The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Seeking a definition of 'God's love'

Thanks Darren for your “thumbnail sketch”. I think there could be many Christian Universalists who would agree with much of what you say here. I am still a little unclear as to why you think your thoughts here on God’s holiness are necessarily an insurmountable problem to God’s determination to reconcile to himself all things Col 1:20, Eph 1:10 2 Cor 5:19 and restore all things Acts 3:21 and bring life to all people Rom 5:18, 1 Cor 15:22. Cannot God be holy as you say and still accomplish His purposes as stated in these passages and many others?

I haven’t read the entire thread, so please forgive me if some of what I say is redundant . . .

God’s holiness is (as Pog pointed out) a thing that destroys wickedness. I think of silver. Silver is a biblical symbol for redemption, as I’m sure you know. I find it radically cool that silver does in nature purify things. We use it in eyedrops for infants who may have been exposed to gonorrhea during the birthing process; we coat water filters with it; we even make mop heads and dusting rags infused with it. Silver destroys poisonous forms of life without destroying the host. Interesting. We know from scripture that “Our God is a consuming fire.” I personally think this is a picture of hell. If the Israelites had been willing to be the priests of God as offered in Exodus, and to stand before and in the presence of God regularly, the fire of His presence – the silver – would have purified them, as it does us when we spend time in His presence. But they said, “Let God not speak to us any more, lest we die.” They did not want to die. Taking this symbolically, this fear of dying was precisely the problem. The way to purity, purchased by Jesus/won by Jesus/ trail-blazed by Jesus, is through death. We die to sin, to the ruler (slave master) of this world and are reborn into His Kingdom of grace. God’s solution for sin is for US to die to it so that it no longer has power over us.

As has been pointed out from many scriptures in another thread ([Evidence of Post-Mortem Repentance/Salvation)), this does not necessarily need to happen before our physical death in this world.

I agree with you that God will not forever endure and put up with sin. But that does not mean that any part of God’s good creation must be put to eternal conscious torment, or even destroyed. Sin is NOT a part of God’s creation and will in time be destroyed by the confirmation of all to righteousness – NOT by destroying or imprisoning all who are enslaved to it.

The former (destroying) is impossible as death is to be destroyed (and that must by definition include the second death), and the latter (imprisoning) is untenable as that would leave sin within God’s creation, and by so doing, leave sin within God, for in Him we live and move and have our being. There’s no place else for hell to BE but in God as He fills all in all. However infinitesimal one makes hell, however close to nothing at all, it would still have to exist within God, and that is not acceptable, for He is holy. CS Lewis saw this, I think, and that is (imo) why he made hell so nearly non-existent in The Great Divorce. But subatomic is not non-existent, and any existence for a hell filled with evil within God who fills all in all and in whom all exist, is impossible.

I’m told Barth called evil, “nothing.” It makes me wonder whether the person who wrote The Never-ending Story might not be a fan of his, since the enemy in that book is “the Nothing.” I’m fond of that picture, and maybe I got it indirectly from Barth, as I’ve only read a tiny bit of his work and didn’t understand even that. But I have this picture of God opening a place within Himself for us to be, and taking the “nothing” and wresting it into a “something” (creation), and the “nothing” always fighting to return to its original “form,” and that wrestling as the fight, the battle for creation. In the end (so I suppose) all the “nothing” will be destroyed by having been made irretrievably into the “something” of God’s creation.

BUT, that aside, God cannot lose that which is His (including His creation) and God cannot lose any part of Himself (if we are ultimately made of parts of Himself) and God cannot countenance evil forever dwelling within Himself (and there’s nowhere else to dwell), so God MUST at some point convert all the evil (nothing?) into good. The evil is destroyed by making it into something – into that which is good.

Just my thoughts – I hope they speak to your heart in some small way.

Love in Him, Cindy

Why is it so important to come up with a special definition of “love” with reference to God? Does God’s αγαπη differ in any way from man’s αγαπη? Is it essentially different in some respect? Or do we mean basically the same thing when we say “God loves” or “Man loves”?

To begin with the fact that a God of love would not punish anyone eternally, seems rational to me. It is presumed that some “deserve” eternal punishment since they have broken God’s law.

By way of analogy, consider a human parent. Let’s say his child has broken the rules of the household. Would a loving parent lock the child in a room for 5 years, and come in every day and apply a hot poker to the child’s body because that’s what the child “deserved” for breaking the rules? Such a parent, if found out, would have to spend a few years himself in a penitentiary. So if God punishes eternally probably over 95% of the human population in the fires of hell, would He not be an even worse criminal?

Yes, if we want to claim that such a “God” is LOVE as the apostle John proclaimed, we are going to have to drastically alter the usual understanding of “love”, and define it in such a way as to include such cruelty.

I think that God’s love does differ from man’s love, but not in the sense that it is LESS loving – rather that He IS love and therefore can credibly be expected to be MORE loving than we are. (Which I think is most likely in agreement with you, Paidion. :wink: )

I was reading this morning and came across something I just had to share. The book is “Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus” by Lois Tverberg. Here is the excerpt:

(I added the color to that Lamentations quote.)

There’s more, and it’s very good, but out of fairness to the author I’ll stop here. This is in chapter 3. Alas, I can’t tell you the page number; it’s on my Kindle. :unamused: But, I think it adds to the conversation. As far as I know Lois Tverberg isn’t a universalist. Maybe she is – could be – but she never says anything on the topic at all unless she does so later in the book or elsewhere. I’m not sure how anyone could read that verse in Lamentations and not start wondering about ECT, and how that could possibly fit with the text.

I hope this helps – I thought it wonderful. :smiley:

Love, Cindy