From “Theology of the Love of God”
by George M. Newlands, b.1941
Jesus of Nazareth identified himself through his actions with the lives and concerns of the people he met. At the same time faith affirms that he was one with God in a way which does not lend itself to exhaustive description based upon empirical observation. The identification of God the creator with his creatures reaches a climax in the death of Jesus. Here the element of justice in God’s love comes to the fore, the need to act in such a way that his love is made available to all men, however negative their reaction to God may be. This action involves tragedy, as often in human life, and the transcendence that may be involved in tragedy. But however evocative of our devotion, tragedy is not and cannot be the last word. In the resurrection, the identification of the cross is carried through to restoration and renewal. Self-sacrifice is part of a larger and more comprehensive movement of self-giving which is grounded in and makes possible God’s love for all men. In human life, self-giving may involve self-sacrifice to the point of destruction. So it does for God, as he participates in death, taking the awareness of abandonment into his own experience. But his purpose for mankind, reflecting the nature of his own being, is worked out in self-fulfillment, self-giving producing freedom. The content of this self-giving is articulated in the foci of the public ministry of Jesus, in his teaching about the kingdom, and in later Pauline reflection on his life, death and resurrection. and Johannine reflection on Christ and discipleship.
God’s self- giving enables people to give themselves to God and their fellow men without inhibition, destroying alienation from within; the opposite of the self-giving which imposes itself and creates alienation. It is important to see the resurrection as an integral part of this self-giving, though resurrection with self-giving would be mere triumphalism. God’s love is an effective love. not an account of beautiful and tragic failure; this is the good news of salvation, apart from which Christian hope would be illusory.
The Christian hope is the hope of love. The grounds for this hope lie partly in reference to God‘s activity in the present. The manifold logic which leads faith to affirm the presence of God rests neither upon a private source of revelation nor upon a purely psychological condition. The affirmation of God‘s presence to all mankind, even where he is on occasion experienced as absent, arises from faith in the decisive realisation of salvation through love in the events concerning Jesus. The presence of God, who has participated in death and shares the fruits of the resurrection through the Holy Spirit, is by definition not open to empirical observation, yet makes a difference to the empirical existence of those who have faith. They regard the hope of love as already fulfilled, even when only dimly perceived and hesitantly acknowledged, and far from perfectly understood.