Can God Force Us to Love Him?

If we had a definitive answer to that question, we would solve the 400 year debate between Calvinism and Arminianism.  One of the main arguments between these two camps is the idea of election.  Calvinists believe in unconditional election, which basically means that we have no choice or input in the matter.  Arminians believe in conditional election, which means that we have a choice, and that God has provided us with the grace to make a decision.

Perhaps the best verse I can give to defend the Arminian position of conditional election is this:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.  And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'” (Genesis 1:26)

It is this concept of Imago Dei , being made in the image and likeness of God, that undermines, in my opinion, the main thrust of unconditional election.  The problem in Calvin’s theology is not scholarship (Calvin was truly a scholar in every way), but his approach to understanding the scripture. His interpretation of our relationship with God is that we are very much in a cause and effect relationship.  In his view, we are simply like nails driven by a hammer, having no choice but to sway to the determined will of God.  Therefore, we love God because He makes us love Him.

In reality, because of the statement made in Genesis 1:26, we should look at our relationship with God more like an influence and response relationship.  God exerts His influence, and we respond.  Calvin’s problem with this was that in so viewing God, we were removing His sovereignty and were in effect saying that He is not omnipotent.  This is really interpreting God’s omnipotence in a very wooden way, because God’s power is not limited or undermined in the least by our ability to make a free choice regarding our decision to accept Him.

Again, this is a very difficult topic to get to the bottom of, but it would be great for you to dig further into the debate and get a solid idea of both sides of the argument.  For an Arminian treatment on the topic, be sure to check out the book The Quest for Truth by F. Leroy Forlines. For a Calvinist perspective, check out Election and Free Will by Robert Peterson, or The Five Points of Calvinism by Steel, Thomas, and Quinn.


2 thoughts on “Can God Force Us to Love Him?

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  1. I think the point of the Calvinist is not that people are forced to love God but they are unable to love God becuase they are dead spiritually. This is the result of the fall. Sure, we are made in the image of God however the fall brought death. God is a living God not a dead god. So therefore we are no longer portraying the image of God spiritually. This is why Christ came to make us alive and new creatures, transformed by the Holy Spirit who conforms us to the image of Christ.

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