March 27, 2010
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Albert Mohler recently made a distinction on his radio program which is incredibly important. The distinction is between unconditional love and unconditional affirmation. This distinction applies to a wide range of issues that we face today, not only as Christians, but as people in general. An example would be a parent and child relationship. A good parent tries to be unconditionally loving of their child in the sense that, whatever tastes they develop or paths they take in life, they are still going to love that child, regardless of their opinion of that child’s decisions. That may seem like a slippery statement, and it is if it is left unexplained, so hopefully we can make that clear by giving a couple of examples. Let’s say that the music the parent listens to is Classical and the child develops a love for Rock n’ Roll. Rock might be an absolutely detestable thing for the parent to listen to, and he/she might even voice that to their child in an attempt to get them to accept or listen to a genre of music that is more favorable in the parent’s eyes. However, a good parent is not going to love their child more or less because of the genre of music they listen to. Now let’s suppose that the child decides that the best path in life that he/she can take is to become an assassin for a gang. At this point, the parent should do more than simply disagree with this child on his/her decision. The parent will still love the child but realizes that the decision to make a living from murder has serious repercussions and is a danger to her child and to others. In the first example, the parent is unconditionally loving as well as, albeit much disagreement, unconditionally affirming as well because ultimately, a genre of music is not as effecting on a person as murder; I’m aware of the effects of music on people, but that is not the subject and won’t be discussed. Unconditional love says that whatever decisions the child makes, the parent will never reject them. Some decisions don’t have as large of consequences and the parent will chose to disagree, but it might not go beyond a difference of opinion. Unconditional affirmation means that the parent would not give opinion or correction on anything that the child does. There would be no room for advice or correction because the child can do no wrong, and even if the child’s decision is harmful to their life or the life of others, the parent will stand by and do nothing because everything is absolutely acceptable.
Yes, those two examples are rather extreme from one another but it makes it easier to point out the difference. There are some things which are acceptable and some which are not and choosing not to affirm or encourage something can, and should in some situations, be done without ever losing or lessening love. An analogy is often given in the Bible of a parent and child to represent God and His relationship to us. I believe this to be a great example, and another point to address when it comes to the issues of unconditional love vs. unconditional affirmation. A lot of people read the verse about God being love (1 John 4:8) and automatically equate the inverse of that, meaning that since God is love, then love must be God. However, that is not true; if God were simply love and nothing more, he would not even be to the standard of a good parent, let alone Creator of the universe. Like the good parent, God loves unconditionally, and in fact supersedes the parent because parents are human and will have bias and prejudice for or against certain things and can often react in ways that they regret and will have to apologize for later whereas God does not. However, also like the parent, God knows that certain things are unacceptable, and knows that certain choices and life paths need advice, correction, reproof, and sometimes justice. Through His word, God displays His love for humanity unconditionally but also shows the things which are unacceptable and which are harmful and worthy of reproof in His eyes. A phrase which I hear all the time in different contexts goes something like “an all-loving God would/wouldn’t….” and that can be used for anything from denying His existence to attempting to justify certain things which are contrary to Scripture. However God is clear on what is and is not acceptable in Scripture and appealing solely to His attribute of love consequently denies His other attributes and God will not act against His nature and His word. We are held accountable for the actions that we make in this life, but God has made repentance possible through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. A repentant heart washed in the blood of Christ removes our sin as far as the east is from the west in the eyes of the Father.
March 14, 2010
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I just stumbled on a random survey in which the question was “Which of the following (in your opinion) is the most important to be able to do?” and the options were Apologetics, Theology, They’re All Important!, Evangelism, and huh? The results, though in the early stages of the poll, were as follows: Apologetics – 1, Theology – 0, They’re All Important! – 3, huh? – 0. Seeing as this site was an apologetics site, it makes sense that you’d see a vote there. Thankfully, the majority was placed on all of them, but what was a bit distressing is that Theology didn’t get any votes. Now, as I said, this poll is only in the beginning stages, having only been up since the 9th, aaaand it seems to be a fairly new site, but still.
The real problem is that a lot of people seem to want to start at step 2 before they tackle step 1. What I mean by that is theology is the starting block for everything that we do as Christians. Think about it, if you don’t study God (theology) how will you be able to share the Gospel with anyone? If you don’t know Christian doctrine, how are you going to be able to defend it?
I would strongly encourage every Christian out there to pick up Grudem’s Systematic Theology and read it, but I know most won’t. However, you need to dig into theology seriously before you go running off trying to do other things. After all, remember that darned house on the sand.