Defining God by Love
A recent response to Rob Bell's book at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary seems to have captured the imagination of those who are already suspicious that Bell has jumped the evangelical ship and deserves the nebulous term unorthodox. The quote in question goes something like this: 'Rob Bell is defining God by love instead of defining love by God' At first glance it might seem like an excellent assessment of how the subject has been dealt with given that Bell openly admits to have written with disconnected people in mind. When you dig a little further into the idea that we might be able to somehow define love by God you realise that it is possible more sophistry than sense. That is the problem with sophistry it always sounds like it makes sense. It has to be said that it is impossible to develop any theology that is not communicated in an anthropomorphic setting. Scripture itself is given in fully human terms that call upon the hearer to engage with the Divine in the words (inspired as they are) of a particular people at a particular time. It seems to be the way God has chosen to communicate with us: the divine in fully human terms. To accuse Bell of defining God by love and not the reverse is to not only ask the impossible, but to ask him to do what God hasn't done. My challenge in return to those who think this latest critique is correct is: go ahead, describe love by God without using human reference points. I guess we will find that it probably looks a little like describing God by love. But that's ok, incarnational thinking is not a new idea.