Richard Rice on Disinterested Benevolence

Definition: Charles G. Finney’s “disinterested benevolence” is ‘the love which constitutes obedience to Christ’s command is an unselfish commitment to promote the highest good of God and His moral universe. It is not founded in what one gets out of it, but rather as an end in and of itself’ Source: Jonathan Duttweiler, “Ultimate Choices: A Look at the Concept of Charles Finney”, p. 1.


“In his well-known discussion of the Christian concept of love, entitled Agapē and eros, Swedish theologian Anders Nygren distinguishes between the conceptions of love expressed by these two Greek words. He argues that the New Testament applies only agapē to God. In the eros sense of love certain qualities or features in the object of love make it attractive to the lover, who desires to possess it. But in the case of agapē the lover is motivated not by attractive qualities in the beloved or by a  desire to possess the object. Agapē is self-giving. Its only motive is the welfare of the object. [1]

In attributing agapē to God the New-Testament writers emphasized God’s unselfish concern for the welfare of His creatures. In their view, His love consists in His unchanging desire for their best interest.

(…)

For the apostles, the unselfish character of God’s love is best seen in the fact that He loves the totally undeserving.”

Source: Richard Rice, God’s Foreknowledge & Man’s Free Will, p. 54 (Minneapolis, Bethany House Publishers, 1985).

Footnote:

[1] The Translator’s Preface to the English edition nicely summarizes Nygren’s distinction: “Eros is an appetite, a yearning desire, which is aroused by the attractive qualities of its object . . . Agapē is . . . distinguished from Eros in that it is ‘indifferent to value.’ That is to say, it is neither kindled by the attractiveness nor quenched by the unattractiveness of its object. This is seen most clearly in God’s love for sinners, who are loved in spite of their sin. . . . His loving is not determined by the worthiness of those whom He loves, but by His own nature of love” (Agapē and eros, translated by Philip S. Watson [New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1969], pp. xvi-xvii).

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