November 14, 2014

Richard Muller on God's Universal and Special Love in Early Reformed Thought

The second kind of divine love [in distinction from the love of God ad intra] that Musculus identifies is the love of the creator for all his creatures, resting on his creation of all things as good in the beginning. It would be impossible, Musculus notes, given the nature of God, for God to "make evil things and love them after they were made" or to "make good things and not love them when they were made." Nor could it be that God loved his creation in the beginning and subsequently ceased to love it--for God's love is immutable. Nor, again, is God's love hindered by the subjection of the created order to corruption after the fall, for the creation not only remains God's work despite this corruption, but also it was God's own "most wise and unsearchable purpose" that has subjected the entire creation to this bondage and vanity, as the apostle Paul teaches in Romans 8, or indeed as is written in the Wisdom of Solomon, "thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things which thou hast made."475

Third, above his love for all creation, God loves humanity in general. This love, Musculus notes, ought to be a source of wonder on our part: we would not be surprised if Scripture were to tell us that God loves his angels, inasmuch as they have a heavenly nature and purity and have been chosen as God's "special ministers." Yet Scripture speaks instead of the surpassing love of God for human beings, made in the image of God and accorded a special dignity "above all other creatures." God has not, moreover, forsaken us after the Fall but continues to care for us with his special providence. Beyond this, God so loves human beings that in the incarnation "God was made man, to the end that man should be advanced into the fellowship of God's nature." There could be no greater indication of the love of God for humanity than this personal union of human nature with the divine nature. So, too, the love of God for all humanity is seen in the death of his Son for our redemption. And finally, the general love of God for humanity is manifest in the universal calling of the gospel.476 This divine love for the world and specifically for humanity, Calvin writes, is the "first cause ... and source of our salvation."477

The fourth species of divine love, according to Musculus, is the "special" love of God for those human beings chosen "to the adoption of children, before the foundation of the world," a love not extended to the entire human race, as indicated by the text in Romans, "Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated." Reflecting definitions from the older scholastic tradition, Musculus indicates that this love "comprehends" all of the other elements of the salvation of the elect, namely, "predestination, calling, the gift of faith and of the Spirit, justification, regeneration, and the renewal of mind and life": all of these things are referred to the goodness and love of God by the apostle in Titus 3:4-8.478 Calvin also identifies the special, saving love of God as a sign of God's utter mercy, apart from all human works, to save some by grace: "this love was founded on the purpose of his will (Eph. 1:5)."479

Fifth, there is in God a love of the good, simply because it is good. This love is directed particularly toward all that is "just, honest, gentle, meek, mild, and merciful" and evidences a love of true goodness in human conduct.480 Musculus enquires how this can be so if we are saved according to God's mercy and not according to our works. The solution to the problem is that "we must consider the love of God toward us in two respects": first, God loves us merely on account of his own goodness. Our salvation has "no cause in us" but arises only out of the goodness of God. By this love we are made good despite our sinful condition. Second, God also loves "good, faithful, and obedient persons: this second form of divine love toward believers, argues Musculus, is in no way hindered or prevented by the former, prior, love, "for he who of his infinite goodness loves us without cause" can love us still more "when we are godly." This divine love of the good in us, Musculus concludes, ought to inspire believers to be "studious in goodness, godliness, and righteousness" and to be thankful toward God for his kindness.481
475. Musculus, Loci communes, XLVIII (Commonplaces, pp. 960–961), citing Wisdom, 11:25.
476. Musculus, Loci communes, XLVIII (Commonplaces, pp. 961–963).
477. Calvin, Commentary on John, 3:16 (CTS John, I, p. 122).
478. Musculus, Loci communes, XLVIII (Commonplaces, p. 963, cols. 1–2).
479. Calvin, Commentary on John, 3:16 (CTS John, I, p. 123).
480. Musculus, Loci communes, XLVIII (Commonplaces, p. 964, col. 1), citing 2 Cor. 9:7.
481. Musculus, Loci communes, XLVIII (Commonplaces, pp. 964–965). Musculus develops the practical implications of his teaching at length (pp. 965–977).
Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 3:563–564.

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