"The Father's Love Letter"

Mon, 16/10/2006 - 16:15 -- James Oakley

Someone recently pointed me to this poem, where each line is associated with a verse of Scripture, entitled The Father’s Love Letter.

One of the things I like about it is (even allowing for several / many misappropriations of Bible verses) that it is a heart-warming exposition of the love of God for his people. God’s love for his people is part of his glorious character, and it is good to see facets of it laid out.

But I have to admit to not being too keen on it as a piece of writing.

Not really because it is a prime example of proof-texting.

More because of the (unspoken) suggestion that love is all God is. There is no mention of any other aspects of his character. The doctrine of God’s simplicity means that we don’t only say “God is loving and holy”, “God is loving and just”. We have to say “God’s love is a holy love; God’s love is a just love”. (And, of course, “God’s justice is a loving justice; God’s holiness is a loving holiness). Yet none of those other facets of God’s love come out.

So what, you say? Two pastoral problems from that:

1. We actually end up with less than the full picture of God’s love. If God’s wrath is a loving wrath, we have to say that God’s punishment of Pharaoh and the Egyptians in Exodus 7-12 is an expression of his love. Therefore, any catalogue of God’s love that fails to mention aspects of God’s character such as his holiness, his wrath, his justice etc., is actually giving us an undersized portrait of that love.

2. If loving is all God is, surely he accepts everyone. If God can write a letter to the entire human race signing off “Dad”, God has no scope to decide to withold aspects of his love from some and not from others. (I know, again – it doesn’t say that it’s to the whole human race. But the question at the end implies it is an evangelistic poem, not one primarily for edifying Christians.) The poem says that the question for us all is “Will you be my child?”, but if God loves the recipient in the way described, surely they are already his child.

So it’s heart-warming to read. But it gives us too small a picture of God’s love, by failing to show how God’s love is lots of other things. And it gives us too big a picture of God’s love, by failing to qualify the different ways in which God loves different parts of his creation.

Blog Category: 

Add new comment

Additional Terms