What is God like?
I am writing this in response to the omni-benevolent article posted recently. It challenges the idea that God is omni-benevolent - all-loving, and puts forward various familiar objections.
Here are some thoughts.
Yes the Bibles says 'God is love'. This is not simply and attribute of God, but his very nature. This means his very nature is of loving relationship. This is why God is not a monad (single simple being), but a Trinity - a Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He lives in relationship for all eternity. Love is not self-centered, but other person centered. God does not need to create to be love - to be 'other person centered'.
God creates humanity in his image, to be loved and to love. Thus we too are created for relationship. Jesus can sum up the whole of the law and the prophets with two commands: love the Lord your God, and love your neighbour.
The question then is how should God respond to us as humans when we reject his love? One thing he cannot do - even as an omnipotent God, is say that it does not matter. A judge who upholds justice - even if he his omnipotent, cannot suddenly on a whim make unjust rulings. God cannot be untrue to himself. This is true in terms of his love and justice. Justice after-all is a quality of good relationships. A lack of justice betrays a lack of healthy relationships. Human sin therefore is a serious matter to God. He loves us. He also loves justice.
God's solution, chosen and carried out by Him - is to come in Jesus Christ and take the punishment we deserve. By this - sin can be dealt with, the demands of justice met, and the relationship restored. At times we read of the Father sending the son, at other times we read of the Son himself volunteering. Both act out of love. Love for humanity made in their image. In the New Testament witness to this event it would be madness to see it as anything but an incredible act of love. What father does not love his son? What son does not love his father and his life?
We see it as a courageous act of love when one person voluntarily gives their life for another. Whether on the battlefield or a mother giving up her life so her child might live. We laud it precisely because it is the ultimate demonstration of love that a human can give.
Of course our respect for human dignity means that we will not force someone into a relationship that they do not want. We know how abhorrent this kind of coercion is - whatever the nature of the abuse. Similarly too God does not force us into relationship with himself. We essentially are given the choice of experiencing his justice, or allowing Christ to experience it in our place.
The first people to understand this simply referred to it as the Good News. The alternative is a God who is partially evil, or out of control of the world, or purposefully hiding from us.
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