Tuesday 17 September 2019

Love is a world realm (for Christians)

Since Christianity puts so much emphasis on Love; putting it, indeed, as the very core value - it is essential to understand what is meant by Love.

Currently, most mainstream Christians have adopted mainstream society's post-1960s idea that Love is (merely) a feeling or emotion - as such, a subjective phenomenon, usually ephemeral, and ending at death or before. Such a definition defines Christians as idiotic dupes; and renders any sin into a virtue simply by claiming that it is based-on Love.

But Christians have not been very effective at explaining - even to themselves - what Love actually is if it is not merely a temporary emotion.

This is probably because Love is not taken seriously enough by Christians. If Love is primary, it must be located at a primary level, as one of the fundamental (metaphysical) assumptions of creation - Love needs to be what makes-possible this creation, this world.

First, this world, this creation, is alive and conscious, made of Beings (not things). But Beings tend to be fissile, to pursue each their own self-centred gratifications - Love is the choice, the ultimate commitment, by which Beings align their methods and goals. 

Indeed, I would say that Love is God's realm - the world of creation.

Inside the realm of Love, there is possibility of creation; because Love is what makes for coherence, cohesion, the attractive 'force' that does not just hold-together the disparate Beings of creation; but intrinsically-harmonises their aspirations and motivations.

For example; a group of people without Love will relate to each other 'instrumentally' by means of various compromises between selfishness and altruism, between short-termist gratification and long-term survival etc. This situation is familiar in the workplace, and in public life generally.

By contrast; a group of people inside the realm of Love (for example, an ideally Good Family; which we can all imagine, even when we have not experienced it) will find that their aspirations, goals, methods are all developed within the context of Love; so that they will 'automatically' be aligned; and will continually be adjusted (as things develop) in light of that Love.

These alignments and adjustments are not compromises, nor are they experienced as compromises; they are instead just exactly what the Family members most want to do.

And that is the difference made by Love - the difference between (on the one hand) life being, at best, a compromise of long-termist mutual exploitation; and (on the other hand) a life in which Love is a medium within-which individuals may live positively, creatively.

Without Love there can only be indirect communications; each requiring cycles of many unreliable steps such as encoding information, transmission, perception, analysis, understanding etc. But Love is a communion of Beings, and Love makes communion possible by enabling a direct and unmediated, immediately apprehended, knowledge - each of the other.

So Love does not merely 'bind', it transforms the very nature of the situation; in exactly the way that a loving Family is different from a random collection of people trying to function-together according to various and labile sets of objectives, rules and practices.

Christians identify this realm of Love with the fact that we live in a creation, made by a creator whose children we are and who loves us.

By means of our brother, Jesus Christ; we are invited to join the eternal realm of Love after biological death; where we will participate as resurrected Beings.

Christians are those who believe in the reality of this eternal realm of Love, and who wish to inhabit it; who joyously accept that invitation.

Note added: The difference between Love in this mortal life and in Heaven, is that of permanence. By accepting the offer of resurrection into Heaven we (as immortal, indestructible Beings) make a irreversible commitment to Love. This solidity of Love is what then makes eternal positive creating a reality. By some contrast; here on earth our condition is one of learning primarily, one characterised by innumerable sources of change: sin, corruption, disease, degeneration... Yet we all experience Love, and can learn from that experience, if we so choose. 


Epimetheus said...

Very clearly put. I like this. It's like unity without conformity. All the players just want to perform an improvised song with Love, and through the magic of Love they together play a symphony.

Heaven is like a giant jamming session, maybe, or it's like the chaotic joy of a children's arts and crafts day.

Francis Berger said...

This is among the best elucidations of love I have ever encountered.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Epi - That's exactly what I was hoping to get across. Your metaphor is a good one - indeed Arkle uses it in one of his essays; although he talks in terms of a (one person per part) symphony, when your idea of an improvised jam session is more accurate.

@Frank - I'm relieved to hear it! My excuse even for attempting the subject is that the current dire state of understanding of Love is not very difficult to improve upon. Christians need to do better on this, eschewing swirling abstractions - if possible.

Bill said...

Are their older authors who are able to articulate this understanding of love? Is the current muddled understanding due to modern materialist blindness or has this concept always escaped expression?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Bill - I think this understanding was that of the Fourth Gospel


But it was essentially missed-out by the way the Christian church developed (because the early, and later, theologians incorporated Greek and Roman philosophy, which was very abstract - using materialist metaphors, and considered Love very abstractly.

It required a fresh series of revelations from the late 1700s onwards, in what might be termed the Romantic movement (in its Christian form) starting with Novalis, Blake, Coleridge and their successors (of whom I am particularly fond of Owen Barfield and William Arkle).

The revelations of Joseph Smith (the Mormon prophet) incorporated much of this persepctive in his founding of the Mormon church (CJCLDS) from 1830, especially its metaphysical theology (which is, typically, not much known by Mormons, nor much discussed by them - so far).