The Implications for ‘professors of faith’
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