Sunday 26 July 2020

Love of God versus Anything else

What is the true category of a person, an institution, nation or civilization? The answer is that all of these can and should can be divided - and this division is clean - in terms of whether it is organised by 'Love of God' -- or Not.

Other attempted categorical divisions such as 'Left and Right', or subdivisions or refinements of such, are invariably partial selections and distortions of this reality...

Either we are trying to put Love of God (and everything to do with LoG - such as understanding the nature of God, and what loving God entails for us personally) as the focus; or Not.

And if not Love of God; then ultimately it matters little what different principle is primary: whether economic growth, equality, freedom, nation, diversity, political power, antiracism, social stability, the environment, human health or happiness...

Of course; if Love of God is primary; then this may differ between individuals, between denominations and religions, and over time - nonetheless it constitutes a category of life.

For those who acknowledge Love of God is the primary and proper First Thing; then any society that fails to put Love of God as its First Thing is wrong, is evil.

And this is a very easy discernment to make in the modern world! Because those who do not love God first and foremost, no longer even pretend to do so; but they are quite explicit about their other and different ideologies.

And even when they attempt to deceive on this point and pretend (for a moment) to be putting God first, their underlying true Not-God priorities are easily seen from their behaviours.

But the great characteristic of these times is their simplicity and clarity. It is easy to perceive, to know, that Love of God does Not motivate those who have greatest power, welath, status and influence... because they are increasingly explicit about the fact. Neither does Love of God motivate the great majority of the Western Masses. We live in a Godless/ God-denying and increasingly explicitly anti-God world.

Furthermore, such observations are not difficult and feel absolutely solid.

But it is confusing and over-complex, it is indeed a snare, to try to describe (and prove) just exactly what specifcially and explicitly does motivate the mass of modern people and their leaders... since (superficially at least) all this seems very changeable and incoherent, complex, multi-layered and deceptive...

Yet this difficulty in stating what People Really Do Believe (here-and-now) does not matter and should not delay us nor distract us.

It does not matter because we know for sure that whatever it is, it Certainly is not the Love of God.

All we need to know (at least as a beginning, but this is vital) is where sombody, some society, stands on this one issue of Love of God.

If they are not For it, then they are Against it; and if they are indeed against the primacy of Love of God, then it does not really matter in what exact and specific way they are against it...

By not being For the Love of God; they are on The Other Side. And that is what it is necessary to know.

After that? After one has decided to make Love of God the primary principle of one's Life?

Well then a whole new set of matters unfolds itself, varying between persons.

Love of God is a beginning, not a solution. 

Indeed, Love of God is the beginning of the reality of purposive human Life - and anything else than this, is a refusal even to enter the arena of living.


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

This post stopped me in my tracks and made me realize I'm not really a Christian at all and should probably stop trying to be one.

Francis Berger said...

This post hits the nail on the head. It explicitly exposes the error inherent in all beliefs, movements, ideologies, etc. that intend to do 'good' without putting Love of God first or, even worse, rejecting the very idea of God altogether. The most egregious form of this misguided nonsense has to be Christian Atheism, which embraces the (mostly socially-oriented) teachings of Jesus, yet denies the existence of God outright.

I have noticed that it is difficult for most Christians to accept the 'either you are with Him or against Him' perspective, but it is a perspective that simply must be accepted at this point in time. To do otherwise reveals one does not accept the love of God as primary. Christians must remember Jesus always put the love of God first - everything else was secondary, even love of the neighbor, which God-rejectors, deniers, and haters have exploited many times over the past two centuries, always with catastrophic results. And it's happening again now with all the big plans and actions motivated by the 'love of humanity and nature.' Even those who profess to love God refuse to make this love primary.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm - I was not specifcially talking about Christianity here - my comments would (or could, theoretically) apply to several other religious possibilities. For example, the nature of the loved God (spirit or incarnate, creator or not) can be understood in more than one way. I would say that Love of God is necessary but not sufficient as the primary belief of Christianity.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - "I have noticed that it is difficult for most Christians to accept the 'either you are with Him or against Him' perspective"

Yes, this is difficult to see and easy to misunderstand when you youself are not actually (at thta moment!) putting Love of God first! Ultimately it cannot be explained to someone who does Not put LoG first.

It is something to be experienced when one *does* put is first, one w=one is actually currently doing this -- and putting Love of God first is not a continuous or permanent state in mortal life - we are all sinners!

This variabilty/ undulation of faith means that Christians know both what it is like to put LoG first, and also (maybe just a few minutes later) what it is like Not to do so - then to recover faith again etc.

So a real Christian can easily know - from his own experience - why/how there is necessarily a "for versus against" quality to this question - and why neutrality is just another word for Not Loving God as the primary fact of life.

(I should add that - for Christians specifically, not for other religions - *Not* loving God first But Repenting The Fact is an equally acceptable alternative! Jesus requires us only to recognise that we *ought* to do this, to recognise that in fact we do not do it; and to repent that we do not - and This (while obviously not ideal) is certainly enough for our salvation.)

William Wildblood said...

A superb post, Bruce, that sums it all up really.The thing is you can't fake this love of God (well, you can but you know what I mean). You either have it or you don't. But if you don't and you would like to, that's a good first step. It means you are facing in the right direction unlike most people now. Prayer will help.

If you neither have it nor want to have it then that must mean you are against God. Indifference in this respect is antipathy.

Ron Tomlinson said...

Reminds me of:

O God within my breast
Almighty ever-present Deity
Life, that in me hast rest,
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men's hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - Thanks. Your own work has been helpful in this; including your 'catchphrase' Remember the Creator!

" But if you don't and you would like to, that's a good first step. It means you are facing in the right direction unlike most people now."

As I said in my comment to Frank - my belief is that Jesus's work meant that wanting is (almost) as-good-as actually doing it - from the point of view of salvation. To want to put God first is enough, so long as you acknowledge when you are failing in this and repent that fact. If salvation is the purpose of mortal life, then wanting is enough.

But when it comes to the purpose of Live-ing (as contrasted with Life) then that is theosis - which means becoming more divine - and it seems to me that for *that* to happen one must actually put God first, love God first; otherwise we cannot progress spiritually as a Christian.

So I am drawing a sharp distinction between salvation which can be had just by wanting-it and repentance; and theosis which requires actual spiritual improvement.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Bruce, I wasn't thinking about different conceptions of God but rather of the whole idea of putting the love of God first, which seems wrong to me but is, as you say, the basis of Christianity.

Suppose we were told that we should all love Helen of Troy because she is the most beautiful woman in the world (and, let us say, the best woman in every other way as well). To accept that would be to reveal that what one actually loves is not any particular person but rather abstractions such as "beauty" and "goodness," and Helen only as the embodiment of those abstractions. If we truly love individual beings rather than abstractions, then the person we love the most isn't necessarily going to be the best or most beautiful.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm - The way I understand it (as a translation into a more 'practical' concept) is that one must (primarily) love God's work of creation, must love what God loves - his motives, his intentions for us and for creation.

Unless one does this, then one does not support God's plans; therefore one is against them.

Love is not an emotion but the primary metaphysical reality that makes reality cohere and harmonise. (Without Love is chaos.) We must affiliate-with (join-with) this primary reality, made possible by Love.

As I understand things; something like this is what it means to love God above all else - because all else depends on this.

Sam Spade said...

Reading about your insights about love, I realize how much damage has done to my intuitive understanding of it the inversion of the love concept in movies, music, etc.

I find fascinating your explanation, but I feel like a mist that hinder my understanding, unlike other ideas you talk about that resonated with me very easily.

jana gatien said...

God's not here with us. It's all God's energy and creation, but the earth school is for us to mature, learn and thus qualify ourselves to be with Him. I would be very dishonest to say I love God. I feel His love and humor and benevolence, but I do not know Him yet and find it difficult to fully love someone I don't know. I can only attune to his will, rhythm, goodness and watchfulness while cultivating/qualifying myself to be with Him when the earth dojo is over. I think to be good company for God is the purpose of our development here and that means being our own free-willed, unique & creative conduit for Logos. It makes us interesting and enriching for higher realms. I know God is watching. I know my own individual configuration of thought, experience & voice in alignment with God's nature would likely be the most pleasing thing i can attain here.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SS - "but I feel like a mist that hinder my understanding, " It may be that you have a different basic metaphysical assumption than me.

Most philosophical people (but not me) seem to believe that everything began as unity (deity), and the history of things was a breaking of that one into many (perhaps that the many is an illusion) - and perhaps it will all come back together again in the future. Such a view does not seem to need Love.

I believe that everthing always has been many, and God's creative project is to brong many together into a coherent harmony, by Love. ie. we begn with chaos, and creation moves towards Love.

But Love must be chosen; so there will be those Beings that do Not chose Love, that reject Love. Heaven is the place of those who chose Love, permanently.

So, for me, Love is what makes creation; and that is why Love is regarded as essential by Christians.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Bruce wrote: "I believe that everything always has been many, and God's creative project is to bring many together into a coherent harmony, by Love. ie. we begin with chaos, and creation moves towards Love."

That's exactly what I believe, which is why love of God as such does not seem to be the primary thing. It is love among beings, of whom God and the Gods are only a subset.

Jana wrote: "God's not here with us. . . . I would be very dishonest to say I love God. I feel His love and humor and benevolence, but I do not know Him yet and find it difficult to fully love someone I don't know."

Yes, exactly. We have so little (or no) direct contact with God that our concept of him must be very heavily supplemented by (or must entirely consist of) guessing what he must be like, and these guesses will be based on abstract ideas of goodness and perfection. "Loving" that hodgepodge of guesswork -- "God" as equal parts literary character, philosophical speculation, and conspiracy theory -- is not the real love of a real being and cannot be the foundation of anything.

I fully expect to come to love God as I come to know him, but to insist that we begin with love of God -- we, for whom God's very existence is a matter of conjecture! -- seems to me like a recipe for self-deception.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm - I see you are asking I different question than I answered - you are asking what is/ should-be the first step - as in the first step towards believing in God, and ultimately becoming a Christian.

Well, I was not addressing that matter; because I do not think it can be answered - it probably varies between individual persons. I see no reason why there should be any particular first step. The process is more like assembling a jigsaw: you can start almost anywhere, but eventually you need to include all the pieces for it to be whole.

What I am saying is that Love of God - in the sense I describe - is the lynch-pin of being a Christian (bu not only a Christian). One has to 'approve of' God's nature, and of what God is 'trying to do'.

The reality of approval - which sound insipid and rationalistic- - is love. Love is a motivator.

(Love, here, must be known to have a very large and poetic meaning - or, at least, a multiple and simultaneous meaning. This is where the evolution of consciousness works against us, as we continually make definitions narrower and more precise. But some realities are not like that - cannot be captured by a bureaucrat's flow chart.)

As usual, the family metaphor/ reality is simplest. God is head of a family (God being Father and Mother, two persons, bound by choice and eternally by Love), and Heaven is their family. To want to be in Heaven one would need to Love God, God made and is making Heaven, the future will build upon God's intentions and methods...

But if you are asking about knowing God as a person, that is indeed a possible primary starting point - it was for Arkle. What he describes is knowing God, coming into ituitive/ meditative 'contact' with God as a person, and discovering or confirming loving God's nature and motivation towards us, and creation.

I think this is probably eventually necessary if we are to trust (have faith in) God - just as (in an ideal family) every child trusts his parents. Once we have encountered God as a person who loves us, and when we know God is creator - then we can trust Life itself, trust 'the world'; because the world will be created for our ultimate good (i.e. our good in an eternal persepctive - aimed at Heaven; Not in terms of here-and-now happiness during mortal life).

This basic trust seems to be a goal prescribed by Jesus - that ultimately we do not live by planning but by faith. To have that is necessary; but it need not come first.

Hamish said...

I hope this analogy isn’t too silly, but I feel that in some sense that we are being asked to become aware of an something like an ultimate conspiracy or reality so far reaching and pervasive that it hides in plain sight. The ‘conspiracy’ of love. To recognise and participate in it. To know that it comes from God and to recognise the signs in his creation and in others. I can’t say I love well but I hope in some sense I recognise the ‘conspiracy’. I pray I will one day feel this love in a more personal sense, perhaps some sign that I will recognise and be meaningful to me if not to others.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Hamish - I think I agree! Clearly we are meant to 'trust in the Lord', whatever the situation; not, of course, to make us optimally happy and successful in this world, nor to save our civilization (which so much wants to destroy itself); but we need to trust in our salvation and also our capacity to grow spiritually whatever happens (and not to worry about what might happen). So, it would be fair to say there is a conspiracy for ultimate good at work in creation, in all manner of things.

Faculty X said...

Which God?

Bruce Charlton said...

@FX - God the creator.

Faculty X said...

Aten? The Demiurge Yaldaboath? The one god of the Other Religion? They are all thought of as 'God the creator'.

Yet no Buddhists or Jains since they do not believe in such a creator god?

Bruce Charlton said...

@FX - What do you want me to say? My argument applies to some Gods as believed by some individuals, but not to others. I'm not intending to make a list. That's up to anybody who wanted to apply the argument to their own case.

Bruce Charlton said...

Faculty X said... Buddhists are on the non-god side so are they on the side of evil? Your post implies yes since they are not motivated by LoG, instead by a philosophy of enlightenment. Is there an exception for them? I ask which god because in the Bible it really matters which god. The Bible is not support for any who believe in any god-the-creator. Many gods are said to be such. It's about who is the one true God.

BGC Replies - This is a different subject from the post altogether. This post is about the religions it is about (including, but not necessarily restricted to Christianity). It is not about "which God is true". Ive written about that kind of stuff in the past, but it is way to big a theme for comments.

Francis Berger said...

Interesting comments on this thread, but I don't understand 'the God is not here with us, no real contact with God, hard to love an abstract God, God is out there somewhere' arguments. To me, loving God first implies loving that which is divine within ourselves and moving outward from there, leading to the alignment Bruce speaks of in his comments. True, it is difficult to maintain 'contact' with the divine self, but every once in a while it reveals itself. This is not an abstraction. In my mind, its the most concrete thing we can experience in our mortal lives, and it must come first. If we love that which is divine in ourselves we put God first because God loves that which is divine within us.

Bruce Charlton said...

I think that there may be an ambiguity between First in temporal sequence, and First meaning of primary importance. I meant the latter: Love of God needs to underpin some faiths, and for Christians it includes knowing God's love for us individually.