Tuesday 15 January 2013

Can love be bad? Lessons from the life of Charles Williams


On earth, during mortal life - yes, of course love can be bad; and often is.

If the love is illegitimate, then its fruits will be bad, and thus we we know.

Love of God cannot be bad, but love of neighbour can be bad - often, perhaps usually is bad - insofar as it usurps rather than sustains the love of God.


Charles Williams adulterous love of Phyllis Jones was bad, and can readily be seen to be bad by its fruits.

On earth these fruits included immediate and growing dishonesty, then hurt, then destruction of wholeness, then misery - and in ultimate terms this unrepented evil earthly love, led to displacement of Williams' love of God.


From about 1937 C.W focused on the idea of coinherence by means of exchange and substitution; and this increasingly became conceptualized as a non-Christian technology, a magical not religious thing.

From Alice Mary Hadfield's An Introduction to Charles Williams (1959):

Page 138: From [1938] on, the word 'love' has always a double meaning in his thinking, as personal love, and as love in the City which may be felt in any of the concerns and relationships of people everywhere.

[Note: no reference to love of God.]

Page 141: Can [coinherence] be done without belief in Christianity, without belief in God at all? I [AMH] would say not, though C.W clung to his claim to talk on equal terms with agnostics and non-believers. My objection to [C.W's novel] Descent into Hell [of 1937] is that by silence about Christ it is implied that the life of exchange can be lived without knowledge of Him.

Page 133: Just as he was not particularly interested in people's personalities but much more in their ideas and behaviour, so he was not curious about the personality or human details of Jesus and His life at Nazareth in the Gospel story... It was the paradox of the union of God and Man which held C.W's ,ind, as it had Karl Barth and again the modern theologians of the century.


Thus we perceive that fatal flaw in C.W, along with 'modern theologians' which has led to the current anti-Christian heresy of Liberalism - the deadly heresy of forgetting or displacing of love of God, and the consequent and false assertion of the Goodness and indeed primacy of love-as-such, of earthly love, of love of any-thing under any circumstance - of even illegitimate love.



tgj said...

It is interesting that God chose to provide, as one of the key elements of salvation, his actual body and blood for us to eat and drink. Obviously He could have done it some other way, so why that way?

Personally, I think the reason is similar to the reason why He chose to Incarnate in the form of an ordinary human being. It has a lot to do with meeting us where we are, which is to say, in our fallen state. Love is probably the most powerful spiritual force, and therefore the most powerful driver of our actions. As fallen beings, our love is also fallen. And my observation and experience is that fallen human love progressively seeks to grasp, hold, play with, control, possess, torture, dismember, and consume its objects, without exception. I think the main reason this isn't more obvious is that we usually split our love over many different things, most of which don't object to being consumed.

Just as the death of God was the end of death, so the love of God is end of love as we know it, and the replacement of it with its non-fallen original can take place.

There is an Orthodox story about a priest who was plagued by doubts about whether the eucharist bread and the wine was the real body and blood of Christ. He prayed about it, and the lamb (eucharist loaf) disappeared from the alter, the Mother of God appeared to him with the infant Christ in her arms, explained that it really was His body and his blood, placed the Divine child on the alter, and disappeared. The priest prayed for forgiveness, and asked that he be allowed to cut the lamb in the form of bread and not in the form of an infant. His request was granted. He who shows mercy will be granted mercy when he asks....

Bruce Charlton said...

@tgj - What a strange and memorable story...