God’s love – a case from reason
“God so loved the world…”
Other than perhaps Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge…,” a favorite of non-believers, John 3:16 has to be the best known New Testament verse and it begins with a declaration of God’s love for all. But I suspect, because it’s been true of my own life, that many have some difficulty believing that the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful Creator of the universe loves them personally…as an individual. May I share with you something that has helped me believe it?
No? Too bad…I’m going to anyway.
This argument for the truth of God’s love is not based on Scripture but solely on natural theology, the “theory or knowledge of God based on observed facts and experience apart from divine revelation.” It begins of course with arguments for God’s existence, a denial of which makes this whole point moot. But since I have already defended theism in a number of posts…here, here, and here are a few…if you will allow me I will focus this one on the evidence for his love.
What am I talking about?…I don’t need your permission. Carrying on now… 🙂
It really is a simple argument that, understanding God as the greatest conceivable being and our creator, seems to me irrefutable. Here it is in syllogism form:
- The moral law is founded on God’s nature, i.e. something is good if it aligns with who God is.
- Because God is the greatest conceivable being, all good qualities find their perfection in him and every expression of his goodness is much greater than any of us could ever express.
- Love is a good, moral virtue.
- Therefore, God loves and his expression of it is much greater than ours.
Here’s how I have expressed it in non-syllogism form: We can imagine another human being, and perhaps have known one or are one, who is so incredibly compassionate, kind, merciful, forgiving, etc. that to be known by him or her is to be truly loved. If an ordinary human can be so loving, how much more loving must God be? Can our creator be less than his creation?
One might be tempted to think, “Yes, I can believe he is perfectly loving towards those he loves, but how do I know he loves me? I’m so puny/insignificant/sinful, etc.” Let me answer that with another question. Would the most loving human being you can imagine shun the puny, insignificant, sinful ones? If your answer to that is ‘Yes,’ your imagination needs to get out more. It’s easy to love the lovable, but there are probably people in each of our lives who exemplify greater love by loving the unlovable.
Years ago I struggled with this and then I had an epiphany. I believed that God loves the sinner, but I came to realize that I was not wanting to be lumped together with all the rebellious, selfish, sinful rabble…the Unlovables. I wanted to be special. I wanted God to love me because I was lovable and so could not really receive his love until I achieved that status.
Well, that never happened. But I’m happy now to be counted among the Unlovables who are genuinely loved by God anyway. I wrote earlier this year about how he very personally affirmed that love, in case you are interested and have the time.
When you add divine revelation to the truths about God we can discern without it, doubting God’s love for you personally becomes almost irrational. Listen to what he has said, then do yourself a favor and believe it.
the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. ~ Jeremiah 31:3
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. ~ Zephaniah 3:17
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; ~ Psalm 103:11
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. ~ Ephesians 2:4-5
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. ~ 1 John 3:1
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ~ John 3:16