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Is God Lovable?

The question was posed by radio host Dennis Prager yesterday and, I must admit, it has me thinking. Prager was not questioning the existence of God, but whether the presence of evil and suffering makes God naturally unlovable — or at least, difficult to love.

The question is not, Is God worthy of love? or Is God loving? But, Is God lovable? Many of the callers to the show seemed to miss — or avoid — the question. To me, the reality of evil and suffering form some of the most compelling arguments against the existence of God. Still, I’d never heard the issue framed as Prager did. Do Siamese twins think God is lovable? Do the parents of a 9 year old child dying of cancer think God is lovable? Does the husband whose wife was killed by a drunk driver think God is lovable? If you’re honest, you gotta admit that disease, pain, tragedy, force us to grapple with the nature of God.

Prager’s thesis is that the reason we’re commanded to love God (Deut. 6:5) is precisely because He is not loveable. He suggests we are not commanded to do something that comes natural for us — precisely because it is natural for us; rather, we’re commanded to do things that are unnatural, difficult, yet necessary. In other words, God commands us to love Him, not because He is lovable and it’s the most pleasant thing to do, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Anyway, you can download a podcast of that 1 hour show or listen to an audio player version here. The majority of calls were from Christians and Prager manages his position well. I’m still wrestling with the issue myself, but what do you think: Is God lovable?

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{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Ame March 29, 2007, 6:12 AM

    I’ve never heard it put that way before, either. The war within for the love of sin and the love of God is woven through the Bible, but to think of God as “lovable?”

    Looking up the word, lovable, in the dictionary, it comes up in several as “having qualities/characteristics that attract affection.” So, does God have qualities/characteristics that attract affection?

    Perhaps the question would rather be, “Do I always feel that God’s qualities and characteristics attract affection regardless of my circumstance or place in life?”

    Is God “lovable” when we *fear* God because of His awesome power and because of who He is?

    Is God “lovable” when He disciplines us because we need it?

    Is God “lovable” when we endure the devestating consequences of anothers choices?

    I wonder … if what is True here is much different from what we perceive to be true when viewed through the lenses of our own, individual lives – encompassing our experiences, belief, level of intimacy with God, etc.

    I can only tell you what I found when I was *there.* I had to reconcile how God could be God and still allow my dad to come into my room when I was five, six, seven, in the middle of the night, to gratify his own sick desires using my body. How can God be God and allow daddies to do such appalling stuff to an innocent child who has no choice or ability to escape? It was an extremely long and extremely painful process, so my words in a “short” comment cannot contain the depth of my experience.

    But I will tell you that in that place, a place where I yelled at God, hated Him, was intensely angry with Him, questioned everything about Him, I also found Him … to be all of who He is … including lovable. It was not immediate. It was not easy. It was not readily visible. But it was deep, intimate, profound, and exhaustive.

    I found, in that place, that I ran to Him and jumped into His arms and let Him hold me and love me in the most intimate and tender of ways.

    So, was God always lovable? Does the fact that I went through considerable time of deep anger and hate toward Him cause Him to be unlovable only during that time? Or was He lovable all along … yet patient and loving enough to allow me to go through the process so I could experience Him fully and wholly?

    I say the latter.

    God is lovable. Does that make Him easy to love? No, I don’t think so. Love always costs something. It is not easy to love when it costs you something. God loving us cost Him tremendously – more than we will ever be able to imagine.

    So, I disagree with him. I don’t love God because I have to, because it’s the “right thing to do.” I love God out of His great and infinite and vast love for me – a love of which I will truly never know the wholeness of for I believe it will always be beyond my comprehension.

    Do I sometimes love God through my actions out of obedience, even when I don’t want to? Yes. But that is a choice to believe in His love even when I cannot *feel* His love.

    God never changes. His love never changes. His character never changes. He is either lovable, or He’s not. I choose to believe He is.

    Thank you for posting this and giving me opportunity to “talk” it through.

  • Mike Duran March 29, 2007, 10:27 AM

    Well put, Ame. I appreciate your honesty. I think you’re right to interject the time element. Because of your experiences, loving God “. . .was not immediate. It was not easy.” But the difference here is between your love and God’s “lovability.” Perhaps, there’s no real distinction for each of us experientially, that we can only decipher God’s lovability in terms of our own perception of Him. You summarized: “God is lovable. Does that make Him easy to love? No, I don’t think so.” This may, in the end, come down to semantics. But if God is not easy to love, then how can He be lovable?

  • Clew March 29, 2007, 11:22 AM

    Hi Mike –

    I’ve been away from blogging for a while (needed a break – too much going on in life) but am hoping to be back in soon. Wanted to drop by and say hello – I’ve missed your always brilliant posts, looking forward to catching up.

    Be back soon – Blessings, friend!

  • Ame March 29, 2007, 1:41 PM

    Hummm . . . so by his definition, if loving is not easy, then the recipient is not lovable … to be lovable means, to him, that one must be easy to love.

    Under that definition, I don’t believe anyone would “measure up” to “lovable.” As *perfect* 😉 as I am, I’m not always easy to love. Does that mean I’m not lovable? My kids are not always easy to love; does that mean they’re not lovable?

    I kinda see what he’s trying to say, but I cannot agree with him. I don’t think it needs to be easy for it to be true. Sometimes love is easy; sometimes it’s not. Does that mean that when easy the recipient is *lovable* yet when hard the recipient is not *lovable* . . . would one determine there to be a blanket definition of one over the other?

    I can also see where this would turn into one of those “Christian Chess Games” that never seems to end till Jesus returns and we all know the truth – those who love to *argue* over philosophy like this simply love it … all of it … including the ability to *argue* over something, anything. I’m okay with that as long as it does not diminish one’s – or another’s – relationship with God (or ability for relationship with God.)

  • dayle March 29, 2007, 2:09 PM

    I have a couple of takes on this.

    First let’s view this through the prism of the trinity, which I view, rudimentarily as God the mind and Jesus the heart. Jesus is God. Jesus is absolutely lovable. Therefore, God is lovable. But I understand that for the sake of this discussion, we are seperating the two and this may be a little simplistic.

    Secondly, God displays tough love (fatherly love). Where in the end we respect and revere him (fear of the lord), but he may not be lovable. Kinda like when Andy Taylor sends Opie out to fight the bully. Sure he could go and beat the bully up for him or stand there next to Opie so the bully won’t do anything, But in the bigger picture, letting Opie stand on his own and take a few licks is the right thing to do. Years later, Opie will respect his father more for that.

    I know this seems callous in Ame’s case, but then another thought comes to mind. The price of freewill. Her father had freewill and Ame paid the price. I think the good news (or gospel) Ame, is that we are truly only on this earth for a blink of an eye. When you cross-over and get to put your arms around Jesus and experience the love of your true Father, nothing of this earth will matter.

    To Ame: I have a friend who went through the same thing as you. It is amazing to me that she is a Christian and her ability to believe in anything hasn’t been destroyed by it. As you did, she ran towards God. She is a wonderful person and one of my heroes. I only wish I had such courage as hers and yours.

    -dayle

  • janet March 29, 2007, 3:16 PM

    I think He is absolutely lovable. At least as lovable as superheroes, like Spiderman and Superman. He is all goodness, love, mercy, grace. He’s my Creator. And He loves me, no matter what I do, no matter how I hurt Him, with a love I can’t begin to comprehend. He is the hero who gives up His life to save the victim of evil. He is everything we celebrate in film and novel and song. It is our vision, or perception of who He is that gets skewed. The god we see as some sadistic, indifferent guy in the sky, doling out affliction and trials without thought– no, that guy isn’t lovable. But he isn’t real. The real God is lovable if you get to know Him well enough to see His heart.

  • sue March 29, 2007, 3:55 PM

    Interesting question when it uses that language. Lovable? The bible tells us that we love God because He first loved us. So our love is in response to His, but to find something lovable is our own choice, in response to the characteristics we find appealing to us. The most appealing characteristic I find in God is His ability to love purely, in spite (or maybe because), of the evil in me and this world. Great post!

  • Mike Duran March 30, 2007, 12:21 PM

    Ame, you’re right that the definition of “lovable” is probably the linchpin here. The problem with equating the “lovability of God” with the “lovability of an individual” — at least, as I understand the argument — is that God holds a power that individuals don’t. In other words, I can’t stop Siamese twins from being born or cancer from killing children, but He can. It is His allowance of evil and suffering that makes Him unlovable, whereas it is my own sin and humanity (my personal evil) that makes me repulsive. God, by nature, has the ability to make Himself totally endearing, but He chooses not to. Why?

    That being said, I wonder that comparing our lovability and God’s lovability is a helpful paradigm.

    dayle, I tend to agree that God — as Andy Taylor or any good father — sacrifices immediate lovability for long-term reverence or respect. To me, this observation may be the key to clarity on this question. By giving us free will, God may be sacrificing lovability for a longer-term goal; He is working something out for eternity. The problem is that, unlike Ame turning to God, many people reject God because of another’s free will action (be it abuse, crime, violence, etc.). It is this conundrum of freewill that both heightens our love of God and, in some cases, drives us from Him.

    Thank you guys for participating in this tricky discussion. Grace to you!

  • Mike Duran March 30, 2007, 12:39 PM

    Janet, it’s great to hear you gush about God! However, our praise — especially when we have not endured severe trial — could appear callous, insensitive. Can we sing the same praise before people who lost loved ones in 9/11 or were disfigured by a machine accident or are born with HIV to a Sudanese slave? No doubt, as people who know “the real God” and have spent time growing in His knowledge, He is lovable. But do any of us start there?

    And sue, thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. I’d respond similarly: Many of God’s characteristics are lovable. But that position has taken you a while to arrive at, right? Do the unenlightened naturally share that sentiment? I’d suggest that our earliest impressions about God are not that of lovability, but something like power or infinite wisdom. It is through spiritual enlightenment and growth that we come to see Him as lovable. Which creates its own set of problem because only God can bring enlightenment. . .

  • sue March 30, 2007, 4:53 PM

    Yes I would say that is true for me.

  • Mirtika March 30, 2007, 7:45 PM

    So often we use the word “lovable” to mean something akin to sweet-n-cuddly-and-adorable. A person is lovable if they are just overwhelmingly nice and likable and innoffensive.

    God is not nice. And God is not inoffensive. One could even question likable.

    But if by lovable we mean “able to inspire the emotions of love” then He clearly is and has always been. I don’t think the earth has EVER been bereft of those who gravitate toward and want to be in the presence of God, who find God magnetic and a source of immense pleasure. Who want God’s love and to return it.

    There are balancing traits in God’s being. The fact that He has and does condemn and pour wrath and play favorites is not particularly lovable. The fact that he died for me is supremely and overwhelmingly lovable. That kind of total giving inspires love. The former traits inspire a holy fear. It’s God’s beauty and glory and wisdomd and generosity that makes us love Him. It’s his holiness that makes us stand in awe. It’s his wrath and power than make us fear.

    It’s a really complicated relationship. But once you’re in it, it does tend to rely on love above all. I can talk to Him freely, rely on HIm, because He loves me, which makes me able to love Him.

    The Bible verse is right, we love Him, can love Him, can find Him love-a-ble “because He first loved us.”

    But the general usage of lovable, which makes me think of Winnie the Pooh or Snoopy or Tom Hanks in a romantic comedy, nah. Not God.

    Mir

  • Kelly Klepfer March 30, 2007, 11:20 PM

    I didn’t listen to the audio.

    Nor read the other comments.

    But I think that it’s very difficult for a man, in general, to love God. Christ is even more of a challenge. The whole bride of Christ issue.

    Up the bar with God not behaving in ways that are pleasing to us, or doing something that seems downright cruel, or dare I say, evil…

    God isn’t the big dunderhead white haired comic relief, nor is He the Wizard of Oz, and He has lightning bolt tossing in His past.

    I’ve been kicked around a little. Of course, most of it was natural consequence (in hindsight anyway).

    I’ve grown to love God. Jesus was easier. And the more I walk with them, the more I know the why behind the what, I have been able to develop understanding that feels and looks like love which is probably mostly trust and respect mixed with a bunch of longing.

  • janet March 31, 2007, 2:31 AM

    Those who are forgiven much love much. I’ve been forgiven much.

    You said, “No doubt, as people who know “the real God” and have spent time growing in His knowledge, He is lovable. But do any of us start there?”

    It sounds like you are saying whether or not He is lovable depends on our level of maturity. I’m saying He is what He is, and what He really is is lovable. If we don’t find Him lovable, it’s because we don’t see Him clearly.

    The thief on the cross had no time to grow in knowledge, but I believe he loved Jesus, even while he hung dying on a cross. I think that is because he saw clearly who God was- One who would come and take the brunt of all evil to save.

  • Trish April 1, 2007, 9:50 PM

    Hey Mike interesting article. I believe God is lovable. I know it is sometimes hard to see with horrible things that happen in the world, but I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and I just need to put my faith in him. God works in mysterious ways.

  • Mike Duran April 2, 2007, 1:54 AM

    Mir, I believe your thoughts are dangerously close to mine. “There are balancing traits in God’s being.” Not in the sense that God needs balancing, but that He is a complex being Who cannot be confined to charts and creeds. His actions often confound logic.

    You said, “It’s a really complicated relationship. But once you’re in it, it does tend to rely on love above all.” That’s true, but for the millions who are not “in it,” the lovable factor is in serious decline.

    Thanks for hanging with this discussion Janet! You said, “. . . whether or not He is lovable depends on our level of maturity. . . If we don’t find Him lovable, it’s because we don’t see Him clearly.” I would wholeheartedly agree. But my question to you is, since God is responsible to “enlighten” our sinful hearts, whose fault is it that “we don’t see Him clearly”?

  • David April 3, 2007, 9:09 PM

    My comments are founded on your posting. I have not listened to the broadcast/podcast.

    Ame found the M-W definition of love. Here is the dictionary.com definition “of such a nature as to attract love; deserving love; amiable; endearing” which includes “deserving love”.
    God is deserving of love.
    Dennis Prager is a radio show host and therefore, I believe, chose the wording of the topic carefully to provoke discussion which is his job.
    The other thing I do personally is break down compound words into the principle elements, in this case love and able. This requires two questions:
    1) Is God love able? (Is God able to love?)
    2) Is God able to be loved?
    Answers:
    1) God is love able and able to love.
    2) God is able to be loved.

    The question posed was in such a way to infer that God is not worthy of our loving Him because He allows events to occur in a world that exists in a fallen state.
    The fallen state is not of God’s doing. It is of His allowing. It falls under the “dilemma” of having made man in His image and allowing man free choice. Did God choose for man to sin (fall from grace)? God chose to make man for fellowship. Man chose the path of sin and therefore man is responsible for the ugliness we witness in our world.

    I hope that the radio audience was mostly Christian in hope that it should makes those of us who believe meditate on God’s word and the truth of what He has revealed of Himself to us.
    For an unbeliever, I fear it may only lead to confusion and to question “Why would I or should I love a God who seems to be so uncaring?” That I do not believe to be good in itself, but I trust God that His word is true and therefore He can and will use all things for His good and His glory.

    As to the last question posed to Janet… Yes, God is responsible to “enlighten” our sinful hearts, but our sinful hearts must willingly yield and allow Him to do so. God, our Father does not impose understanding or wisdom upon us when our hearts are not able or wanting to receive. Rather He instructs us to seek after wisdom and understanding. ;-D

    Peace to you in Christ Jesus.

  • Rebecca LuElla Miller April 5, 2007, 7:55 PM

    Great discussion, Mike.

    God is love. I wouldn’t even know about love if it weren’t for God, so of course He is loveable.

    My misconception of loveable may cloud that fact.

    Is it loveable in a cozy, grandfatherly way, that a dad spanks his disobedient child for running out in the street … yet again? Is it loveable that a just judge sentences a serial killer to the death penalty? Is it loveable that keeps His word—the word He gave to Adam: “if you eat, you’ll die.”

    None of these is the misconstrued “loveable,” but I submit, if we see God for Who He is, we will love Him.

    I have a theory. I believe even those who rejected God will see Him as He is at the judgment, and the biggest part of Hell will be their separation from Him whom they now realize was all they ever needed.

    I also like what someone else said regarding the Scripture on forgiveness: the person who is forgiven much, loves much. The “loveable factor” then is tied to experiencing God’s forgiveness.

    Perhaps I can summarize by saying, I love because He forgives. The rest, I trust Him for.

    Becky

  • Michal April 7, 2007, 6:28 AM

    Hey Mike, interesting question. I’ve been a Christian for along time and I have never heard about God talked about in such a way. Definately food for thought.

    I really think Ame has hit the nail on the head, and that Rebecca only confirmed where the conversation was going. To say more would be pointless, I think. Keep up the good discussion and God bless.

    M

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