After completing the monographs Dialogue in the Book of Signs: A Polyvalent Analysis of John 1:19-12:50 [BINS 136; Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2015] and Saint Thomas the Apostle: New Testament, Apocrypha, and Historical Traditions [Jewish and Christian Texts Series 25; New York/London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2018], I was seriously thinking of writing a contextual commentary on the Gospel of John. For my surprise, I was approached by Primalogue (Bangalore) and Fortress Press (Minneapolis) for this significant task. I thank Dr. Brian C. Wintle (Series Editor), Mr. George Korah (Publisher), and other editors for this wonderful opportunity. Herewith I request all my friends for your support in multifarious ways.
The India Commentary on the New Testament (ICNT) series aims to give a well-informed exposition of the meaning of the text and relevant reflections in everyday language from contemporary Indian and South Asian context. The intended audience is the theological seminary students…
One thing I’ve noticed in talking to atheists who grew up in Christian homes is that they often leave their Christian worldview behind because of a disappointment with God. For some reason, they get this idea that God is our cosmic butler. We can do whatever we want in order to be happy, and if we want any help in this, then we just ring for him. When we encounter disappointment, our tendency is to just leave God behind.
Paul Copan explains the high points of the problems of evil and suffering in 17 minutes. (H/T Apologetics 315)
Love is never sure apart from commitment, love is never sane apart from conscience, love is never safe apart from character, love is never stimulated apart from community, and love is never seized apart from courage. Commitment, conscience, character, community, and courage are the defining qualities that make up agape love. Anon
1 John 4:7-12 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. [NIV]
Using the above verses is it possible to deduce that: if God did not exist, love would not exist—it would be, as the song goes ‘a second hand emotion’?
To put it more broadly: If love finds its origins in God is it possible for ‘LOVE’ (Agape, Eros, Philia, Storge) to exist without the existence of GOD?
Clearly it is possible to argue that EROS: ‘eroticism’ exists naturally—though it is not, as far as I’m aware, observed as a regular phenomenon in the ‘natural order’ of things. PHILIA: Brotherly love, most certainly, can be seen as a necessary part of social cohesion, but this would be a ‘practical’ manifestation of this kind of love. STORGE: The natural instinctive affection that a mother [usually] has for her child—and vice versa. This is, without question, observed in the natural world. AGAPE, it is argued by some materialist, can also fit into the notion of Natural Selection; this is not a ‘generally observable’ phenomena in the #naturalworld.. Indeed, it doesn’t fit easy with the idea of unguided naturally selected processes—like so much else. It is, I suggest, possible to make an argument for the, ‘naturally occurring’, existence of all four definitions of LOVE/love. However, these definitions can only fit in with being ‘a necessary cog’ in the wheels of a particular (biological or otherwise) social order. Indeed, they may not suit another world order so they might not be a useful part of every possible world/society. NB. Whatever we make of their use in this world, they have no ‘absolute value’—they can only be seen as practical components in a material world.
God is the ultimate ONTOLOGICAL foundation for not only love, but all things that exist within God’s creation. If God (The Personality & Character of God) is not the objective moral standard by which we can (possibly)measure the difference between love and hate, good and evil, moral and immoral (ethical & unethical) then what do we ‘actually’ have? If this were the case, it would be left to ‘us to make up our minds’, or for some kind of hegemonic system to prevail upon us with its list of ‘must have essentials’ for the efficient running of society.
God is not, simply, ’someone’ who is good—but goodness itself—the ontological reality of that absolute object that moral desire seeks.
David Bentley Hart
“We are told that “since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” God’s nature is what we use as a standard by which we can identify love. The farther away from His nature we wander, the closer we become to aligning with the sinful means of expression that don’t resemble God’s nature.” Anon
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church – for we are members of his body.
Jonathan Edwards on Loving God and Neighbour.
from an article by Kyle Strobel
Jonathan Edwards makes the essential point that the person who loves herself—actually enlarges herself with a potentiality to ‘pull others into an internalized relation of love within the person’s own self-loving.’ This is not hedonistic but the actualisation of the second commandment given by Christ. In this sense, Edwards argues, the call to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:31) is given a literal depiction through the enlargement of one’s self-love to include ‘the neighbour’.
It is not a thing contrary to Christianity that a man should love himself; or what is the same thing, that he should love his own happiness. Christianity does not tend to destroy a man’s love to his own happiness; it would therein tend to destroy the humanity. Christianity is not destructive of humanity. Yet this [love] is not selfishness, because it is not a confined self-love, because his self-love flows out in such a channel as to take in others with himself. The self which he loves is—enlarged and multiplied, so that in those same acts wherein he loves himself he loves others.
(Works of Jonathan Edwards)
Edwards argues that, while self-love itself is not necessarily Inordinate (excessive), it is certainly possible that the person has too high a degree of self-love in comparison to other goods. “Maybe praising God is something we love, but then we come to realize what we truly love is the feeling of excitement we get in praise and not necessarily God himself. Maybe, like the apostle Peter, we do not hesitate to proclaim that Christ is king, but when he talks of his suffering we quickly lose interest.”
Clearly Edwards didn’t live to observe the spectacles that adorn the diaries of many of us alive today; his life was short-lived (departing this life at the age of fifty-eight—spending the last years of his life in ill-health) but Edwards observed the power of the Holy Spirit in the New England Revival, in which many lives were touched by the Power of God. His point is that many of us ‘professors of faith’ appreciate the ‘positive feel factor’ of being a part of large ‘charismatic’ meetings but ‘melt’ at the thought of having to change our lifestyles—or face lives of physical deprivation. Loving our neigbours as ourselves requires attention to ‘lifestyle detail’; failing to do so may deprive our neighbours of their ‘future-life’.
Selfishness is a principle which does … confine a man’s heart to himself. Love enlarges it and extends it to others. A man’s self is extended and enlarged by love. Others so far as beloved do … become parts of himself. …those nobler principles were immediately lost and all this excellent enlargedness of his soul was gone and he thenceforward shrunk into a little point, circumscribed and closely shut up within itself to the exclusion of others. God was forsaken and fellow creatures forsaken, and man retired within himself and became wholly governed by narrow, selfish principles. Self-love became absolute master of his soul, the more noble and spiritual principles having taken warning and fled
(Works of Jonathan Edwards)
God’s uniting act of love creates the space for the self to be united within and to unite to others; love of God creates the possibility for love of neighbour, “as I [Jesus] have loved you,” the basis of Jesus’ new commandment (John 13:34). God is the ultimate example of this, whose fullness provides the context for creatures to be embraced and internalized in love.
Heaven is the #WorldofLove
This love flows out in innumerable streams toward all the created inhabitants of heaven… And the saints and angels are secondarily the subjects of holy love, not as in whom love is as in an original seat, as light is in the sun which shines by its own light, but as it is in the planets which shine by reflecting the light of the sun…There this glorious God is manifested and shines forth in full glory, in beams of love; there the fountain overflows in streams and rivers of love and delight, enough for all to drink at, and to swim in, yea, so as to overflow the world with a deluge of love.
(Works of Jonathan Edwards 13:370)
It is often said (and oft written about) that the biggest hindrance to faith in Christ is the Problem of Evil (natural & moral). In the world (universe) of atheism—#DawkinsWorld there is, indeed, nothing but ‘pitiless hope’. And in the Universe of ‘perverse’ notions of personality i.e. a Universe of ‘the oneness of an indefinable deity’—hope has no place.
There are questions that not even the most comprehensive theodicy has been able to address but—given that the creator and sustainer of the universe is the ultimate expression of Love—we can suppose that God is neither schizophrenic or sadistic—but that, indeed, there will be an explanation. Yet, in the presence of LOVE Personified, an explanation would be superfluous. See you there…
After they had breakfast, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you burn with love for me more than these?” Peter answered, “Yes, Lord! You know that I have great affection for you!” “Then take care of my lambs,” Jesus said.
Jesus repeated his question the second time, “Simon, son of John, do you burn with love for me?” Peter answered, “Yes, my Lord! You know that I have great affection for you!” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
Then Jesus asked him again, “Peter, son of John, do you have great affection for me?” Peter was saddened by being asked the third time and said, “My Lord, you know everything. You know that I burn with love for you!” Jesus replied, “Then feed my lambs!
John 21:15-17 (Passion Translation)
David Bentley Hart, ‘The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss’ Yale University Press, 2013, P274
In Part1 I of this article it addresses the notion of LOVE as being a Universal aspect of the person and character of the God of the Judeo/Christian Scriptures alone—that other notions of God[s] or belief in the nonexistence of the GOD in question cannot offer anything other than utilitarian notions of the concept of ‘love’.Part2 deals with the challenges to the ‘professors of Christian faith’: to live out a lifestyle that exhibits the realization of ‘The Love of God, in Christ: The Ultimate Apologetic being ‘Love Actually.
The above quote comes from the 2003 film ‘Love Actually’; and as the title suggests, the film is all about the manifestation of love in all of its forms—in a world of ‘every-which-way’ confusion as to what #loveisactually—whether or not it has any universal significance.
In his letter to the Corinthian Christians the apostle Paul uses a great deal of ink discussing the gifts of The Spirit. (‘GIFTS’ rather than behaviour that is ‘natural’).Paul states that out of all the [not natural] gifts (1 Corinthians 13:13) LOVE is the best and is the gift that will outlast (from here to the new heavens and new earth) all other [not natural] gifts. As with all the ‘grace gifts’, love is ‘A Gift of God’; its source is the person[s]of the Triune God.
Why, out of all the other [not natural] gifts is ‘LOVE’ the greatest?
It is because it is a gift that is beyond and above all the other gifts; it is the love that is at the very ‘heart’ of the GODHEAD—the love that says, “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.” This is not the same as someone giving themselves in the place of another; though John (15:13) records Jesus as saying exactly that when he says that, ‘greater love has no man than to lay down his life for a friend’; this is an example of the kind of love that mankind, even in his natural state, may exhibit. Giving of oneself is not an uncommon occurrence but this is not necessarily the kind of LOVE that Paul is referring to here. Paul is writing about the ‘Charis gifts’, and in 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen he is discussing the greatest of all [not natural] gifts. This is the gift that will outlast all others. This is the LOVE that describes the person and character of God. Of course, it is not God’s only attribute—as if e.g. justice and benevolence were not, but it is love that, essentially, describes the God of The Bible. Jesus’ command to ‘love God with all our heart, soul, mind’ (Matthew 22:37) is due to the fact that the God of the Judeo/Christian Scriptures is goodness personified—God is indeed nothing other than love itself (1.John 4 ).
Karl Bridges (1997) states that God’s goodness is a bedrock truth of Scripture and that, “…although we might discuss God’s goodness in some abstract philosophical sense, in Scripture his goodness appears most clearly in his dealings with people. He is not only good in general, but he is good to us.” Goodness in its very essence is ‘God’. God is ‘Good’.
sine amore, nihil est vita without love, life is of no value/pointless/nihilistic
“The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” Richard Dawkins ‘River Out of Eden’
The direction of atheistic materialism is inward. It values autonomy because its values cannot be grounded in anything other than its rationale: that life is subject to ‘natural laws’ and these natural laws are driven by the unseen hand of ‘naturally selected’ potentiality. In ‘absolute terms’ it means that there can be no ‘objective moral values’ or ‘intrinsic human rights’; neither can there be any ultimate meaning or purpose to life—neither any ‘good or evil’—no ultimate Justice. Life is what you make it or what your ‘political masters’ decree—or how the social mores in your particular society manifest themselves.
Monism: ‘Personal Confusion’
In which all is considered illusory:
Where there is nothing that can be considered a conscious reality.
Where the physical universe is nothing other than the ‘self-curving back within itself to experience itself’.
Where Atman is Brahman i.e. ‘all is god and god is all.’
In other words there is no ‘substance’ to this notion of GOD/god. In the world of pantheism (mostly found in New Age, Hindu, Buddhist philosophy etc.) there can be no ‘room’ for personality as any notion of personality within monistic philosophy is not at all possible—or at least confused over the issue of there being ‘personality in the absolute’. In ‘Pantheism’ everything is ‘god’—not to be confused with Panentheism.
The Bible’s view of God is exactly the opposite—in that personality is the chief thing about God—and also the chief thing about mankind who are made in God’s image (Imago Dei). This means that the individual has complexity at the core of his or his being… The Judeo/Christian tradition begins with the opposite answer to the above. And it’s on this that the whole of Western culture has [had] been built: God [The Father] is in [personal] relationship with the Eternal Son and the Eternal [Holy] Spirit—three are, indeed, one. ERGO. God relates to His creation! Of course there is rather a lot more to say about this—but not here.
“Personality demands self-consciousness. The Bible has an adequate and reasonable explanation for the source and meaning of human personality; its source is sufficient—‘the Personal God on the high order of Trinity’. Without such a source men are left with personality coming from the impersonal (plus time plus chance)…The idea that everything began with an impersonal ‘something’ is the consensus of the Western world [late 20th and early 21st centuries].It is also the consensus of almost all Eastern thinking…The idea that everything began with an impersonal ‘something’ is the consensus of the Western world [late 20th and early 21st centuries].It is also the consensus of almost all Eastern thinking.”
Francis Schaeffer (1968)
sine caritate, nihil sum (without love, I am nothing)
‘Panentheism’: everything is in #God/god. Panentheism is the preference of many philosophers, scientists and classical theologians
Peter Sanlon, ‘Simply God: Recovering the Classical Trinity’, IVP, 2014