Full Text for Dogmatics 1- Volume 40 - Do God's attributes of love and justice contradict one another? (Video)

dogmatics 40 Captioning provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 ******** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ******** >> You spoke about God's morals, attributes, love and justice. They seem to contradict each other. Are they supposed to? >> Before we look at this specific question, let's have an overview and look at all these so-called moral attributes or the attributes of the divine will: Holiness, justice, truthfulness of God, His goodness, mercy, love, grace, long suffering, patience. All these are summarized under the attributes of the divine will. When we talk about the divine will, we still have to ask one question before. Do causes influence God's will? We talked a little bit about that before and so we will simply continue with that. God is as a God of majesty independent of all things. He is absolute and He is unconditioned. Nevertheless, scripture makes us think like that, that we make a distinction between cause and effect, because we are unable to comprehend the absolute God. So, we hear that God's wrath is caused by man's sin and God's grace is resting on Christ's merit. It seems to be like cause and effect in God himself. In God himself, everything is a unity, but in our conception of God we have to distinguish. We have to again think sequentially. So we distinguish between God's first or antecedent and second or consequent will. As Peter has put it, according to John 3:17 we must first think of God as not willing to condemn a single person, but that He earnestly wills condemnation of all who reject -- oh, pardon me. I have to start over again. There is a distinction between God's first or antecedent and second or consequent will. Peter explains it like that. According to John 3:17: We must first think of God as not willing to condemn a single person, but that He earnestly wills the salvation of everyone. Then, we must secondly think of God that He wills the condemnation of all who reject Christ, for in verse 18 we read: Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's only begotten son. So there seems to be this sequence, again, and we have to hold fast that in God there is eternal love and also eternal rejection of sin. With that kind of preface, let's go really now to the attributes of the divine will. First one is the holiness of God. What does holiness mean? Isaiah says, in chapter 43, verse 3: For I am the Lord your God, the Holy one of Israel, your savior. And in the same chapter, verse 14: This is what the Lord says. Your redeemer, the Holy one of Israel. And of course in chapter 6 you have the hymn of the seraphim: Holy, holy, holy. That God is the holy one describes Him as separated and distinct from this world. The Word "holy" in Hebrew has that meaning. But it also talks about Him as being absolutely good, that there is absolute ethical purity in Him. In 1 Peter 1, verse 16, we read: But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: Be holy because I am holy. It's a quotation from Leviticus: God is holy and therefore we should be holy. That is, we should be ethically pure. We should live the life according to God's will. And as the holy one, God is opposed to every and any sin. Isaiah, seeing God in His vision, seeing the holy one of Israel, exclaims: Woe unto me because he is a sinner and he comes from sinful people. The holiness of God is actually dangerous for us sinful men. It is crushing for us. Let's look at the justice of God or righteousness of God. First of all, God is just. There is no unrighteousness in God. But what do we mean when we say "righteous," that God is "just"? When we talk about justice or righteousness of men, we think about the fact that a person conforms to a norm. As Christians, we think a person is righteous or he acts righteous when he follows God's law. But of course God has no norm. He's outside the law. He actually established the law. So when we look at His righteousness, we see two aspects of that. There is the righteousness, how it is revealed in the law, that God actually gives rules and that this righteousness of the law tells us that whoever does the law will live and who breaks it will die. It is remunerative in so much as it rewards the good. It is vindictive inasmuch as it punishes evil. St. Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 1: God is just. He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and good relief to you who are troubled and to us as well. That's one aspect of God's righteousness, that He pays back those who do evil. That is also called God's wrath, that He punishes. Now, the same word, "righteousness," is also used in a very different sense. And that is the righteousness that is revealed in the Gospel. In Romans 3:25 and 26, Paul puts it like that. God presented Him, that is Christ, as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so to be just in the one who justifies who have faith in Jesus. God reveals His saving righteousness in Jesus Christ. That was one of the great discoveries of Luther which led him actually to the rediscovery of the Gospel. That he, by studying scripture, realized that when Paul was talking about the righteousness of God, he was not talking about God who rewards those who do good and He punishes those who transgress the law. But that God's righteousness is something which makes righteous, which declares righteous. So God is righteous not simply as a Judge who rewards according to your deeds, but He is righteous in pardoning the sinner for Christ's sake. So to give a little bit of an answer already to your question, we see here that God as the righteous one is the one who loves. God as the righteous who declares men righteous for Christ is the loving one. God's relationship to man and His care for man can be described in a variety of terms: God's goodness, His mercy, His love, His grace, His long suffering, and His patience. All these terms are closely related to each other and describe God as the one who is -- well, benevolent is too little -- who is communicative love, who gives freely to man. When we say that God is good, we talk about His objective and subjective goodness. Objective is the quality whereby He is the absolute good in himself. And all creatures are only good in a derived sense. Subjective goodness or relative goodness means that God is good towards us. The Lord is good to all. He has compassion on all He has made, we read in Psalm 149. So God is good is not simply a quiescent quality, but again it is something that God does. He is good in acting good towards us, in being good towards us. Another way to emphasize that when we talk about God being good, we're not talking about something static, is to say that God is love. 1 John 4:16 we read: God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in Him. God is love. That is not just a general feeling on the side of God towards man, some warm fuzzy emotion that God has, but the revelation of God's love is tied to Jesus Christ. Immediately before the passage, which we just have quoted, St. John writes: If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the son of God, God lives in Him and He in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. That means that God's love is real, active and accessible, first and foremost, in Jesus Christ. Remember again John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. God so loved the world. How do we see that? By looking into nature? By counting our material blessings, or by looking at that? No. First and foremost that God loves us we see in Jesus Christ. That's the supreme revelation of God's love. There we find it. There we get assured of God's love. Another way to talk about God's loving relationship towards man is when we talk about God's mercy. God's mercy tells us that God's love is not caused by some lovable qualities in man. Man is not such simply an endearing creature that God has to love him. Because of man's sin and therefore his or her opposition to God's holiness, all is rather replusive to the holiness of God. But God does not give up man, but His love causes Him to continue to enter into fellowship with man and to save him from his sin, to make him holy again. So God's mercy is His compassion towards man, that He doesn't leave him alone. In Titus 3, verse 4, which is part of the Christmas Epistle, Paul says: But when the kindness and love, and love here is literally philanthropia, His love towards mankind, of God our savior appeared, He saves us not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. Again, mercy emphasizes the fact that it's not a natural attraction or attractiveness on the side of man. It's solely in God that He loves us. Also the term "grace of God" is related to that view of God's love. The grace of God is God's goodness or His love insofar as man in no wise has deserved it. God is good toward the sinner only for the sake and through Christ's vicarious satisfaction. His patience and long suffering reveal God's goodness that does not punish the sinner immediately, but waits for the sinner's repentence. After all the talk about God's omniscience and omnipotence and all those difficult questions about the immutability of God, you might feel that now we have really arrived at what matters. In a certain way, you're right. Because God's revelation is, of course, focused on His revelation in Jesus Christ, is of course focused in the Gospel. That's the point of God's action. And so speaking about God's love is really the culmination of everything we can say about God. The true scope of the Bible is no other than to reveal God's grace. In Christ's redemptive word, God turns His gracious countenance towards sinners. After this tour through the attributes of the divine will, let us go back to your question: Do love and righteousness contradict each other in God? That seems to be the case if we use our human concepts of love and righteousness. And often the statement that God is love is used by people who are uncomfortable with the thought that God actually punishes sin in a way to exclude God's punitive righteousness, to tone down God's holiness that excludes any sin. There's a strong tendency in present day Christianity to abolish the concept that God can condemn somebody. That means ultimately let me do away with hell. Humanly speaking, that is understandable, because who can bear the thought that there is hell and that there is eternal condemnation? How can you say God is love if there is eternal condemnation? When discussing that question: How do God's love and His punitive righteousness relate to each other? How do God's love and God's wrath go together? We have to remember that the attributes of God are not parts of God, but they are the one and same divine essence differently perceived. Therefore, love and justice cannot contradict each other in God. If there is any tension, then only because of the way we perceive them, but not in themselves. But maybe that's an answer where you say well, yeah, it's logical, but it's kind of formal. Can you give me something else, something better? Let's remember that God's love is not simply a concept that is universally accessible, some kind of universal truth, but that God's love means that He sent His son for the salvation of humanity. For Christ himself, there was no contradiction between God's love and His justice. When Christ talks about God's love in John 3:16, he continues immediately that those who do not believe are condemned. There you have it side by side. And in the teaching of Jesus, the one does not contradict nor exclude the other. So in Jesus' preaching, they go together. And since He is the only begotten son of God, of course He knows God best. It's rather kind of a second guessing when we would say: Oh, well, we can't understand it, therefore it can't be. Let's trust that Jesus really knows the father as He claims. Another way to look at that tension and that unity is that we look at Christ on the cross. In Christ on the cross, we ultimately see how God's love and justice are one. We see in Christ on the cross God's love, His son suffers in our stead. He suffers for us. That's the ultimate thing that God's love does, that He gives His son to die for us when we were still sinners and enemies of God. When we look at the cross we also see God's punitive justice. It is Christ who suffers our punishment. He suffers what we deserved. And we see also His saving righteousness. Christ was made the unrighteous so that we may become righteous. On the cross, therefore, it is revealed that God's righteousness is not only something that He has for himself, but something that makes or declares us righteous. So I think that we cannot get a better grasp of the unity of love and justice and we see also our -- the tension in our conceptual grasp than when we look at Christ on the cross. I want to conclude this section, this overview on the doctrine of God, probably we will still have a question, with a sentence from Dr. Peter's dogmatics, which I think is a fitting conclusion, also, for our going through that material. He said: In concluding our discussion of the doctrine of God, we must once more point out that all who deny the Holy trinity know nothing of God's gracious countenance. If there is no trinity, then there is no eternal son of God, no incarnation of the son of God in the fullness of time, no vicarious atonement, no justification by faith, no peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Then there is only the law with its obligations, demands, threats and curses. The triune God is the gracious God and the gracious God is the triune God. That's what the doctrine of the trinity and all talk about God's essence and His attributes are all about. That we see God's gracious countenance, that we see His saving --