To answer that question in short hand, the answer is: No. God’s Love and Acceptance are far from “Unconditional.” I will freely say, They both are unmerited (at least on the part of the one who receives them, but that is due in whole because of the price paid in order to obtain them, which was in no way without conditions, in fact, the conditions were the heaviest and the highest ever paid by any person in any universe in all of creation, and yes, in receiving them there are also a number of specific and necessary conditions that need to be met, according to Jesus’ own words.
The article below explains why.
I did something I rarely do, I included the comments that have been shared, because they are unusually perceptive, and I hope helpful to see both sides of this discussion.
Normally, I would like in my review of an article I would like to share my concerns and such, but in this case, I feel it is best such to share the whole article as it is, and let it speak for itself.
Is God’s Love and Acceptance
Eph. 1:6 — To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.
Note: The term “unconditional love” is not found in Scripture; none of the church fathers ever used the term; nor did any other Christian author before the 20th century. Ironically, far from being a Biblical term it was actually coined by Erich Fromm, an atheist, in 1934. He rejected all forms of authoritarian government including God’s. Not only did he not see God’s love as unconditional He portrayed the God of the Old Testament as a self-seeking authoritarian. As an atheist he argued against the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
Among the stellar emotional needs of humanistic psychology are unconditional acceptance, unconditional self-regard, unconditional self-acceptance, and unconditional love. The usual meaning of the word unconditional is “without conditions or reservations; absolute.” The practical extension of the theories of unconditional love is a permissive attitude and a morally nonrestrictive atmosphere. That means no conditions or restrictions in child rearing, counseling, and other human relationships. It must be an absolute love, unrestricted by human feelings or failings, since the very meaning of the word is “absolute.”
But, if there is any absolute when it comes to love, it is that human love is limited. It is not what it was originally created to be, even in the best of people and circumstances, except when Jesus Himself is loving in and through a person.
Humanistic psychologists Alfred Adler and Abraham Maslow considered these “unconditionals” to be basic human needs, essential to a person’s sense of well-being. They taught that people need to be loved and accepted unconditionally — without any conditions of performance. Thus, their followers also teach and encourage all people to love and accept themselves unconditionally.
Men such as Adler, Maslow, and Rogers believed that a human being would find answers to his own dilemmas and naturally blossom into his best self in an atmosphere of unconditional love and acceptance (by which they meant a permissive, unstructured atmosphere). Nevertheless, as much as they would like to think that they themselves loved their clients unconditionally, the truth of the matter is this: people are NOT able to love unconditionally.
“Unconditional love is a myth.”
Unconditional love is a myth.
That is because humans are naturally self-biased and the human heart is so deceitful that one can fool himself into thinking that he is loving unconditionally, when in fact he has all kinds of conditions. For instance, what kind of “unconditional” love is at work when the psychiatrist’s client can no longer pay for services and therapy is discontinued?
Unconditional love cannot be based upon performance or it wouldn’t be unconditional. Therefore, it must be based on the intrinsic worth of the person. Paul Brownback, in his book The Danger of Self-Love, explains it this way:
“… by unconditional love we are speaking of love on the basis of being rather than doing. One implication of this teaching is the place of grandeur that it gives to the human being. I am lovable just because I am human; therefore being human, in and of itself, regardless of what I do with my humanness, must have some sort of independent value or worth. It is by itself a sufficient claim to respect and esteem” (p. 66).
Thus, according to the self theories, everyone is born with the right to receive unconditional love and unconditional acceptance throughout his entire life, no matter what!
James Dobson, one of the chief proponents of unconditional love, believes that all people need it. Dobson declares: “I’m convinced the human spirit craves this kind of unconditional love and experiences something akin to ‘soul hunger’ when it cannot be achieved.” Then as an extra bonus, Dobson brings God in as the primary person who gives this unconditional love and acceptance — he says “God’s acceptance is unconditional.” Dobson is not alone in that conclusion. A host of well-respected professing Christian leaders describe God’s love as unconditional.
Pastors should have been alert to the subtleties of deception that would turn a believer’s eyes from God to self. But alas, rather than warning the sheep, many of the “shepherds” have joined the psychologists and embrace their teachings of unconditional love and acceptance.
The basis for their eager embrace is a misunderstanding of “the love of Christ which passeth knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). They equate unconditional love and acceptance with the fact that God’s love is vast, unfathomable, and unmerited. Then they follow that with the idea that if God loves and accepts people unconditionally, they should also love and accept themselves unconditionally. While this may sound like a logical progression, there are some serious problems with the basic assumptions.
Therefore, we must address the question: Is God’s love unconditional? Or are there any conditions that must be met to become a recipient of His love?
Paul prayed that the believers in Ephesus would be able to comprehend the length, width, depth, and height of God’s love. He desired that they know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge, so that they would be filled with the fullness of God (Eph. 3:16-19). The wide expanse of God’s love has been the theme of the gospel throughout the ages, for to know His love is to know Him. Therefore, any consideration of His love is highly important and must be based upon His revelation of Himself rather than upon the imagination of men.
Love According to Secular Humanism
Ever since the rise of secular humanism in this country, and especially since the establishment of humanistic psychology, the popular, “relevant” term to describe God’s love has been unconditional. The thrust of this word in humanistic psychology has been both to give and to expect unconditional love from one another with no strings attached. While unconditional love and acceptance supposedly promote change and growth, they make no requirements. But God, who is love, requires change and enables his children to grow in righteousness.
In humanistic psychology, parents and society are always the culprits. Since they believe that every person is born with intrinsic worth and innate goodness, psychologists contend that one main reason people experience emotional and behavioral problems is because they have not received unconditional love from their parents. Following that thesis, Christians have come to believe that the best kind of love is unconditional love. It is the highest love secular humanists know. It is touted as a love that makes no demands for performance, good behavior, or the like. It has also been associated with a kind of permissiveness, since it makes no demands and has no conditions, even though the promoters of the unconditional love jargon would say that unconditional love does not have to dispense with discipline.
God’s Love Revealed through Scripture
Because the concept of unconditional love permeates society and because it is often thought of as the highest form of human love, it is natural for a Christian to mistakenly use this term to describe God. After all, His love is far greater than any human love imaginable. God’s love for humanity is so great that “He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Oh, the magnitude of the cost! We cannot even fathom His love even though our very breath depends upon it! His love indeed reaches to the heights and depths. But again, is God’s love truly unconditional?
God’s love is available to human beings by grace alone. There is nothing that men can do to earn that love. There is no good work that is either demanded or even possible. But does that make God’s love unconditional? “That whosoever will” is most certainly not a work, but it is a condition. Otherwise we would end up with universalism (all people saved) rather than salvation by grace received through faith.
God chooses upon whom He will place His love and the benefits of His love. Did Jesus ever imply that God’s love is unconditional? He said to His disciples:
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).
One might argue that the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11ff) proves unconditional love (as Charles Stanley teaches). It indeed illustrates the vastness of God’s love, forgiveness, and longsuffering. However, the son repented! If he had a prosperous evil life he may never have repented. And while the father would have waited and hoped, he would not have extended his love. After all, he did not go out searching for him to support his folly.
Up to a point, this seems to indicate unconditional love, and yet, God is not waiting in ignorance, not knowing what those for whom His Son died might be doing. It is difficult enough to understand God’s love without adding the term unconditional love which is loaded with secular, humanistic, psychological connotations. The story of the prodigal son teaches grace, forgiveness and mercy — but unconditional love? No!
While God loves with a greater love than humans can comprehend, His holiness and justice also must be taken into consideration. Therefore, the term unconditional love is inadequate for defining God. It does not account for God’s reaction to pompous men who devise plans against Him and His anointed. The psalmist goes so far as to say:
“He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak to them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure” (Psalm 2:4-5).
And what about Lot’s wife as she turned to look at the smoldering cities? Or what about Jesus’ words to the cities that refused to repent? Does this sound like unconditional love?:
“Woe to thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell … it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee” (Matthew 11:21-24).
But perhaps one could say that God’s love for the Christian is unconditional since the Christian partakes of His love and grace through faith. Wouldn’t it be better to say that the conditions have been met? Jesus met the first condition, to wash away the sin that God hates. The believer meets the second condition, but only by God’s grace through faith.
Or perhaps it would be better to say that God’s love extended to a person is conditioned by His plan to give eternal life to those whom He has enabled to believe on His Son. The conditions of God’s love are resident within Himself.As our opening Bible verse says: He hath MADE us accepted!
There is a strong temptation to use vocabulary that is popular in society in order to make Christianity sound relevant. Christians have something far better than what the world offers, but in expressing that good news, they confuse people by using words that are already loaded with humanistic connotations and systems of thought. It would be better not to use the expression unconditional love when describing God’s love. There are plenty of other good words (1 John 4:9, 10, 16):
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. …
And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
The incomprehensible magnitude of God’s love surpasses any concept of love devised by humanistic psychologists. The doctrine of unconditional love is a myth that glorifies man rather than God.
“Indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more.” (Hosea 9:15).
“The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His soul hates (Ps. 11:5).
“The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity” (Ps. 5:5).
“And you shall not walk in the statutes of the nation which I am casting out before you; for they commit all these things, and therefore I abhor them” (Lev. 20:23)
“These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:16-19)
“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father” (John 14:21).
“But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:35).
“Let no one deceive you with empty words….the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:5, 6)
So if you think a quick death martyrdom might be doable, but know for sure that your never be capable of enduring Torture,
Then is that proof God has not chosen you, love you or will save you?
I would like to know if God’s love is truly conditional which I believe that it is according to the scripture does that mean that A parent’s Love for their children is unconditional? I have heard every parent I know make this comment even though I am not a parent. But how can humans possess the ability to love unconditionally when God does not?
If your God has no conditions then your god may not be the God of Holy Scripture. Consider the following as an example:
“Indeed, I [God] came to hate them there! [ apostate Israel] Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more. ” (Hosea 9:15).
“The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His [God’s] soul hates (Ps. 11:5).
“The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You [God] hate all workers of iniquity” (Ps. 5:5).
“And you shall not walk in the statutes of the nation which I am casting out before you; for they commit all these things, and therefore I [God] abhor them” (Lev. 20:23)
“These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:16-19)
Yes, God is a God of love but if we reject His love and grace He will reject us. “Let no one deceive you with empty words….the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:5, 6).
Conditional Salvation Scriptures. Especially pertinent scriptures are Galatians 5:19-21 and Revelation 21:8.
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will NOT inherit the Kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21 NIV emphasis added
Also \”But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death\” Revelation 21:8 NIV
Unconditional love is not good enough. The adjective “unconditional” used to describe God’s love towards man is nowhere to be found in any of the over 100 Bible translations that I have searched. Even in the original languages, Biblical Greek and Hebrew which I am a teacher of both; the lexical range of meaning for any of the original term that translate as love does not describe any of the definitions as “unconditional.”
The closest that we can get in describing love as “unconditional” is not with a term or a definition but it is in the example that Christ demonstrated on the cross. Even here, what Jesus did for our sins on Calvary far out weights any term such as “unconditional.” To this I conclude that the term “unconditional” is insufficient to describe Jesus’ great sacrificial love.
The phrase “unconditional love” maybe popular but it is not exactly biblical.
Pastor Oldham from the Heart
Please, allow me to ask you a question Sir. I’m humbly seeking for an answer to my question and I believed that you can provide this answer.I would like to clarify regarding the Greek word “Agape”. Colleges, universities, bible schools and books here in our country taught us that AGAPE means UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, in which the term AGAPE was widely used in the New Testament. Is it really true that AGAPE means UNCONDITIONAL LOVE? If it is not unconditional love, what is the exact meaning of the Greek word AGAPE?
YOU MIGHT TRY replacing the “adjective” ‘unconditional,’ with ‘UNMERITED’ and see if that is a more satisfactory and acceptable replacement.
If all of God’s Love comes with inherent conditions, then when we try and deny those conditions, we dishonor the work of God to create those conditions.
For instance, His Love for us in predicated upon Jesus Going to the Cross. That’s an important condition, to not neglect in factoring His Love for us. Without the cross, we are lost, currently, and eternally. But based on the condition of the Cross, we are loved both now, and eternally, we are accepted into the beloved, if we accept the conditions of repentance and faith, and follow the Master wherever he will and should lead us.
Our love for God is based on our obedience to God’s Word. Jesus love for God was and is based on his obedience to do the Will of the Father. (Not even his own will.) That is a condition we should do well to honor and exalt.
Maybe the writer and some of the comments here ought to read Romans 8:35-39…..God’s Love is not conditional as we understand conditions.
Read the whole passage.
35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The end of verse 38 reads an awful lot like a condition to me…. i.e. all of the great language in these verses is only made available to us thru Christ. As the Reformers believed;
By Grace alone (Sola Gratia)
Through Faith alone (Sola Fide)
In Christ alone (Solus Christus)
According to Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura)
For God’s Glory alone (Soli Deo Gloria)
Conditional salvation = conditional love (p.s. there’s more than one kind of love)
Much of what we hear today from the pulpit is another gospel that is not described in the Bible. Nowhere in the Bible do we receive unconditional love or even unconditional grace. The promises of God are for those who are in Christ; a person who is abiding in Christ and having relationship with him. A person who departs from God forfeits all the promises of God as well.
I agree with the comment that we provide the deterrents to God’s love which He gives freely without conditions. The flow of love or lack of it is a choice we make. It is on us and the condition of our hearts. It is not on God who is perfect and who IS love.
In conclusion , after read all above comments, the words ‘condition’ or ‘uncondition’ cannot correctly and exactly describe God’s love.
What arrogance! Who are we to label God’s love unconditional? I have studied the effect of the integration of the Bible and psychology for 30 years and have discovered that man makes up his own rules for what the Bible says. I have come back several times to this article and have found it more on target each time. It’s so simple: Do not mess with the Word of God! If God wanted His love described as unconditional He would have put appropriate words to correspond with the definition of unconditional. No such application appears in the Bible.
Gods Love is contra-conditional. I first looked at threads such as this a few years ago as it became apparent that the term ” unconditional” was increasingly being used to describe God’s love. I had never heard it used back in the 60’s when I attended a Gospel preaching church as a child and teenager. I checked the word out using a concordance only to find that that word is not used in Scripture!! I agree with those who suggest the source of this change lies in modern psychology. I appreciate why some Christians use the term but it is misleading….too simplistic if you like. For a good explanation search “God’s love. Better than unconditional ” by David Powlinson or a shorter precise by Justin Taylor. Powlinson suggests using the phrase “CONTRA-CONDITIONAL”. The old hymn writers strove to describe the breadth, depth, quality of God’s ” Amazing ” love, eg “Love divine all loves excelling” etc etc but they did not resort to “unconditional” for reasons that have been explained by several contributors.
God’s love is Unconditional, of course! God’s love is conditional to a certain point and after that it is unconditional. Is that what you are saying? If so, you have merely degraded the Divine love to a human level. Unconditional love becomes absolutely worthless because conditions have to be met first. A form of reasoning that is ridiculous and apparently logical to you to prove that the love of God is only to be received by believers. If you are saying that the love of God is NOT unconditional all the way, then we are dealing with a severe case of blasphemy!
Agape or Phileo or Eros or Storge or Mania? Wrong to mislead or lure others to Christian faith using manipulating words. Just say AGAPE or agape love. How do you love your neighbor as yourself? Love is showing compassion (unconditional), mercy (conditional) and be gracious (unconditional and conditional). Read 1 Corinthian 13. That’s the love or agape we need to have. Unconditional love accepts everyone into the fellowship and your church would be filled with unrepentant gays, lesbians, murderers, swindlers, gossipers, hindus, muslims, buhdists, satan worshippers. Certainly you want them to be born again as Christians. Unconditional love would permit a hardcore vengeful person to continue to murder one by one member of your family-if he slaps you on your left cheek, offer the right too. Then US must not go to bomb and destroy other countries. Let the terrorists do as they like to bomb the whole US just like 911. Lend and do not expect the borrower to pay back and without interest. So just give to anyone who ask for money and the church will be bankrupt in no time. There must be set conditions even if we love or agape- be merciful, compassionate and gracious. When Jesus said forgive them for they don’t know what they were doing would not guaranteed they are forgiven, otherwise everyone in this world would be qualified to be in heaven and you need not preach the gospel of salvation anymore. Live life free and easy, do as you like, kill as you like, for we are already forgiven and qualified to go to heaven! Don’t add or minus God’s word as written in the book of Revelation.
TOH, I would suggest saying and teaching, God’s Love is unmerited, and that we love others in God’s Love in an unmerited condition. But that is still a condition. In reality, we have to make daily choices, those choices come with conditions, and even consequences. If I abandon the needs of my family, and give all of my resources to another (even in the name of Christ’s Love), there are conditions that will play out. In every way, every day we make decisions based on our abilities and limitations. These are conditions that apply to all our loved ones, so does God.
For example. God is Just. God is Righteous. God is Holy. God is Pure. God is Gracious. And only in God are these often opposing qualities in perfect balance. God does not throw away his justice to be more loving. And He doesn’t divorce himself from his Love in order to satisfy His Justice. And yes, strong and pertinent conditions apply to all of these specific qualities.
So No. Saying God’s love is unconditional, doesn’t make it so. And it actually confuses the issue rather than helping it.
God’s love is not unconditional. The bible is full of verbs and you can’t use the word “unconditional” in the same sentence with a verb since they are a contradiction. I challenge anyone who suggests that God’s love is unconditional, to find it in scripture. Give me the chapter and verse, Please. The word doesn’t exist, I don’t think the word exists in any of the encyclicals ( I could be wrong ). God’s love is unconditional in heaven, not down here. I am a 64 year old cradle Catholic and I can’t remember doing anything “UNCONDITIONALLY”
I think that using the words unconditional and conditional is confusing. It’s like trying to change Jesus’ story about the vine and the branches (John 15) into a single word. My understanding of God’s love and the vine story is that you do not receive God’s love unless you remain in Jesus by following his commands. Just as the body fails to receive oxygen if it doesn’t inhale and exhale repeatedly.
I guess people are afraid to call God’s love conditional because we think of conditional love in human terms. When I think of conditional love, I think of love that can be taken away if I do something wrong. The problem is fear of manipulation and trust that they really want and or know whats best for you. So we get this notion that conditional love is bad, because most of us have been hurt by it at one time or another. God on the other hand is different. You can trust God because he is true and he is faithful. If he says you will receive his love if you follow his commands then will. I value God’s love highly, and hopefully more than anything else. And having it set up where I need to seek Gods love is motivating and inspirational
Of course I could be wrong, but I hope this helps you see the question in a slightly different light. Go with Jesus.
It is unconditional. I think where we get confused is between terms relationship and love. Christ died for us while we were sinners – that’s an act of love. John 3:16 – God so loved the world. Otherwise John 3:16 might say “God sent His son to die for our sins and anyone who believes in Him will be loved. It doesn’t say that. He loves us and extends that love and asks us to choose Him and His love which creates an eternal relationship. Love does not involve control and His love respects our free will to choose Him or not.
I disagree. God will always want what is best for us. That is unconditional love, to want the best for the other. He does not want us “to be good”, that is to follow his laws for his sake but for our own sake, because that is how we will be happy. God does not send people to hell because they disobeyed him. He allows people to choose to go to hell because he is not going to force them to be with him. The father in the story of the prodigal son waited for his son because he was not going to force him to come back. But he never stops hoping that we will want to be with him, that we will want to follow his commandments because that is the only way we can be happy. He does not ask us to follow the commandments for his own sake.
Unconditional love does not have to be permissive. You can never stop loving a person and still expect them to grow. You can encourage a person to be their best and also love them unconditionally. If God did not love those who are in hell they would cease to exist.
What love are we talking about? Is God’s love conditional or unconditional? We first define love. Lust and cravings are forms of love. We are not talking about such aspects of love with regards to God. So what sort of love are we talking about? Already, we are asking or putting conditions in the very definition of love. If God’s love is a particular kind of love then we must experience that love following those particular rules, regulations i.e conditions.
God’s love cannot be detached from his other attributes. God’s love is holy, righteous, merciful and gracious. All these attributes are not definitions of words but revelations of the person of God. To abide with God, we must abide with his nature. It is conditional.
Since we cannot meet these conditions by ourselves in our sinful nature, God in Christ makes them availble to us. We are called to now live in the new nature of Christ. Living a Christ-like life is the only condition that remains in our relationship with God and experiencing his love.
Christ is the end of the law and the expression of God’s love. To be like Christ is to experience God’s love in us. To live like Christ is to experience God’s love flowing out of us. Know Christ … Know Life. No Christ …. No life! Blessings to all in Christ. Amen.
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