SEARCHING FOR THE BIBLICAL BASIS
Is God's Love Unconditional?
February 2008By Carmelo Fallace
Carmelo Fallace, the author of several books on family life issues and past director of Natural Family Planning and associate director of Marriage Preparation for the Archdiocese of New York, is the Editor of Catholic Family Life Messenger (CFLM), from which this article was adapted with permission (April-May 2007). To receive CFLM free of charge, write to CFLM, PO Box 115, Lake Grove NY 11755, or visit www.CFLM.blogspot.com. He is coordinator of the independent New Oxford Reading Clubs (for information, phone 631-588-7495). He and his wife have seven children and 20 grandchildren.
Is it true that, as many a modern homilist is wont to say, "God's love is unconditional"? It is true without question that the love of God, as stated in the Old and New Testaments, is rich, it abounds, it fills the earth, is unfailing, is faithful, is steadfast, it endures forever, is great, is higher than the Heavens, it surpasses knowledge, is better than life, etc. It is comforting and reassuring to hope that God's love is unconditional -- and it must be true, otherwise, many priests and homilists wouldn't say so. Right?
Let us begin our inquiry by defining our terms. According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary, "unconditional" means not conditional or not limited, but absolute, unqualified. When we add the word "love" to unconditional, it becomes, by definition, love with no conditions, now and forever more. Accordingly then, "unconditional love" means that no matter what we do or don't do, we will continue to be loved in exactly the same way. In other words, unconditional love means, as far as God is concerned, that whatever we do -- good or bad -- does not matter, and we can expect God to love us the same as He always has.
Many claim that "unconditional love," or something similar, has a biblical basis, that it is written or implied in the Bible, or perhaps in some other Church document. But of the more than 800 instances of "love" in the Bible, none states or implies that God's love is unconditional. Furthermore, there is no official Church document that uses the word "unconditional" to describe God's love. There must be some mistake! some might demur. How could this be? Yes, there has been an enormous mistake, but it is not in the Bible or Church documents. The real mistake regarding unconditional love has been made by those dissenting and rebellious teachers who try to appear more loving and compassionate than God and His Church. And these imposters have succeeded in attracting good Catholics to follow them into a fantasy world where the only reward is endless misery in the deepest furnace below.
If there is any doubt, ask anyone who spreads this false teaching to show you the evidence that God's love is unconditional, chapter and verse, please -- or to provide the proper citation in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or any other official Church document. But do not take anyone's word for it. Neither be deceived by the argument that such-and-such a book explains God's unconditional love in detail. False beliefs have been used by God's enemies since the time of the Apostles, and have usually, if not always, originated from Catholic people, often from priests and even bishops. Recall the words of St. Paul: "There are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed!" (Gal. 1:7-9).
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|A very good article, but I thought we had put this controversy aside months ago. Some very good points raised here. 1 John says, "God is love." If God is love, he cannot not love. In our freedom we can block His love for us by sinning but He still loves all his creatures (including Satan). He is also just, and punishes sinners (including Satan). No other creature can separate us from the love of Christ. We have only ourselves to blame for our punishments. God is both loving and just.
||Posted by: joreill
February 08, 2008 03:03 PM EST
|joreill: great post. You said it.
I DO like this article. I think it is well written and to the point.
However, I agree, "I thought we had put this controversy aside months ago." I think for some reason the NOR and some traditionalists are striking out at the idea of God's love because they are (rightly) concerned with the number of universalists running around the Church these days.
But I think in reacting against a heresy (universalism) they are going farther than necessary, and possibly contradicting the Truth themselves.
It is understandable however that people get confused on this topic. It is confusing.
Some can not imagine a God who loves us allowing some (or many) to suffer for all eternity in Hell. Therefore, they conclude there is no Hell.
Some can not imagine a God who loves them allowing some (or many) to suffer for all eternity in Hell. Therefore, they conclude that God does not love all his children.
Both of these viewpoints are demonstrably false from Scripture and from Catholic teaching.
God does love us. There is indeed a Hell. We will go there if we die with mortal sin on our souls. This will cause our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (who loves us) grief, but it is our choice. Since we are outside time at the moment of our death, the choice is irrevocable. We will burn for ever and ever in torment.
And God DOES loves us. That is why he gave us free will. For, without free will, our love for God is meaningless. We MUST freely choose Him. If we don't, and we die in sin, we will not be saved.
And, protestant theology not withstanding, EVEN IF we have faith in Jesus Christ, and choose against Him through unrepentant mortal sin, and die in a state of sin, we WILL NOT be saved.
There is no tension between God's love, His mercy, and His justice.
I do not think the author of this article is committing any error however, except PERHAPS here: God "hates." Jesus (who IS God) says in Scripture: “He who does not "HATE" (same word) his father or mother, sister or brother, is not worthy of Me.” (my paraphrase)
Jesus uses the word here in the same sense that Scripture uses the word in the Old Testament when it speaks of how God views sinners. NO Jesus does NOT want us to "hate" our parents. "Honor thy father and thy mother." God wants us to love our earthly family less than we love Him.
If we don't understand the use of the word "hate" in its historical and original context, we can fall into error by reading the Bible in its "original English." (like fundamentalist protestants?) I am somewhat concerned that the NOR did this when we examined the whole "Does God hate sinners?" question some time ago.
I think the orthodox answer is that God loves, God IS love, and that He loves ALL His children. However, He hates sin. And if we die in an unrepentant state of mortal sin, it would be better for us had we never been born, for after we pass into eternal life, repentance is no longer possible. No, there is no oblivion. There is an eternity of torment for the sinner who dies apart from God's grace.
Hurd Baruch, in his EXCELLENT article last month on Hell, quotes from Sister Faustina's diary. Quoting his article "[s]he further related that Jesus had said to her: 'There are souls who despise My graces as well as all the proofs of My love. They do not wish to hear My call, but proceed into the abyss of hell. The loss of these souls plunges Me into deadly sorrow. God though I am, I cannot help such a soul because it scorns Me; having a free will, it can spurn Me or love Me.'"
I found the original quote in my edition of her diary. It is here: notebook 2 entry 580 on page 245. The entry begins "On a certain occasion, the Lord said to me.." Its towards the end of the paragraph near entry 581. It is also available online just by copy pasting the quote into google.
Sister Faustina relates the orthodox view. However, I do not believe the view is "hers." I believe whole heartedly the words she quoted above are the words of Jesus Christ.
If what she relates is orthodox (she has been made a Saint) then Jesus Christ told her that He loves sinners, and the fact that sinners go to Hell causes him "deadly sorrow." So much for the NOR's proposition that God "hates" sinners (in our English sense of the word). After all, if their position was correct, how could the fact that Jesus "hates" sinners result in "deadly sorrow" at their damnation? That would be a strange kind of "hate." Wouldn't it?
|Posted by: eakter
February 10, 2008 03:45 PM EST
|A well-written and well-documented piece. As a deacon candidate in a liberal eastern diocese, I flirted with this topic in a Moral Theology class last year, and was told in no uncertain terms during a break, to shut my mouth, and not make waves, or I'll be expelled from the class! Needless to say, I retreated and will live to fight another day, after ordination. That's for damn sure!
||Posted by: Pozzi
March 04, 2008 05:01 PM EST
|I believe that this article is clearer and more precise that eakter's post, with all due respect.
"how could the fact that Jesus "hates" sinners result in "deadly sorrow" at their damnation? That would be a strange kind of "hate." Wouldn't it?"
No. A lack of deep sorrow would indicate rather indifference than hate. Hatred for a creature that is profoundly lovable in itself, and would have been the object of Divine love for all eternity had it been true to its vocation, can only be accompanied by deep sorrow.
Even with human hatred, have you never felt your truest hatred arise precisely against your loved ones? You do not hate those whom you are indifferent to, because you do not really perceive their precious and intrinsic worth.
And have you not felt the profoundest sorrow precisely when you see your loved ones do evil? And in those moments when you hate them?
Even on a human level, there can come a moment when you must say of someone closest to you, "I disown him" or "s/he is no longer my son/father/wife." This is hatred at its purest, and it is accompanied by the profoundest sorrow available to us. And it is experienced towards those whom he originally loved, and whose intrinsic value has most intimately touched us.
God hates the unrepentant sinner, and this hatred cannot be imagined by us because he perceives our intrinsic value and lovability immeasurably more than we ourselves can.
|Posted by: guerrero paciente
September 22, 2009 11:35 PM EDT
|On April 4, 2007, (TLIC), I expressed my hope that someday the Holy Father will make a statement regarding unconditional love. Perhaps, on April 15, 2010, the Holy Father did exactly what I could not imagine in my lifetime when he said:
“There is an exegetical trend that states that in Galilee Jesus would have proclaimed a grace without conditions, absolutely unconditional, therefore also without penitence, grace as such, without human preconditions.
But this is a false interpretation of grace. Repentance is grace; it is a grace that we recognize our sin; it is a grace that we realize the need for renewal, for change, for the transformation of our being. Repentance the capacity to be penitent, is a gift of grace. And I must say that we Christians, even in recent times, have often avoided the word penitence it seemed to us too difficult.”
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I say Amen and thanks be to God. What is your opinion? Please share the above with people you know, as I have. firstname.lastname@example.org
|Posted by: email@example.com
April 23, 2010 06:07 AM EDT
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