God is love

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"God is love" is a popular slogan among theists, sometimes presented as a definition of "God". The concept occurs in Christianity and Hinduism. [1]

"God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."

1 John 4:16 Bible-icon.png
"I was asked: “what’s the difference between the statements ‘God is love’ and, simply, ‘God is’”? The questioner was not being facetious, clever, or merely curious; she meant it. [2]"
"So, what does it mean that God is love? Love is an attribute of God. Love is a core aspect of God’s character, His Person. [3]"

Contents

Counter-arguments

Emotions cannot occur without a physical body

Attempting to anthropomorphize God is questionable and leads to some inconvenient conclusions. Does God have a nose? Does God have genitals? Psychology and physiology indicates that emotions are processes that occurs within our bodies and are dependent on our bodies. Love is an emotion. If God does not have a body (even though Genesis says God can smell Genesis 8:21 Bible-icon.png and God somehow impregnated Mary), then he cannot experience emotions or love. Descartes 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?

Incompatible with other attributes

Main Article: Argument from incompatible attributes

God is supposed to have attributes that are incompatible with a loving God. A loving God cannot be a judging God, allow evil to occur or send people to Hell forever.

"Whoever extolleth him as a God of love, doth not think highly enough of love itself. Did not that God want also to be judge? But the loving one loveth irrespective of reward and requital."

Friedrich Nietzsche

God is also supposedly impassible, which makes it impossible for God to be effected by normal events. A "relationship" with an unchanging being that cannot react to events is not a loving relationship. Apologists claim these attributes are not necessarily contradictory:

"God’s love is in no sense in conflict with His holiness, righteousness, justice, or even His wrath. All of God’s attributes are in perfect harmony. [3]"

The terms God and Love are used separately

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.

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.

Apologetic Response

Exegetical Evaluation of 1 John 4:8

The understanding that "God is Love: comes from 1 John 4:8 Bible-icon.png. 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. [4]"

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. [5]"

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.

References

  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. 3.0 3.1 [3]
  4. The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version, 1 Jn 4:7–12 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989).
  5. Colin G. Kruse, The Letters of John, The Pillar New Testament commentary, 157 (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos, 2000).

See also

Further Reading

  • 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.
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