I have observed that the term “unconditional love” has begun to appear in the terminology of evangelical Christianity as descriptive of God. This strikes me as innovative since the traditional understanding of Christian evangelism stresses that the benefit of God’s love must be gained by meeting certain conditions. In fact, the mission of evangelism is to disseminate to the world the knowledge of those conditions.
Exactly why some choose to claim as unconditional what is then taught as conditional is debatable, but I suspect this new terminology is another attempt to reconcile the God who is love with the God of Hellfire. This contradiction has been the bugaboo of Orthodoxy since the beginning of the Christianity’s doctrine of obedience and required punishment. The “or else” of eternal punishment denies the very meaning of unconditional. Some kind of tough love which ultimately results in restoration and transformation might make sense, but love which ultimately ends in retribution and vengeance never will.
It’ll take a lot more than a new lexicon to resolve that problem, however. We as humans cannot begin to fathom the concept of truly unconditional love which is also universal. Our minds recoil from granting grace to the unlovely, however we might define that state. But unlike God, we are hampered by a limited knowledge. God, on the other hand, is said to be omniscient, knowing the very thoughts and intents of the heart of every person. That is the ability that makes universal, unconditional love possible. As some author once said- To know completely is to forgive perfectly. Therein is the very definition of God.
The true implications of unconditional love strikes at the very meaning of evangelism and the church mission. If God’s love has no preconditions then its benefit extends to all regardless of anything- their faith, their obedience, their piety. It’s a mindboggling concept, but no more so than the tenets of Christian Orthodoxy.