God’s unconditional love; don’t confuse it with salvation.

Prayer is the condition attached to getting to know Jesus better.

Prayer is the condition attached to getting to know Jesus better.

I don’t like using ‘unconditional’ to describe God’s love – if I use it I always qualify it. Of course that sounds like a condition, doesn’t it?

Here’s the problem:

If God’s love is unconditional then there was no need for Christ’s work of salvation. There was no need for the incarnation, no need for the passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. No need for Pentecost or the Church. Everything is flat-lined and Jesus becomes not the Christ, but a nice guy!

Don’t confuse the message of Christ with psycho-babble!

“God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.” John 3:16

The condition is belief in him.

“If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23

The condition is keeping his word because we love him.

“As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.” John 15:4

There’s a condition attached to bearing fruit.

If God’s love is unconditional it doesn’t matter how we live, not a jot! There’s no need for prayer, repentance, conversion – nothing! Ultimately it means there is no such ‘state’ as hell – there can’t be, certainly not if God’s love is unconditional. That’s not basic Bible theology, that’s psycho-babble!

People often think that God’s unconditional love and salvation are the same thing, indistinguishable. That’s what I’ve been doing here, confusing the two! So, let’s get it right. 

To say that God’s love is unconditional is to say that God always holds out the possibility of salvation – his mercy – to every man and woman even though they may be living in the depths of depravity.

In other words God’s unconditional love is the very possibility of salvation, it offers humankind the opportunity to be saved but God’s love doesn’t save us without our co-operation. God’s unconditional love requires our free response if it is to fulfill its purpose.

God can’t save me without me and I can’t save me without God!

This seems to be the only reasonable sense in which God’s love can be considered unconditional.

4 thoughts on “God’s unconditional love; don’t confuse it with salvation.

  1. Joseph Richardson

    Why would Jesus come to die for all thr world if God’s love was not unconditional? “For God so loved the world…” Why would God even want to save anyone if His love were conditional? There is nothing we can do to earn God’s love, or to merit His forgiveness. If not for God’s love, there would be no incarnation, passion, death, resurrection, or any do the rest. This is basic Bible theology, not “psychobabble.”

    Reply
    1. paddybanville Post author

      “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life” John 3:16

      The condition is belief in him.

      “If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him” John 14:23

      The condition is keeping his word because we love him.

      “As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me” John 15:4

      There’s a condition attached to bearing fruit.

      If God’s love is unconditional it doesn’t matter how we live, not a jot! There’s no need for prayer, repentance, conversion – nothing! Ultimately it means there is no such ‘state’ as hell – there can’t be, certainly not if God’s love is unconditional. That’s not basic Bible theology, that’s psycho-babble!

      ‘Unconditional’ is not a good choice of word to describe the truth we’re trying to express.

      Reply
      1. Joseph Richardson

        You’re making, I would say, a very Calvinistic argument. And you’re not a Calvinist, are you? Yes, our salvation is conditional, on our doing our part in all the ways you name. But by your argument, if God’s love is conditional, then (akin to the Calvinist argument, but actually going even a step further), then Jesus only came and died to save those He loved. And you make God’s love dependent on our actions: in effect, we have to earn God’s love and earn our salvation. That’s quite Pelagian of you, isn’t it?

      2. paddybanville Post author

        Joseph,

        Thank you for taking the time to respond. It’s challenged me to reflect further on the question of God’s unconditional love.

        Meditating on the Rosary this morning before Mass (sorrowful mysteries) it occurred to me that God’s unconditional love means there’s no point at which Christ says I’ve suffered enough, this is the end of my love!

        To say that God’s love is unconditional is to say that God always holds out the possibility of salvation – his mercy – to every man and woman even though they may be living in the depths of depravity.

        In other words God’s unconditional love is the very possibility of salvation, it offers humankind the opportunity to be saved but God’s love doesn’t save us without our co-operation. God’s unconditional love requires our free response if it is to fulfill its purpose.

        Therefore as you’ve pointed out, there’s a need to distinguish between God’s unconditional love and salvation.

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