Monday, January 21, 2013

On God and Love part 2

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...,...CARM poster HRG ( who is a Mathematician) says it is a "category error" to say "God is love." Oxford dictianory of Philosophy defined category error as:

 A notion prominent in the work of Ryle. A category mistake arises when things or facts of one kind are presented as if they belonged to another. Someone would make a category mistake if after being shown all the battalions and regiments she wished to be shown the army. Ryle believed that a Cartesian theory of mind depended on the category mistake of reifying mental events, instead of seeing mental descriptions as just one kind of description of persons and their dispositions. Thinking of beliefs as in the head, or numbers as large spatial objects, or God as a person, or time as flowing, may each be making category mistakes.[1]

The reason HRG thinks its a category error to say "God is love" is becuase he doesn't know what a metaphor is. He thinks love is a quality or an emotion, it's produced by feelings which in turn stem from brain chemistry. Thus a  person such as God can't be a feeling produced by brain chemistry. He also no doubt thinks God can't be a person either because that is a category error according to Gilbert Ryle. That's a question for another time. Of long time readers of the blog will know that I don't put God on the level of "a person." God is not "a being" but being itself.
......,It's not uncommon for a lot of people to reduce love to the level of brain chemistry. The illusion that that is all love is is produced by the fact that love both manifests itself to us in feeling and is confused with a lot of different feelings. Feelings are transmitted though brain chemistry, thus a lot of people assume that love is just a feeling and feelings reduce to chemicals in the head. In discussing "love" in a theological context of cousre I'm talking about agope Greek term sometimes translated "charity" in English, that in itself is misleading. It leads us to think that charity just means giving things to the poor since that's mostly the context in which it is translated. What charity really is will become clear when we consider the full meaning of the term agape.The best definition of term was driven home to me not by a dictionary or Greek Lexicon but by Paul Tillich (of cousre). In his History of Christian Thought [2] he defined it as the willingness to accord basic human dignitary secure the good of the other (that's my paraphrase). From this i derive my formulaic saying "Love = will to the good of the other."
.......We have a tendency to use the term "Love" for everything form sex to ice cream. We confuse it with a lot of garbage including Romantic concepts and erotic desire. This is all based upon the notion that love is a feeling. The illusion that it is a feeling is produced by the fact that it's often manifested through feelings, thus many other feelings are taken for love when in fact hey have nothing to do with love. One of the most common forms of this problem is the confusion of sex with love. Of course I'm not going to deny that there is a special form of love that is shared between husband and wife, or between a man and woman. There are also special forms of love shared in the living out of many kinds of relationships, father and children, mother and children, other relatives, friendships. All of these are forms of love but they are extensions of something that goes much deeper than mere feelings. Feelings are deceptive and easy to mistake. On the other hand we can't really comprehend love in a cold dispassionate way apart form feelings, even though love is much more than mere feeling.
.......In it's broader scope love is an act of the willing "the will to the good of the other." That encompasses a range of concepts such as "the good" that can only be described "philosophy." In it's  highest summit love is an idea that encompasses it's own philosophy. Even this is not as far as we can go. We are told in 1 John 4:8 "he who loves knows God for God is love." This is not a category error because it's not saying that God (who may be compared to a person in some way) is a feeling.What else would it be? Considering the nature of the statement if we love we know God for God is love it's clearly a  metaphor and can refer to God's character. If we love we know God, why? Because that's what God is like. God is loving and kind and if we are loving and kind we know God's nature. Moreover, to say God is love implies a relationship so close between God and love that to know one is to know the other. What would that mean by that go is the origin or source of love. Since God is the origin or source of all things, directly or indirectly, that's just such a stretch.
.......God's charter is eternal, it's not the product of a prior cause, thus it is the basis of all that comes to be. It would have to be just as fundamental to the nature of things as God himself, that means we can link being (God is the ground of being) to love. Love, being, God all go together as the basis of all that is. We can construct both a philosophy of behavior and a philosophy of ethics on this concept. Love is the background of the moral universe. As God's character love would have to be the motive force behind creation and the end to which all is driving. Thus God is linked so closely with love we can speak of them both as the alpha and Omega. Love is the motive force, being is the action, "God" is the guiding logos that puts it all into action and brings about a creation based upon that impetus.
.......In the world of human experience love is a universal. All people around the world are capable of love, even in the higher agopic sense. All mystics sense love at the core of God's presence, even those who refuse to call the object of their experience "God" refuse to call the center of the experience "love" still describe all the secondary feelings around it including the positive outcome of the experience. That universal nature to love, in all faiths, all time periods, and all cultures, in association with the holy the religious sense is a good indication of something transcendent of mere brain chemistry something outside of human brain structure.[3]
......Love is a mystical reality. When we exhibit true love we enter into a reality with God where we can experiences soemthing of the nature of God's motivation and will. Love at it's core is mystery just as God is mystery. It's beyond our understanding, how could we understand God's motive force? That would be like understand the core of God. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul is lauded for his one poetic passage about love but he also tells us some pretty important things about love there. first, he's using negative theology by telling us what love is not. He excludes from the application  "love" knowledge, mystical experience per se (not to say love is not a mystery) and understanding of spiritual things. "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. " It's patienter and kind then he excludes several behaviors one might describe as "tacky." So love is manifested in positive behavior that builds others up and excludes behaviors that tear them down (not easily angered keeps no recores of wrong, v. 4). (The will to the good of the other).
.......Neither is love merely altruism or sacrifice: 3 "If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing." That's the problem with translating Agape as Charity becuase it conveys the impression that just giving and sacrificing for the poor is love in itself. Although it might prompt us to do that. The sacrificial part can be apart form love. Then what he says about loves eternal nature bears out what I've said above:

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
Love is eternal and it's the most important form of knowledge. All gift related spiritual forms of knowledge will pass away all the mysteries of the world will be explored but love will never cease. Of course it could not be eternal and be separate form God. Thus love and god are intrinsically bound up. Anything that is that closely linked with God implies a personal nature to God. We can't have impersonal unconscious love. Then it would not be a motive force or a character unless there's a character there. The personal nature of God is implied. This creates problems for some who seem to think that any consciousness on God's part is anthropomorphic regardless of how highly nuanced. I plan to deal with that issue next time.


[1] Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy quoted on URL:
[2] Paul Tillich, History of Christian Thought, New York: Simon and Schuster,Touchstone Books, Forward by Carl Braaten, 1972.
[3]Ralph Hood Jr. “The Common Core Thesis in the Study of Mysticism.” In Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion.  Patrick Mcnamara ed. West Port CT: Prager Publications, 2006, 119-235.
this is a Google books preview and doesn't include all the pages.   scroll to page 119 where the article starts.

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