How to Distort the Love of God: A Note to Southern Baptists

This article was originally posted at my site. Only some of my articles are posted on SBC Voices. If you would like access to all of my articles, you can follow my feed here. You can also connect with me on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

I recently read an article by D. A. Carson titled “On Distorting the Love of God.”  I strongly commend the article to you.  Please heed its warnings.  The Southern Baptist Convention is in danger of over or under emphasizing certain aspects of the love God, thus distorting God’s love.  Instead of distorting God’s love, let us submit to and communicate the love of God as revealed in Scripture.  You can find Carson’s full article here (pdf) or the audio here.  I’ve provided a summary below, followed by my response.  You can also find Carson’s book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God here for free (pdf).

Carson, D. A.  “On Distorting the Love of God.”  Bibliotheca Sacra (January-March 1999): 3-12.

The doctrine of the love of God is difficult for at least five reasons: 1) The overwhelming majority of those who believe in God, believe he, she, or it is a loving being.  2) In Western culture, the love of God is often separated from God’s sovereignty, holiness, wrath, providence, and the personhood of God, which redefines the love of God as something other than what Scripture says.  3) Some elements of postmodernism relate to this problem in that people in the West believe that all religions are the same; therefore, the only heresy is believing that there is such a thing as heresy.  4) Due to the sentimentalizing of God’s love, Christians have been swept along to the extent that we have forgotten that within Christian confessionalism the doctrine of God’s love poses difficulties.  A sentimentalized doctrine of the love of God finds difficulty meshing with the biblical doctrine of God’s sovereignty and justice.  5) The doctrine of the love of God is sometimes portrayed within Christian circles as much easier and more obvious than it really is, and this is achieved by overlooking some of the distinctions the Bible itself introduces when it depicts the love of God.

The bible speaks of the love of God in five distinguishable ways: 1) The Bible speaks of the peculiar love of the Father for the Son (John 3:35, 5:20), and of the Son for the Father (John 14:31).  2) Even though the Bible avoids using the word “love,” the theme of love is evident in God’s providential love over all He has made.  He made everything “good” (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31; Matt. 10:29).  3) God has a loving salvific stance toward His fallen world.  According to John 3:16, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.  Some try to use “world” here to only refer to the elect, but based on the rest of John’s gospel, that will not do.  God loves the whole world (1 John 2:2), and commands all human beings to repent.  4) God has a particular, effective, selective love toward His elect.  The elect may be the entire nation of Israel, or the church as a body, or individuals.  This is a discriminating feature of God’s love.  God does not love the non-elect in this way (Deut. 7:7-8, 10:14-15; Ma. 1:2-3; Eph. 5:25).  5) God loves His own people in a conditional way based on their obedience.  Jude, for example, says to keep yourself in the love of God (Jude 1:21).  This is not the same type of love as the other four mentioned, since one cannot escape those forms of God’s love.  God’s people live under God’s love or His wrath depending on their covenantal faithfulness.  Jesus told His disciples to remain in His love by keeping His commandments as He has kept His Father’s commands and remains in His love (John 15:9-10).

There are two preliminary observations on these distinctive ways of talking about the love of God.  First, it is easy to see what will happen if any of these five biblical ways of talking about the love of God is absolutized and made exclusive: 1) If the intra-Trinitarian love of God is used as a model for all of God’s loving relationships, we will fail to observe the distinctions that must be maintained between Creator/Creature and the ontologically Holy One in relation with ontologically sinful Christians.  2) If the love of God is nothing more than His providential ordering of everything, this is not far from a benevolent “force.”  It would be easy to integrate that kind of stance into pantheism or some other form of monism.  3) If the love of God is exclusively portrayed as an inviting, yearning, sinner-seeking passion, then this strengthens the hands of Arminians, semi-Pelagians, Pelagians, and those more interested in God’s inner emotional life than in His justice and glory—but the cost will be massive.  This form of love made absolute only treats complimentary texts as if they were not there, and it also steals God’s sovereignty from Him and our confidence and security from us.  4) If the love of God refers exclusively to His love for the elect, it is easy to drift toward a view where God loves the elect and hates the reprobate.  Rightly positioned, there is truth in this assertion; stripped of complimentary biblical truths, that same assertion has engendered hyper-Calvinism.  5) If the love of God is construed entirely within the kind of discourse that ties God’s love to human obedience, then we may run to merit theology.

Second, believers must not view these ways of talking about God’s love as independent, compartmentalized loves of God.  None of these aspects of God’s love should be overemphasized or underemphasized.  Instead, we should gratefully acknowledge that God in the perfection of His wisdom has thought it best to reveal His love in these ways.  These truths must be held together and integrated in biblical proportion and balance, and applied with insight and sensitivity to our lives and the lives of those to whom we minister.


First, I appreciate Carson’s thoroughness in discussing the doctrine of the love of God.  I have held for a long time that God loves the Devil, yet hates Him as well.  Now, I have a better understanding of what exactly this looks like.  The same may be said for God’s view of those in Hell.  There must be a sense where He loves them while also a sense where He hates them.

Second, I appreciate Carson’s warning concerning overemphasizing or underemphasizing one way God loves against the other ways God loves.  I agree that God loves in each of these ways.  All of them should be believed and applied with the balance that the Bible demands.  Currently in Southern Baptist churches and evangelicalism as a whole, the love of God for sinners is overemphasized to the point that God’s wrath and justice are extremely diminished.  The wrath of God towards sin and sinners is what makes God’s love so amazing.  All humans deserve hell, yet God reveals His love for us by giving His Son for the world.  Furthermore, there is a special love for the elect that the lost do not have.  This love should be shared instead of hidden, encouraging sinners to come and enjoy the love God has for the elect through repentance and faith in Christ.

Third, there is a real danger for those who read the verses where God’s love is contingent on our obedience to ignore the rest of Scripture.  We must take all of Scripture into account, or we may submit to a meritorious salvation that, if we are honest, we will never achieve.  That is the path of misery.  I know because I have tried.

This article was originally posted at my site. Only some of my articles are posted on SBC Voices. If you would like access to all of my articles, you can follow my feed here. You can also connect with me on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.


      • Frank L. says


        I think it is “unwise” to use the proposition “God loves people in hell” unless it is in a context to explain what that means. Words have denotation as well as connotation and I’m not sure those words in isolation would communicate what Carson intends.

        I can see how the proposition “God loves people in hell” lines up with Scripture — though I cannot say I really comprehend that idea fully as a human.

        God “is” love. His nature (verb of being) is defined by the idea of love and limited therefore by that idea. In other words, I see the idea of “God loving anything or anybody” as the only way God CAN be (again, the verb of being in John’s epistle).

        I have not looked, but I do not off the top of my head recall a verse that says, “God IS wrath” in the same sense that John says, “God IS love.”

        I know of Scriptures that describe God’s actions as that of wrath — there are many. But, even His wrath emanates from His Being–which John describes as “being love.”

        The verses that describe God as a “God OF wrath, or a God OF justice” do not seem to carry the same force as John’s direct proposition of “God IS love.”

        To discuss the Being of God naturally leaves me standing on a tottering plank because I simply do not have the capacity to fully grasp God in His being.

        I see through a glass, darkly.

        I’m quite sure I have not “answered” anything but it seems to make sense to me.

      • parsonsmike says


        “I can’t think of any biblical reason to say that he loves anyone in hell.”

        I agree. Did he ever love them?

        • says

          I would say yes. God’s mercy expressed in “common grace” is a very loving thing for God to do. Likewise, although am a believer in limited atonement (particular redemption), I don’t believe that excludes the belief that Jesus death made available the free offer of the gospel to all sinners.

          • parsonsmike says

            According to the Bible, is the Gospel an offer or a proclamation?
            An offer to be accepted or a proclamation to be broadcast?

          • Christiane says

            following the conversation, I note that God is spoken of as though He lived ‘in time’ . . . but He does not . . .

            I suppose the ‘accommodation’ of making Him appear to do one thing in the past and another in the present is a part of attempting to understand Him. But does it really help?

          • Rick says

            Andrew — again, aren’t we back to failing to qualify God’s love? Are you suggesting that there is no distinction between God’s common grace toward the heathen and His eternally saving someone?

          • says

            @parsonsmike | I don’t think we necessarily have to bifurcate the two. It is most definitely a proclamation, but a proclamation that invites a response.

            @Rick | I fully believe in election as an act of God’s love, so there is quite an enormous gap between God’s love for His own and the love that He expresses to the lost via common grace. I guess the distinction I’m focusing on here is the difference between a sinner unsaved and a sinner in hell.

    • says

      He loves those in hell just like He loves all others. “God is love.” It is our own inability to fully comprehend Him and His love that causes us to question how such could be the case. He is God. He does Godly things. It is His nature. He can’t help but be Who He is. His wrath doesn’t prevent Him from loving. Such is a human problem, not a God problem.

    • says

      How does God make four-sided triangles. Regarding the nonsensical “Can Almighty God make a rock so heavy that He can’t lift it?” C.S. Lewis once wisely observed that meaningless or senseless combinations of words don’t magically attain meaning or sense just because they’re prefixed by “Can God …” or in this case “How does God …” Nonsense remains nonsense even when we way it about God.
      As someone once wisely observed, God made hell for those who question Him (i.e. by this I only mean mere questioning for the sake of questioning, like satan did in Eden getting Eve to question God with the diabolical “Did God say?,” not for the proper purpose of a question of seeking and thereby gaining answer and understanding, Hebrews telling us of this fulfillment in Christ as God’s final Word, but rather for the purposelessness of unbelief and harloting after sin; again as C.S. Lewis once wisely observed, merely questioning for questioning’s sake without interest in an answer is like masturbation vs marriage, utterly and literally fruitless). Soli Deo Gloria!

  1. Greg Harvey says

    I think this verse speaks rather succinctly and clearly regarding God’s love for sinners:

    Romans 2:4 (ESV)
    “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

    And lest we misinterpret that verse, I’ll offer the whole passage:

    Romans 2:1-5 HCSB (yes, I changed translations)

    “1 Therefore, any one of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. 2 We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is based on the truth. 3 Do you really think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed.”

    I think contrasting the specific verse with the entire passage supports Carson’s argumentation nicely.

    • parsonsmike says

      I see a little problem.
      Is my heart no longer hard and me no longer unrepentant due to me or to His mercy.

      I ask, for I read this:

      >>>>What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.<<<<

      Does His kindness fail? It would seem so. people do despise it and Him. His restraint and patience still leave many storing up wrath they reap on Judgment Day.
      But you and I are different than those who perish are we not? Is that difference due to something in us or in God? I vote God.
      How do you vote?

  2. says

    I do believe the Bible is clear that God loves sinners. If that weren’t the case, I love to see someone explain just why Jesus died on the cross. But that said, I can’t think of anything in the Bible that says God loves those who are in hell, since they’re beyond repentance and are permanently under His wrath. To say that “God is love” necessitates that God loves sinners in hell doesn’t make any more sense than to say that “God is love” necessitates that God loves sin.

    • Frank L. says

      “” To say that “God is love” necessitates that God loves sinners in hell doesn’t make any more sense than to say that “God is love” necessitates that God loves sin.””

      I think this makes an illogical comparison. Loving a person is not the same as “loving an idea, or concept.”

      The logic of that ideas goes something like: God loves everything. Sin is a thing. Therefore God loves sin. The problem is with premise 1.

      A biblical way to state it would be: God loves every person. People in hell are persons. Therefore, God loves people in hell.

      Now, one may argue if this deduction is “true” or not. One can challenge premises, but at least the deduction is valid.

      It is not valid to conflate the love of “people” with the love of a concept.

      The problem with conflating loving people and loving sin is a problem of equivocation. The word, love, is not being used in a univocal way that all can agree on.

      • says

        “God is love” doesn’t identify an object of that love, so I don’t think my comparison is out of line. But even if it is, there’s nothing stating that God loves every person in exactly the same way, at all times, or that His love for sinners in leading them to repentance continues once they are in hell. A cursory look at the passage where the phrase “God is love” comes from shows nothing indicating that God loves the sinner who has died in his sin.

        I’m willing to consider the idea that God loves people in hell. I just need a passage of Scripture that says so. I just can’t think of any.

        • says

          Andrew … I’m in agreement. I think it’s too bad (or bad theology) to have God’s love trump every other characteristic: just, righteous, eternal, immutable. We know that He is all of these without the Bible having to tell us He “is” each of those things. I see no reason for God to love people in hell who he undoubtedly predestined to be there. Can God save some people eternally and chose to utterly destroy certain other groups of people and still be a God who loves everyone? God never loves any unbeliever so much that His eternal wrath will not be poured out on them if they remain in unbelief. Rather than talking about how much God loves and desires
          to save every single person, we should be making it clear that the
          unforgiven sinner stands under God’s curse in his unbelief. While
          he remains an unbeliever, “the wrath of God abides (or rests) on
          him” ( John 3:36). God is our enemy until we are reconciled to Him
          through Christ. When it is stated that “Christ redeemed us from
          the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13),
          not only is it implied that we were “the children of wrath” (Ephesians
          2:3) and under God’s curse, but it is also understood that “Christ was made a curse for us [who believe].” Christ became the object of divine wrath for believers, not for everyone. This is certainly the point in Romans 5. As Christians, we should be clarifying that it is in Christ that God makes the distinction about wrath and love for every person. Whether God loves or is wrathful is always and forever about one’s relationship to Christ.

      • says


        But it still requires a leap to go from “God is love” to “God’s love is for every person, even those in Hell”. Where does “God is love” qualify what it is that God loves? We can qualify it because of what we find elsewhere in Scripture, and as a result we realize that God’s love is not directed toward plants, animals, etc, per se but it his love for people. But by the same token, Scripture makes a clear differentiation between his love for those who are his and those who are not, even going so far as to voice love for his people and hate for those who are not his people. We have to be careful with a verse like that (particularly careful to understand what is meant by ‘love’ and ‘hate’ while having to acknowledge that ‘hate’ here has a definite meaning that is contrasted with ‘love’) , but the idea of God ‘hating’ some is nonetheless biblical and it doesn’t require a big leap at all to say that God’s response toward those in Hell is not unlike God’s response toward Esau.

        • Frank L. says

          Chris. I think you make a good point.

          There is as I said a very big gap created in using finite language to describe an infinite God.

          I simply want to avoid creating God in my own image.

  3. says

    Conversely, to say that He doesn’t love sinners in hell makes no more sense than saying that He does love them. Nothing in the Bible speaks directly to this issue. To make any statement as to His love for those in hell is speculation.

      • says

        I’m saying that one may not pick and choose how one applies one’s principles of logic. To say that it makes no sense to apply a qualification to a particular premise based on a lack of evidence would necessarily require that one may not say the opposite because of the same lack of evidence.
        If it makes no sense to say that God’s love is extended to those in hell because the Bible doesn’t directly speak to the issue, then it makes no sense to say that His love is not extended to those in hell because the Bible doesn’t speak directly to the issue.
        I can’t say with any certainty whether God loves the condemned in hell or not. I say that, if He wants to do so, He certainly has the right to do so since He is God. I’m not God, so I don’t understand how that works. I can’t comprehend it.

  4. Jess Alford says

    Of course, God still loves those souls in Hell. In the 16th chapter of Luke the Rich man called out to Father Abraham and Father Abraham called him Son. God hates sin and loves the sinner, when this life is over our dternal destiny is fixed.

    One chooses Hell over God, God is not willing that anyone should perish
    but that all come to repentence. Those in Hell got just what they wanted,
    (I should say, got what they thought they wanted). Living and loving life have been made #1 in peoples lives while denying Christ.

    • says

      It’s worth noting that no one wants Hell (well, a few deluded people buy into the idea of “it’s better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven). People do not choose Hell, per se, but they do choose to turn away from God. They don’t want Hell, they just sort of ignore its reality or justify themselves as though they would never go to Hell.

      As for Luke 16:25, various translation issues aside and ignoring that this comes in a parable, that Abraham recognizing the rich man as a physical descendent does not tell us anything one way or another about the love of God for those in Hell.

  5. Jess Alford says

    Chris Roberts,

    Remember I said they got what they thought they wanted. Abraham still called the rich man son. I’m not convinced this is a parable.

    Chris your bucket may have a hole in the bottom of it, because it wont hold water.

      • Jess Alford says

        The certain rich man was a descendant, (son), If you punish a son it don’t mean you don’t love him. This is not a parable, It is written like one but not a parable. Notice the word certain, rich man and certain, beggar, Lazarus.

          • Jess Alford says

            I believe, and the scripture backs it up, that when we die we will know all things, we will know why we are in Heaven or Hell.
            As far as proof, I don’t have the answer. I can’t imagine God saying, I hate you therefore I’m sending you to Hell.

          • Frank L. says

            “””when we die we will know all things”””

            Shucks, Jess. I was hoping to escapte “know it alls” in heaven.

          • says


            Where does the Bible back it up? Besides which, that has nothing to do with my question. You answered my question when you said, “I don’t have the answer.”

  6. says

    A few thoughts:

    First, “God is love” without a world. He is not forced to give His love to anyone. He is love in His being, but this does not mean that He must show love to sinners.

    Second, when I spoke of God loving the Devil and those in Hell, I mean in a general, non-intimate way. The other 4-ways in which God loves, neither Satan nor those in Hell experience. In other words, God loves Satan and those in Hell because He loves His creation. They are part of His creation, even while in Hell under His just judgment.

    • Frank L. says


      I agree with this. My high school students just went over this issue last week in their logic class.

      Love is not a univocal term as it is commonly used. It is equivocal or even analogous when used in regard to God, especially.

      It requires explanation, as you point out with the “4 ways” Carson uses the word.

      I think your explanation makes good sense.

    • says

      “First, “God is love” without a world. He is not forced to give His love to anyone. He is love in His being, but this does not mean that He must show love to sinners.”

      Great point.

      • Jess Alford says

        Chris Roberts,

        You are right and I’m wrong. Psalms 11:5 The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.

        Chris you will not hear me say I’m wrong much. Once in a blue moon, maybe.

    • says


      I hope you are sitting down because you and I are in agreement on this particular point. God does love everyone equally. He offers his intimate love to those who respond to the Holy Spirit’s drawing. Thus, Satan along with those in Hell, received God’s love as His creation. These in Hell, will loved by God, receive God’s judgment. God’s judgment as, James 2:13 reveals, is without mercy. God will not judge someone based on his mercy but on His Law.

      • says

        Tim, God loves the church (the elect) in a more intimate way, a saving way . He does not love the entire world in this manner. Do you agree with this as well?

        • says

          Jared — The fact of the matter is that God can love forever with a sovereign saving, gracious, forgiving, and elective love when you believe in Christ. And an eternal, saving love is more than a temporal, providential care God shows toward the good and the wicked alike who do not believe in Christ. If people think they can go on in their unbelief and rebellion and still have Him love them unconditionally, they are dead wrong, and the person who tells them that is either ignorant or a liar. And any pastor that implies that from the pulpit *without clarification* should receive the strongest possible rebuke. And now, we have become so careless in our thinking and biased in our theology that we have taken what is simply not true and made it the very heart of the gospel!

          • says

            I will teach that “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” I believe that’s in Romans somewhere, isn’t it? I guess Paul was careless and biased though, since that simply isn’t true nor is it the heart of the gospel.
            I shall consider myself an ignorant liar who has been rebuked in the strongest possible way.

          • says

            Dale –@ 31: Not sure why you’re taking this personally. I would contend that outside of Christ, we cannot say for sure that God loves any particular individual. It ALL depends on one’s relationship to Christ.

            “”I will teach that “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.””

            Who is the ‘us’ Dale? Roman believers, “having now been justified by His blood — for if when we were *enemies* we were reconciled to God through the death of His son (Rom. 5:9-10).” It all depends on one’s relationship to Christ.

  7. says

    John MacArthur shows quite effectively through Scripture that indeed God does love the world of humanity in a way that is different from his saving, eternal love for some. He suggests that there are four ways God’s love is expressed universally: common grace, compassion, admonition, and the gospel offer. Yet he concludes by summarizing that “God chooses to love those whom He chooses to love. He chooses in spite of our sin. The fact that He loves us does not mean that we are worthy. But when He chooses
    to love redemptively and eternally, He forgives and redeems and keeps us in the faith.” God can only love you eternally and savingly when you believe in Christ. Without Christ, we have the wrath of God being poured
    out upon a wicked world. With Christ, we have God loving and forgiving believers. To say that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son is saying only half the gospel. Note in 3:16 that if the Son hadn’t been given for us to believe in, there will be perishing for unbelievers, not God loving unbelievers! That perishing is a result of God’s wrath. God will overshadow His love with wrath for all who are in unbelief.

  8. parsonsmike says

    For those who think God loves those in hell, my original and still yet unanswered question remains:

    >>> How does God love those in hell? <<<

    "How do I love thee, let me count the ways."

    • says

      Mike, see comment 25 where I wrote, “Second, when I spoke of God loving the Devil and those in Hell, I mean in a general, non-intimate way. The other 4-ways in which God loves, neither Satan nor those in Hell experience. In other words, God loves Satan and those in Hell because He loves His creation. They are part of His creation, even while in Hell under His just judgment.”

      • parsonsmike says


        HOW does He love them, not does He love them.

        Does he just have tender feelings for them or what?

  9. Christiane says

    “The clearest ‘Authority’ teaching about God’s Love
    IS Jesus Christ. When He has spoken, there are no ‘in other words’.”

    What do people here think is wrong with that statement? And why?

    • says

      Dale — Didn’t realize you were a Duck fan! We here in Oregon think that they were definitely under-rated.

      Let me clarify one aspect of one of my previous statements for you. I said: “If people think they can go on in their unbelief and rebellion and still have Him love them unconditionally, they are dead wrong, and the person who tells them that is either ignorant or a liar. And any pastor that implies that from the pulpit *without clarification* should receive the strongest possible rebuke.” I was speaking specifically about examples like this said from the pulpit because of the kind of confusion they tend to create when they are mentioned *without clarification*:
      1. “God cannot love you anymore than He loves you right now.”
      2. “God loves everyone unconditionally.”
      3. “We know God wants Saddam Hussein (substitute any name here) to be saved because God loves everyone.”

      The problem isn’t just that unbelievers are confused about the wrath and love of God when statements like this are made from the pulpit. Christian pastors and teachers are also confused and add to the confusion when they fail to *clarify* particulars. All three of these platitudes as they are stated are troublesome theologically because they fail at a fundamental level to make any kind of distinctions about God’s love.

      • says

        Go Ducks! Yes, Rick, I’m a rabid Ducks fan. Unashamedly so.
        As to God’s love, I believe you make it something it isn’t. You restrict it to your own boundaries within the limited constraints of your theology. I see it as being much more than that. There is nothing biblically wrong with any of those three platitudes. You know from our past encounters that I stand at a different spot on the theological continuum than you. But, being the self-flagellant sort, I shall continue.
        Again from Romans 5: “For while we were still helpless, Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” You pointed out the following verses, but I will quote this one again here. “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”
        You make the “us” the elect. I believe the “us”, the “helpless”, the “sinners, ” are all of us. Every person born into this sinfully depraved world. We are deserving of His wrath because of our sin and rebellion, but He still loves us. It is a love unlimited and unbounded, totally unlike our own ability to love or even fully comprehend. Thus, I can quote, “God is love,” without qualification or equivocation. It is His nature. He can do no other. He will do no other.
        Does God love Saddam Hussein and want Him saved? Yes. The same goes for every other vile and sinful person out there. Can they be saved? Yes, if they will “confess Jesus as Lord and believe in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead, they shall be saved.” They will still deal with the results of their past actions. No one gets a free ride in this world. But as to eternity the issue is settled by what the Bible says, not by what you say the Bible says.
        Does God love unconditionally? Yes.
        Can God ever love anyone more than when Jesus died for their sin on the cross? No.
        Does He love those in hell? The Bible doesn’t state such, so, as I said above, all talk about this issue is speculation. Can God love those who are in hell? I see no reason why His love, since it is His nature, must be restricted from those in hell simply because they are in hell. They have suffered the consequence of sin, but God doesn’t change.
        But what do I know? I’m an Arminian semi-Pelagian who’s own salvation is probably very suspect because of the ignorant heresy I spout from my pulpit every week. (Relax. I’m joking.)

        • parsonsmike says

          Humility is a good thing. False humility not so much.
          Having your views attacked as wrong headed can be painful.
          Even if you are in the right.

          But it seems to me that if you depend on the Word of God, you might at least see if the passage you are leaning on supports your theology better than then the one the other guy is promoting.

          In this case, Romans 5 does not support your theology. In order to derive the meaning you must ignore the context and insert your own want into the passage.

          >>>>Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.<<<>>>For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.<<<>>>>And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.<<<<<

          Here those perishing are blind to the Gospel [they don't know the truth of Jesus] until God shines into their hearts and gives them the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. It is there He shows or demonstrates His love to the sinner, in His saving of them.

          • says

            Well, my friend, I take it that you intend this as a rebuke for me:
            “Humility is a good thing. False humility not so much.
            Having your views attacked as wrong headed can be painful.
            Even if you are in the right.”
            If you can’t see the humor in what I wrote, that’s your problem, not mine. You want to call it “false humility”? Whatever.
            I disagree with you, as I believe that Romans 5 does support my theological position. Again, you want to restrict God’s love; place boundaries on it. That’s your choice (You know I like the whole “free will” thing). I don’t limit God or His love to my finite understanding of what that entails. Consider it a quirk of mine. And Romans 5 doesn’t do what you want it to do.
            As far as my use of scripture, let’s not get into a spitting match to see who is using it better than the other guy. That wouldn’t go well. Especially since the wind is blowing pretty hard here today. I take it that you also consider me biblically illiterate: “But it seems to me that if you depend on the Word of God, you might at least see if the passage you are leaning on supports your theology better than then the one the other guy is promoting.” Again, whatever.

        • says

          Dale — All three of those platitudes as they are stated are troublesome and wrong theologically because they fail at a fundamental level to make any kind of distinctions about God’s love. More importantly, they fail to make any theological distinction between belief in Christ and rejection of Christ as the foundation for God’s love. Making statements like these from the pulpit (in particular) without any kind of contextual clarification whatsoever are juvenile and irresponsible. We as Christians have to hold our pastors and teachers accountable to making distinctions about God’s love because Scripture does.
          Nobody knows if God loves Saddam Hussein in a specific, saving, eternal, or elective way until he knows that Saddam Hussein is reconciled to God in Christ! God’s saving, elective love is entirely
          related to one’s relationship to Christ. God is our enemy until he is reconciled to us through Christ. Nobody knows if God desires
          Saddam Hussein to be saved until he comes to saving faith in
          Christ! (This is not an excuse to stop preaching the gospel however). If our salvation is in Christ, how can we say that God wants Saddam Hussein saved if he remains outside of a saving relationship to Christ?
          Because Scripture teaches that God loves does not necessarily
          mean that He loves everyone in the same way or that he is even in
          the process of bringing someone to Christ (as per Carson’s thesis).

          Statements like the three made above are false when applied
          with a huge brushstroke for those who don’t believe the gospel. What could be worse than having an unbeliever sitting in the pew
          one Sunday, hardened in his rebellion to God’s Word, rejecting
          Christ and living his life as a fool and as if God didn’t matter one
          whit, only to hear some pastor babble this empty platitude, “God
          cannot love you any more than He loves you right now.” One’s natural reaction in hearing that would most likely be, “Well, I guess I
          don’t need to believe in Jesus or change anything I am doing then
          if He can’t love me anymore than he loves me right now, do I?” This is what I mean by *without clarification.*

          The fact of the matter is that God *can* love you more than He
          loves you right now. It all depends on what you mean when you say,
          “God loves you.” He can love you forever with a sovereign saving,
          gracious, forgiving, and elective love when you believe in Christ.
          And an eternal, saving love is more than a temporal, providential
          care God shows toward the good and the wicked alike who do not
          believe in Christ.

          • parsonsmike says

            I reject what you are saying. God does love a person more because that person does something more or changes anything he or she is doing. Is God’s eternal salvific love dependent on the sinner’s response?
            No and again, NO!


            Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

            **He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him.
            **In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ
            **In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins

            That everlasting salvific love did nor begin just when our sins were forgiven and we were united with Jesus, but when He chose us before the foundation of the world and predestined us for adoption as His children.

          • Rick says

            Parsonsmike @ 52–This is what you wrote:”I reject what you are saying. God does love a person more because that person does something more or changes anything he or she is doing. Is God’s eternal salvific love dependent on the sinner’s response? No and again, NO!”

            If this is what you meant I don’t know what you’re talking about. If it’s not, please write it again so I can respond logically.

          • parsonsmike says

            sry Rick.
            Left off a word [the word not]
            God does ^not^ love a person more because that person does something more or changes anything he or she is doing. Is God’s eternal salvific love dependent on the sinner’s response? No and again, NO!”

          • says

            I disagree with your need to make any qualifications at all about God’s love, Rick. Thus, I also disagree with your conclusions as to how those three platitudes are so troublesome. I do know that God loves all people in a saving way because the Bible teaches such. That’s the difficulty for you and me ever coming to an agreement on this issue. We disagree fundamentally.
            I can live with that.

  10. Bill Mac says

    I’m late to the party, but here goes.

    Are we saying that God loves all sinners while they are alive, but He stops loving some of them after they die? I don’t get it.

      • Bill Mac says

        What I’m hearing is that wrath is the opposite of love and that they are mutually exclusive, which of course isn’t true. And are not sinners under God’s wrath even while they are alive?

        • says

          Good question. *Believing* sinners are NOT under God’s wrath while they are alive. Unbelieving sinners are. It all, once again, depends upon one’s relationship to Christ.

          • Bill Mac says

            All believers were unbelievers. Were they not under God’s wrath while in unbelief? Did God not love them?

            Absalom was evil, hateful, power mad, and the avowed enemy of David. Yet I’m pretty sure David loved him.

          • Rick says

            Bill @ 64 — You asked: “”All believers were unbelievers. Were they not under God’s wrath while in unbelief? Did God not love them?””

            They are under His wrath while in unbelief, (John 3:36) says so. I don’t know that Scripture teaches that God loved them while they were under His wrath or not. It certainly would be convenient if there was a reference to that. I don’t know of a verse that says so however.

            “”Absalom was evil, hateful, power mad, and the avowed enemy of David. Yet I’m pretty sure David loved him.”” This in no wise accounts for God’s love to believers (or unbelievers).

            Bill — are you checking the Notify box under SUBMIT so your comment can be responded to directly?

          • Bill Mac says

            Rick: Are you seriously suggesting that we don’t know if God loves unbelievers, even those who will later become believers? Did Christ die for people He doesn’t love?

          • Bill Mac says

            In the interest of not answering questions with questions: Yes, of course I am. Wrath and love are not opposites. Jesus loved the rich young ruler, who rejected His message. He prayed for the soldiers who crucified Him. The notion that God only loves believers is biblically insupportable.

  11. parsonsmike says

    This is love?

    I, God, knowing all things, including the destiny of every person, and knowing that millions upon millions would end up in outer darkness with much weeping and gnashing of teeth, in the lake of fire, separated forever from Me and from true life, left there without hope, suffering in eternity for their sins, still love these both then before creation, and also in the world of time where either I chose not to save them, or where I knew I could not save them due to their unwillingness, and also I will love them forever.

    Define that love for me please.

  12. parsonsmike says

    God is love.

    From 1st John 4:
    Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

    Could Hitler have loved his mom?
    If he did, he must know God.

    Being simple with that passage, much less one phrase from it, is not good theology.

        • Frank L. says


          Aside from the obvious absurdity of the logic, there is a problem with the premise on its own.

          Again, it goes to the matter of equivocal supposition–that is, using the same term in different ways. Man loving _____________________ (fill in the blank) is not the same as God loving ______________________ (fill in the blank).

          In a biblical sense, it could be argued that Hitler (or any non-believer) cannot even “love” in any biblically meaningful way.

          Also, as I have pointed out, we use love (as in I love) in a pragmatic way. The verse God is love, is using the term ontologically. So, there is no human counterpart to God’s love.

          The best we can do, even if we are Holy Spirit filled believers, is something much less than what God did, let alone what God is.

          • Frank L. says

            PS–I am speaking in general and not specifically at Mike’s quote. I simply do not understand the logic of that quote.

            Mike may mean something quite different from what it appears those words say. I always assume that someone can refine and expand a remark to where it makes good sense.

            As it stands, I just don’t see the logic in the statement.

    • says

      Mike, are you saying that God’s love is the equivalent of my love for my mother? That’s the definition of God’s love?
      You’re correct. That is bad theology. And that is not what I do with the Bible. It isn’t even close to what I said above.
      You’re attempt at a reductio ad absurdum is truly absurd.

      • parsonsmike says

        Dale and Frank,

        First, Dale, this was not directed at you in any way.
        Second, I agree that God’s love is not the same as man’s love, as you both either said or alluded to.

        Is there purpose in loving our enemies?
        They might become our brothers and sisters.
        So God said love your enemies.

        But that does not mean God loves ALL His enemies.
        What purpose that does that serve? How would you define that love?
        Certainly He loves some of His enemies as shown by His deliverance of them from the realm of darkness into the kingdom of light.

        But he does not deliver them all. Thus where is His love for those he leaves buried by their evil? awaiting Judgment?

        • says

          I’ll go back to Romans 5–god demonstrates His love for us in that, while we were still sinners (enemies of God) Christ died for us.
          1 John 4–in this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins.
          It is my contention that God does not pick and choose which sinners (enemies) He will love, but that He “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”
          I think I’ll leave it at that.

          • Rick says

            “us,” “we,” “us,” … “we,” “us,” “our.” —– God doesn’t pick and choose which enemies he will love? It’s turned into refusal now. He gave His only begotten Son that “all the believing ones” might not perish, but have everlasting life. Nothing ambiguous, illogical or inadequate about it Dale. Plain as the nose on your face. Yep.

          • Frank L. says

            Amen, Dale.

            Mike, I am not attempting to explain away any and all mystery in regard to how God loves everybody — including those in hell.

            God’s love is not like man’s love, but the opposite. Man’s love approximates (flows from) God’s love, or it is not love at all.

            I can try to love my enemies as much as humanly possible, but I cannot accomplish this completely as God can.

            That’s why Paul said, “Live at peace AS MUCH AS YOU ARE ABLE.” I am woefully inadequate in being an example of God’s love.

            So, this is why I said way back in the thread that I am not comfortable saying, “God loves those in hell,” unless I am going to be able to flesh that out in a positive conversation with someone.

            Otherwise, that statement, in and of itself, is woefully inadequate and irresponsible in my human opinion.

          • says

            Problem is, Rick, that you want to make “us” and “we” into “me”, “my”, and “I”. I’ll live with my denial, and you can have yours.

          • Rick says

            Now be nice Pastor Dale. I just want to turn it into “all the believing ones,” which is what the text says, of which I am one. Read it again: God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that all the believing ones might not perish but have everlasting life.” It’s actually more about us believing than God loving anyway.

          • says

            Rick, Rick, Rick…….(shaking my head as I sigh). You certainly are “turning it into” something. Something it doesn’t say. And if it’s more about us believing than God loving, then aren’t we back to free will?
            I think this has all gone on long enough. You can keep it going if you wish. I’ll move on to other topics.
            By the way, I’m always nice. :-)

          • parsonsmike says

            I agree with you here, Dale:
            >> And if it’s more about us believing than God loving, then aren’t we back to free will?<<

            Thus it is more about God's loving than about free will. We freely love Him because He first loved us. God makes the difference in your life and in my life and then we desire Him, we trust in Him, we believe in Him, we seek to obey Him.

            And any person in whom God does the same for as He did for us, will also freely desire and trust and obey Him even as we are.

            The difference is God.

          • Rick says

            Bill I think we’re struggling with confusing ideas that need to be kept distinct. I am suggesting that we don’t know that “God loves those whom His wrath abides on.” In John 3:36 wrath continues to abide on unbelievers. Are you suggesting that while His wrath abides on them, he loves them? Anyone in unbelief has God’s wrath upon them, until they come to Christ, at which time His wrath is removed from them. I’m not quite sure I’m willing to cloud the distinction by suggesting that He loves them eternally while his eternal wrath is on them. Unless of course you think that God loves and exhibits His love and wrath temporally only, which is another issue. Failing to make the distinction is just not helpful to my understanding at all.

          • Bill Mac says

            Rick: The bible is unequivocally clear that God loves unbelievers. Wrath and love are not mutually exclusive. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. You have to stand the New Testament on its head to get the idea that God only loves Christians.

          • Rick says

            Well I suppose that really depends on how willing one is to completely ignore all distinctions and favor instead blending them all together into one nice frothy milkshake Bill. Let’s see … for starters how about Ezra 8:22; Prov. 15:9; Rom. 9:17; Deut. 20:16-18; Ps. 5:5. Are you using any of these verses to prove God’s unequivocal love for unbelievers? Hmmmm? No I suppose not. Does 1 Samuel 15:33 teach that Samuel hacked Agag to pieces *before the LORD* as a reminder to Agag of how much God loves Him? No …. I suppose that might be a stretch.

            Your example proves your unwillingness to pay attention to the text and to make distinctions as well. First of all, the text doesn’t say he ‘wept’ over Jerusalem in either the Matthew or the Luke passage. Go read it again. [Ignore the headings — they aren’t inspired]. It doesn’t even mention that he mourned or lamented Jerusalem. It simply says He wanted to gather in those who wanted to come to Him but the Pharisees weren’t willing to let those who wanted to come to Christ go. Secondly, you’d be hard pressed to prove that Jesus *ever* lamented over the Pharisees whom He regularly chastised with the greatest possible condemnation — which I suppose you would rather see as a demonstration of Christ loving them? Here’s to standing the NT on its head Bill.

          • Bill Mac says

            Rick: You seem to be unable to believe that God can be angry with or punish someone He loves. Do you really preach that God hates you now but if you believe in Him He will love you? I think we’ve exhausted the topic.

          • Rick says

            Yes I do because that’s what the Bible teaches Bill. “He who does not believe (right now, present tense) is condemned already (John 3:18).” “He who does not believe the Son (presently) has the wrath of God abiding on him (John 3:36).” I don’t think it gets any clearer than this.

  13. parsonsmike says

    From Deut. 7

    “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

    The elect are those God has chosen from out of all the people of the earth to love and why, because he loves them. [That is what it says!]

    Are His elect, His chosen ones faithful to Him? nope.
    Pure? nope.
    Holy? nope.
    Less selfish? nope.
    Wiser? Smarter? Better? Humbler?

    Jesus said:
    You did not choose me, but I chose you…
    I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen.
    For many are called, but few are chosen.

    Give God all the glory for your own salvation.

  14. says

    This is why Calvin taught long ago that “God is our enemy until
    He is reconciled to us through Christ.” Prior to our being in Christ:
    • We are estranged from God through sin.
    • We are heirs of wrath.
    • We are subject to the curse of eternal death.
    • We are excluded from all hope of salvation.
    • We are beyond every eternal blessing of God.
    • We are slaves of Satan, captives under the yoke of sin.
    • We are destined finally for a dreadful destruction and
    already involved in it.

    Wrath is not the impersonal interaction of cause and effect (i.e., we sinned, and when we did, God got mad). Someone said that God’s wrath is “the relentless divine hostility toward everything that is evil.” Wrath is a function of God’s holiness against sin. If there were no sin, there would be no wrath. For this reason, when we speak about God’s love, we should always hold it up alongside of His wrath because each characteristic clarifies the other. That’s why Christianity has held that Christ on the cross is both the expression of God’s love for sinners and the expression of
    his wrath against sin.

    In order for God’s love to win out toward sinners, His wrath had to be poured out. He could never love us enough to keep His wrath from being poured out on our sin, except in Christ. But that’s how much He loved us, enough to pour out His wrath so He could love those who are in Christ. God’s love without wrath is unthinkable; love is pouring out wrath upon His one beloved Son so that in eternity, He could love sinners in His holiness, free from the wrath that must necessarily accompany His holiness in the presence of their sin.

    Once we begin to wrap our minds around this statement, we will begin to formulate correct thinking about God and His character. God’s wrath must be appeased so that God can save us and love us. The issue about wrath and love is this: God will always love. There is no appeasing of love *except* when the appeasing of wrath is more important. Even when he loved His Beloved (Ephesians 1:6) more than anything else that He could love, in order to love the unlovable (us), the love of God for His own Son had to become less important so that the full force of His wrath against Him
    would be appeased for us.

    • says

      Sorry, Rick, but there is no way we’re wrapping our minds around God’s love. I’m not going to do it. You aren’t going to do it. And Calvin couldn’t do it.
      I can see your point, and agree with some of what you state. But I’ll stake my faith on the love of God I see in scripture. You can have the convolutions of the long-dead theologian.

  15. Dave Miller says

    After somewhat following this lengthy discussion here, I am wondering how any angels could really dance on the head of a pin.

  16. says

    Thanks for the comments brethren. While I have heard them for 50 years, they really never get old. You learn from others. I am sure both sides love the Lord and want to know the truth. I trust that we all will seek daily to know Him more and learn more about Him and His attributes.

  17. parsonsmike says

    God loves those He saves and saves those He loves.
    God’s love is much more than sentimental feelings toward a person but also actions for that person’s best interest.

    He made the world KNOWING that there would be some He could not save [if one subscribes that man’s free choice decides the issue and we know many choose against the Gospel and go to Hell] or some He chose not to save if you are a C] and YET he made the world any how.

    He made the world anyhow KNOWING that these were most positively going to Hell.

    No mystery then, He doesn’t love them with an everlasting love. He acted against their best interest in Creating.

    He has a temporal benevolence for them as He keeps order in the world.

    So, given the choice would a person rather not be born or would they want to be born and spend most of their existence in Hell? Ask them after a million years in Hell.

  18. Christiane says

    The great warrior against evil IS Christ.

    But how he conquers is different from how men would do it . . .
    a hatred for evil, injustice and cruelty;
    aligned beautifully with a compassion for those who were
    ‘lost and without a shepherd’.

    If we want to know of God’s wrath . . . look to Christ the King.
    In Him, we have the clearest and best revelation of how God deals with evil.

    The people of the Old Testament longed for the coming of the Messiah, who would help them in battle against what oppressed them. Isaiah expressed their hope this way:
    “The Lord has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations;
    All the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10).
    The uncovering of the Arm of the Lord means the full display of His conquering power. A clear teaching of the Gospels is that Jesus was this divine Fighter, but what a strange and surprising Warrior He was.

    Look to Christ and see in Him the conquering wrath of God against satan, his minions, evil, sin, and death.

    Look to Christ and see in Him the mighty Salvation of Our God.

    • Dave Miller says

      The Bible teaches not simply a wrath against Satan, but against sin and the sinners who commit it. Every one of us lives under that wrath on our natural condition. Bit Jesus died bearing the wrath of God against our sins. We repent and believe in Christ and God’s wrath turns away, satisfied by Christ’s sacrifice.

      If you limit God’s wrath to Satan, you miss the biblical point and misrepresent the gospel.

      The wrath of God is against all sins-Satan’s and ours.

      • Christiane says

        Hi DAVID,
        I think God’s ‘anger’ is an expression of His great passion to set things right.
        In that way, I understand that His anger is tethered to His love.
        And I understand His love in this way: that He deeply wills the good of others. And that He offers forgiveness to those sinners who repent and turn towards Him once more.

        I understand these things about God to be true, as they were shown to us by Our Lord Christ Who, alone in the Gospels, spoke and acted in the very Person of God.