|Picture from https://yies1.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/god-really-is-love/|
One objection I sometimes hear from atheists and Calvinists is that if free will is a prerequisite to love, and if God can’t choose whether or not to love us (because His very nature is love) then does that mean that God’s love for us is not genuine since He doesn’t have the ability to choose between love and hate? In fact, Counter Apologist brought this up in our recent debate on Hell. The point here is supposed to be to present a dilemma to the Christian Apologist who uses the free will defense in discussing The Problem Of Evil and Suffering and also the Problem Of Hell. We argue that God gave human beings libertarian free will and refuses to override that free will because if we did not have free will, our love for God and one another would not be genuine. It would be a programmed, robotic love. Our love for God would be as valuable as that of a robot’s. Our praises would be as appreciated by God as it would if you made a puppet compliment you. However, we also hold that God has an essentially morally perfect nature and an essentially loving nature. We hold that God’s very nature is goodness and love. So therefore, God has to love. God has to do good. God doesn’t have libertarian free will between alternatives. So if God can’t choose whether or not He loves us, and if free will is essential for love to be genuine, then either God’s love is not genuine or free will is not a prerequisite to genuine love. How do we respond to this argument?
My take on this is that God’s love is actually greater than a human being’s love because while human beings can choose to love, God is necessarily love. As 1 John 4:8 and 1 John 4:16 state, “God IS love”. His very nature is love. Love is embedded in God’s ontological existence. It’s like fire. Fire is necessarily hot. It is in fire’s nature to be hot. In fact, it’s essential to God’s nature to be loving just as it is essential to fire’s nature to be hot. If God were not love, He would cease to be God. Just as if fire were to cease to be hot, it would cease to be fire. It would lack an essential property that makes it what it is.
I hold that it is greater to be necessarily loving instead of merely contingently loving. You are a greater being if you have love as part of your ontological being than if you merely choose to love someone. So even though God doesn’t have a choice between good and evil, and between love and hate, that doesn’t mean that His love for us isn’t genuine love, and it doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate His kind acts. In fact, I think God is greater if love and goodness are essential to His nature. I think His good acts would be more praiseworthy. God’s love and goodness are on a meta-level.
One question Counter Apologist brought up in our debate was basically “Why can’t God create human beings with a necessarily loving nature?” Then it would be possible for God to actualize a possible world where everyone loves both God and each other and they’re love would be genuine. As a result, no one would end up in Hell because all would love God and love Him truly. Indeed, human beings’ love for Him would be even greater than my love for God is now because their love would be necessary. In other words, Counter Apologist did not think a necessarily loving nature was an incommunicable attribute of God. I however disagree with that. I think a necessarily loving nature is indeed an incommunicable attribute of God.
Something I wish I had pointed out to Counter Apologist in our Hell debate in response to the question "Can God choose to love, if not, how can His love be genuine" is that human beings cannot be neccesarilly loving because they don't exist in every possible world. God exists in every possible world (see Ontological Argument). And I hold that His loving nature is just as essential to His being as all of His other attributes. If God were to be lacking in power, knowledge, presence, or morality, then He would not be a maximally great being. If humans are not necessary in their existence, then they cannot have a necessary anything. That includes love.
Yes, there are certain attributes a thing must have which are essential to its nature...which...if it did not have, it would cease to be what it is, but I don't think being loving is essential to human nature. If that were the case, than that would logically entail that people full of hatred (e.g racists) aren't human, which is absurd. Love is something a human being can give, but it's not essential to human nature as it is essential to God's nature. Humans can freely choose to give love, but God IS love (1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16). If a human being were to cease to be loving, he or she would not cease to be human. However, if God were to cease to be loving, He would cease to be God. You're better if love is an essential and necessary attribute to your being than if you just happen to be a loving person. Humans can still be human even if they're not loving. God ceases to be God if He isn't.
Human beings are not necessarily loving. Human beings are contingent creatures. Therefore, in order for a human being’s love to be genuine, they have to have the ability to choose whether or not they’re loving towards another person. Human beings are not necessary in their existence (I, for example, do not exist in every possible world, there is a possible world where I do not exist), so therefore I cannot be necessarily loving. If I’m not necessarily existent, I cannot be necessarily loving.
*The Doctrine Of Hell & Objections To It
*A Critique Of Counter Apologist's Article "The Argument From Hell"
*A Critique Of Counter Apologist's Article "The Argument From Hell Part 2"
*The Ontological Argument For God's Existence
*Why No One Should Worship God If Calvinism Is True