I want to propose to you that God’s love really IS unconditional. However it should be stated from the onset that there are some problems presented by the assertion that God’s love is unconditional. For while there are plenty of texts from Scripture that teach that God’s love and grace are unmerited,  there is no real text that presents a “slam-dunk” assertion that God’s love is unconditional. There are even some texts that seem to teach that God’s love is conditional. For example:

  1. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. (Jn 14:21)
  2. I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,  but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Ex 20:5-6)
  3. The Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God  (John 16:27).
  4. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. (1 John 4:15-16)

So most of these texts imply that God’s love for us is based on certain conditions. For example, whether we love his Son, or whether we keep his commandments. But while these texts are puzzling, they are not necessarily devastating to the notion that God loves us unconditionally. This is because it is possible for God to love us unconditionally from his side of the equation. And yet, from our side of the equation it may still be necessary that some conditions be fulfilled before we can receive this love unconditionally offered.

Consider the following example. Let’s say I walk up to you and you are carrying two large boxes filled with books you value. I am holding two other boxes filled with cash amounting to $50 million in large bills. I offer these boxes to you freely, without charge. No strings attached. My offer to you is unconditional. Take them, they are yours. So, my offer is unconditional. However, from your perspective there is a condition. You must first put down the boxes filled with books you value and then take up the boxes filled with money that I offer. Hence there is  a condition you must meet to receive my unconditional offer. MY offer is unconditional but you must overcome an obstacle. Your full arms must be emptied. The condition is not on my side but on yours. Hence, the quotes above which seem to place conditions on God’s love my only be conditions from our side of the equation. God can love us unconditionally and offer his love for free. But in order for us to receive and experience that love it may be necessary for us to empty our arms from sin, from worldly attachments and the like. We cannot carry both sets of boxes. We cannot serve God and Mammon. So it is possible to argue that God’s love IS  unconditional even as we accept texts like those above which declare that something in us must change for us to truly receive this unconditional offer of God.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:6-8)

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the Beloved. (Eph 1:4-6)

for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. (Rom 11:-29)

I would further like to propose to you that God’s love never fails. I will go so far as to say that even the souls in hell are loved by God. How could they continue to exist if He did not love them, sustatin them and provide for them? God loves because God IS love and that is what Love does, it loves. We may fail to be able to experience or accept that love, and that inability may at some time become permanent for us. But God never stops loving. How could he? God does not merely have love, He IS love. And love cannot NOT  LOVE for it pertains to love that it love. God has not stopped loving the souls in Hell. How could He? They surely refused to empty their arms to receive his embrace but God’s love for them has never been withdrawn. How could God not be love?

There was a man who had two sons (cf Luke 15). And one of those sons sinned horribly against him but then returned with repentance and received the embrace of his Father’s love. The other son was resentful and refused to enter the celebration with his Father and his brother. And the Father pleaded with him to enter the celebration and, I suspect, offered him too the embrace of love. Did the son enter the celebration? We do not know for the biblical story ends. But not really. For you and I finish it with our lives. The Father offers us the embrace of his love in the glory of the heavenly celebration. Will you and I enter the wedding feast or will we stay outside brooding and resentful. The Father’s offer is unconditional. But for you and me, from our side of the equation, there is a condition. We must enter to receive the unconditional offer. What is your answer to the Father’s pleading? Will you enter? Finish the story

I have posted this video before. it does a beautiful job of depicting God’s plaintive and loving call that echoes down through time: “Adam Where are You?!” It presents well the great drama of God’s love and our choice.  The video concludes with God  saying, “Won’t you come in from the darkness now before it’s time to finally close the door?!” What will you answer?

77 Responses

  1. Bender says:

    God is the fullness of Love and Truth.
    Love is, by its very nature, unconditional. That is, true authentic love is, by definition, a wholly gratuitous and selfless seeking of the good of the other, without condition, including the conditions that the other “deserve” it or that such love be returned.
    Therefore, God’s love is unconditional.

    If it is conditional, then it isn’t selfless, it isn’t gratuitous, and it isn’t fully love.
    Love is not a quid pro quo. Love itself is a unilateral choice and action, even if the establishment of a loving relationship requires the acceptance of that love by the other, so as to convert the love from a unilateral action to a transaction. But even if the other rejects that love and the offer of a loving relationship, such rejection does not eliminate the love — the love itself remains. Even if not accepted by the other, the person who loves is still able to make a conscious act of the will to subordinate himself, and to unconditionally and selflessly seek the good and welfare of the other, including the gift of himself for the other’s benefit. This is the way that God loves.

    The tricky part for us is to love as God loves.

    • Henry Vanden Brook says:

      Sounds like you are saved by faith alone.

    • Yes, but I wonder if it is possible for we humans to love in a totally selfless way. It seems to me that there is a little sefl-interest in everything we do. I suppose you are right in reference to God and perhaps it is possible to receive this gift from God here and now but I suspect in our current fallen state that there is some self intrest in most things we do. Of itself, self interest isn’t necessary bad. It may make me feel good to serve the poor so I get something out of it, hence self intrest can motivate us to good.

      Anyway, just pondering the selfless aspect.

      • Christopher W. Milton says:

        Msgr,

        If I remember Aquinas correctly, man cannot love at all without the grace of God. And I don’t think his definition of Charitas would allow for a selfish love, so without God’s grace there is no love, and that love must be selfless, though it is not by man’s doing, but by God’s.

        Your thoughts?

      • Bender says:

        I wonder if it is possible for we humans to love in a totally selfless way

        No, not in our fallen state. But God gives us the power to do the impossible.

    • gilbert chavez says:

      i recently heard a priest say that God does not love us all equally? can you expand on this? thanx and God bless.

  2. CastingCrown says:

    Nice explanation, thanks.

  3. namatsi says:

    Monsignor you remind me of a sermon a priest gave in my parish one Sunday. He said each person is a conduit. The conduit can carry God’s love to our fellow brothers and sisters. To receive more love I have to discharge more love. I add, often I deliver venom to my neighbour in form of lies, unfair demands and such like. I know what I should do but keep on postponing to an appropriate time. Will I be locked out before I open to my brothers and sisters? Please pray for me. May the Lord forgive your sins.

  4. anon says:

    My mother left the Catholic Church b/c she didn’t think it taught about a loving God. My sister was born with Prader-Willi Syndrome, a chromosomal disorder that causes mental retardation. When she went to her priest to ask the “why’s” of this happening to her baby, he was a little insensitive in his speech. His tone was reprimanding when he said, “It’s not our place to question the will of God.” He went on to talk about original sin and my mom walked away thinking her daughter was being punished by God.

    Now, many years later, we often discuss our faiths. To me, the Church teaches of a stern but loving and patient father who cares about our eternal happiness rather than a short term one. My mom went on to study Eastern philosophy and came to believe reincarnation explained what she needed to understand. To me, it seems that my mom has sought out the very teaching of a God she says she was running from, for, if one believe in reincarnation, than they believe troubles in this life would be God-given punishments for past life mistakes. To me, that hardly describes a God who loves unconditionally. Instead, I believe the Church’s teaching that God’s love is unconditional, having no boundaries. God loves the souls in hell, as Msgr. stated, and he also loves the souls who live in the bodies that appear broken and defective. Although I know the Church teaches that God loves all equally, I can’t help but think he has a special fondness for people like my sister; it seems she is w/o the capacity to willfully sin, and wouldn’t that mean she couldn’t move herself away from her loving father? That seems like a special gift.

    I’m going to print of copy of this post for my mom.

    • yes, the mystery of suffering is a very deep one. We simply do not have all the data to assess it. I too resist the notion that God loves every one equally. I suspect he rather loves us individually in a way that defies quantitative analysis.

    • Sofia Arango says:

      The Church does NOT teach that God loves all equally. I know that for a fact.

      My understanding of the explanation is that, if God loved us all equally, He would be unjust. He loves us in accordance with our merits. Thus, God’s love for the Blessed Virgin Mary is much greater than His love for you or me.

  5. Henry Vanden Brook says:

    Where in the Bible does it say “God is Love”. I hear that all the time. And how do you conclude that because God loves good that He provides unconditional love. He also hates sin, but I don’t conclude that God is Hate or that he provides unconditional hate. He did say “Love the sinner, hate the sin”, but I don’t think he means love Satan, just hate his evil deeds. He also said “Jacob I loved” and “Esau I hated”. So God does appear to hate some people.

    • Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8)
      And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him (1 John 4:16)

      The use of the word “hate” in the passage you cite is most likely an Hebraicism. The Jewish (Hebrew) language has very few comparative words such as less, more, greater, fewer etc. Hence in Hebrew I might say that I love chocolate ice cream and thus “hate” vanilla when what I really mean is that I like chocolate more. It’s a Jewish way of speaking. Thus When Jesus tells us that if we want to be his disciple we must hate our father mother, sister, children et al. he does not mean it the way we do but means that we must love him more or above all things and people.

      It may be possible to argue that God “hates” But it seems the stronger argument that God is Love and the word hate when applied to God refers to aversion or repulsion that happens when sin is in the presence of his utter holiness. In this case it may be analogous or related to his wrath. I wrote upon this here: http://blog.adw.org/2010/02/what-is-the-wrath-of-god/

      • Yan Petrovsky says:

        If the use of ‘hate’ is merely a hebraicism connoting a relative lack of love, what of the Scriptures that say that God and (and Jesus) hate wickedness? Does that mean they love holiness, but they like wickedness almost as much?

        More likely, if I may venture an opinion on the saying of Jesus that we must hate our mother and father, I think He meant that choosing against your mother and father for the sake of God gives the appearance to others that we hate them, and in that sense therefore, we hate them. Tacitus wrote that the Christians deserved to be slaughtered because of their ‘hatred of all men,’ by which he meant that they weren’t sociable in going along with the rest of men in pursuing debauchery.

        • No Yan,

          you are reducing the point to absurdity which is not helpful. The fact remains that hate may not mean in God what it means in us. To use your own logic of reductio ad absurdum on your second point here would mean God only appears to hate Esau or hate injustice etc.

          • Yan Petrovsky says:

            I agree that it is difficult to determine when and how to understand the hatred of God. I think that my choice to understand Jesus’ statement as being an instance in which we ought to understand Him as using the language of appearance is appropriate, while the analysis of God’s hatred of wickedness as being merely a hebraicism is not, which is why I used the reductio argument to illustrate its inappropriateness in that context. It’s only my opinion, which seems to me to stand to reason. Here are a couple reasons why: God tells us to honor our mothers and fathers. No authority that I know of ever interpreted Jesus’ statement about mothers and fathers to be a command to actually hate them. On the other hand, if we say that hating evil is a hebraicism, then I think we have a problem, because the Scriptures tell us over and over to hate evil, and there doesn’t seem to be anything to contradict that. So I think my choices of when to understand language as being an expression of appearance, and when to understand language as being literal, are reasonable.

      • ***No Yan,

        you are reducing the point to absurdity which is not helpful. The fact remains that hate may not mean in God what it means in us. To use your own logic of reductio ad absurdum on your second point here would mean God only appears to hate Esau or hate injustice etc.

  6. Rob Kaiser says:

    I greatly appreciate all of your posts, though I rarely offer comment. I did want to say that your boxes analogy resonated well with me. I will definitely be sharing that with other in explaining God’s unconditional love. Thanks!

  7. Gary says:

    The challenge is to proclaim the Unconditional Love of God without it being interpreted as license leading to the sin of presumption.
    The condition of God’s love is seen in the necessity of the Paschal Mystery.

  8. Wanda Vargas says:

    We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. What we must to do to be saved?. . . . Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul and mind, , , Amen

  9. Michael says:

    I would comment on the misinterpretation of God’s unconditional love, and the ideology that since God love’s us unconditionally we do not need to change. It being lent, I would say that we are called to change. Put away sin and be more and more open to both recieving and giving God’s love.

  10. Michael says:

    which makes me think of the conditions to recieve more of God’s love on our part and our willingness to give God’s love

  11. Carmelo Fallace says:

    Thank you, Msgr, for your insightful article, it should be very helpful to many. Are you familiar with this other at http://www.newoxfordreview.org/article.jsp?did=0208-fallace.
    It seems to have a similar conclusion but with less concern about God’s unknown thoughts and more about our obligations before we are forgiven. After all is said and done, what good does it do to the poor soul if God’s “unconditional love” cannot get him out of Hell.

    • No it looks interesting and that she disagrees with my point. That is fine though I wish she would use words like dissent and rebellious etc. I m not that and I think that perhaps reasonable people might differ on this one. Heresy too is a rather strong word uses. I respect that this is a difficult topic to fully understand respect my interlocutors who disagree but some of her terms are not helpful.

      Additional problem is that could not finish the article since I do not subscribe so I don’t know how she ends. Any thoughts?

  12. TeaPot562 says:

    The boxes in our arms analogy is worth recalling, if I ever encounter someone with that question. Thank you for the meditation.
    TeaPot562

  13. Brian Z. says:

    I think one of the best examples of God’s unconditional love is the revolt by Lucifer and the angels. Even though they would not serve and revolted, God did not destroy them. He had them cast out and even allowed them to keep some of their angelic powers (which, from what I understand, depending on which choir they belonged to determined how powerful a demon they became). It seems God sees value in everything he created, even the most evil and repulsive among us. Everything has purpose in his divine plan. That, to me, is unconditional love. Of course, from the demons perspective there are conditions. Since they rejected God completely, they can not take part in what God is or represents. Love, compassion ,charity etc. All that is good and holy they can never know, feel or experience. Their existence is one completely seperate from God just like they wanted. I guess if you love someone you really do let them go, even if you know what awaits is truely horrible. God Bless you Father.

  14. Yan Petrovsky says:

    Unconditional love is an invention of liberal psychology. God’s love is like all his other attributes–infinite. So is His hatred towards sin and sinners that finally do not repent.
    Does God love the devil?
    Does God love those that are in hell?
    Perhaps He does, in some sense difficult to explain; but the more important conclusion to be drawn from the eternal punishment of the damned is that, however great God’s love is (and we may be sure, it is as great as is proper for God, and as great as holiness and rightness would have it to be), it does not avail the damned to be relieved of their suffering.
    Therefore though we may dwell on the wonders of God’s love, and, even though God’s love is the source of our salvation, we should not put the full weight of our reliance upon His love in considering the security of our salvation.
    Unfortunately, thinking of God’s love as being unconditional works that very result. It undermines our efforts to make ourselves worthy of God’s grace. The truth of hell demonstrates, at the very least, that salvation is serious business.

    • Not sure I follow all your reasoning here. I find it similar to some articles I read however. I surely agree with you that there is a mystery to God’s love and we cannot presuppose that He loves in the way we do.

      • Yan Petrovsky says:

        Msgr, which part would you like me to endeavor to clarify?

      • Jan says:

        I think I understand what Yan Petrovsky is saying – that sometimes we are all-too-quick to fall back on a sola fide type belief, and neglecting the works necessary for our salvation. It’s easy to treat God’s love for us as one would a parent’s – when there is so little we could do for them to not love us – and that naturally extends to God, especially in light of the fact that we are told from the time we are little that God loves us even more than our parents do. I also agree that hell being real makes our part in working out our salvation very serious.

        I hope I didn’t misrepresent what you were saying, Yan.

      • Brian Z. says:

        God gives us this time on earth to, basically, show him what makes us happier, life with him or not with him. We can screw up repeatedly but always turn back to God and be forgiven and enter the kingdom of heaven when we die. However, If we are not happy with his way of living and reject it thinking we would be happier doing things differently, God will respect and honor that since what he wants for us is to be happy. After we die, there are only two final choices, heaven or hell. If you reject the Lord on earth then your eternity will be spent in the abyss. God still loves you, after all, he is giving you what you want, a life without him. Even though he may be sad for the choice you have made, he will honor it. However, the judgement is final. Because both heaven and hell are eternal, our choice has to be final with no chance of further redemption. The souls in hell made their choice for all eternity. Think of it as a skating competition. All the time on the ice you prove yourself worthy of the prize. Once the routine is over, you are judged. You can not go back or change anything, it is over and the judgement is final. God Bless.

    • Bender says:

      Well, thankfully, Yan, we are not yet the damned, suffering eternal punishment and beyond hope. The matter of God’s love is still very important to those of us still in this life.

      It is that very love of God, total and undying, which gives us hope — hope that we sinners might still be saved by that love, because this much is certain — there is nothing we can do, there are no efforts we can make, that will ever make us “worthy of God’s grace.” The only thing that makes us worthy of His grace is His unconditional love.

      God’s love is pure gift. That is the nature of love — it is gift. And the nature of gift is that it is freely conveyed. The nature of love is that it is free. Being entirely free, true love is not and cannot be dependent upon or contingent upon or conditioned upon any outside external factors.

      By it’s very nature, true love is unconditional. True love goes beyond and transcends all conditions. Indeed, we see in the total love of God that even the “condition” of prior existence is not necessary because it was by and through such love that God created the universe ex nihilo.

      Do not confuse the matter of God’s love per se, which is the fullness of love, total, noncontingent, and unconditional, with the personal salvation of individual persons, which is an application of God’s love. Forgiveness and salvation are a gift, and to be completed, a gift must be actively received and accepted, but our failure to accept God’s mercy does not destroy or eliminate that mercy. God’s love is not conditioned upon us! We do not have power over God! When we fail to accept or even outright reject God’s love, that love remains there hanging in the air, so to speak. The hand remains extended, if only we would take it. His love is unconditional because He is unconditional. It is our response to that love which is conditional — our enjoyment of that love of God is conditioned upon our accepting it.

      God’s love is unconditional and eternal. There is no point at which Jesus says, “OK, fine, if you won’t accept my love or if you don’t stop sinning, then I’m coming down off the Cross.” His love remains, He stays on the Cross for us, as an act of His undying love, forever, no matter what we do or do not do. Those who made the definitive choice to reject that love and are now “wailing and gnashing their teeth” may no longer be in a position to accept God’s loving offer to be with Him in eternity, but that love endures always.

      • Bender says:

        God is Love.
        God is a non-contingent being, a non-conditional being.
        God is Truth, such that God cannot be contrary to Himself.
        Therefore, the Love of God is non-contingent and unconditional.

      • Yan Petrovsky says:

        Bender, I think you gave us an excellent rule in saying:

        “Do not confuse the matter of God’s love per se, which is the fullness of love, total, noncontingent, and unconditional, with the personal salvation of individual persons, which is an application of God’s love.”

        I also agree that God’s love gives us hope as individuals: “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” In my post however I was concerned that the application of the principle of God’s unconditional love as understood on the level of theology proper is being misapplied in a soteriological context. There is no logical stopping point for unconditional love but universal salvation. If God loves the souls in hell, then why does He not grant them, and the devils, the grace of repentance? Either He does not love them, or the excessive focus upon the love of God without being balanced by representations of the judgment of God is leading people to complacency in our relationship to God: ‘let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.’

        Unconditional love, therefore, is a theologically unfortunate phrase and ought to be permanently done away with, because it misleads souls.

      • Yan, I understand your objections, I think and that of others. I occurs to be that this is a “dangerous teaching” and I have been surprised at how controversial it is. However, This is not a blog post I am willing to die for and admit that there are legitmate concerns about such a position, more than I understood when I posted. However, I want to say that some of the concerns are removed from my actual post and have gone on to argue this issue in the abstract. One thing I would like to recall to you and others is that in my post I do wrestle with two things. First of all that there there is no “slam-dunk” scripture that spells out God’s love as unconditional. I even listed several texts that suggest it is NOT unconditional. Secondly, I tried in my “boxes” analogy to wrestle with the concept that although God’s love may be unconditional for us that does not mean that nothing is required of us or that there aren’t in a very practical sort of way certain “conditions” we must meet. Hence I tried to stake out a middle position of sorts. Anyway, I want to make it clear that I am sympathetic to the concerns you and others raise and that, as anyone who knows me will attest, I am NOT one of these “God is Love, nothing matters everyone goes to heaven” crowd. Neither is Bender nor most of the other regular respondants who read and comment at the blog. You may already know this but I just want to make that point clear. I am wrestling with this concept not making dogmatic assertions about unconditional love. I appreciate your push back and the back and forth that you and bender and Harry and others are having along with me.

  15. Katherine G ERT says:

    I do believe that God unconditionally loves us. Simply put, somebody’s got to, since human nature is too fallen to love unconditionally. I believe that as a human being I cannot truly completely love someone until I fix my own faults and become more like God. Does this mean I can’t love? No. It just means that for the people I do love, yes I do love them, but at times I have a hard time accepting their faults. Jesus obviously loves us for all the terrible things we are capable of doing, or else otherwise he would not have sacrificed himself for us. Would we sacrifice ourselves for someone who constantly judges us and does terrible things to us? As humans, maybe some of us will and maybe some of us won’t. But that has to be a darned good human to sacrifice themselves for enemies. It’s a darned good human that loves their enemies, because I sure don’t love people who are nasty to me! I try to pray for them, but it’s not easy to pray for good things to happen to them. I don’t mind admitting my faults though sometimes this backfires on me when someone decides to use it as ammo in an argument. But those are my thoughts on God and unconditional love.

  16. Nick says:

    I like the picture you posted, it makes me think of Jesus and the good thief.

  17. Bender says:

    If God loves the souls in hell, then why does He not grant them, and the devils, the grace of repentance?

    Because He loves them.

    Love does not force itself on anyone. That would not be love, that would be violence.

    God does not force His love on anyone, God does not force anyone to spend eternity with Him if they do not choose to do so. If someone chooses to reject God, as a matter of love, God will respect that choice.

    • Yan Petrovsky says:

      Bender, I am a little surprised at your response. Without Him, nothing can harmless be in man, as I thought you would acknowledge. It is through the grace of God that we are granted repentance to love God–repentance unto life, I should add; for it is possible that those in hell are repentant, but that their repentance does not avail them to obtain the grace of God unto salvation. Why not?
      At this point I believe you must trust in the greatness of God’s love and His goodness, and understand that His love and goodness are more important than even the salvation of individual creatures. Hell teaches us, I believe, that His good is infinitely more important than even our personal good–yes; infinitely more important than the good of those He loved and died for.

  18. Carmelo Fallace says:

    Msgr. Pope,

    If you contact me at my email, I will be happy to send you the NOR article on “Unconditional Love” or feel free to inform me of another way.

    Carmelo Fallace
    father of seven :)

  19. Rocky says:

    Speaking of God’s unconditional love is all well and good, but one must also consider His justice and holiness.

    For example: “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.” (Deut. 32:4). God’s love is not greater than His justice, nor His justice than His love.

    More importantly, humans do not meet God’s standard of justice: “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.” (Ecc 7:20) “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, . . .” (Rom 3:23) Failure to meet God’s standard, by definition, requires a just penalty: “For the wages of sin is death. . . .” (Rom 6:23a) “. . . the soul who sins shall die.” (Ezek. 18:4)

    Indeed, there is a barrier to receiving the benefits of God’s love – it’s His own standard of justice and perfect righteousness. How do you reconcile God’s inflexible justice with His love?

  20. Bender says:

    How do you reconcile God’s inflexible justice with His love?

    The Cross.

    The justice that is demanded as a consequence of our sin He takes upon Himself.

    Justice is not forgotten, justice is not overlooked, justice is not denied. Justice is meted out on the Cross.

    • Bender says:

      It is on the Cross that Love and Truth, Mercy and Justice, coincide.

      From Pope Benedict’s Message for Lent 2010

      What then is the justice of Christ? Above all, it is the justice that comes from grace, where it is not man who makes amends, heals himself and others. The fact that “expiation” flows from the “blood” of Christ signifies that it is not man’s sacrifices that free him from the weight of his faults, but the loving act of God who opens Himself in the extreme, even to the point of bearing in Himself the “curse” due to man so as to give in return the “blessing” due to God (cf. Gal 3:13-14).

      But this raises an immediate objection: what kind of justice is this where the just man dies for the guilty and the guilty receives in return the blessing due to the just one? Would this not mean that each one receives the contrary of his “due”?

      In reality, here we discover divine justice, which is so profoundly different from its human counterpart. God has paid for us the price of the exchange in His Son, a price that is truly exorbitant. Before the justice of the Cross, man may rebel, for this reveals how man is not a self-sufficient being, but in need of an Other in order to realize himself fully. . . .

      Thanks to Christ’s action, we may enter into the “greatest” justice, which is that of love (cf. Rm 13:8-10), the justice that recognises itself in every case more a debtor than a creditor, because it has received more than could ever have been expected. Strengthened by this very experience, the Christian is moved to contribute to creating just societies, where all receive what is necessary to live according to the dignity proper to the human person and where justice is enlivened by love.

  21. Carmelo Fallace says:

    Msgr. Pope, Here is the whole article on unconditional love:

    New Oxford Review
    Feb 2008

    Is God’s Love Unconditional?

    By Carmelo Fallace

    Is it true that, as many a modern homilist is wont to say, “God’s love is unconditional”? It is true without question that the love of God, as stated in the Old and New Testaments, is rich, it abounds, it fills the earth, is unfailing, is faithful, is steadfast, it endures forever, is great, is higher than the Heavens, it surpasses knowledge, is better than life, etc. It is comforting and reassuring to hope that God’s love is unconditional — and it must be true, otherwise, many priests and homilists wouldn’t say so. Right?

    Let us begin our inquiry by defining our terms. According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary, “unconditional” means not conditional or not limited, but absolute, unqualified. When we add the word “love” to unconditional, it becomes, by definition, love with no conditions, now and forever more. Accordingly then, “unconditional love” means that no matter what we do or don’t do, we will continue to be loved in exactly the same way. In other words, unconditional love means, as far as God is concerned, that whatever we do — good or bad — does not matter, and we can expect God to love us the same as He always has.

    Many claim that “unconditional love,” or something similar, has a biblical basis, that it is written or implied in the Bible, or perhaps in some other Church document. But of the more than 800 instances of “love” in the Bible, none states or implies that God’s love is unconditional. Furthermore, there is no official Church document that uses the word “unconditional” to describe God’s love. There must be some mistake! some might demur. How could this be? Yes, there has been an enormous mistake, but it is not in the Bible or Church documents. The real mistake regarding unconditional love has been made by those dissenting and rebellious teachers who try to appear more loving and compassionate than God and His Church. And these imposters have succeeded in attracting good Catholics to follow them into a fantasy world where the only reward is endless misery in the deepest furnace below.

    If there is any doubt, ask anyone who spreads this false teaching to show you the evidence that God’s love is unconditional, chapter and verse, please — or to provide the proper citation in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or any other official Church document. But do not take anyone’s word for it. Neither be deceived by the argument that such-and-such a book explains God’s unconditional love in detail. False beliefs have been used by God’s enemies since the time of the Apostles, and have usually, if not always, originated from Catholic people, often from priests and even bishops. Recall the words of St. Paul: “There are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed!” (Gal. 1:7-9).

    Let us look at what God loves, then at what He does not love. According to Scripture, God loves:
    - His servants who are faithful (1 Kgs. 8:23)
    - Those who trust in Him (Ps. 32:10)
    - Justice (Ps. 37:28)
    - The righteous (Ps. 146:8)
    - He who pursues righteousness (Prov. 15:9)
    - Those who love Him (Dan. 9:4)
    - Those who keep His commandments (Dan. 9:4)
    - His Son Jesus (Mt. 3:17)
    - Those who show their love for Jesus is genuine by obeying His teachings (Jn. 14:21-23)
    - His sons through Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:4-5)
    - A cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7)
    - Those for whom He gave up His life as a sacrificial offering (Eph. 5:2)
    - His children who act in righteousness and love their brothers (1 Jn. 3:1,10)
    - Those who have been called (Jude 1:1)
    - Those kept safe for Jesus Christ (Jude 1:1)
    - Those He has freed from sin by His blood (Rev. 1:5)
    - Those He has made priests for His Kingdom (Rev. 1:6)
    - Those He reproves and chastens (Rev. 3:19)
    Instead of mentioning so many different qualifiers, why does the Bible not say that God loves everyone, regardless of what they have said or done? The reason, it seems, that God did not make such a blanket statement is because He does not love everyone — precisely because of what they have said or done. If Scripture had made only a blanket statement, that could possibly indicate that God’s love is unconditional. Unfortunately, for all of us, the whole truth is that nowhere does the Bible state as much, or anything close to it.

    Now, let us examine what God does not love. The Bible has 137 references to hate, but we will use only those pertaining to our discussion of the things God hates. For example:
    - Wickedness (Heb. 1:9)
    - Seeing His people worship other gods (Jer. 44:3-4)
    - The burning of sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to gods (Deut. 12:31)
    - Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, false witnesses, a man who stirs up dissensions (Prov. 6:16-19)
    - He who plots evil against his neighbor and he who swears falsely (Zec. 8:17)
    - Robbery and iniquity (Is. 61:8)
    - Divorce (Mal. 2:16; see also Mt. 5:31-32, 19:3-9; Lk. 16:18; 1 Cor. 7:10-11)
    - The practices of the Nicolaitans (imposters) (Rev. 2:6)
    - Esau (Mal. 1:3; Rom. 9:13)
    - The wicked person and all who do evil (Ps. 5:5)
    - Those who love violence (Ps. 11:5)
    It may astound some to learn that the “God of love” hates some people for any number of good reasons. But does God ever love someone today and hate him tomorrow? Again, let us look at Scripture. In Jeremiah 16:5, God says, “I have withdrawn my blessing, my love, and my pity from this people.” In Hosea 1:6, the Lord says, “I will no longer show love to the house of Israel, that I should at all forgive them.” Again, in Hosea 9:15, “Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal, I hated them there. Because of their sinful deeds, I will drive them out of my house. I will no longer love them; all their leaders are rebellious.”

    And, in 1 Samuel, although King Saul had been anointed by God, when Saul disobeyed Him, God took away His love from Saul, and he died ignominiously by his own hand on the battlefield.

    So, what does all this mean to us today? It means the same as it has always meant, that God says to us, Here is what I expect of you, and in return, here is what I will give to you. If we fulfill our part of the contract, He will fulfill His. That condition includes God’s mercy for us, as He says, “You shall therefore carefully observe the commandments, the statutes and the decrees which I enjoin on you today. As your reward for heeding these decrees and observing them carefully, the Lord, your God, will keep with you the merciful covenant which he promised on oath to your fathers” (Deut. 7:11-12).

    But, one might argue, doesn’t St. Paul state that nothing can separate us from the love of God? St. Paul says, “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?… No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35, 37-39).

    Paul here lists the things that cannot separate us from God’s love. But is there anything or anyone that can separate us from the love of God? Yes. Only we, as individuals, can separate ourselves from God! Even God will not interfere with our choices — though our choices may take us to Hell. It is true that God respects our choices, but His Law says that for every action by us, there is a reaction from Him, as history and Scripture indicate. We can restore God’s love only by repentance and conversion to His ways. As Jesus said, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (Jn. 15:9-12; italics added).

    St. Jude echoes this: “Keep yourselves in God’s love” (1:21-23). St. Jude reminds us that God’s love is assured if we obey His commandments. Of course, everyone of good will hopes that our joy will be complete some day, but it cannot happen without observing God’s commandments — that is the condition for His eternal love.

    Therefore, when we go astray and sin, we must repent sooner rather than later, make use of the Sacrament of Confession, and then, if we are truly repentant, He will forgive our sins, for St. John says, “If we acknowledge our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. If we say, ‘We have not sinned,’ we make Him [Jesus] a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:9-10).

    He will always forgive us, if we are repentant. Only the God of love can do that for those who have chosen to be His people.

    The Long Island Catholic, the official paper of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., published a column by Msgr. James McNamara (March 28, 2007), in which the phrase “unconditional love” was used several times. I responded to Msgr. McNamara’s column in a letter to the editor (April 4, 2007), challenging him to provide the biblical or other official Church reference indicating that God’s love is unconditional. Amazingly, Msgr. McNamara responded in the same issue that “…The writer [Mr. Fallace] is correct,” and repentance is required to be forgiven by God. Nevertheless, Msgr. McNamara still insisted that “God’s love is unconditional.” But is repentance not itself a condition?

    God’s love is conditional upon the following of His commandments. When we fail, God may withdraw His love from us. But we may restore God’s love only by repentance. Is not repentance what Satan and his devils refused to do? Will He not be as just with us for our lack of repentance? He will demand true repentance on our part for every sin we have committed.

    God’s love, then, should be considered conditional upon repentance. What follows is a partial list that should be more than enough to confirm that God insists on our repentance before He forgives us, and that we must ask for it each time we sin and before we die:
    - “People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him [John the Baptist] and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins” (Mk. 1:5)
    - Jesus said, “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you too will all perish” (Lk. 13:3)
    - St. Peter said, “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19)
    - “You overlook the sins of men that they may repent” (Wisd. 11:24)
    - St. Paul said, “I preached the need to repent and turn to God, and to do works giving evidence of repentance” (Acts 26:20)
    - “For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’ So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:11-12)
    - “No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account” (Heb. 4:13)
    If the “unconditional love of God” is a fallacy, why do so many clergy and laity seem eager to proclaim it? That they persist in proclaiming something contrary to Church teaching could indicate a heretical or rebellious attitude on their part. Such attitudes can be very dangerous to these people and to those who hear them proclaim mistaken religious beliefs. God has said, “If I tell the wicked man that he shall surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked man from his way, he [the wicked man] shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked man, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself” (Ezek. 33:8-9).

    Jesus Christ reiterated this when He said, “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” (Lk. 17:1-3; italics added).

    So God’s love is not unconditional. If God’s love were unconditional, there would be no Hell and all the unrepentant sinners, no matter how evil, would go to Heaven. So, what is God’s love if it’s not unconditional? It is covenantal. This means that if we want to continue to experience His love, we have to meet His conditions. God’s love is eternal, it is constant, but He makes it absolutely clear what He loves and what He hates, and whom He loves and whom He hates. That God’s love is unconditional is a modern deception invented by the devil; it is designed to blur our vision so that we can join him in the underworld.

    As individuals we have to choose one of two options. Either we choose to accept, follow, and obey the god of the modern secular culture, or we choose to accept, follow, and obey the God of the Bible as taught by the official teaching of the Catholic Church. Are these not the only two choices in life?

    In paragraph 33 of Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (“The Sacrament of Love,” Feb. 22, 2007), he explains very clearly that “Mary of Nazareth appears as someone whose freedom is completely open to God’s will. Her immaculate conception is revealed precisely in her unconditional docility to God’s word. Obedient faith in response to God’s word shapes her life at every moment…. She is the Immaculata, who receives God’s gift unconditionally and is thus associated with his work of salvation. Mary of Nazareth, icon of the nascent Church, is the model for each of us, called to receive the gift that Jesus makes of himself in the Eucharist” (#33).

    On February 2, 2007, Pope Benedict addressed the 11th annual World Day of Consecrated Life. His speech included a passage on unconditional love and its application: “Consecrated life, therefore, is by its nature a total and definitive, unconditional and passionate response to God.”

    The Pope has indicated the proper use of the word “unconditional”: Unconditional love is the relationship we must have toward God — not God toward us. Furthermore, because He is the Creator and we are the created, we are His servants and He is our Master — and He owes us nothing.

    Let us pray for our proper response to God’s love:

    O God our Father, let our Christian hope to be with You in Heaven open our minds, decrease our pride, and encourage us to obey Your will. Help us to follow the example of Mary who finished the race and won the prize of Your true love. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

    Carmelo Fallace, the author of several books on family life issues and past director of Natural Family Planning and associate director of Marriage Preparation for the Archdiocese of New York, is the Editor of Catholic Family Life Messenger (CFLM), from which this article was adapted with permission (April-May 2007). He and his wife have seven children and 20 grandchildren.

    • Thanks for posting this. I think it is a well written article that states his points well. The tone of it leaves me a bit turned off. I don’t know if he needs to denounce his opponents in this matter with such strong language since this is a matter that is open for some discussion. It is not under anathema. There may be some error involved on the part of those who use the word unconditional but I think most of it is well intentioned and does not seek to deny that there are consequensces for disobedience etc. My own position for example posits that there is a Hell and that people are actually there, probably in large numbers. But I think that God does still love them and the fact that they still exist and are sustained by him is evidince of that love. Nevertheless I remain respectful of those who disagree with the use of the word unconditional and accept that there is a possible danger in asserting this notion. Thanks again for posting.

  22. Bender says:

    God’s love is conditional upon the following of His commandments.

    Then why the love that is the Cross?

    The very reason for, the very purpose of, the Cross is because people do NOT follow the commandments.

    Msgr. McNamara still insisted that “God’s love is unconditional.” But is repentance not itself a condition?

    There can be nothing to repent to, if that love of God is not already there.

    It is the love of God that is the condition precedent to repentence and conversion, not vice versa.

    There is nothing you can do to make God stop loving you. You do not have that power over Him. There is no sin so great that He will not forgive it. The only “unforgiveable” sin is the refusal to accept His forgiveness, and He will not forgive such a sin, not because it is so “serious” and “offensive,” but because, by its very nature, forgiveness must been accepted to be completed. That is not a condition on His love, that is a condition on YOU.

    And you can accept His love only because it is already there. If the love of God was not already there, despite all of our imperfections and sinfulness, there would be nothing there for us to accept. You are not the one who initiates the transaction of love, He is.

    When Jesus says to forgive, to be merciful, when he says to love not merely those who love you back, but to even love your enemies, to love those who hate you and seek to persecute you and destroy you, He is not commanding us to exhibit a greater love than He Himself gives, He does not tell us to be more perfect in love than God. Rather, He tells us to be perfect, just as our Father in heaven is perfect — perfect in love as He is perfect in all things. Being perfect in love, He even loves His enemies. He is even willing to be horribly tortured and to give His life for His enemies, for those who hate Him and even kill Him.

    The Love that is the Cross — self-sacrificing agape — is self-evidently unconditional, notwithstanding the authority of Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.

    I don’t know if some would call him a “dissenting and rebellious teacher,” but Pope Benedict has been abundantly clear regarding the fullness of the Love of God, for example in this message
    The manifestation of divine love is total and perfect in the Cross where, we are told by Saint Paul, “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Rm 5:8). Therefore, each one of us can truly say: “Christ loved me and gave himself up for me” (cf Eph 5:2). Redeemed by his blood, no human life is useless or of little value, because each of us is loved personally by Him with a passionate and faithful love, a love without limits. . . . the innovation introduced by Christ is the fact that to love as he loves us means loving everyone without distinction, even our enemies, “to the end” (cf Jn 13:1).

    A love “without limits,” that is, unlimited, that is without any limit, including the limit of a prior condition.
    To love as He loves us means loving everyone without distinction, even our enemies, “to the end.” Without distinction, any distinction, even the distinction that is a prior condition.

    There is no definitive evidence that the love of God is uncondtional?? The entirety of Salvation History is proof of this beyond any and all reasonable doubt! The fact that He still loves mankind after all the evil we have done makes that plain.

    • Bender says:

      **Msgr. McNamara still insisted that “God’s love is unconditional.” But is repentance not itself a condition?**

      There can be nothing to repent to, if that love of God is not already there.
      It is the love of God that is the condition precedent to repentence and conversion, not vice versa.

      I should be clearer here — It is only by grace — the pre-existing love of God — that we are able to repent in the first place.

  23. LL says:

    Dear Monsignour,
    I fell behind on reading your articles, and clearly you have moved on to other subjects, so I am not sure you will even get this question, but I have to ask it, just the same.
    I was asked a question by a friend who is, among other things, a well-read agnostic. She says the God of the old Testament is always telling the Children of Israel to smote this or that group.
    My friend wants to know how God could change so much between the Old and the New Testaments. Your article touches on this change by offering the metaphor that with Jesus came our opportunity to set our load down and accept God’s abundance. Prayer has taught me this is more than words, but how do I communicate this to someone who is just looking at the internal seeming lack of logic between the Old and New Testament’s description of God.
    I was given a thought at a Holy Hour that God changed when he had a Son, the way we change when we have children. We become a lot more invested in goodness and love and the expression of love and the instilling of virtue. But again, I have 6 kids, and my friend is an Archaeologist with a PhD. I have a B.A. and read as much good stuff as I have time for. ( C.S Lewis, Peter Kreeft, books on the Saints and the really good blogs! )
    I have this instinct that my friend would love to work through her objections and feel God’s love, but I don’t know if my explanation is even apt for Catholics.
    I sent her C.S. Lewis’ Surprised By Joy – one classics scholar to another, working out the logic of conversion on an intellectual level – but how would you explain the change in God’s demeanor from Old to New Testament, and can you suggest an even better book?
    Thanks, as always, for your refreshing articles,
    LL

  24. Bender says:

    The real mistake regarding unconditional love has been made by those dissenting and rebellious teachers who try to appear more loving and compassionate than God and His Church. . . . If there is any doubt, ask anyone who spreads this false teaching to show you the evidence that God’s love is unconditional, chapter and verse, please — or to provide the proper citation in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or any other official Church document.

    I really cannot let this go unchallenged because it goes WAY too far in the extreme. The only way that one could not find Magisterial authority for the proposition is if he refused to see it.

    But if it really is necessary to find some papal pronouncement that uses the actual word “unconditional,” notwithstanding the countless teachings from the popes that the love of God is unending (which logically means it is unconditional), very well. A two-minute Google search came up with this from Venerable Pope John Paul II, which I chose from many, many examples because it is quite concise and lovely –

    God loves you! God loves you all, without distinction, without limit. He loves those of you who are elderly, who feel the burden of the years. He loves those of you who are sick, those who are suffering from AIDS and from AIDS-Related Complex. He loves the relatives and friends of the sick and those who care for them. He loves us all with an unconditional and everlasting love.

    Earlier in his remarks, His Holiness shares some beautiful reflections on the love of God –
    I wish to speak to you about the all-embracing love of God. Saint John says: “Love, then, consists in this: not that we have loved God but that he has loved us and has sent his Son as an offering for our sins” (1Io. 4, 10). God’s love for us is freely given and unearned, surpassing all we could ever hope for or imagine. He does not love us because we have merited it or are worthy of it. God loves us, rather, because he is true to his own nature. As Saint John puts it, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (Ibid. 4, 16).

    The greatest proof of God’s love is shown in the fact that he loves us in our human condition, with our weaknesses and our needs. Nothing else can explain the mystery of the Cross. . . . The love of Christ is more powerful than sin and death. Saint Paul explains that Christ came to forgive sin, and that his love is greater than any sin, stronger than all my personal sins or those of anyone else. This is the faith of the Church. This is the Good News of God’s love that the Church proclaims throughout history, and that I proclaim to you today: God loves you with an everlasting love. He loves you in Christ Jesus, his Son.

    This is the faith of the Church, this is the Good News. This is what makes the “News” so “Good” — that God loves us period. Everlasting. All-embracing. Unconditional.

    For someone to pronounce that God’s love is not unconditional, that there are conditions to God loving you, that is not “good news,” that is bad news. It is bad news because none of us can ever meet the requisite conditions. And if we could meet those conditions by our own efforts, then the Cross would not have been necessary. And if God loves some of us, and not others of us, notwithstanding that we are all sinners, then God is an arbitrary God. None of that would be good news.

    And then, of course, there is the Encyclical <a href="http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20071130_spe-salvi_en.html"Spe Salvi, by Pope Benedict, which utilizes the requisite term –
    26. It is not science that redeems man: man is redeemed by love. This applies even in terms of this present world. When someone has the experience of a great love in his life, this is a moment of “redemption” which gives a new meaning to his life. But soon he will also realize that the love bestowed upon him cannot by itself resolve the question of his life. It is a love that remains fragile. It can be destroyed by death. The human being needs unconditional love. He needs the certainty which makes him say: “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38- 39). If this absolute love exists, with its absolute certainty, then—only then—is man “redeemed”, whatever should happen to him in his particular circumstances. This is what it means to say: Jesus Christ has “redeemed” us. . . .

    27. In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf. Eph 2:12). Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God—God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” until all “is accomplished” (cf. Jn 13:1 and 19:30).

    Here, “the Pope has indicated the proper use of the word ‘unconditional’:” It is because the love of God is unconditional — and precisely because of that, that man has hope. The human being “needs unconditional love,” and God provides him what he needs.

  25. Carmelo Fallace says:

    Msgr. Pope,
    Thank you very much for your kind critique of my article. However, would it be possible to indicate the sentences that illustrate your objections when you say, “The tone of it leaves me a bit turned off. I don’t know if he needs to denounce his opponents in this matter with such strong language since this is a matter that is open for some discussion.” Msgr., it would be of great help to me and others if you would show me the specifics text that turned you off. Also, I fail to see how unconditional love could possibly be a light matter, for it could deceive many to end in Hell, regardless of God’s continued love for the poor souls there. By the way, Msgr. James McNamara seems to have redirected his thinking from 2007 (cf. TLIC 11-25-09) on unconditional love. Thanks be to God.

    • A few of the following things felt heavy handed to me:
      1. Your reference to those who think God’s love is unconditional as dissenting and rebellious teachers
      2. Your reference to those who think God’s love is unconditional as imposters
      3. Your linking of those who think God’s love is unconditional to God’s enemies

      As I stated I think you have presented a very good critique and caustion to the t=use of the phrase unconditional love. However, I think your premise may be too strong wherein you link the position to an attitude that nothing really matters, everyone is saved, God would never punish, God loves me just the way I am and so forth. In my rather brief blog I try to argue that any notion of unconditional love does not preclude the reality of hell, punishment and the like. I would conclude that God no longer loves the souls in hell. I think his love remains and that explains their continued existence rather than their anhiliation. In my blog posts over the past year I have continually defended the Biblical and Church teachings that warn of punisment, teach of hell and of God’s wrath. God is no lolipop King. You also set this forth well in your article. There are consequences for sin, even eternal consequences. I just don’t conclude that those who incur such things lack God’s love. I conclude rather that they have refused it and that God respects their free choice. The result is the same for both of us Carmello. I think we agree on the end results but it looks like we don’t agree on the fact that God still loves even unrepentant sinners and/or the souls in Hell. I know of only three time in Scripture where God is said to hate people (Ps 5:5; 11:5; and Mal 1″3/Rom 9:13) but the usual practice is the practices of the wicked are condemned. Further, the Esau text could be understood as a hebraicism wherein God is saying he loved Jacob more. In end I want to accept Jesus’ admonishment to love our enemies in imitation of God who sends his blessings upon the good and and alike as the most trustworthy proclamation of the matter. If Psalm 5:5 and 11:5 are really true that God hates the wicked in an unqulified and absolute sense then you and I don’t stand a chance because we too are numbered among the wicked, only God is fully holy.

      At any rate Carmello you argue well for your point and I what I most take away from this discussion is that the use of the phrase Unconditional love must be used carefully and with proper distinctions. However I would not go so far as to use terminology such as you used in 1-3 above.

  26. Carmelo Fallace says:

    On April 4, 2007, (TLIC), I expressed my hope that someday the Holy Father will make a statement regarding unconditional love. Perhaps, on April 15, 2010, the Holy Father did exactly what I could not imagine in my lifetime when he said:.

    “There is an exegetical trend that states that in Galilee Jesus would have proclaimed a grace without conditions, absolutely unconditional, therefore also without penitence, grace as such, without human preconditions.
    But this is a false interpretation of grace. Repentance is grace; it is a grace that we recognize our sin; it is a grace that we realize the need for renewal, for change, for the transformation of our being. Repentance the capacity to be penitent, is a gift of grace. And I must say that we Christians, even in recent times, have often avoided the word penitence it seemed to us too difficult.”

    For the full text, go to:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20100415_pcb_en.html

    Perhaps, my tone was not so heavy handed in my reply above (February 26, 2010) .

  27. Carmelo Fallace says:

    On April 15, 2010, the Holy Father did exactly what I could not imagine in my lifetime when he said:

    “There is an exegetical trend that states that in Galilee Jesus would have proclaimed a grace without conditions, absolutely unconditional, therefore also without penitence, grace as such, without human preconditions.
    But this is a false interpretation of grace. Repen-tance is grace; it is a grace that we recognize our sin; it is a grace that we realize the need for renewal, for change, for the transformation of our being. Repentance the capacity to be penitent, is a gift of grace. And I must say that we Christians, even in recent times, have often avoided the word penitence it seemed to us too difficult.”

    The full text is at:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20100415_pcb_en.html

    This is unbelivable to both sides of the argument. Dear Pope Benedict XVI, I thank you.

  28. Carmelo Fallace says:

    On April 15, 2010, the Holy Father did exactly what I could not imagine in my lifetime when he said:

    “There is an exegetical trend that states that in Galilee Jesus would have proclaimed a grace without conditions, absolutely unconditional, therefore also without penitence, grace as such, without human preconditions.
    But this is a false interpretation of grace. Repen-tance is grace; it is a grace that we recognize our sin; it is a grace that we realize the need for renewal, for change, for the transformation of our being. Repentance the capacity to be penitent, is a gift of grace. And I must say that we Christians, even in recent times, have often avoided the word penitence it seemed to us too difficult.”

    For the full text, go to:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20100415_pcb_en.html

    This is a shock to both sides of the argument. Dear Pope Benedict XVI, thank you for your great courage.

  29. Hambydammit says:

    Pssst…

    God’s “Unconditional” offer is using the form of the word that means “without terms.”
    When I report that I am carrying boxes, I am referring to my “Condition” as a state of being.

    They are two different words. They’re just spelled the same.

    Priest: Here’s fifty million dollars. You can have it unconditionally. (Without terms)
    Me: Ok. Just set it down on top of these books I’m carrying, please. (I am in a state of carrying books)
    Priest: NO!!!! You can only have it if you take it from my hands. (With terms)

    If there are no terms, the priest should be perfectly happy setting the money in front of me. Or letting my brother Bob place it on top of the books I’m carrying. It doesn’t matter. Because there are no terms. Here’s the full version of the story: http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/unconditional-it-means-something-else/

  30. Lois says:

    According to Jesus, you must demonstrate your love for him by obeying him. This is not love, this slavery. I love lots of people, but I’m not going to obey their every whim and desire–nor will they bow to MY every demand. Real friendship is a give-and-take relationship between two or more people who have mutual love and respect for each other. Slaves and masters can never have that kind of relationship. I cannot see how Jesus’ statement, “If you love me, you will obey me,” is anything but the demand of a cult leader wanting absolute control over his subjects–especially when combined with all the New Testament passages describing Christians as “sheep” and “slaves of Christ.” These are not respectful terms. Sheep end up in the slaughterhouse, and slaves are owned like property. I don’t understand why I should want the love of a God who only regards me as something to be bought, sold, and disposed of on a whim.

    • You seem to misunderstand the the concept of obedience which is the fruit of love not the cause of it. The concept of slavery is analogical and hyperbolic. Further the texts that speak of slavery must be balanced with other texts where the Lord says he does not call us slaves but friends etc. A certain sophistication is necessary when reading any text rather than a mechanistic reading of it. You would probably apply such a method in just about any other text from Shakespeare to more modern authors. Yet it seems when it comes to scripture many wish to crudely tear verses out of context and without reference to the wider work and make the one verse the whole thing. That is also not a very “respectful” thing to do.

      Curious the way this rather old post has lit up recently. I suppose it has been referenced by some other blog? If so that blog would seem to be opposed to things Christian, or pertaining to belief? At any rate, please be aware that this blog covers a wide range of topics that seek to balance an over-all understanding of the faith which is multi-faceted.

  31. Yah... says:

    Are you trolling Msgr? Have I been misinformed by the word unconditional? The “two heavy boxes” is a very weak example. You also failed to note that if I do not accept his $50 million, I will go to hell for all eternity.

    Where is the love in keeping you alive in hell? It is a lot better to just cease existing than suffer eternal torment. Is that his way of showing love? Let me put a good example. I will let some bad people torture you and your family for your mistakes. They will rape your children, slice them up, but since I LOVE YOU, I will keep them alive, to be tortured again. And you can multiply this example to a trillion, zillion, quantillion whatever illion times and it still doesn’t fit eternity. Do you think I love you?

    • One need not presume that hell is as you describe it. It will be granted that the biblical descriptions of hell speak of fire but such a description is analogical. I might suggest you take this matter up with God. In my own discussion with the Lord this is what he has said. Perhaps the Lord with give you a view you can accept and understand better than mine.

      Not sure what the word “trolling” means.

  32. Bender says:

    “If you love me, you will obey me”

    Actually, what Jesus said is that if you love Him, you will love Him. To love someone is to want to follow them, to want to please them.

    But if we must talk of slavery, Jesus actually is the one who leads us out of the bondage of slavery.

    “Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, ‘If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” John 8:31-32

    Jesus does not call us to be slaves. Quite to the contrary, He calls us to freedom. In fact, He calls us to such a radical and pure and total freedom — freedom in truth — that many people reject it, preferring their chains and slavery to error and passion and wordly desires instead.

  33. Bender says:

    I will let some bad people torture you and your family for your mistakes. They will rape your children, slice them up [and] I will keep them alive, to be tortured again

    Would you say that what you have described is an act of love? From your remarks, I take it that you would say that this is NOT love.

    Well, God is love.
    And if this is not love, then logically, this does not describe God, does it?

    Your argument collapses in on itself.

  34. If God's love is unconditional, why did He create Hell? Everything we do has conditions & the bible has a lot of verbs. Faith without works is dead. Jesus said; "Not everyone who says, Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven but he that does the says:

    I am a 64 year old cradle Catholic that has attended 16 years of a Catholic education & never remembered a nun or priest, mentioning that God’s love is unconditional. It is a false premise & I don’t appreciate being lied to. It is non biblical & is synonymous with John Calvin’s belief; once saved, always saved & justification by faith alone which are non biblical. It is time to be real & not stretch for something that isn’t true. Focus more on the truth. Thanks

    • Read some of the comments, among them is a quote from Pope Benedict. As a 50 year old cradle Catholic I am not lying either. By the way, I am sure John Calvin would be more of your persuasion than mine. Any way JPmayer, God loves you and so do I and there’s nothing you can do about it! :-)

  35. Alycia says:

    If God’s love is not equal to all, then how does God’s love work in regards to loving a person more or less? I have been told that religious for example are loved more than lay people. I don’t understand how God is being truly loving if he is making such distinctions among His people.

  36. phoenix says:

    Welp, you yourself start off stating you ‘want’ to say God’s love is unconditional, but immediately have to acknowledge there are myriad problems associated with making that assertion.

    For many, to take the unconditional love assertion literally is to to run the serious risk of losing God since in the end we are to be judged. Do you follow me here? It’s like God’s love is unconditional in the abstract, but in real life terms for fallen sinners, keeping it or losing it has everything to do with meeting the conditions He set forth, so I perceive it as misleading to give the impression that God’s love is unconditional FOR US IN THE HERE AND NOW when it clearly isn’t.

    In point of fact, for fallen sinners like ourselves, permanently attaining God’s love is profoundly conditional. He Himself had to become a man to die for our sins, and even that only took care of establishing the POSSIBILITY of attaining eternal life again, not to be confused with providing any sort of unconditional assurance.

    I’m not trying to give you a hard time here. I just don’t see how you can profess that God’s love for us is unconditional since The Fall in the face of all that. I have no problem conceptualizing unconditional love before The Fall, but not after – it permanently changed everything for those of us in this world for as long as it exists.

  37. phoenix says:

    Father, just thought of something very important to me I need to add. If it’s an article of faith that we believe God’s love is unconditional for fallen sinners even in this life, I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know because I’ll believe it purely on faith then.

    For many years I was a wayward son, but since that time have started developing an ever deepening appreciation for God’s love – be it conditional, unconditional, whatever, it doesn’t matter.

    I just don’t want to displease Him because that causes me real sorrow now, and because at the very least He deserves genuine faith in His goodness from His creatures. Thank you.

Leave a Reply