Wednesday 15 August 2018

Love versus unity versus obedience

Christians are not always, or indeed very often, good at expressing what kind of thing we are (or ought to be) aiming at in relation to God.

There have been metaphysical errors from very early in Christian history - and over the centuries they have become hardened into falsehoods; and too often Christians, when pushed, will hold to their metaphysical errors rather than the essence - pushing Christianity either towards Hinduism on the one side, or Islam on the other.

This particularly applies in the matter of God.

Some Christians are misled by the idea of unity, to come to believe that it is their job to become unified with God - which is actually an Eastern, Hindu, kind of belief and goal. To suppose that total unity with God is our proper goal, is implicitly to regard the creation of Man, with an apparently autonomous self, as an error (or evil) that needs undoing. The end-point aimed-at is to cease to be a self, and to be reabsorbed by and into the divine.

Other Christians see their main role in being obedience to the will of God - and they see disobedience as the main sin (which they may term pride - although I would argue that the prime sin of pride is not captured by disobedience). But this goal implicitly regards it as an error (or evil) that Man has free will or 'agency' - except for the single act of choosing to obey God.

This means that humans have no active role in creation, but act only as (dispensible, un-needed) tools of the divine - and it implies that love is Not of fundamental importance in the relationship between God and man (or between Men).

The errors of unity and obedience comes from the same source; which is misunderstanding the relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ. The one-ness between the Father and Son is properly to be understood as a perfect harmony of purpose, not of being. The perfect obedience of Jesus to his Father is also a consequence of this one-ness of purpose. And that purpose is the on-going work of creation.

The centrality of love in the teaching of Jesus is mainly revealed in the Fourth Gospel ('of John') - which is the premier Gospel in terms of authority. The one-ness that the Father and Son achieved, and that we Men should aim for, is a unity of love; and love implies permanent differentiation of selves - love is obliterated by any fusion, absorption, assimilation of a Nirvana-like kind.

And it is love that explains why Men are agents -that is, originative centres of consciousness distinct from God; because love must (ultimately) be chosen. (Coerced love is not love, unconscious love is not an act of freedom.)

Much of this can be understood in terms of the relationship between the Father and the Son; but only when that relationship is regarded as one that all Men could and should aim to emulate. God is to be known as our Father, Jesus our elder Brother, all Men as Children of the Father; and the Father, Jesus and Man are all of the same basic kind - different quantitatively, not qualitatively.

So, we need a schema stating that all Men could (and, it is intended should - but by choice) become divine in the sense that Jesus was divine, and that all men could (and should) work towards achieving a one-ness of purpose with the Father that is based in love and by agent-choice (such as Jesus attained).

This one-ness of purpose may be glimpsed in mortal life in a good marriage; where the man and woman are distinct persons, agents, selves; and that distinctness is what makes love possible. We may also imagine that such love could make possible a one-ness of creative purpose; and may further imagine that this situation could be permanent.

So eventually there are two persons, indeed potentially many persons: a 'family' - distinct and unmerged but inseparable, with a one-ness of purpose; and love as the ultimate reality that makes it possible.

1 comment:

Chiu ChunLing said...

I think that it's interesting that the two metaphysical errors of departing from acknowledgement of the need for a loving relationship between essentially distinct but fundamentally similar beings both lead to the same place despite starting off in apparently opposite directions.

The Eastern error claims that there is no valid commandment outside our own will, because that will is inseparable from the divine. The other error (and I won't restrict it to Islam) claims that there is no valid freedom, even the choice to obey should be removed in the idealized form of that doctrine. But in the end both roads lead to denigration of the possibility to be anything other than a tiny fragment of a whole that is ultimately less than the sum of its parts because it cannot ever love even itself.