Yesterday evening Leonora and I attended the weekly meeting of the Life group hosted by Roland and Sherry Loder. All ten of the group’s members attended, and we studied the second of the two parts which we’d planned to study last week in the section “Doesn’t the Reality of Evil and Suffering Expose God’s Limitations?” of Randy Alcorn’s If God Is Good Why Do We Hurt? booklet (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Multnomah Books, 2010)–“Is God’s love limited?”. As usual the study was preceded and followed by singing and prayer. An innovation was members’ accompanying the after-study singing with a tambourine, a pair of cymbals, and a pair of spoons as well as with a guitar.
We opened our study by reading the last paragraph of the section that we’d studied the previous week, “Is God’s power limited?”. It cites these New Testament passages which show God to be all-powerful. They, and all other Bible passages quoted in this post, are from the ESV.
– “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37; the angel Gabriel to Mary).
– “With God all things are impossible” (Matthew 19:26; Jesus to his disciples).
– “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
– “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty'” (Revelation 1:8).
I pointed out that in the next two parts of the section Randy Alcorn presents Biblical evidence that God is all-knowing and all-good as well as all-powerful. A few of the passages which he cites are:
– “Do you know…the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge?” (Job 37:16; Elihu to Job).
– “God…knows everything” (1 John 3:20).
– “You are good and do good; teach me your statutes” (Psalm 119:68; cited in Alcorn’s book but not in the booklet).
– “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father” (James 1:17).
I observed that often when bad things happen to Christians who believe that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, they start to doubt that God loves them. I gave as examples Job’s asking God, “Why do you hide your face and count me as an enemy?” (Job 13:24), and Jesus’ asking His Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Then I had the first paragraph in “Is God’s love limited?” read, its responding to such doubts by referring to passages like Psalm 51:1 which speak of God’s “steadfast love.”
I went on to observe that some people claim that if God really loves us He wouldn’t treat sin so strictly and harshly, even threatening Hell. A member of the group observed that the answer to those people’s claim was Jesus’ dying on the cross for us. Then I had the rest of “Is God’s love limited?” read. It g9ves the answer, bringing out that God is both holy / just and loving and explains how the two were united at the cross, concluding, “By giving his Son to die for us, God gave us the most compelling proof possible of the infinite greatness of his love” (booklet, page 59). We spent some time discussing what the cross meant to God and to us.
In preparing for our reading of “Is God’s love limited?” I revisited a topic that I’d considered in an earlier post, my December 29, 2013, “Is Love God’s Most Important Attribute?” post. I reread the chapter in John M. Frame’s No Other God (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing Company, 2001) that I’d focused on in the post, “Is Love God’s Most Important Attribute?” (pages 49-56). Since Frame wrote the chapter in response to the claim by some open theists that love is God’s most important attribute, I also read what two open theists say about the topic: Richard Rice in Clark Pinnock et al’s The Openness of God (Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1994) and John Sanders in his The God Who Risks (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998); I read pages 18-22 and 175-81 of those books, respectively. I also read a section called “God’s Love and Justice–A Point of Tension?” in Millard J. Erickson’s Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2013; pages 267-68). Erickson concludes, “Love and justice are not two separate attributes competing with one another. God is both righteous and loving, and has himself given what he demands” (Erickson, page 268).
I didn’t share any of what I read on the topic with the Life group, feeling that Alcorn had demonstrated sufficiently that in Jesus’ dying on the cross for us God showed that His love for us is such that we can trust Him even when we can’t understand such things as why He allows bad things to happen to us.