Countless doctrines have been under direct assault since the very beginning of the Faith. Indeed, throughout the history of the Church the Faith has known many foes. From Arius to Sabellius and from Rome to the to the Psuedo-Christian cults of the Restoration Movement— lines have always been drawn and theological bloodshed offered up all for the preservation of important Christian doctrines. Today, many ancient heresies still persist yet, in our postmodern age the doctrine of the Love of God is under attack and the new “all-loving-god” teaching is the “new heresy.” Everything is sacrificed at the altar of this “god.” This god is not holy, does not care if people sin, forgives whether or not people have repented of their sin, is not judgmental, does not care about his own word, sees everyone as his children equally, and accepts all lifestyles and all religions or the un-religious equally. In the name of God’s love in other words, everything about God is compromised and ultimately denied. This new “all-loving-god” heresy is not restricted to any one group of people; even so-called Evangelicals have adopted aspects of the heresy. In other words, it is so pervasive that it demands a response. In order to restore a biblical vision of the love of God, we should think about the love of God from several important angles:
God’s Love Is Covenantal
The covenantal aspect of God’s love gives us the ability to distinguish between love within a covenant relationship and love apart from covenantal parameters. There is no doubt that God has what theologians have called a general benevolent love expressed through His general goodness to all associated with God’s common grace (Mt. 5.43-45). But this love only extends as far as His general goodness is concerned and no further. God’s love of benevolence is not necessarily a saving love. God can shower a person with heavenly presents but not be received with a new heart (Hos. 2.8). Only God’s special love, his covenantal love with which He loves His covenant people in Christ experience the fullness of God’s love and friendship (John 15.12-17; Eph. 1.3-5; 1 John 3.1). God’s covenant love means that in Christ, God has committed himself to us with a sacred bond. This is precisely the distinction the “new heresy” is unwilling to make or even acknowledge because the proponents of this view despise knowledge and hate instruction (Prov. 1.22, 29; 12.1). God’s love suffers gross abuse all in the name of love by those who want us to believe that everyone is a child of God loved with God’s special covenant love despite the fact that Jesus identified certain people as being devoid of God’s love (John 5.42; 8.42). Finally, to love God is to be in an intimate relationship with God where God calls us apart from all other gods (1 Cor. 8.1). Covenant love is not pluralistic or ecumenical it’s distinct and exclusive.
Gods’ Love Is Holy
Psalm 97:10–12 10Hate evil, you who love the Lord, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked. 11 Light is sown like seed for the righteous And gladness for the upright in heart. 12 Be glad in the Lord, you righteous ones, And give thanks to His holy name.
Psalm 97 could very well be called the ultimate the “new heresy” killer. God is holy and part of His will for those who love Him is to hate evil. The imperative Hebrew verb leaves no room for disobedience among those who would purport to love God. This is the Psalmists way of saying the same thing John would say much later:
1 John 2:15 15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Yet, again we must point out that those who have adopted the “all-loving-god” hermeneutic have no way to define John’s term “world” (the humanistic, narcissistic, morality and spirituality of the present evil age) since God has accepted everyone into His number. The problem is not just that this pervasive cultural philosophy that so many have adopted today leads to universalism, it leads to a total epistemological collapse. And because Scripture is no longer looked at as the final arbiter of truth, God is no longer knowable as the Holy God if Israel that He is. In fact, part of this epistemic problem is that the “sacred calf” of the new “all-loving-god” view is also untenable and unknowable since Scripture is no longer their final authority.
God’s love however is rooted in holiness and far from being unknowable, the biblical Love of God is clear and distinct. This is seen first in the fact that God is a loving God unto himself. The trinity provides us the basis for God’s absolute holy love (John 3.35; 5.20; 10.17; 14.31; 15.19; 17.24, 26). The Spirit is also essential to the love of God (Rom. 5.5; 15.30; Gal. 5.22). God’s love which He bestows on His people is a holy love expressed through the sacrifice of His own Son (Rom. 5.8; 1 John 4.9). God’s covenant love is also pure in that it is not capricious or fickle but remains unchanging and eternal (Jer. 31.3). Gods’ love is part of His moral perfections, that is why “God
is love” (1 John 4.8)— because the love of God is in perfect harmony with who God is, all of His attributes, thus to exalt the love of God above all else is to distort His moral perfections and glory. This is precisely what the new hermeneutic has done resulting in idolatry. They take the concept of God’s love in the most absolute way as if Love is God’s essence and the rest of His attributes are simply the modes through which the essence of God (i.e. love) is expressed. This denies the simplicity of God to use a philosophical term. The reality is, that God is holy, His love holy and all of His attributes equally holy and indiminishable.
God’s Love Is Transformational
Negatively, to love God is to hate evil, positively, to love God is to obey His commands (Ex. 20.5-6; Dt. 5.10; 11,13; Josh. 22.5; Ps. 119.47, 48; Dan. 9.4; 1 John 2.5). In other words, we cannot profess with our lips what we deny with out lives (1 John 3.18). Any doctrine about the love of God that denies the power of God to transform a person’s life is a false view of God’s love. God’s love transforms. When God saves a person He begins this transformative work in order to conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 6.17; 2 Cor. 3.18; Col. 3.10). The new love doctrine does not think of love and obedience in the same proposition. In the new love hermeneutic, obedience is over shadowed by the leniency of God’s love which is not much concerned with changing people as much as loving people. This only pits Scripture against Scripture and does not present a coherent or consistent view of God’s love. Sadly, this approach to Scripture is virtually ubiquitous today. We see it the media, in schools, the college campus, it fills the minds of many uninformed and untrained Evangelicals who do not give theology much serious thought. The root and the result of the new “all-loving-god” doctrine is that God ends up becoming much like us. He loves everyone, so it is imagined, in such a way that feathers are never ruffled, sin is never confronted, truth is never fought for, doctrine is never specified and all beliefs are always tolerated. Because God ends up being just like us, there is no need for transformation. Ultimately then, if people profess to love God but through their disobedience they deny Him their “love” for God is nullified (Tit. 1.16).
Titus 1:16 16 They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.
This is precisely the vision of God’s love we can never relinquish. It is the biblical doctrine of God’s love that the Danny Cortez and Matthew Vines of the world have relinquished and in doing so have adopted the deepest basest form of existentialism and idolatry. The doctrine of the love of God is a gospel issue and that is why we can never surrender the truth of God’s love to a world that does not love God as He is but only as they wish Him to be (1 John 4.10-11). Finally, to end on a positive note, far from relinquishing the love of God, we ought to advance the love of God now more than ever. Through God’s love expressed in us we will evangelize the world (John 13.35), strengthen the church (John 15.12), and grow in our own zeal and maturity (Phil. 1.9). Too many of us in the church of God have become loveless, this too is an unfortunate error and will only serve to weaken the church and give her a bad name in a world that is eager to highjack God’s love for their own sinister ends. Instead we must, if we love the gospel, abide in His love.
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.