The Omnibenevolence of God

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

February 14, 2017

God is Omnibenevolent! Simply put, God is perfectly good and all-loving. Not only does the Bible make this clear (Psalm 100:5; Psalm 145:17; John 3:16), but logicians have also deductively concluded this apart from the Bible through the Moral Argument and the Ontological Argument.

Now, if God were simply omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscient (all-knowing), but not perfectly good and all-loving, then we would have reason to be frightened. In fact, this is how Muslims view Allah. According to Islam, God is not all-loving, and whatever Allah does is simply called “good,” even if it is really hateful. As a result, Muslims have no assurance of salvation (unless they die in Jihad).

The Original Sin?

Some Christians fall into a similar trap and incorrectly think of God this way. Indeed, the church has been infected with a low view of God for ages. A.W. Tozer, in his book The Knowledge of the Holy, says, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” In the preface of this same book Tozer writes:

The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men. . . The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us.

This low view of God has infected the minds of most Christians today, but I believe its roots can be found in the very beginning. The original sin was not eating of a forbidden fruit, but rather, doubting the omnibenevolence of God. This was the trap Satan lured Eve into in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3):

“Did God really say…?”

Satan convinces Eve to consider the idea that God is not really interested in her ultimate flourishing. The fact of the matter, however, is that God does desire the ultimate flourishing for each and every human being. This is supported by scripture such as John 3:16, 1 Tim 2:4, 1 Tim 4:10, and 2 Peter 3:9. It is also supported in the first book of the Bible. Consider this counterfactual:

IF Adam and Eve would have kept God’s commands (and all of their offspring followed suit), then every single human WOULD experience ultimate flourishing and not experience any suffering.

Thus, God created a world in which it was logically possible for all people to flourish. However, Eve doubted that God was omnibenevolent and desired the best for her. This doubt led to the fall of man and terrible suffering has followed in its wake.

Many people continue to doubt the perfect goodness and love of God. Some Calvinistic theologians (like Arthur Pink) actually teach that God does not love all people or desire the best for all people! This is a horrible mistake — a sin — that leads to weak faith.

Additionally, some Christians hold to a view called “Divine Determinism” and think that God controls all thoughts and beliefs. If this is the case, then God forces most people to believe lies. If God forces some to believe truth and others to believe lies, then how can you be certain that God is not forcing you to believe false things too (including your view of divine determinism)? This low view of God ultimately leads to many in the church doubting their salvation just as Muslims do (both views of God are wrong).

Indeed, this low view of God influenced the Canons and Dogmatic Decrees of the Council of Trent. A.D. 1563. They incorrectly affirm that one should doubt their salvation in Chapter XII:

No one, moreover, so long as he is in this mortal life, ought so far to presume as regards the secret mystery of divine predestination, as to determine for certain that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate; as if it were true, that he that is justified, either can not sin any more, or, if he do sin, that he ought to promise himself an assured repentance; for except by special revelation, it can not be known whom God hath chosen unto himself.

When one doubts or rejects the fact that God is omnibenevolent then major problems arise. The primary problem is that their presupposition of God — a low view of God — was incorrect in the first place. They follow in the footsteps of Adam and Eve.

A Maximally Great God

Consider the perfect goodness of God: Because God is perfectly good He is perfectly holy. When humans freely choose to do good things, then we approximate to the perfect standard of God, and we do holy things! Worshipping God is holy. Loving your neighbor is holy. Loving your enemy is holy!

We are not perfectly holy, but we should make every effort to approximate to the One who is! The Bible says this:

“And the Lord said, you shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus19:1-2).

God is the standard of goodness and therefore, we can always trust the commands he has given to be perfectly good. Moreover, since God is perfectly intelligent, then His commands are always the most intelligent thing to do. Therefore, it is just plain stupid and wrong not to obey the commands of God!

How do we know God’s commands? Through Jesus’ declarations validated by His resurrection! Consider Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39:

1- Love God first!
2- Everybody love everybody (from your neighbors to your enemies)!

Christians ought to be the most loving people on the face of the planet!

Next, consider God’s perfect love and what it means to be all-loving which is part of omnibenevolence. The Bible makes it clear: “God is love” (1 John 4:16).

So, if God is love, then God’s very nature is loving. As William Lane Craig wrote in his children’s book, God is ALL-Loving:

“He is loving as He is holy. And God’s love is a very special kind of love; He doesn’t love you because you’re good. His love is unconditional!”

This is a perfect Daddy, right? I am not a perfect dad by any means and do not require my son, Ethan, to be perfect either. I know he will make mistakes, he will sin, he will disappoint me, and he will be anything other than perfect. But even though I know these things about Ethan, it does not mean that I do not love him with all of my heart. I am still willing to die for my imperfect son! If that is how imperfect dads are, imagine a perfectly good, intelligent, and loving Heavenly Father! God does not love you based on your actions – He just loves you and desires you to love Him in return. But He will not force you into a relationship with Him; you must make the choice to enter that love relationship or not.

That is what a saving relationship is: when a human freely chooses to love God in return, then a true love marriage occurs – a saving relationship with God. Because God first loved us, when we respond to His love and freely choose to love God back, we are saved! This is demonstrated by Jesus when he tells the Parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15:11-32.  Jesus is telling this fictional story of a dad – a great dad – who is loving his son the way God loves all humans (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). Jesus is telling this story of a great and loving father so that those listening to this story will begin to understand the way God loves all humans.

You see, the father’s love was always available to his son. The father’s love never went anywhere. The dad never stopped loving his son with all of his heart. However, the son made some choices – free choices – which separated him from the love of his father. It was not until the son made the choice – the free choice – to come back to his father’s love and to love his father in return, that their relationship was restored.

If the son would have never made the free choice to return to his father, then their relationship would have never been restored.

This is representative of God’s love for YOU. God loves you unconditionally, just as the father in the parable, and His love is always there for you. With that said, however, you and I are responsible for our own decisions, and we can make horrible choices that separate us from God’s perfect love.

Eternal Divorce

Some people freely choose to separate from God for eternity (this is called hell)! Since it is logically impossible for God to force a person to freely choose to love Him (that is on the same incoherent level as married bachelors or triangles with four corners), then some will freely choose to divorce themselves from God forever — but it does not have to be this way!

Jesus did all the work for you, but now the ball is in your court. You have a real choice to make and are now responsible for your eternity!

Do you want perfect love with your Creator? It is available through the atoning power of Jesus Christ. You have a perfect Father – a Daddy – who loves you with his entire essence! You are worth more than the entire universe to Him! He desires an eternal true love relationship with everyone — including YOU.

Conclusion

You might feel like the prodigal son. You might be in a place right now that you know you are not supposed to be. The prodigal son had to make a choice – a free choice – and swallow his pride and come back to his father. If you are in a place that is far from God right now, then I encourage you to make the same choice – swallow your pride and come back to your Daddy. He is a perfect Father and His love is waiting for you!

Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5),

Tim Stratton


Notes

A special thank you to Shannon Eugene Byrd for finding the Council of Trent quote!

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim was recently accepted at North West University to pursue his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics.

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