God’s Love and God’s Sovereignty -- By: D. A. Carson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 156:623 (Jul 1999)
Article: God’s Love and God’s Sovereignty
Author: D. A. Carson


God’s Love and God’s Sovereignty*

D. A. Carson

The first address in this series outlined some factors that make the doctrine of the love of God a difficult thing to talk about. Some of these are cultural; others are bound up with the challenge of trying to integrate the many varied and complementary things the Bible says about the love of God. Further, what does such love look like in a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, sovereign, and transcendent? The Bible speaks of God’s intra-Trinitarian love, His providential love, His yearning and salvific love that pleads with sinners, His elective love, and His conditional love. That first address also discussed what can go wrong if any one of these is absolutized.

The second address reflected on a few Bible passages that disclose the intra-Trinitarian love of God, and considered some of the implications. Now in this third address the focus is on God’s love for human beings, but especially in relation to His own transcendence and sovereignty.

The Affective Element in God’s Love

Though some have attempted to strip God’s love of affective content, making it no more than willed commitment to the other’s good, the philology does not support this view, nor does 1 Corinthians 13, where the apostle insists it is possible to deploy the most stupendous altruism without love.1 It is worth pausing to note also some specific texts where the vibrant, affective element in the love of God is almost overpowering.

*This is article three 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.

One of the most striking passages is Hosea 11. Of course the entire prophecy of Hosea is an astonishing portrayal of the love of God. Almighty God is likened to a betrayed and cuckolded husband. But the intensity of God’s passion for the covenant nation comes to a climax in chapter 11. “When Israel was a child,” God declares, “I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (v. 1).2 The Exodus thus marks the origin of this covenant relationship. But the more God called Israel, the more they drifted away. God was the One who cared for them, taught them to walk, and healed them. He wa...

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