God’s Love and Your Freedom
The most distinctive aspect of the revelation of God in Christ is Jesus’ demonstration that God relies on love to defeat his enemies and to accomplish his purposes. More than anything else, it was the perfect love of God revealed in the incarnation, ministry, and self-sacrificial death of Jesus that in principle defeated evil and thereby accomplished the will of God.
As he commands us to do, God overcame evil not with violence but by suffering violence on Calvary for the sake of love (1 Peter 2:20-23). This is the very definition of the kind of love that God eternally is, which we have discussed here. And this is the same kind of love that followers of Jesus are commanded to express to all people, including our enemies.
In this light, I believe that plausible models of providence must have at their center a God whose eternal nature is other-oriented, self-sacrificial love, as revealed in Jesus.
Before the creation of the world, God predestined that he would acquire a people—a “bride”—who would receive the Father’s perfect love for the Son and participate in the Son’s perfect love for the Father. However, if love is the goal of creation, then the creation must include free agents. As the early church uniformly understood, for contingent beings such as humans, love (as well as every other moral virtue) must be freely chosen. Had God created us such that we had to love, our love could not be genuine.
To illustrate, suppose a scientist invented a microchip that could control every neuron in a person’s brain and that was so sophisticated it could be implanted without the person knowing it. If this scientist programmed the microchip to do so, she could coerce any person to feel, think, speak, and behave in perfectly loving ways toward her, and her subjects would even believe they were doing this of their own volition.
While they would certainly appear to love this scientist, would we not consider her demented if she mistook the coerced appearance of love to be actual love? In making subjects “choose” to love her, the scientist was actually preventing them from genuinely choosing to love her, for they no longer had the capacity to do this of their own volition. In reality, this demented scientist would just be loving herself through these subjects, as much as if she were manipulating puppets on her hand to mimic loving expressions toward her.
So too, had he wanted to, the all-powerful God certainly could have created a world in which everyone was predestined to feel, think, speak, and behave in perfectly loving ways toward him and each other. But God would know, even if we did not, that we would be mere puppets on his hand. If God instead wants a people who genuinely love him and each other, he must create us with the capacity to choose to love or not. He must give us genuine say-so to affect what comes to pass as we choose to lovingly align our wills with his or not.
Love requires freedom.
—Adapted from Divine Providence: Four Views, pages 186-189
Image by Matt Heaton via Unsplash
Open Theism Timeline by Tom Lukashow An argument that is frequently raised against the open view is that it is a recent innovation. Paul Eddy had discovered Calcidius, a fifth century advocate, and I and others knew of L.D. McCabe and Billy Hibbard, two 19th century advocates. But that was about it – until I…
The Lord says “I will blot out of my book” all those who persist in rebellion against him. If everything is eternally foreknown by God, one wonders why he would have recorded in his “book” the names of people who were to be blotted out eventually (cf. Rev. 3:5). Indeed, if God foreknew that certain…
The Timaeus is a work that Plato wrote that addresses the questions: “What is that which always is and has no becoming, and what is that which becomes but never is?” (Tim. 28a)? These questions contain one of the most influential – and, in my opinion, one of the most disastrous – philosophical ideas of…
In this video, Greg introduces The Cosmic Dance, by explaining what motivated him to write this quirky little book. If you live near the Twin Cities, come to the launch party Friday June 24th where you can purchase the book at a discounted rate. Click here for information on the launch party.
Running throughout Scripture is the motif that depicts God as the ultimate ruler of the nations. On the other hand, the NT teaches that the ruler of nations is Satan. What do we do with these two apparently conflicting motifs? First, because OT authors tended to understand the creation along the lines of a king-centered…
Peter wrote, “[God] has given us … his precious and very great promises, so that through them … [we] may become participants of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). With the coming of Christ, God has made a way for us to participate in the triune love that is the “divine nature.” We see this…