The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence by Thomas Jay Oord

The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence by Thomas Jay Oord

Author:Thomas Jay Oord [Oord, Thomas Jay]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: InterVarsity Press
Published: 2015-12-08T23:00:00+00:00

Essential Kenosis and the Primacy of Love

Having clarified what we might mean by kenōsis, we need to explore the essential in essential kenosis. Essential kenosis considers the self-giving, others-empowering love of God revealed in Jesus Christ to be logically primary in God’s eternal essence. In God, love comes first. Essential kenosis says God’s love is a necessary and eternal attribute of God’s nature. “[God’s] steadfast love endures forever,” as the psalmist puts it (throughout Ps 136), because God’s loving nature is eternal.

To say kenosis is a necessary, eternal and logically primary attribute of the divine nature means that God expresses kenosis inevitably. Doing so is part of what it means to be God. John’s three-word sentence, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8, 16), can be easily interpreted as supporting this view. “God is love” means love is the necessary expression of God’s timeless nature. God relentlessly expresses love in the quest to promote overall well-being (shālôm).

God must love. To put it as a double negative: God cannot not love. Kenotic love is an essential attribute of God’s eternal nature.22 God loves necessarily. The love creatures express is sporadic, occasional and contingent because creatures do not have eternally loving natures. But God’s eternal nature is love, which means God could no more stop loving than stop existing. God’s love is uncontrollable, not only in the sense that creatures cannot control divine love but also in the sense that God cannot stop loving. To use a phrase popular among some believers, love is the “heart of God.”

Because God must act like God, God must love.

This brings up an important point about the relation between God’s love and freedom. God is not free to choose whether to love because God’s nature is love. Essential kenosis agrees with Jacob Arminius when he says, “God is not freely good; that is, he is not good by the mode of liberty, but by that of natural necessity.” For “if God be freely good, he can be or can be made not good.” In fact, Arminius considered blasphemous the idea that God is freely good.23 Similarly, essential kenosis says God’s loving goodness is a necessary aspect of God’s unchanging nature. It is impossible for God to be unloving because being so would require God to be other than divine.

Essential kenosis says, however, that God freely chooses how to express love in each moment. God is free in this important sense. In each moment God freely chooses to love one way instead of another because multiple options are available. God is free when choosing among possible ways to promote shālôm.

A significant virtue of open and relational theology is that it says God loves necessarily. But because it affirms an open future the actual events of which God cannot know until they occur, it also says God freely chooses how to love among various possible loving actions.24 A God who necessarily loved and foreknew a completed future could not act freely. Although “the steadfast love of the LORD never


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