The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God

Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God D A CarsonI picked up this book in ELS for Rs 15. I had read reviews of this book before and wanted to read it myself. A little bit about the author before I write about the book. D.A. Carson is the author of this book. He is one of foremost scholars in the New Testament today. He is a Research Professor in Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the same from which Ravi Zacharias graduated. He is also one of the editors of the New Bible Commentary and has written many excellent books on some very heavy theological topics. I am a great fan of his writing. However, you don’t find many of his books here in India. I was glad when I found this book in ELS as a matter of serendipity. I thanked God and grabbed it.

The book is about the difficult doctrine of the love of God. While it is easy for many of us to buy into an oversimplified understanding of the love of God as taught in much of the evangelical world, the picture the Bible presents on this important characteristic of God is very different — Carson asserts.

The way the love of God has been reduced to a mere sentimental love in our culture is striking. If I  go and say to my non-christian friend that “God loves you”,  I may have meant to convey to him that God loves him despite his sinfulness – an exceptional thing for God to do. He might understand it as “Oh yeah, I have heard that before. I am good enough to be loved. Thanks for your encouragement.” This kind of thinking is all to common in our culture. I once saw a Kamal-Hassan movie called Anbe-Shivam (the title means love is God) which portrays how by doing good we find god in ourselves and that is all there is to this “concept of god”. We see here “god” being used synonymously with acts of charity or “love” as the title of the movie implies.  Karunanidhi, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, an atheist, says that “service to man is service to God“.  Sai Baba, a self-proclaimed god-man says ” I have come to light the lamp of Love in your hearts…I have not come on behalf of any exclusive religion“. My Grandpa says that the only difference between him and I is that he believes love is God and I believe God is love!

In such a hazy milieu of “love” and “god” how does a Christian accurately convey the biblical message of the love of God? This is what Carson seeks to answer. He explains how the Bible speaks of God’s love in different ways namely

  • God’s Intra-Trinitarian love
  • God’s providential Love
  • God’s general salvific Love
  • God’s particular elective Love
  • God’s conditional love based on obedience

and how we must not emphasize just one aspect at the expense of others. Do this and you are misrepresenting the biblical picture of the love of God. He beautifully explains passages in the Bible, particularly John, to prove each of his point.  Its an excellent read. I don’t find too many authors who think at Carson’s level.

The book may be a little technical for a layman, but with a little effort, you will find yourself sitting on a gold mine. I am glad that the publishers have made available the pdf version of the book. You can also purchase it on Flipkart.