A Brief Introduction
Christianity in the world grew from the 2nd to 3rd centuries into the Christendom of the Middle Ages. Christendom through the RC church, as the term implies, became more than spiritual relationship to God and even more than simply a religion. It became a theocratic government, wielding power and control based on presumed Christian concepts. Of course, with the Reformation and the end of the Middle Ages, Christendom technically died, although we still generally refer to Christianity in the world as Christendom.
But within Christian countries, although governments and the Church began to separate, the Church leaders continued to hold power and control in a spiritual grip, even though not as much a political one. Reformed leaders necessarily wrested power and control from the Church proper in order to establish their own soteriological ideas, but they never really gave up the concept that the few—the leaders—the clergy, as the thinkers, held a spiritual power and control over the masses. And this almost subconscious thought pattern has not only affected the organization of denominations erupting from the Reformation, but it is the thought pattern even of how we view Christianity—as God’s kingdom of power and control.
That is understandable. Christianity preaches that God is good. Christianity also preaches that God is powerful. The conclusion, then (if perhaps only in the subconscious) is that power is good. And therefore, we in Christianity have tended to view God in his power as more important—more truly the essence of God—than God in his love. (Of course, God is both and more, but if one or another quality dominates the essence of God, it both shows purpose and motivation for God as well as provides construct for our relationship with him.)
Tendencies in the Reformed View---
From the Reformation, Protestant Christianity has had two major courses—Reformed and Lutheran. Reformed has splintered into the mass of denominations that we have today (except, of course, the Lutherans). What we call “Reformed” now is more a subset of the Reformation’s Reformed tradition. But Reformed theology today, in holding high the old creeds and the Westminster Confession, appears more consistently organized than other theological traditions. But at its core is the same power-centered foundation that God’s foremost attribute is his power that itself defines goodness based on whatever God wants to do, is offended by disobedience, and strikes out in wild fury at the lawbreakers.
It is this image of the Reformed God that created Adam and Eve, immediately enforcing a “Covenant of Works” by which obedience would be tested. It is their failure, then, in obedience (not relationship) that had God, in wrath, expel them from the Garden, guarding his own purity with an angel (perhaps the angel was reflectively angry as well) brandishing a flaming sword. But this God, even though wildly furious at sin, decided to purify some of his creatures. And he does so by sending Jesus – the second Person of the Trinity (a Trinity whose very design also images the power/control construct as God the Father holds supreme command while the Son and Spirit are eternally subordinate to him). This Jesus passes the test of obedience (not faithful relationship) as a human. Thus qualified, he takes upon himself the guilt of the sins of the particular ones chosen to be saved, which in turn excites God to overwhelming wrath, crushing Jesus in death.
Those thus chosen to be purified are forever grateful, extolling this “love” of God shown to them and praising him for it, although still ever proclaiming their own scummy worminess while trembling before him as the great and mighty
Oz, I mean, God.
And even today God still is offended at those who break his law, ordaining earthquakes and volcanoes and tsunamis to show judgment and give these people only what they deserve.
Of course, God is not preached by the Reformed in exactly this way. Love and goodness and thankfulness and joy are preached, but yet those qualities must all take a backseat whenever God’s power and control are threatened. Those other qualities must also give way simply to showcase God’s power and control because showcasing his power and control, not just in good things but in his wrath as well, is the definition of the Reformed for glory of God (see Piper). And, as the Westminster Confession instructs, God’s purpose in all things is his glory.
Contemporary Emphasis on Love----
In reaction against the Reformed tendency, plenty of sources have popped up that insist love is God’s foremost attribute. (Technically, I don’t label love as an attribute or quality of essence, but until that nuanced difference is explained, requiring much more detail, we can regard it so right now for all intents and purposes.) But the love promoters are rather sloppy or maybe I should say incomplete, showing an argument here or an illustration there, trying to discuss love in the atonement but ignoring that as motivation at the beginning in the Garden, and on and on. There is no organized, comprehensive, all-encompassing theology that looks at God and his purpose from creation through OT covenants to the Atonement and on to our eschatological end in a consistent, interlocking, understandable, tightly logical storyline, promoting love relationship as that overwhelming purpose for everything.
So I began collecting and organizing those ideas, doctrines, explanations, interpretations, and understandings that insist God’s love is the supreme and central fount from which springs all God’s motivation and action.
Kinship Theology is the theological interpretive framework that focuses on love relationship as the purpose for God’s interaction with his creation. This love relationship purpose provides foundation for the three major pinnacle points of existence—creation, redemption, and the eschaton—that, in return, function as categorical pilots to inform and guide life toward the love relationship purpose. Kinship Theology views God (1) as having created humankind as image bearers for the love relationship purpose and (2) as pursuing them for love relationship through covenantal bond. Since love relationship is the purpose, the image that we bear, then, is identified as those qualities necessary for that purpose. The covenantal bond, used in God’s pursuit, frames the interaction and communion, defined by promise, obligation, and benefit. Thus, all communication by God to his created image bearers in speech, activity, and/or other revelation derives from, relates to, and moves toward his purpose of everlasting love relationship.
Kinship Theology understands God’s approach to his image bearers as progressive revelation through history. This modal of biblical theology includes certain general concepts belonging to the conservative tradition of biblical Christianity. However, in keeping with the biblical theology approach, the progressive revelation teaches through story rather than setting out a list of timeless principles. The story provides the coherent and meaningful whole. Since the story begins with God, some necessary systematic discussion must be presented. However, even these points of systematic emphasis will not be exhaustive at one point in order to maintain the progressive style of emerging revelation found in the Bible’s (and history’s) advancement.