The Love of God


For God, the creator and manipulator of the world, cannot himself, it seems, be other than a vast omnipotent baby, unable to grow up, unable to abandon himself in love. Nietzsche, and, from a different starting point, Karl Marx, saw that to accept this God was to accept a kind of slavery. However kind and good God might be, we were ultimately his servants; perhaps well­ treated servants or slaves, perhaps slaves compassionately forgiven and rewarded with the life of heaven, but still fundamentally slaves. If you believe that the essence of the human is freedom then you cannot accept this benign slave-master of a God. The heart of modern atheism, certainly the heart of Marxist atheism, lies in the rejection of this master-slave relation­ship. God is not rejected because he is evil or cruel but because he is alienating and paternalist; he is rejected not in the name of human happiness but in the name of human freedom.

Now to a Christian the interesting thing is that this God who is rejected by the modem atheist is in fact pre-christian. It is just this God that is abandoned first by the Ten Commandments and then by Jesus. The central thing that Jesus says is something he says about himself; it is that the Father loves him. His primary announcement is that the Father is, after all, capable of love, that after all God has grown up. God is capable of love and he, Jesus, is the object of that love. Of course God cannot love the creature as such, there could be no foundation of equality there. But Jesus announces himself as the beloved of the Father and this reveals a depth in him that is beyond creaturehood. To say that Jesus is divine and to say that God is capable of love is to proclaim one and the same doctrine. Any unitarian view of God, or Arian view of Christ, immediately destroys the possibility of divine love — I mean divine love in the serious adult sense. We are left with a benign dictator, what Bishop John Robinson in Honest to God called a “Top Person”. It is only the doctrine of the divinity of Christ (and thus the doctrine of the Trinity) that makes possible the astounding and daring idea that God can after all genuinely love. He is in love with the Son, and the exchange of divine love between them is the Holy Spirit.

HERBERT MCCABE, OP, God Still Matters