What tradition or theology does the concept of "unconditional love toward others" derive from, and how is it reconciled with the need of repentance for absolution along with a similar process for brothers and sisters of the faith described in Titus?

Most will probably know a certain candidate thanked his mother for it recently (could indicate Baptist origins), and it was also brought up on the radio today: http://www.keylife.org/player/works .


The short answer: universal atonement. It is a doctrine which, as far as I can tell, has been systematically edged out of the western church as the doctrines of Calvinism have become the de facto standard. Personally, my beliefs reflect a bit of each of Calvinism and Arminianism. Universal atonement is a fundamental part of the Arminian system and has a LOT of strong support in scripture.

Please don't confuse it, though, with universal reconciliation. Universal atonement refers to the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice for all men. We have been forgiven and must therefore repent and believe (ie. turn from our sins and live by faith) in order that God might consider us reconciled through his son. Universal reconciliation is the more radical view that all will be saved due to God's great 'love.'

When you put your Arminian hat on, verses like John 3:16 look quite a bit different. God so loved the world to give his only son... but he also fought pretty ferociously with that same world when he arrived. Particularly with the religious leaders of the day. Did God love those men and wish them to come to repentance? I believe so. Did he make blind their eyes and deaf their ears that they could not hear and repent? I believe he did that too.

'Unconditional love' is a pretty broad and ill-defined notion that our society loves to throw around. In the political arena especially, we worship the idea of acceptance and inclusion of all orientations and creeds. It seems to me that it stems from the radicalized view of God's love and grace rather than the time-honored doctrine by which the church used to abide. Can I love those people thanks to the example God has given me on the cross? Absolutely. Do I need to consider all people to be co-laborers and fellow heirs of our glorious inheritance? Not for a moment.

P.S. I just got that radio soundbyte to play on my computer. Crap like that is NOT biblical teaching. It's just a bunch of wishy-washy feel-good nonsense to keep you tithing and/or buying their books ;) Check out a guy named Paul Washer for more critical commentary on the state of the modern church. Just remember that he's a pretty hard-core Calvinist so I don't agree with everything he says.

  • Hmmm, I consider myself arminian, but I don't support the phrase unconditional love. Although it is God who first love us, the duration of His love is conditional, otherwise there would be no condemnation.
    – Beestocks
    Feb 6 '16 at 16:14
  • I think you may be underestimating the capacity of God's heart... I don't find it hard to believe that God has love/compassion for those he also condemns. Life has given me more than enough opportunity to do the same, so personally it's not hard to imagine.
    – Jonathan
    Feb 7 '16 at 6:02

I would submit that the numerous times God forgave Israel, the love he expressed to David even after sinning, and ultimately the very fact that a plan of salvation was established from the very beginning, all point to and demonstrate unconditional love

The need of repentance and "process", assuming you're speaking of Titus 3:4-7, is that plan of salvation in which demonstrated/demonstrates unconditional love.

Isaiah 54:10

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

Psalms 78:36-38

But then they would flatter him with their mouths, lying to him with their tongues; their hearts were not loyal to him, they were not faithful to his covenant.

Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath.

Matthew 18:21-22

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

  • Curious. So, how exactly does the need of repentance for absolution of sin fit within your doctrinal view/framework/following? Are you saying there is no need for repentance? Also, the original question is not focused on the unconditional love of God per se, but the faithful toward others. Feb 5 '16 at 1:53
  • @LogicallyDivergent my assertion is that the concept of unconditional love of others would be directly tied to the unconditional love of God. Repentance and absolution I see as part of that plan of salvation as in Titus "the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit" which would require the repentant heart. Mark 1:15 Jesus says "repent and believe in the gospel." which would be the precursor to regeneration and renewal. Also, I was unsure of the context of the OP as I did not see the debate, am unfamiliar with the quote they were referring to, and the link did not work
    – Tonyg
    Feb 5 '16 at 4:54
  • I have read, granted from other sources than this site, that there are some teaching an extreme version of Grace (which some equate to "unconditional love") where repentance was not necessary. This was the main concern since repentance was not mentioned and logically is excluded when "unconditional" is specified. Language matters, especially when broadcasting nationally (TV and radio). I still do not know from what denomination this concept originated, however. It was not taught in my youth. The problem here being that repentance is a condition, and applying it to the faithful was new. Feb 5 '16 at 5:49
  • @LogicallyDivergent Unconditional love does not preclude punishment or discipline: Proverbs 3:12 "because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in." Revelation 3:19 "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent." 2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."
    – Tonyg
    Feb 5 '16 at 12:25

Where does the concept of “unconditional love toward others” come from?

There are various levels in the expression of love.

Luke 6:32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.

At the other extreme we have love for enemies.

Luke 6:35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

We have the example of the love God has for the whole world.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

While the universal love of God is seen in the verse above, the granting of eternal life is on the “condition” of belief.

The word “unconditional” may have been originally selected to emphasize the universality of love, however, it also can carry with it a sense of inhibited discernment and a withholding of prudence that may have been originally not intended.

It is possible to misrepresent the character of God by an emphasis one just one attribute. Some preachers emphasize a sort of hellfire and brimstone presentation of God that does not fully present his mercy and love. Others present God as a sort of doddering old grandfather who gushes unrestrained affection.

The phrase has an intrinsic imprecision that allows for an emotional sensation of unrestricted acceptance, indulgence, and tolerance. The use of the phrase “unconditional love” may originate with those who want to present God as one who will not object to sin. It may also originate with those who suggest that Christians also resist objecting to sin.

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