The Love of God and the Heresy of Exclusivism

How should we interpret the declaration in I John 4:8 and 16 that God not only loves, but is love? Many philosophically trained Christians will no doubt interpret this, as I do, to mean that love is part of God's very essence; that loving kindness is an essential, not merely an accidental, property of God. Of course the author of I John was not a philosopher and did not, fortunately, employ philosophical jargon in his writings; nor was he likely even familiar with the philosophical distinction between essential and accidental properties. He nonetheless seems clearly to employ "God" as a proper name (as opposed to a title), the name of a distinct person whom we ought to adore and worship, and he says concerning this person that he is love. The point, then, hardly seems to be that the person who is God just happens to love us, as if it were a happy accident that he does; the point seems to be that it is his very nature to love us. In a broadly logical (or metaphysical) sense, it couldn't have been otherwise.1 That this is, at the very least, a natural interpretation seems indisputable. Commenting upon I John 4:8, the conservative New Testament scholar, Leon Morris, thus writes: God is love. This means more than `God is loving'. It means that God's essential nature is love. He loves, so to speak, not because he finds objects worthy of His love, but because it is His nature to love. His love for us depends not on what we are, but on what He is. He loves us because He is that kind of God
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