Monday 17 October 2016

What is Love? (For Christians)

Love is the most important thing for Christians, the primary reality (as it relates to all that is Good) - yet Christians have mostly been terribly confused about the metaphysics, that is the deepest level of understanding about, Love.

This is because of the Greek and Roman classical philosophy into which Christianity was squeezed and twisted in the early years of the church - which make something that ought to be, needs to be, clear - into something abstract, paradoxical and sometimes just incoherent.

(For example, the first commandment is to love God - yet the God of classical theology is all-but un-loveable - being mostly a collection of incomprehensible abstractions such as omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, one-ness and indivisibility; unchanging, wanting nothing, without passions or desires, living outside of time etc. One might rationally submit to such a God, but how to love him?)

What follows are notes on how I currently make (ultimate) sense of Love - for what it's worth.

Conjugal love has primacy: that is, love between husband and wife; and from this all other love derives.

So, the first love was between God, our Heavenly Parents - and from this came the love between God the Father and the Mother and their children, of their children towards the divine parents , between their children (i.e. love of 'neighbour'); and the love of creation... all of which eventuated from this first loving union.

Or, the first creative act was the voluntary mutual love of our Heavenly Father and Mother.

That was the model of all other loves - and the source of all cohesion and cooperation and creativity.

Love is therefore active, dynamic, purposive - hence creative. Therefore Life and Reality is an unfolding, a development, a growth and an increase...

So love has a past, present and future; it is a living quality that gives rise to all positive qualities, it is the source of harmony - potentially in everything (and that which is outside the love by choice, is outside the harmony - alone); and the nature of everything comes from the nature of love.


From this can be seen that the Classical Christian errors relate to love being conceptualised as static or unchanging, being unitary and unsexed. These errors are partly addressed by the mystical doctrine of the Trinity (making deity multiple and dynamic, while somehow still unitary and unchanging), and also by the Catholic theology of Mary the Mother of God (to reintroduce the feminine, and the reality of two sexes) - but not fully addressed; and only at the cost of complexity, confusion and difficulty/ impossibility of understanding. This has sufficed to satisfy many in the past - but the problems are nonetheless intractable. 

I believe that love - for Christians - ought to be (if properly understood) simple, lucid, universally comprehensible - love at the divine level ought to be known as of the same nature and quality (if not scope and power) as human love. 

The main post is dependent upon the validity of the revelations of the Mormon Prophet, Joseph Smith; as validated by the following general Authorities of the Mormon Church - although not necessarily what many or most Mormons currently believe. William Arkle has also been a big influence.


The Social Pathologist said...

Wrong. Eros is not the basis of Caritas.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SP - I don't say so - you presuppose the validity of a division in the concept of love which I do not acknowledge as valid.

Scooter Downey said...

Most Christians don't approach God via the Greek mode anyway, so I don't think it's much of problem. The predominant biblical model of love is a Father's love for his son and vice versa. But I don't see a need to limit it to one model when there are many others that express it well (the Church as Bride and Christ as bridegroom, etc). The actual problem today is viewing love and God in the magic genie sense as offering material provisions on-demand.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SC - The difficulty is in having a concept of love which is both personal and objective and also universal - and I don't think this is provided by mainstream secualrism, or Christian theology. Lacking which love tends to be devalued in practice.