God loves us more than he loves Himself - analyzing a quote by T.F. Torrance

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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Can you help me process this quote by Thomas Forsyth Torrance from one of his books on the Trinity entitled “The Christian Doctrine of God; One Being, Three Persons”, published by T&T Clark (page 5):

“It is in the Cross of Christ that the utterly astonishing nature of the Love that God is has been fully disclosed, for in refusing to spare his own Son whom he delivered up for us all, God has revealed that He loves us more than he loves himself.”

This action of love (the Cross) is shocking! We could almost think that God loved us more than he loves his Son (since His Son was given for us). When I am faced with a certain choice and cannot have both options, I choose the option nearest to my heart. And yet God sacrifices his own Son to save sinful men. We would almost think that God loved us more than he loves his Son.

Romans 8:32: If he who did not spare his own Son but delivered him up for us all how shall he not also with him freely give us all things? This is almost startling. Shocking. How can this be?! If God did not even spare His Son for us, this means that He will spare nothing else for our eternal happiness. He will not stop short in any way to bless us. He will deny us nothing that is for our spiritual good.

How can I explain why this is not so?
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I'm a little uncomfortable with language that goes from Father to Son and back to Himself. In other words, it sounds a little bit monadic. Let's say that it was true that the Father loved His people more than His Son (which I don't think is correct). Even if that was true, then it doesn't follow that He loves them more than Himself. Is he switching from Father to Godhead here? Do you see the dilemma I'm having with the language?

It is true (and remarkable) that the Father ordaining the Son to suffer but He did not cease loving the Son by ordaining Him to suffer. Indeed, the Son's obedience to the Father (as man) and being willing to suffer is an act of love toward the Father and the Father loved the Son for suffering for His people. The text doesn't say that the Father or the Son loved the elect more than they loved one another but that they loved them (in this manner) that the Son was given for them. Insofar as the Father was willing that the Son (as man) should suffer does not entail that He loved the Son any less than the elect but that He loved the Elect enough to permit that the Son should suffer and the Son loved the Elect enough to suffer as well. Thus the love of the Father toward the Son is never diminished with respect to love in this passage but it is intended to show how much God loved the elect without having to compare it, per se, to the love of the Father to the Son.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
“It is in the Cross of Christ that the utterly astonishing nature of the Love that God is has been fully disclosed, for in refusing to spare his own Son whom he delivered up for us all, God has revealed that He loves us more than he loves himself.”

If the love was nothing more than reckless abandonment for a lost cause, it might be surmised that God loved man more than Himself; but since the Son died for the glory of God according to the wise and holy appointment of the Father for the salvation of His people, it is a reckless abandonment of truth to claim that He loved us more than Himself.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
The "God loved us more than Christ" notion misses the whole point of the Trinity creating mankind in the first place. The Trinity wanted us, the elect, to share in their loving relationship, meaning, we would be loved equally as the three persons of the Trinity love each other equally. Therefore, the right answer is that God loves us as much as He does Christ, and that is the highest motivation we can possibly have in this life for holiness. Never forget that.

This is explicitly taught in John 17,

“I am not praying for these alone, but also for the future believers who will come to me because of the testimony of these. . . . so that the world will know you sent me and will understand that you love them as much as you love me.” (John 17:20,23)
 

kainos01

Puritan Board Senior
God loves us as much as He does Christ

This is explicitly taught in John 17,

“I am not praying for these alone, but also for the future believers who will come to me because of the testimony of these. . . . so that the world will know you sent me and will understand that you love them as much as you love me.” (John 17:20,23)

Calvin takes the “as” (καθὼς) in John 17:23 to mean “because”; i.e., “Thou hast loved them because thou hast loved me.” He goes on to explain that “to Christ alone belongs the title of well-beloved (Matt. 3:17).” Gill suggests an alternate rendering of "and I have loved them, as thou hast loved me," adding that, in respect to the Father's love for believers, “there is not the same reason for his loving them as his Son; and this as must not be thought to denote equality, but similitude and order.” Finally, Henry sees in this verse, “The privilege of believers: the Father himself loveth them with a love resembling his love to his Son, for they are loved in him with an everlasting love.” (my emphasis)
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
God loves us as much as He does Christ

This is explicitly taught in John 17,

“I am not praying for these alone, but also for the future believers who will come to me because of the testimony of these. . . . so that the world will know you sent me and will understand that you love them as much as you love me.” (John 17:20,23)

Calvin takes the “as” (καθὼς) in John 17:23 to mean “because”; i.e., “Thou hast loved them because thou hast loved me.” He goes on to explain that “to Christ alone belongs the title of well-beloved (Matt. 3:17).” Gill suggests an alternate rendering of "and I have loved them, as thou hast loved me," adding that, in respect to the Father's love for believers, “there is not the same reason for his loving them as his Son; and this as must not be thought to denote equality, but similitude and order.” Finally, Henry sees in this verse, “The privilege of believers: the Father himself loveth them with a love resembling his love to his Son, for they are loved in him with an everlasting love.” (my emphasis)

There is nothing wrong in God loving us equally with Christ with His spontaneous love (unconditional of the object of love and conditioned in God's love itself; "The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you..."). It is wholly another thing to talk about God's love of delight in us, which on the contrary is exclusively based on the merit and virtue of its object.

Of which kind of love does John 17 speak? To be honest, I think it is the "love of delight" in this case, because later in the same context it is promised to us that we would love as the Father has loved His Son (and almost in every case where the Father's love for the Son is spoken of, it seems to be on the basis of Him being well-pleased in the Son),

"And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:26)

But there is also the possibility that the love spoken of here entails both loves.

Whatever the correct interpretation of John 17 is, what I said earlier about the two kinds of love in Scripture still holds true.
 

reaganmarsh

Puritan Board Senior
Hi Samuel,

Just curious (not trying to derail the discussion or be critical of you!) -- which translation of Jn 17 do you cite in your post? I'm pressed for time, but am not recognizing that particular rendering, off the top of my head...thanks!
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
Torrance makes this statement several times in the book: pages 5, 166, 209-210, 215. I love this book, but I think such a statement is ridiculous. Since God does everything He does for His own glory, I think it's laughable to say that He loves us more than He loves Himself (although His love for us is genuine, of course). After all, even our salvation is not really about us, although we enjoy the benefits of it.

He does make other, good, statements, though: (1) the homoousios as a truly defining, watershed moment in the history of the development of theology (pages 91-98); (2) a good definition of the Trinity (155, first paragraph); (3) process theology rebuked (239-240); subordinationism in the best sense (127, 179-180, 189-190).

Despite the statement being contended against per the OP, this really is a good book. I recommend it. Astoundingly, the book is 18 years old already. Time flies!
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Torrance makes this statement several times in the book: pages 5, 166, 209-210, 215. I love this book, but I think such a statement is ridiculous. Since God does everything He does for His own glory, I think it's laughable to say that He loves us more than He loves Himself (although His love for us is genuine, of course). After all, even our salvation is not really about us, although we enjoy the benefits of it.

He does make other, good, statements, though: (1) the homoousios as a truly defining, watershed moment in the history of the development of theology (pages 91-98); (2) a good definition of the Trinity (155, first paragraph); (3) process theology rebuked (239-240); subordinationism in the best sense (127, 179-180, 189-190).

Despite the statement being contended against per the OP, this really is a good book. I recommend it. Astoundingly, the book is 18 years old already. Time flies!

Thanks. Yes, Torrance seemed to state this strongly (and repeatedly) enough to indicate that he seemed sure of his proposition. I also thought it was ridiculous, but was struck at a loss of how to articulate why it was ridiculous.
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
Torrance makes this statement several times in the book: pages 5, 166, 209-210, 215. I love this book, but I think such a statement is ridiculous. Since God does everything He does for His own glory, I think it's laughable to say that He loves us more than He loves Himself (although His love for us is genuine, of course). After all, even our salvation is not really about us, although we enjoy the benefits of it.

He does make other, good, statements, though: (1) the homoousios as a truly defining, watershed moment in the history of the development of theology (pages 91-98); (2) a good definition of the Trinity (155, first paragraph); (3) process theology rebuked (239-240); subordinationism in the best sense (127, 179-180, 189-190).

Despite the statement being contended against per the OP, this really is a good book. I recommend it. Astoundingly, the book is 18 years old already. Time flies!

Thanks. Yes, Torrance seemed to state this strongly (and repeatedly) enough to indicate that he seemed sure of his proposition. I also thought it was ridiculous, but was struck at a loss of how to articulate why it was ridiculous.

As I said, though, don't let that ruin the book for you. Just eat around that, and his Barthian view of Scripture, and you'll find it's a good read.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Barthianism is commended for its understanding of the Trinity but criticised in relation to Scripture. Something has gone wrong there!

Barthian theology makes Trinitarianism controlling of dogmatics precisely because it has lost the objectivity of Scriptural revelation. The Trinity becomes the self-revelation of God to which Scripture is a mere witness. One must part company with the confessional teaching on the doctrine of God in order to adopt the new scheme.
 
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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
That's a good observation Matthew. I've had trouble putting my finger on it but you do run into a lot of people these days who argue for increasingly strange things from the Scripture and they all seem to have this starting point of circles of Revelation where they'll start with Christ and move outward. Clark Pinnock pulled out that terminology as an example. It always sounds so pious that the person is focusing on God's self revelation in Christ and making that the priority until one realizes that it is being used to permit them to prioritize which theological headers represent that self revelation in Christ and which are de-prioritized to be either negotiable or can be discarded. At root, this kind of systematics lends itself to speculation because the Scriptures as historical revelation can't keep the man planted in what God has revealed and he's able to lift himself above God's actual self-disclosure in history and soar into the "heights" of vain speculation. I sometimes think that the reason we find certain things "insightful" in theological discussions owes to the creativity of the writer without taking stock of the fact that their "insights" have long abandoned Deuteronomy 29:29.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
I sometimes think that the reason we find certain things "insightful" in theological discussions owes to the creativity of the writer without taking stock of the fact that their "insights" have long abandoned Deuteronomy 29:29.

It is hard to get published if you don't have any 'insights'. And if you can't get published...
 
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