The Evangelical Universalist Forum

How do you defend God's love against His other attributes?


Hey guys :slight_smile:

First off, I really appreciate this site and those who post. I have been following this issue of hell/universalism for a few months now and its been really helpful looking around here.

One theological aspect that has me in a bit of a bind is the idea of just HOW God’s love operates in relation to his other attributes (not that we can ever ‘box’ God’s love in doctrine or dogma). From the spectrum of views I’ve looked over, I’ve figured that there are two differing ways of explaining this. Please correct me if I seem in error. I aim to summarize the two sides:

A: The ‘driscollian’ explanation. God’s love is an attribute described alongside (and contrast to) other attributes in Scripture. These attributes are consistent and one cannot be elevated above the other in any degree. God can, however, choose to be loving to one human being and angry at another. God is loving, but His love is in subject to His holiness or righteousness and therefore He must (wants to?!) to send people that are without Christ to hell.

B: A more C. Baxter Kruger variety. God’s Trinitarian love is the foundation through which all of God’s other attributes are filtered. He is lovingly holy, lovingly just, lovingly righteous. It is in God’s chosen nature to love everyone (not just the elect) and out of His nature anything He does is loving, including sending people to hell, whether for an infinite time or for a remedial period.

This has a lot to do with processing how God feels about us. What is His initial attitude towards humanity? Wrath and hate or love and compassion? One ideal causes anxiety and terror while the other prompts assurance and loyalty. I struggle with this because a lot of fundamentalist believers accuse universalistic minds of elevating one part of God and ignoring others. I think there’s something to the idea that God is free to love who He wants, but I somehow don’t (want?) to believe that He deliberately withdraws love from some and then calls Himself good. In what way does position B best hold up? What kind of Biblical evidence is there that God, in His chosen nature, refuses to hate and instead loves us all unfailingly?


Hey VW. It comes down to what kind of God would go to the cross and die for us even while we are yet sinners? When it comes down to it its not rocket science. Its just amazing love and no you don’t try to balance it all out because balance is not an option. God is LOVE pure, yes very pure and simple! Cheers Chris


Universalists tend to follow the interpretation that John’s statement, “God is love,” declares that God’s intrinsic character is love, not simply that God sometimes chooses to display loving actions. It follows that God then can never deny his innate nature and contradict love, and thus that God’s love and justice cannot be contrary to one another, such that he sometimes chooses to be loving, and other times chooses to deny what love would do. Rather, his pursuit of justice is an expression of his love, and aims toward restoring us to what we all are meant to be.


Thanks guys :slight_smile: Nicely worded and it helps. What about verses like Rom 2:7-8 though?

“To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger”

By the three ‘categories’ of universalism, I’m probably somewhere between weak hopeful and strong hopeful. One of my roadblocks is the overwhelming amount of passages like Rom 2:7-8 that seem on the face of them to speak about dualistic judgement.
Where is God’s love in ‘wrath and anger?’ Is it possible that we’ve just elevated God’s love over other things like justice and holiness because we can’t handle the truth? (read that again with a jack nickolson voice) :laughing:


Those who recognize God’s devotion to love and holy justice as non-contradictory simply see references to His wrath and punishment as describing his pursuit of such “justice” (restoring the world to righteous wholeness). If numerous Scriptures that specify that the purpose of God’s punishing judgments is to bring us to a restoring repentance are correct, then they are as required by love as is any good parents’ proper punishment of their beloved children.

2:7,8 affirms ‘dualistic’ consequences in the sense that they differ depending on the choices we pursue. But any parent who administered the same consequences to offspring regardless of their actions would not be loving or just. Such texts appear to me required if God’s unified character combines love and justice. The alternative that God would just generously choose to overlook some folks sin, but arbitrarily choose to hate others because of their sin, would seem to uphold a perverse conception of both love and justice. Wouldn’t such a schizophrenic partiality deeply deny the Bible’s highest claims about God’s character?


Love the Jack Nicholson voice :laughing:I’m with Bob on this though.


37Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’c 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’d 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22

1 Corinthians 13 New International Version (NIV)

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,** but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

John 3:16New International Version (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

My inclination is to see love, as the overriding attribute, of God.

The story of Salvation, known as the Bible, is infused with this prevailing theme, as I see it. If you had asked me this, even a year ago, I might have said something different,or, at least had to think about it, but in my search as to whether Christian UR is true, I explored the Bible, with a different focus, and I saw love as the best defense for Christian UR, and in that journey, began to see how permeating love truly is.**


Yeah, if all the Law and Prophets hangs on Love as highest commandments/principles, as Christ affirmed, then I take that to mean even all the examples of wrath, punishment, etc. within those scriptures all hang on/are driven by Love.

Also, if anything done without Love is nothing/vanity (1 Cor 13), and God’s character and actions and will are not vanity or emptiness, then I think there must never be any non-Love in Him.

Have you had a chance to read George MacDonald’s ‘Unspoken Sermons’? Tom Talbott’s ‘Inescapable Love of God’?


Love is the root and the reason for all things. This rose has some thorns on it. They are there for a reason, tho we may not fully understand it until later.

I think through Gomer, in the book of Hosea, YHWH draws a really good picture of how God uses adversity and correction to bring repentence and break a hard heart or a stiff neck so that He can redeem it.


In my opinion, God doesn’t have “other attributes” which are not grounded in love.

Luke 4
*16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.
17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”
20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.
21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” *

Notice that in quoting this scripture from Isaiah 61, our Lord stopped quoting in the middle of a sentence. Let’s see what the end of the sentence looks like:

To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God. (Isaiah 62:2)

Why did Jesus stop in the middle of the sentence?

  1. Was it merely accidental?
  2. Did He suddenly get tired of reading?
  3. Or did He do it intentionally?

If He did it intentionally, what was His purpose? Could it be that He had no intention of proclaiming vengeance in any form? That would have been in keeping with His message to His disciples—not to seek vengeance, but to love their enemies.


It is also possible that it was because He could not yet say, of “the day of the vengeance of our God”- “today this scripture is fulfilled”. That day is yet to come.


Yes. I have considered that possibility, Eaglesway. But I rejected it for the other view because God’s judgments are not vengeful, but remedial.
Moses and the prophets sometimes taught that God was vengeful, punishing, and instructing the Israelites to destroy their enemies, including babies (but not virgin women, of course.) But Jesus and the writers of the New Testament taught that God corrected evil doers, even as a loving father corrects his children. It is for the benefit of those corrected, not a penalty for wrongdoing.

It is true that the English word “vengeance” occurs 5 times in the New King James Version of the New Testament. In 4 of those times, the word is “ἐκδικησις” (ekdikāsis), a word that means “doing justice to all parties.” In the 5th occurence (Jude 1:7), the word is “δικη” (dikā) which simply means “judgment” or “sentence.” In Jude 1:7, those given over to whoredom, will suffer the sentence of lasting fire unless or until they repent.


I’m with the Kruger idea - it is an expression of Trinitarian love.

As I see it, the Bible says that God is love. But it doesn’t say that God is justice.

His just actions are an expression of His love.





I’m on the side of the trinitarian essence theory of love and justice; thus God’s wrath still has the object of bringing people to justice in love. Even in the OT there are many scriptures testifying to this idea. Including Isaiah 62, where after “the day of vengeance of our God” is proclaimed on rebel Israel (rendering her forsake and desolate), God promises (verse 4, only two verses after where Jesus stopped short of quoting the “day of vengeance”) that in the Day of the Lord to come she shall be raised to queenhood again (as an evangelical sign to the pagans), and become a crown of beauty and a royal diadem, and “It will no longer be said to you ‘Forsaken’, nor to your land will it any longer be said, ‘Desolate’; but you will be called ‘My delight is in her’, and your land, ‘Married’: for YHWH delights in you and [to Him] your land will be married.”

Even the portions Jesus quoted are a promise of restoration to rebels already punished by God for their injustices, leading to their repentance. But the people in the synagogue in Nazareth didn’t want to hear the implied critique in the context of those verses; they only wanted to hear the consolation and to enjoy the delivery of the guest preacher. Which, as later rabbis complained, were the two unspoken rules of guest preaching at synagogues: be pleasantly entertaining, and under no circumstances ever criticize Israel. (Thus they quipped that of course God stopped sending prophets after the synagogue system was set up, for which prophet never criticized Israel?!) Notably Jesus only gets in trouble when He forestalls their coming complaint (about why He didn’t start His career in Nazareth, “Physician heal thyself” being the moral of a parable actually preserved elsewhere in the rabbinic tradition later, teaching that charity starts at home), by pointing out that God found pagans and worse even pagan military oppressors more worthy to show miraculous signs (leading them evangelically to faith in God, not incidentally) than Israel sometimes.

He failed the second unwritten rule of being a traveling synagogue preacher, you see: never criticize Israel. :wink: But His proclamation that Isaiah was being fulfilled in their hearing implied a critique of rebel Israel, having already been punished for her injustice, being visited for release from that punishment by God. (It also tacitly implied, though they didn’t seem to catch it, that YHWH was speaking to them right that moment where they could physically hear Him.)


I get your thinking, but I am not sure that it squares that verse away for me, so I was wondering about the translation of vengeance. Like krino, mistranslated as damn or condemn when it really original meant indemnify or “make right” as in balancing scales.

The word damn comes from a french word dammun which was a legal term that was both a positive and negative word for geting justice done- whether by reward or by loss, and it morphed into its present use about the time of the KJV translation. So apparently ekdikasis means a similar thing, which as I see it still is not fulfilled.

In that view, that day has still not come, unless one is a full preterist or something like that- the day when God meters justice to all is yet to come.


Indeed… problem resolved. :exclamation:


See, when preterists say things like God has already dealt out justice to all back at the sack of one city and one temple by a Roman army in 70 CE :exclamation: , I start to lose my patience with them.

Edited to clarify: which you may not be saying (or I hope not), Davo. I only mean that this is an example of the sort of thing full preterism ends up requiring, which in my not so humble opinion is worse than blithering nonsense.


Lol… you’ll find the pain actually goes away when you stop beating your head against that wall Jason. :mrgreen:

Religianity in whatever garb misses that redemption is complete and that God is at peace with His creation NOW; and has been since the Cross-Parousia redemptive event of AD 30-70, a biblical generation (40yrs). The NT is all about THAT transitional period, the time of the firstfruit saints where what Christ ratified at the cross was outworked to fullness ON BEHALF OF all Israel and thus consequently the world in his parousia. It is actual history, “it is finished!”

It is this paralysis of analysis that developing Christendom post parousia has tied itself up in knots of “is it love, or is it justice”, “is it freewill or is it determinism” yada yada yada fill in the blanks ad nauseam. We don’t have to work at keeping God happy… He loves his world!

Yes there ARE endless principals wherein WE can learn to better live with each other that are to be drawn from the Scriptures, but this endless assumption that there is STILL yet more to do IMO just misses the boat.

Back to the rationale; for example…

As I understand it, Jesus went no further at that point because he was proclaiming “the good news” (gospel) to Israel, i.e., “your God reigns!” IOW… Israel, your exile is nearly over, “your redemption draws nigh!” Those who caught the message were blessed, those who didn’t would indeed suffer the full measure of “the days of vengeance” (Lk 21:22). That this ultimately was part of Israel’s covenant restoration (mercy) in no way lessened the righteous judgment (Mt 23:34-38) some would “have their part in” (Rev 21:8).

Jesus left off that latter portion of Isaiah’s quote but in time bemoans the stubborn blindness that would see its inevitable reality play forth…

I repeat Jason… it is history, God actually did it; so you can ease up on the head-banging. :smiley:


Thanks to all :slight_smile:

Bob Wilson - I sometimes wonder why I sometimes cling to that whole, ‘God is love, but He is also just’ deal. It does seem contradictory! Also, I never thought about Rom 2:7-8 like that. Thanks for the new perspective!

Mike, I first met Kruger in ‘Jesus and the Undoing of Adam’. He’s awesome.

Right there with you dandelion :slight_smile:

Micah, thank you for asking. Yes, I have read a few of McDonald’s sermons. ‘Justice’, in particular, was very moving (and almost made me a convinced believer in UR :laughing: ) I have not yet read Tom Tallott’s book.

Eaglesway/Paidion - Good words :slight_smile: I remember reading in a Richard Rhor post about Jesus omitting that phrase from Isaiah. thought provoking indeed! I think that Jesus just simply meant to not include the idea that God is angry with us, but what do I know?

With you there Davo :smiley: It kind of reminds me of the never-ending debate between calvinism and arminianism. Divine love vs. Divine Will (or justice I suppose).

JasonPratt - WHOA. Never heard about this!!! I really appreciate context. The thing I wonder about Isaiah is, yes, there’s a lot of universalistic evidence in Isaiah 60 and so on, but I can’t get over the idea that the book ends with the well known ‘And they will go out upon the slain who have rebelled against me their worm does not die’ passage. I can guess that this passage, in context, has more to do with an earthly judgement, but the fact that it follows the universalistic passages unnerves me. If the Isaiah 66 passage could be interpreted as earthly, it seems to me that the Isaiah 60, 65 passages could also be interpreted as operating in this-age-space as well. How would you go about interpreting that? Also, head banging-smilie ahahahahahahahaha

Hey guys, also, between The Inescapable Love of God (Talbott) and The Evangelical Universalist (Parry/G. McDonald), which one would you recommend reading first? I have yet to read either and was wondering which to start with.


Talbott’s book was a convincer for me, so I recommend it. (Though it must be said I haven’t yet read Parry’s book).