Divine Love In Recent Theology -- By: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 05:2 (Fall 1984)
Article: Divine Love In Recent Theology
Author: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.


Divine Love In Recent Theology

S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Emerson’s famous line, “All mankind loves a lover,” which still strikes a responsive cord in the human heart, has a rival—if not in word, at least in sentiment. “All mankind loves love” epitomizes the thinking of the twentieth century. In fact, love is thought to be the answer to almost all the problems of life. “I’m trying to show that when the miracle of love happens, anything is possible with human beings,” a contemporary film director said recently in explaining the rationale of a film he directed, in which a little girl rehabilitates two hardened criminals with her love.1 There is hardly a problem in life, whether mental, psychological, spiritual, and even physical, that does not find its resolution in love.

The course of the twentieth century is characterized by this type of thinking. Over eighty years ago Geerhardus Vos wrote, “The love of God occupies a more prominent place than any other divine attribute in present-day Christian consciousness.”2 Vos also noted the demand that God’s love, and nothing but his love be made the keynote of every message that Christianity had to bring to the world. The demand has not slackened; it has quickened. And the modern emphasis on the will and the emotions at the expense of the intellect has aided this trend immeasurably.

Vos contended that, whatever charges might be brought against the intellectualism of orthodoxy when it reigned supreme, it could at least claim to have been “broad-minded and well-balanced in its appreciation of the infinite complexity and richness of the life of God.”3 It may have seemed to have lacked sweetness, but it made better harmonies than the pop strains of “love” today. And it certainly made a credible attempt to do justice to all the aspects of biblical truth. “It is a well-known fact,” Vos continued, “that all heresy begins with being a partial truth.”4 With this many of us would agree most heartily and, therefore, the excessive emphasis on love, that most appealing and meaningful

attribute of God, is cause for great concern. One final sentence from Vos, almost prophetic in its fulfillment in our society, is sufficient to indicate the dangers facing our evangelical world today. The great Princeton biblical theologian warned, “There can be little doubt that in this manner the one-sidedness and exclusiveness with which the love of God has been preached to the pr...

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