Tag Archives: love

love of self & others

More and more, I’m convinced that love of self and neighbour/others are meant to go together.  Love of self without love of others is – literally – selfish, and love of others without love of self is not only unsustainable but false.  Leaving aside the question of justification for love of self (when we all know too well of the things we do which we don’t love – or do we grow too skilled at dismissing these things from our minds?), I found a relevant statement yesterday in Dallas Willard’s Divine Conspiracy.  As a part his argument that ‘hunger for significance’ is not egotistical, he defines egotism in a helpful way:

Egotism is pathological self-obsession, a reaction to anxiety about whether one really does count.  It is a form of acute self-consciousness and can be prevented and healed only by the experience of being adequately loved.  It is, indeed, a desperate response to frustration of the need we all have to count for something and be held to be irreplaceable, without price.

 

both-and, again…

This photo (found on Facebook) reflects a false, either/or view of Christian spirituality.

It assumes that a) respecting, serving, growing and happiness of ‘you’ and b) respecting, serving, growing and happiness of ‘God’ are in direct and total contradiction.  To quote Hannah Moore from the film ‘Amazing Grace’, “we humbly suggest you can do both.”

I suspect that the person making these ‘corrections’ to the original photo probably meant well, and I agree that a ‘humanism’ that defines itself as being over-and-against (or otherwise independent of) God is counter to Scripture and the Gospel.  But I deny that loving yourself is in tension with loving God or others.  Indeed, based on Christ’s epitomisation of the entire Law (i.e. Mark 12:29-31), I’m inclined to believe that Love of God, others and self are inseparable.

a trinity of ‘knowledge-lights’…

Epistemology is the most foundational of topics in philosophy.  How trustworthy is human knowledge?  Or worded another way: How much ‘faith’ (Greek ‘pistis’ for ‘trust’) can we put in what we think we know?  At one end of the spectrum, you have narrow, ‘verificationist’ epistemologies (such as: logical positivism & naive realism) that only trust knowledge that can be ‘verified’ by empirical methods.  At the other, you have skeptical ‘post modern’ epistemologies (such as the phenomenalism of Maurice Merleau-Ponty – The Phenomenology of Perception) which hold that all we can truly ‘know’ is the ‘sense data’ of our perceptions.In his book, The New Testament and the People of God, N.T. Wright follows the thought of renowned Catholic philosopher Bernard Lonergan (particularly his Generalised Empirical Method) discussing a kind of middle-way between positivism and phenomenalism: ‘critical realism’.  Elsewhere, he has described an ‘epistemology of love’, where love is that which a) respects the ‘otherness’ of the other, while at the same time b) remaining in rich subjective relationship to it.  Critical realism is first critical in that it is aware of its potential for self-deception and the distortion of perception, but it is not so critical that it does not take the second post-critical step of then daring to describe the reality it believes it actually ‘knows’.

I’ve been recently intrigued, however, by a talk on Epistemology by Mark Strom (audio here) where he claims that all human knowledge involves not only acts of love, but also faith and hope.  I find this really compelling.  Our knowledge of any activity, person, principle or thing involves faith, hope and love – in some form, and at some level.

Scientific knowledge, for an interesting example, involves all three.  The natural scientist must first have faith (Greek pistis, meaning ‘trust’) that his object of study, the natural world, will, under the exact same conditions, always behave exactly the same way in the present and future as we’ve observed it to in the past.  She also hopes that the hunch followed will be fruitful, that the experiment designed will be sufficient, and that the knowledge gained will be helpful and worthwhile. And finally, there is also love – the relational dynamism between a subject and object; in the case of science, between the observer and the observed, the cosmologist and the cosmos, the neurologist and the neurons.

Faith, hope and love (I thought for a few minutes today), then can be thought of as the ‘vehicles’ by which knowledge comes to us.  However, this, I decided, is too anthropocentric a metaphor.  Better to see them as ‘lights’ by which we are enabled to ‘see’ Truth.  But of course, this vision remains imperfect, blurry and ‘dim’…

Love never ends. Prophecies? They will be set aside. Tongues? They will cease. Knowledge? It will be set aside. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully knownAnd now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” – Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 13:8-13

the (w)hole in our confession

Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind & strength
Love your neighbour as you…
Love your self.

Love of God, neighbour and self are all interwoven.  I’ve been thinking lately about confession, which – like love – occurs in relationship.  Protestants often are quick to give reasons why they don’t confess to a priest like Catholics.  “Through Christ, we can confess [but do we!?] directly to God…”  Fair enough.  But one thing about confession to a priest is that at least they are confessing horizontally as well as vertically.

I may be wrong, but I suspect that Protestants are not that great at horizontal confession.  When we do it, we often only confess the really easy-to-confess stuff.  “Oh, I just have to be honest with you… I’ve allowed myself to get too busy this week.”  In the ModWest, being busy is a virtue, for crying out loud – that’s hardly confession…  Rarely do we [OK... I!!] have a) the courage, and b) the quality of relationship to confess the darkest, deepest, hardest-to-confess stuff.

My theory is that our vertical confession is at least complimented (and, at most, completed!?) by our horizontal confession.  I reckon it can be all too easy to create a ‘god’ that suits our (vertical) confessional needs; that responds to our confession with just the perfect amount and flavour of gentleness, assurance, anger, frustration or whatever makes us feel better – which is too often the reason for doing it anyway…

Confession, like love, is meant to be so holistically real that it touches all of our person – our emotions (heart), our identity (soul), our thoughts (mind) and our actions (strength).  May we be truly honest, real and vulnerable in our confession – vertically to God, horizontally to our close, trusted friends, and even internally to ourselves!!

Confess to the Lord, with all your heart, soul, mind & strength
Confess to your neighbour as you…
Confess to yourself.

activist theologian

I picked up a copy of Gustavo Gutierrez‘s ‘A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics and Salvation‘ for a) my growing interest in the biblical theme of ‘Freedom’/’Liberation’, and b) the ‘Themes in a Missional Spirituality’ block-course I’ll be taking this semester at Carey Baptist College – with guest lecturer – and author and theologian – Charles Ringma (very exciting!).

He ends the Conclusion with this:

We must be careful not to fall into intellectual self-satisfaction, into a kind of triumphalism of erudite and advanced ‘new’ visions of Christianity.  The only thing that is really new is to accept day by day the gift of the Spirit, who makes us love – in our concrete options to build a true human fellowship, in our historical initiatives to subvert an order of injustice – with the fullness with which Christ loved us.  To paraphrase a well-known text of Pascal, we can say that all the political theologies, the theologies of hope, of revolution, and of liberation, are not worth one act of genuine solidarity with exploited social classes.  They are not worth one act of faith, love, and hope, committed – in one way or another – in active participation to liberate humankind from everything that dehumanizes it and prevents it from living according to the will of the Father. (p.174)

modesty and attraction

Modesty isn’t (on one hand) wearing body-hiding, beauty-suppressing clothing to prevent even the possibility of someone having any kind of attraction.  Nor, of course, is modesty (on the other hand) wearing body-flaunting, beauty-distorting clothing to ensure every possibility of every kind of attraction.

Modesty and being attractive are not at all at odds with each other.  Proper attraction between two people happens through attractiveness of various kinds – i.e. an attractive personality and attractive attire.  Being attractive in the truest sense is to act, speak, behave and dress in a way that fosters healthy mutuality and relationship with an other.

Prudism is unattractive in the passive/negative sense, because it witholds the whole person from an other.  Exhibitionism (used here to refer to the opposite of prudism) is also unattractive in the active/positive sense, because it forces too much of the person onto an other.

Therefore, the problem with immodesty (whether the immodesty of prudism, or the immodesty of exhibitionism) is not that it is too attractive, but that it is not attractive enough.

who is my neighbour?

In chapter 10 of his gospel (or not far into the Jerusalem journey narrative as he would have seen it – he didn’t divide his gospel into ‘chapter and verse’), Luke presents an exchange between an expert in the Law (of Moses – i.e. Torah) and Jesus.  The lawyer is first trying to ‘test’ Jesus, and uses a fairly standard question of the day to do so.

Both Matthew and Mark also record this question asked of Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

I don’t want to bother with the whole discussion of what this question means and what it doesn’t mean (suffice to say that it does not mean ‘how moral must I be to get into heaven after I die’).  I’m more interested in how Jesus answers this “law expert”. Continue reading

teleology & ethics

The word ‘teleology’ (from Greek τελος ‘telos’ – meaning ‘goal’, ‘end’, ‘purpose’ or ‘that toward which things tend’) is not a street-level term.  However, the concept of a purpose, goal, function or ‘end’ to things most certainly is.  It’s a common as anything.  Teleology is blindingly relevant.

Continue reading

lamb omnipotence

omni (all) + potent (powerful)

All red herrings about making rocks too heavy to lift or making a 5-sided triangle aside, the notion of God’s omnipotence at least implies that God has the potential to do literally anything. Continue reading

tommy-tramp time

Went ‘tramping’ (‘hiking’ for my U.S. friends!) today with Thomas and a couple friends in the Y-tax (a.k.a. Waitakere Ranges).  Was great! :)  gotta love that baby bag and flowered pouch thingy :) (photo below)

Continue reading