mess.