The following is basically a repost of what i wrote on Advindicate on an article called “Too Much Jesus?”
I appreciate the generally civil tone while discussing the problems with unconditional love. One of the main problems in 1888 was that the leading brethren would not treat the young ministers (or Ellen White) with brotherly love. (^-^)
The point about unconditional love is the main point. It is not an idle statement I made when I said that this doctrine is the worst to enter the SDA church in my lifetime. It is the “root” if you will of the “branches” of other unscriptural doctrines such as unconditional pardon and salvation, which of course lead to unscriptural “fruit” such as “No matter what you do, you are OK with God”. Dig out the unscriptural roots, and the branches and fruit will automatically be disposed of.
Your definition of “unconditional” (absolute), is right as far as it goes, but it left out the main meaning – that of being “without conditions”. This is the meaning that is unscriptural.
In some ways, this discussion about unconditional love is similar to that about Justification/Sanctification. Justification is an act where any sinner who truly comes to God will be washed free from all sin, and seen by God as completely clean, all because of the infinite value of the blood of Christ. There is nothing the sinner can do to add to that value, just as there is nothing the sinner can do in order to “get” Christ’s love. It is a free gift, totally unmerited.
Most SDAs I know will agree completely with this explanation of Justification. However, when it comes to Sanctification, there are huge divides. There is a large group who are usually labelled “liberals/progressives” who say there is never anything for the sinner to do. It is all of Christ from start to finish, and nothing we do has any bearing on our salvation. Many of them do not say it quite so clearly, but that mindset is clear in their rejection of following inspired counsel on how to live our lives today. They have no absolute foundation to stand on, and some of their leaders understand that, but most of the followers agree with it because it does not involve a cross.
Those usually labelled “conservatives” will agree that it is all about Christ, while at the same time affirming that we must work together with Christ. They believe in the absolute authority of inspired writings (I believe in inspired words, but that’s another subject), and make efforts to submit themselves to God’s Holy Spirit to work in them to form a perfect character within.
So while it should be obvious why the liberals embrace unconditional love, it is perplexing why conservatives would do so, unless they are unaware of the deceit underlying this doctrine.
A Sabbath School leader in a church in Atlanta 4 years ago explained what I believe to be the true view of this doctrine, and what is also the generally prevailing view. That is: “No matter what you do, God loves you”. So no matter if you try to live like Christ, or whether you live as you please, God is going to love you all the same.
Now some will assert that God will surely punish the wicked with death, but how can he do that in fairness if he loves everyone just the same? If God loves Thomas Paine just as much as he does Peter, what is the point of trying to live a godly life at all? Would God be fair to say to Mr. Paine that he loves him, but he is going to burn up his body and soul in the lake of fire, then turn around to Peter and tell him he loves him and he can go to heaven? This is not usually spoken of but it is easily understood without the need of a direct explanation. You’re OK, I’m OK. Do what you want. Don’t judge. Accept me for who I am. Don’t tell me what to do. I don’t need to change. I’m saved!
The doctrine of unconditional love also reduces large swaths of the inspired writings to meaningless gibberish. “You shall love your neighbor (and Satan) as yourself.” “O love the Lord (and the wicked) all his saints”. “He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loved (along with Pharaoh and Midian etc.). Selah.” “This is my beloved Son (of course Satan too) in whom I’m well pleased.” “Therefore does my Father love me (but remember he loves everybody anyway), because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.” “Unto him that loved us (and all those in Babylon too), and washed us from our sins in his own blood,” “I will make them…know that I have loved you (and all the wicked too)” “As many as I love (which is everybody), I rebuke and chasten:”
“Unconditional love” is a teaching dreamed up by secular philosophers in the 1950s it seems. At least, that is the start of the current infatuation with this doctrine. It gained much traction in the hippie 60s, entered the Sunday churches in the 70s, then the SDA church in the 80s. It is so entrenched today, that many people would rather hold onto this doctrine than to accept the inspired words for what they say. There are limits to Christ’s love. That is inspired fact. “Men are training in disobedience, and are fast approaching the limit of God’s forbearance and love, and God will surely interfere.” 4RH 1893-10-17.
While entire books have been written on it, let me just state that “Agape” is definitely not some kind of superhuman “Godlike love” like is so often taught. Jesus even condemns some people for having agape! John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved (agapao) darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
It is nice to see that no one on this thread has tried what most people do when pointed out that God does hate some people (Ps 11:5 etc.). That is, they haven’t tried to argue that “hate” is not the opposite of “love”. Many people try that evasive tactic, making words have no meaning just so they can cling to their beloved error.
God is love. God is also a consuming fire. Why is no one talking about God’s “unconditional fire”?
Actually, it was most likely never God’s plan for anyone in the universe to ever need to know about his hate, anger, jealousy, wrath etc. Everything was made perfect, in harmony, with perfect love. His love trumps his anger. His anger will be seen but for a moment, as it were, while his love will be on display eternally. Mercy is stronger than judgment. Yet, in a fallen state, both attributes are absolutely necessary.
I pray that we can show the love of Christ to everyone, lifting him up higher and higher, while taking nothing away of his righteous anger against the wicked and wickedness.