Thursday, August 18, 2011

A REFORMATION OF LOVE? date unknown... a note to Edward Fudge

Edward , are you reluctant to embrace the full range of Greek words of love? Agape, Philia and Eros. Agape, for example, can hardly be said to be Passionate. But that is what Eros communicates clearly. In your writing you use the word passionate(agape does not resonate passion) but all your description of love sound fully agape. This is predictably the case with mainline Christian teaching. 

Agape, dependable unconditional loyalty, though of deep importance does  not even include the passion felt by a  young couple for each other on a hay ride, much less the Passion that must be a part of divine love and called up for humans to embrace and experience as the corner stone of spiritual experience. And sadly, typical Christian teaching would never associate the passion of the couple with a Spiritually based love of God/Humans. That is the problem. The love making experience  where most humans naturally exclaim, 'my God' has no place in what orthodoxy teaches about loving God and being loved by God. The two have been pulled poles apart. Many reputable scholars are convinced that the NT dominant use of  agape and never Eros  from the full range of Greek words is because of a 'one stood for all' type situation, rather than an elevation of Agape over and in place of the others. This is so important to the meaning of the heart of the Christian concept of love. The Septuagint( The Greek translated Old Testament the N.T. writers used) uses Agape, for example, for purely sexual love and at least once even for rape. So agape was used for all the different meaning of the Greek words for love. Until Christianity can better and more broadly define love descriptions as including its more full meaning, our image of God and Human love will likely remain distant, cold, intellectual and even a superior attitude toward the beloved rather than mutual. 

To love God , for it to be humanly meaningful and even possible, must mean it literally embody at least all that it means for a human to love. Love by and for God has fallen into a wispy, feathery, other worldly, intellectual, even legal concept that can only be redeemed and brought back to earth and to life by understanding clearly that Jesus surely loved with a full ranged experience of agape, phileo and Eros. A restoration of Eros would go a very long way to correcting and bringing balance to this very serious problem and loss in traditional Christian teaching regarding its most central teaching and highest possible virtue, love.

But prepare, most Christians will be embarrassed to think of such love as being what is invited, needed and what is allowed. That embarrassment reflects the 'weakness' of love being without the Eros element. We should be embarrassed for having lost the meaning of the fullness of love that needs to be seen as the heart of the gospel for it to truly be the 'dynamos of God'. Edward, this shrunk and weakened definition of love can be seen as much of the reason why  Christianity is declining in practical meaning(in America as it has lost footing in Europe) as a recent Newsweek article discusses. Surely for Christianity to get it right it must get its most basic word right. It must get Love right. One of your recent essays on love would be a good place to let the Greek language relay to people just what all is potentially included. *That would give the typical Christian something to be challenged by, to work with and to be excited about. Such a presentation of love would truly, I believe, be a blessing to all believers and perhaps a reformation not unlike in attraction to Lutheran one. The church, before Luther, thought it had the gospel in a neat little box, perhaps it has that attitude again. This one thing could constructively open that box like nothing else I can imagine.

Blessings, Jim

P.S. It is interesting that my English spell check insists on Eros being spelled with a capitol E. Maybe it is trying to tell us that something very Sacred has been left out of our concept of love in God's and our own nature.
* The reader may wish to read this related post:


Anonymous said...

To make the assumption that the Septuagint is inspired is equivalent to assuming that the vulgate or the  textus recepticus is inspired. 
If your major premise is wrong, or your minor premise is wrong, your conclusion will also be wrong. If the blind lead the blind...

Jim Hibbett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim Hibbett said...

Hi Anonymous, I was not assuming the Septuagint is inspired. The NT writers did not hesitate to quote it even when it was in error of translation from the Hebrew. So I too am referring to it as no less authoritative. This is hardly the main premise of the theme of this essay. I was just making a side comment about how the word translated 'love' in both Old and New Testaments has a wide range of meanings and one of them Eros has unfortunately been left out of the overall meaning for us folks today. Thanks for your interest. Jim