The Glory and Danger of ‘God is Love’

We continue to see an encouraging surge of publications on the classical attributes of the triune God. In my book His Love Endures Forever I sought to extol the glory of the love of God while also warning of the dangers of misinterpreting it, moving from doctrinal exegesis to spiritual reflection. Here is how the book opens:

‘God is love. There can be few more famous statements in the Bible, and few more wonderful. Here is a truth that is simple enough for a small child to grasp and yet deep enough to occupy us for eternity. Here is the same good news of the gospel of the death of Christ that is believed by a toddler and yet has kept busy some of the greatest minds in human history with its unfathomable profundity. Here is the revelation of the heart of God that grips us when we first come to know Jesus Christ and holds us to him throughout our Christian lives. Here is the grace that amazes us because it gives us what we do not deserve and keeps giving it.

But here too is a statement like a wax nose that can be bent in innumerable directions. As Trevor Hart comments, “Simply to repeat the biblical assertion that ‘God is love’ is certainly not to answer any significant theological questions.” (‘How Do We Define the Nature of God’s Love?’ in Nothing Greater, Nothing Better: Theological Essays on the Love of God). The idea that God is love is too readily isolated from its wider biblical context and is twisted. The temptation is to refashion it “after our likeness,” since we all too easily make our own human love the definition of God’s love. In the creation God made man in his likeness, but in our rebellion we attempt to make him in ours. Rather than remembering that it is God who is love, we presume that the love of God is the same as human love, and love—our love—becomes God.’