On Distorting the Love of God -- By: D. A. Carson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 156:621 (Jan 1999)
Article: On Distorting the Love of God
Author: D. A. Carson

On Distorting the Love of God*

D. A. Carson

The title of this series, “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God,” might lead some to question my sanity. If I were speaking about “The Difficult Doctrine of the Trinity,” or “The Difficult Doctrine of Predestination,” at least the title would be coherent. Is not the doctrine of the love of God easy, compared with such high-flown and mysterious teachings?

Why the Doctrine of the Love of God Must Be Judged Difficult

This doctrine is difficult for at least five reasons. First, the overwhelming majority of people who believe in God, however they think he, she, or it may be understood, believe God is a loving Being. But that is what makes the task of Christian witnessing so daunting. For with increasing frequency this widely disseminated belief in the love of God is set in some matrix other than biblical theology. The result is that when informed Christians talk about the love of God they mean something very different from what is meant in the surrounding culture. Worse, neither side may perceive that this is the case.

Consider some recent products of the film industry, that celluloid preserve that both reflects and shapes American culture. Science-fiction space films may be divided into two kinds. Perhaps the more popular ones are the slam-bang-shoot-’em-up kind, such as July Fourth, or the four-part Alien series, complete with loathsome evil. Obviously the aliens have to be nasty, or there would be no threat and therefore no targets. Rarely do these

* This is article one in a four-part series, “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God,” delivered by the author as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 3-6, 1998.

D. A. Carson is Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.

sorts of films set out to convey a cosmological message, still less a spiritual one. The other sort of film in this class, trying to convey a message even as it seeks to entertain, almost always portrays the ultimate Power as benevolent. In the Star Wars series, it is “the Force.” The film ET, as Roy Anker has put it, is “a glowing-heart incarnation tale that climaxes in resurrection and ascension.”1 And in Jodie Foster’s Contact, the unexplained intelligence is suffused with love, wisely provident, gently awesome. Anker himself thinks this “indirection,” as he calls it, is a great help to the Christian cause. Like the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, these films indirectly help people appreciate the sheer ...

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