Wednesday, 19 March 2014

"Love is continuously active." Love is a relationship, and relationships are primary, and this is possible because souls are eternal (including pre-mortal)


Since writing

a few hours ago - I have made what feels to me like a metaphysical breakthrough in a problem which has been puzzling more for a couple of years - how to conceptualize and understand the primacy of love in Christianity.

I have played with the idea of love as a force, and as a substance - but these are inadequate because a good answer must take account of the primacy of relationship in the universe: love must be the supreme aspect of a relationship between Men, or Man and God.

The answer is, of course, perfectly simple - which is that relationships are eternal - therefore love is operative in the way that it is because love is continuously active.


So: love is not a force or a substance but a continuously-active relationship - active both before and after mortal life.

And that is why the effects of love are operative over vast sweeps of time, and how God's love shapes everything.

Love is important not because it is permanent, nor because we acknowledge it - it is important because it is a part of the basic structure of reality - always continuously operative.


(This model entails the belief in eternal pre-mortal existence of some individualized, autonomous human potential, seed, essence, spirit or soul (although the origins of human souls need not be, and I think factually were not, agents with free will or consciousness - these attributes being added when we became Sons of God. Thus, we existed eternally as (mere) centres of 'intelligence' or being; but did not become Men, or aware, or capable of agency and choice, until we became Sons of God.).


Relationships (between Men, or between God and us) are permanent because they already exist - there are no new relationships; there are only changed relationships.


Relationships are thus objective; not subjective.

Their objectivity is continuous - it does not come and go according to the transient vicissitudes of the human mind.

The objectivity of love is real even when it is forever denied - such as Satan's denial of God's love for him. Satan may deny this for eternity - but this does not make the slightest difference to the eternal reality of God's love for his son, Satan.

The reality is that God's love beams-down upon Satan eternally - all that Satan does, all he can do, is shut and lock the door against it.


God's love beams-down on each of us too; as does the love of Jesus Christ, and of some men and women.

We can, each as individuals, choose whether or not to acknowledge that love (to open or close the door).

Only we can open or close the door - there is no power in earth or in heaven that can compel us either to open or shut that door. Our personal responsibility for this choice is total.


What applies to love applies to all aspects of relationship.

We just are, and always have been (since before our mortal life) and always will be (after our mortal life) embedded in an objectively real and continuously operative web of relationships.

Our awareness of those relationships and our understanding of each relationship will inevitably be partial, and may (or may not) be distorted or inverted or denied - but the actuality of the relationship is objective and as it is, whatever our personal and temporary feelings about it may be.

So I can choose to misunderstand, distort or even deny my relationship with my earthly Mother (whether she be alive or passed beyond this mortal life) - but that subjective state is just a description of an objective reality which is what it is whatever my personal choices or errors may be.

And the same, exactly, applies to my Heavenly Father.



August said...

I worry about this emphasis on man being somehow eternal. God is love- God is eternal- God is perfect. Try to think of the end point. To a human, perfection is relative- you can only be as perfect as your form allows, or more perfect than another, but God is perfection- the full expression of that word.
Man is created, and there is no need to posit some aspect of eternity within him. Love is continuous action- God is continuously reaching out to us. The Eternal seeks to dwell within us. Creation is not over, not by a long shot, and it is this Earth, this universe, that the Creator is interested in being 'all in all' in. Love complexifies, otherwise we wouldn't even be here, much less have any defense against entropy.

Bruce Charlton said...

@A - I appreciate that eternal pre-mortal pre-existence is an assumption that most Christians will not go along with; but I think it is true nonetheless because 1. Of intuitive knowledge (which is, of course, personal - but many people have shared throughout history) and 2. Because it solves some very difficult and important metaphysical problems - in particular how genuine free will is possible.

For genuine free will (which I think is absolutely necessary to Christianity), I think that Man cannot *wholly* be created by God - there must be a-something which is unique to each individual Man.

The only coherent alternative is (I think) to treat free will as a mystery - by stating that it is real and genuine, but how this is possible in a 100% Creature living in a 100% God designed world is a mystery or a miracle.

This is not irrational - but for me, free will demands some kind of understandable explanation.

Adam G. said...

This sounds important, though I'm not sure I track it entirely.

But your description of love reminds me of some scriptural passages that I also do not understand fully:

"Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—

The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed"

Bruce Charlton said...

@Adam - I may be able to explain it more clearly when I have had a chance to think it over some more.

August said...

If you think of things that are merely objects, with no free will, then the laws can be figured out and even we lowly humans can predict with reasonable accuracy.
For the omniscent, the boredom would be unbearable. Thus there must be a point in creation where the complexity gets to the point where a created being has the capability to do what isn't predicted. It is probably still really boring, because humans are still really predictable, but they are ever so slightly less predictable than an inanimate object.
Now, many object to this idea because God is supposed to know all, and people assume that everything that has happened and everything that will happen is somehow all. I don't think that is true. Time deludes us. All that is is now, and God knows it. So when we have a decision to make, it can be predicted but is not known until we make it manifest because it doesn't exist until it does.
This is most likely what is meant when it is said we were made in the 'image of God.' Just complex enough for our awareness (that we share with other living things) to form enough consciousness that we can achieve a creative act.

Any way, this is seems to be an odd topic to suddenly be engaged in, when I ended up on your blog because of the IQ thing.

stephen c said...

Wonderful post. To quote the dying words (I think) of St Therese, "all is grace." Every once in a while, I understand that she really meant it.

Bruce Charlton said...

It's funny, but after a few hours yesterday, I lost my grip on what I said above - and what had seemed clear began to fade, and gaps appeared - this was as my energy levels dwindled, and I became more sluggish and drowsy in the evening.

I could not recall why it seemed so clear that souls must be pre-mortal, for love to be the primary binding of the universe - I still cannot recall why. Maybe I did not know why - but only had a picture that it was.