God is love
If "God" and "love" are synonymous
If "God" and "love" are synonymous, why are there two separate words for it, not just in English, but in many other languages? Further, this means 'God' is an emotion and/or philosophic policy, not a person. Such a god cannot perform miracles such as walking on water or ascending to Heaven on a flying horse.
Granted, there are many varieties of love, and many words for them. But even granting that "God" is, say, a specific type of love, or an umbrella term encompassing all forms of love and friendship, this is hard to reconcile with the way the term "God" is used. It might make a certain amount of sense to worship love, or to hope that love will bring an end to war, but why would anyone pray to love, or ask that love cure a loved one's disease? How can Jesus be love's son? How can love make prophecies? Love does not provide an eternal afterlife, nor does it demand praise.
If "God" and "love" are not synonymous
The other possibility is that "God" and "love" are not entirely synonymous. In this case, the phrase "God is love" is at best incomplete, and at worst misleading.
Further reasons why God cannot be love
Does God have a penis or other genitalia? Does God even have a nose? If God has neither (even though Genesis says God can smell and God somehow impregnated Mary), then by default he has no emotions.
Love is an emotion. Psychology reveals to us that emotions are locked with our bodies, just like organs. Descarte was wrong that our emotions are separate from our bodies. Emotions are evolved, functional, feedback processes that serve the well-being of sentient, mobile animals and social animals in particular.
Emotions reflect what our physical bodies encounter with our environment. For instance, seeing a threat triggers our emotions of fear drives all our focus and energy towards the threat. Emotions are intricate chemical reactions made to activate and direct responses to the external environment. If God does not certain physical traits like genitalia or a nose, then he cannot have emotions.
As wonderful as emotions are, they are the product of this natural world. What use would an all-everything deity have for human emotions?
Exegetical Evaluation of 1 John 4:8
The understanding that "God is Love: comes from 1 John 4:8. This is, however, part of a greater argument in the work.
- 7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 :God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he :loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if :we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
- The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version, 1 Jn 4:7–12 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989).
Despite the fact so many Christians believe that God literally is love, some argue through an exegesis interpretation that this isn't what the Bible actually indicates. For instance, Colin G. Kruse writes,
- When the author says that ‘God is love’, he is not making an ontological statement describing what God is in his essence; rather, he is, as the following verses (4:9–10) :reveal, speaking about the loving nature of God revealed in saving action on behalf of humankind.
- Colin G. Kruse, The Letters of John, The Pillar New Testament commentary, 157 (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos, 2000).
With that in mind, saying "God is Love" is part of the authors' rhetoric. It is not an ontological statement of God, as afore mentioned, but rather a rhetoric phrase. Thus rendering any logical fallacy a non-issue if the theist making the claim wasn't aware of this.
- Kistemaker, Simon J., and William Hendriksen. Vol. 14, New Testament Commentary : Exposition of James and the Epistles of John. New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: :Baker Book House, 1953-2001.
- Kruse, Colin G. The Letters of John. The Pillar New Testament commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos, 2000
- Walls, David, and Max Anders. Vol. 11, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude. Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, :1999.