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What is the nature of divine love? The concept of divine love is crucial to diverse paradigms, worldviews, and theological systems. Many theologians consider divine love to be a central component of God’s nature, if not the very essence of God. However, there are significant conflicts in contemporary theology regarding the nature of divine love, the very definition of which is prone to considerable semantic and conceptual ambiguity.1 While conceptions of divine love vary widely, the primary features of the debate may be illuminated by examination of the differences between two prominent and recent models, the transcendent-voluntarist model, wherein divine love is unilaterally willed and unmotivated benevolence, and the immanent-experientialist model, wherein divine love is essentially relational, emotional, and primarily passive.2
The transcendent-voluntarist model is, in many ways, an offspring of the classical doctrine of God, which described God as utterly transcendent and incapable of pathos, and emphasizes the distinction between God and the world, specifically, divine sovereignty and transcendence. Proponents of this model reject emotionless impassibility, yet find difficulty in reconciling God’s love with the sovereignty and immutability of God’s will.3 On this view, God’s love originates in God’s sovereign will and is thus not merited or elicited by humans, ← 1 | 2 → but is totally gratuitous, nearly identical with grace.4 Accordingly, God’s love is unmotivated by external factors, and human love toward God brings him no value.5 The immanent-experientialist model, on the other hand, stresses that divine love...
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