Sunday 29 April 2018

The two great commandments - first love God, then fellow Men (interpreted by William Arkle)

Detail from a painting called the Unknown Watcher by William Arkle - a Heavenly being (upper left, only partially seen in this view) patiently awaits attention from a man absorbed in the trivia of everyday living

The one who loves God also gradually realises that he is loving a real responsive individual with whom he is now a friend, and this experience is confirmed by all the other experiences of love to be different from worship. For worship is a sort of one-sided love which does not allow for a response and therefore cannot move into friendship, because in worship we do not relate to God as a living being but we idealise God in a fixed image that we have in our own understanding and thus we prevent Him coming alive. 

We do this, no doubt, out of a diminished sense of our own value and adequacy and out of a sense of modesty. But we only have to look at the nature of love for a moment to realise that the truest form of love does not have to behave in this manner to whatever it finds desirable to love.

In fact we discover that it is most unkind to worship others rather than to love them because it fixes them in a mould they do not wish to be fixed in; in fact by worshipping people we imprison them. But love does not wish to imprison the one it loves, above all, love longs to give expansion and enhanced beingness to the one it loves. Love longs to be in a creative and growing relation- ship with the one it loves. Love is the highest expression of life itself, and life is never static, but always wishes to be aspiring and developing towards new and untried possibilities ties.

So what I feel the term a loving God really means, is that this God is trying to develop us to a stage where we can become His friends in this deeply loving, active, personalised way which allows the creative fruits of a friendship to arise between them which constantly keeps pace with the liveliness and creative aspiration of the living spirit of our common Divine Specieshood.

When we enter this loving friendship with God, which enables Him to be a responsive individual as we are, then we discover that we are also able to befriend one another as well. And thus we find that God becomes our wisest and best friend among many friends. And if we look into the deep heart of love we will see that this is exactly what it has always wished for, and it is the motivation and mainspring behind the whole process that we know of as creation.

Excerpted from an essay called Divine Love, in The Great Gift, by William Arkle; read the whole thing here...


Chiu ChunLing said...

As excellent and important as it is to note that love is greater than worship, it is marred by the assertion that there is any relationship at all between them.

To worship is fundamentally to recognize as worthy (or deserving) of a particular response. There is fearful worship of that which is worthy of fear, for instance, which forms a continuum with respectful worship of that which is worthy of respect, but has nothing to do with loving worship of that which is worthy of love.

A thing may be considered "worthy" of a response because prudent, sensible consideration of the consequences of such a response indicates that it serves our rational self interest.

But love has nothing to do with whether the beloved is worthy of it. However, that cuts both ways, you may love someone even if loving them is the prudent, sensible thing to do in service to your own self interests. It is just rare for that to be the case.

Our love for God, however profound and personal, should never obscure our humble recognition that we will always gain far more from our relationship with God than God can gain from a relationship with us. It is far better to love God than to worship Him, but it is not like we face an actual choice between love and worship of God.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - Arkle's point concerns how most people have probably understood 'worship' and that it is incompatible with God's hope that we become 'friends'.

TheDoctorofOdoIsland said...

Indeed, the artificial definition of worship most of the monotheistic religions have used never accurately reflected human experience. Worship (honor, reverence, adoration) is not something most people do intentionally because they'd arrived at some conclusion about who or what deserves their attention. Really it's something we all do without thinking about it. We worship people, places, ideas, books, flags, phones, money, all sorts of 'idols'. Every man has his god. Our Father knew this of course; the same set of commandments that tells us to have no other gods before Him also tells us to worship our parents, as any healthy child does. There's no such thing as a monotheist or an atheist when you get right down to it- we're all polytheists at heart.

- Carter Craft

Bruce Charlton said...

@Carter - Arkle is also saying that if we are to become what God wishes us to become, there will come a time when we cease to worship him as we cease to worship our parents. But this cessation of worship is a transition (necessary, but as a transition) to loving God as a friend - from a position of qualitative (although not quantitative) parity - just as we would hope to love our parents as 'friends', by choice, from a parity (although not equality - because they will always be our parents) when we become adults ourselves.

Arkle has to use the word 'friend' for this relationship, but is is a rather feeble word in general modern usage; we need to recall and consider the high examples of such friendship... for example between adult siblings.