God’s Love is Relational in Three Forms

September 25th, 2017 / No Comments

The theo-logic of God’s love says divine love is relationally full-orbed rather than one-dimensional. Three forms of love — agapeeros, and philia — demonstrate this theo-logic. And the Bible gives witness to them.


God expresses the agape form of love by responding to sin with forgiveness and healing. Those are activities that assume God relates with creatures.

God repays evil with good, and we should do likewise (Lk. 6:27-31, Rm. 12:21, 1 Thess. 5:15, 1 Pt. 3:9). In this, we see God’s agape promoting overall well-being by responding to activity that promotes ill-being.[1]

If God were impassible, God could not repay evil with good. God’s agape requires that God engages in giving and receiving love.


God expresses giving-and-receiving philia love with creatures (Ex. 33:12; 2 Chr. 20:7; Is. 41:8; Jas. 2:2; Js. 2:23; 2 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 3:4).

Because God is passible, God enjoys friendships and engages in relational covenants. As the Psalmist puts it, “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes his covenant known to them” (Ps. 25:14).

God’s philia promotes overall well-being by relating to creatures in companionship, bonds of alliance, and other relationships.

If God were impassible, God could not engage in friendship or covenants. God’s philia requires that engage in giving and receiving love.


God’s passibility is evident in divine eros. God evaluates and values creation (2 Tm. 4:8; Jn. 12:43; Hb. 1:9). God sees that creation is good (Gen. 1) and responds with pleasure.

God loves the world so much that He gives the only begotten Son so that those who believe might have eternal life (Jn. 3:16). God’s eros promotes overall well-being by appreciating and enhancing what is valuable.

If God were impassible, God could not appreciate what God creates worthwhile. God’s eros requires that God engage in giving and receiving love.


We can point to other forms and types of divine love. God’s love is full-orbed, not half-hearted. Each point to ways God relates with and works to promote the well-being of creation.

God’s full-orbed love requires not just God giving. It also requires God’s receiving. That’s the theo-logic of divine love.[2]


[1] I provide a precise definition of love, agape, eros, and philia in Defining Love: A Philosophical, Scientific, and Theological Engagement (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos, 2010).

[2] I have made an extensive argument for full-orbed divine love as involving agape, eros, and philia in The Nature of Love: A Theology (St. Louis, Mo.: Chalice, 2010).

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