How Do You Respond to the Person Who Says,

How Do You Respond to the Person Who Says, "My God Is a God of Love?"

Sam Waldron

The following is a transcribed Video Q&A, so the text may not read like an edited article would. Scroll to the bottom to view this video in its entirety. 

It was a great debate in the Middle Ages, which had to do with this very thing. Abelard's saying basically, and a lot of other people saying, "God is loving. God is powerful. God can to anything He wants, so He can save people without atonement, of His wrath and justice."

On the other hand, someone like Anselm's saying, "Look God's honor must be satisfied." And Anselm was getting it right in his great book, Why God Became Man. He was saying, "Look, God became Man." That's what the Christian church believes. Was that necessary or not? Why would God go through that, do that great thing if He can save people, by a wave of the magic wand of His power. That doesn't make any sense.

Following on from Anselm, you come to Luther, and now you can translate from the historical theology into the Biblical theology, or what the Bible teachers particularly, because Luther's saying, Anselm was getting right. We have to be just a little bit more specific. It's not just God's honor in general the must be satisfied and is satisfied by the great work and reason that God became man. What we have to have is the satisfaction of the justice of God.

So what Luther taught can be paraphrased in what's always attributed to some Puritan, I don't know who, but the Puritan was supposed to have said. I think he's Biblical, even though I don't know his name, that there are three things God can't do. He can't lie, a God who cannot lie. He can't die. God is immortal, which means not just that He doesn't die, but that He cannot die, and He cannot deny Himself, but remains faithful.

So it's clear from the Bible that when we talk about God being almighty and loving, that we can't define that in a way that abstracts it from either what is rational or moral. That's why I like the little children's catechism so much that says, answers the question, can God do all things? The answer is, yes, God can do all His holy will, which forces us to think about God's power and love in a way that's connected to both what is rational and what is moral, okay?

So the point is, can God, just with a magic wand of His love, wave aside our sins, wave aside our transgressions of His law? The answer of the Bible to that question is, no He cannot, because God must be just. As Paul says in Galatians, chapter three, "If a law had been given, by which we can become righteous, then surely salvation, justification, righteousness would've been by that law."

Of course, what's behind what Paul says? Look, Christ died. God sent His son and had Him crucified. That's what the Bible teaches. That's what's very clear. Now you have to answer this simple question, was that necessary or not? Would God do that if it wasn't necessary?

Well, I think the only way that question can be answered is, no. So, all over the Bible, there are these plain statements of the necessity of the atonement of Jesus Christ. I like what one theologian says, who says that the atonement of Christ was a matter of consequent, absolute necessity, as John [Murio 00:04:20] says that, consequent, because the necessity's only there because God first chose to save.

God didn't need to do that. Salvation is not by fair, it's by grace. God was free to save and He was free to choose not to save, but one He chose to save, consequent on that great decision, the atonement of Jesus Christ was absolutely necessary and that absolutely necessary character of the atonement was grounded in the most necessary thing about the universe, that character of God himself.

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Originally published October 15, 2012.

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