March 9, 2013

D. A. Carson on the Love of God in the Fourth Gospel

The sovereignty-responsibility tension in the fourth Gospel embraces two different conceptions of the scope and perhaps the objects of divine love. There is a sense in which God's love is directed toward the 'world' per se; but to absolutise the passages where this is enunciated is to fail to recognise the even more numerous passages in which the divine love is restricted to the elect, while unbelievers sit under wrath and judgment. However, granted that election is present in the fourth Gospel, the tension between the two descriptions of the scope of divine love is better than either of the other theoretically possible alternatives, viz: (1) God loves everyone without exception equally—which would make election logically absurd; (2) God loves only the elect and hates the rest--which would destroy the evangelistic thrust and the emotive incentive to believe based on God's love for the 'world', a love which sent the Son of God on his saving mission and robs the 'world' of excuse.77 Moreover, John also relates God's special love to the obedience of men (e.g. 14.21; 16.27). Even if that obedience is not the ultimate cause of God's special love, the formulation of the relationship in this way designedly dispels fatalism and indolence.
77. Cf. Calvin's wrestlings with this problem in connection with Rom. 9, in Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God (London, 1961), p. 76ff.
D. A. Carson, Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension (Grand Rapids: Marshall Pickering/Baker, 1994 [1981]), 197.

No comments: