[Update: It is now public information that Brian has divorced his wife Monica, and affirms gay relationships. Like most other publications, Spiritual Friendship does not remove posts from our archive, even when the authors change their views. We maintain our view that marriage relationships should not be entered lightly and that all Christians are called to chastity and faithfulness, whether married or single. — Ron Belgau]
In high school, I would cry quietly in my bed. I felt like an outsider in my faith community. I felt a measure of rejection from my family. I felt confusion, shame, and insecurity about my sexuality. All of these added up to one simple feeling: I was lonely. So I wept and prayed every night for Jesus to show up, physically, in my room. He never did.
Throughout my twenties, I’ve gone through periods of asking for that same thing. The reasons have changed, as have the pressures and responsibilities of life. But that silent, desperate plea has not. Please, Jesus. Now. You did it for Thomas. Can’t you do it for me? Just for long enough to know that you’re really here; that my life really matters to you; that this painful obedience and denial is worth something immeasurable to you. But still he resists.
I’ve had a thousand reasons why I’ve felt lonely over the years. When I was young, my dad left, so I felt lonely when I looked up at the family pictures in my friends’ houses. I played classical music and enjoyed musical theater, so I felt lonely when my friends met up after school for garage band sessions. I knew my sexuality was different, so I felt lonely when I couldn’t talk about that boy in the back of that class with my friends because not only was it weird to them; it was a black mark of a sinful disposition. As kids, our loneliness can feel insurmountable.
Enter adulthood. As grown-ups, we feel more empowered to “solve” our loneliness. Some find a spouse. Others find community. Lots find both. We learn to talk about these relationships in particular ways. They help us draw closer to Jesus, bring us life, and become our other half. We use words like love and delight and pleasure and intimacy to describe the ways we interact with others—words that prove we are no longer supposed to feel lonely. Because if someone has love and delight, pleasure and intimacy in their life, how can they still be lonely? That’s how we talk.
But it’s not what we feel, at least in some holistic sense. Loneliness persists. Because the truth is to be human is to be lonely.
Or more precisely, to be human is to feel loneliness in at least some small way, always. We may be individuals created in the image of God, but we are all individuals. No one person can fully and completely relate to another, nor can any number of friends completely satisfy our need to be known in our entirety. Even sex itself—the ultimate experience of unification—is often a not-so-subtle attempt to make oneself completely known to another. But that most physical of connections still cannot break the bonds of our unique sense of self. It’s not just that we must face our death alone; it’s that we must face our life as a created being that is unlike any other created being that has ever been created.
That reality causes us to feel dissonance in our own lives. Because we believe ourselves to be rational and logical, we believe it is logical and rational to assume that the knowing of another or a group of others in marriage or community must therefore satisfy our need to be known. We preach this message in our churches when we uphold marriage as the gold standard and community groups as the vehicles for our being known. Our solution to “I’m lonely” is “Get plugged in”, as if there is a current of emotional and relational satisfaction that one simply needs to connect himself into in order to abate his suffering. It’s an easy way out of an impossibly difficult reality of our human condition: we need not be alone to be lonely.
When the loneliness persists within relationships, our shame grows. We believe we shouldn’t feel lonely anymore, so the loneliness must be a result of some deep selfishness or sinfulness. This shame pushes us into emotional isolation, and the pressure increases in strength until we eventually explode. All of this, because we have not embraced our loneliness as part of what it means to be human.
So how can we integrate loneliness into our lives in a way that releases the pressures that our isolation creates? First, we need to release ourselves from the shame of our loneliness. 1 Cor. 13:12 tells us that while we have been fully known by the Father, we can only know in part while we are in our earthly dwelling. We should expect to feel loneliness in our life, even when we are surrounded by relationships and communities of love and acceptance. There is no shame in this feeling. To love well and still be lonely is not a sign of failure in a relationship; it is a signal of God’s having made us unique creations that only he knows fully.
With this in mind, we shouldn’t be surprised that we need different expressions of love from different people, and that some of these expressions are shunned by our church simply because they have become sexualized by our culture. In this respect, some of our loneliness is culturally imposed. After all, scripture does not prohibit men from holding hands. Scripture does not prohibit a deep, emotionally intimate relationship between friends simply because one or both are married. Scripture does not demand that one relationship meet all of our needs. But our churches do. As does our culture. What is a “Happily Ever After” ending but the full satisfaction of one person in his/her other for all time?
We’re told these lines exist to protect us from physical (or emotional!) infidelity – sex, or the potential therein. But as Christians, we must recognize that embodying love means becoming the physical presence of Jesus for others. We must work towards a radical form of love that does not limit physical affection or emotional and spiritual intimacy to marriage.
Anytime the flesh is brought into the picture – including love incarnate – it brings with it risks of crossing boundaries. We must fearfully accept these risks as opportunities to grow in our capacity to love. After all, love cannot grow if it is not challenged or practiced. In a culture that has sexualized nearly all forms of emotional, spiritual, and relational intimacy, it is the responsibility of the Christian to reclaim these forms of love for the Kingdom of God.
In the measure that we take up this challenge, we must also be willing to embrace failure in equal measure with success in our explorations of incarnate love. It’s ironic that 1 Corinthians 13 has become a declaration of love and fidelity within marriage because the “Love Chapter” challenges believers to practice a form of love that comes at a cost many relationships couldn’t countenance. Our posture in marriage is largely risk-averse, and we reinforce this posture within our communities. Any hint of potential sin is a signal to run the other way.
That’s not the working of a 1 Cor. 13 form of love. This radical love bears all things, not just safe things. It believes all things, not just those things that reinforce our sense of relational security. It hopes all things, not simply the things that satisfy our relational needs. Most challenging of all, it endures all things, including the scars and burns left when our weakness is exposed and our experiments fail. While we don’t seek out failure, we don’t shy away from challenging our capacity to love simply because failure is a real option. In this way, we challenge a culture of isolation by becoming that physical presence of Jesus for others.
But even if we overcome our shame of loneliness and start practicing a fervent, radical, and incarnational love, we will still experience loneliness. As a condition of our humanity, it is unavoidable. Only in eternity will our feeling of being fully known match our knowledge of that reality. Until that day, we must stop striving to fill the void of loneliness and learn to be content in its expression: that in our admission of loneliness, we are not alone.
Instead of growing anxious about our loneliness; instead of attempting to fill it with relationships or marriage or community or sex; instead of despairing and kicking and silently screaming in anger; we can sit with our loneliness and recognize that even in that darkest of places, we are experiencing something that our Savior experienced as well.
The truth is, I was not alone in my room as I wept and begged for Jesus to be with me. I was surrounded by the silent prayers and flowing tears of thousands of others who were looking for the same thing. While I can’t change the isolation I felt so long ago, I can choose today to embrace the reality of my humanity and loneliness, reject the shame that comes with it, learn to become the physical presence of Jesus for others, and admit that even in the best of times and relationships, I won’t feel fully known until I am united with my creator in eternity. Loneliness may persist, but I am not alone.
Brian Gee writes from his own experiences at the intersection of sexuality and conservative Christianity. He holds an MA in Biblical Exegesis from Wheaton College Graduate School and has worked within the Christian publishing industry for most of his career. In his spare time, Brian works as a freelance photographer and a professor of philosophy. Despite his southern California upbringing, Brian lives with his wife and three kids in the Chicago suburbs. He can be followed on Twitter: @briansgee.
Brian, very thankful for this reflection and exposition. Reminds me of Lewis’ discussion of the necessary element of risk when we love (in the last chapter on Charity from The Four Loves). I’m also reminded of the queen of Perelandria’s reflections on loneliness from the 2nd Space Trilogy novel. Basically, C.S. Lewis is awesome.
I reflected on loneliness in a recent sermon that you might find encouraging, as it dovetails quite nicely with your thoughts here: http://crossroadsbaptist.cc/podcast/not-good/
Bless you brother. Thanks again for this.
*****With this in mind, we shouldn’t be surprised that we need different expressions of love from different people, and that some of these expressions are shunned by our church simply because they have become sexualized by our culture. In this respect, some of our loneliness is culturally imposed. After all, scripture does not prohibit men from holding hands. Scripture does not prohibit a deep, emotionally intimate relationship between friends simply because one or both are married. Scripture does not demand that one relationship meet all of our needs. But our churches do. As does our culture. What is a “Happily Ever After” ending but the full satisfaction of one person in his/her other for all time?******
The “full satisfaction of one person in his/her other for all time” is known as….marriage (with “all time” meaning until death). “Exclusive” and “permanent” are the very hallmarks of marriage rather than friendship, by God’s design.
And authentic celibacy for the sake of the kingdom is the setting aside of an exclusive, permanent love relationship with “his/her other” and the embrace of an exclusive, permanent love relationship with *God*, “forsaking all others”.
Our “churches” don’t demand that one relationship meet all of our needs–from marriage comes children, and authentic friendships that are not based on sexual attraction help round out the healthy relationships that surround a married person. Authentic and disinterested friendships, along with family relationships, also round out the communion of persons that supports those who are not married.
And that’s the key point–authentic and healthy friendships, apart from marriage, are *not* based upon sexual attraction. Thus, if two men hold hands because of same-sex attraction, Scripture *would* prohibit that because holding hands then becomes a choice of the will to say “yes” to that same-sex attraction, which ought never be willed. This is not something culturally “sexualized”–whether or not sexual attraction is involved originates within the person, not the culture.
You, sir, tie very heavy burdens on the shoulders of others, in my view.
Jim, I see your point, but it assumes that any of our actions can be urged by one single motive at a time. I frequently hold hands and hug and share general platonic intimacy with my best friends because I love them and I want to share that with them. It also crosses my mind that the way my best friend’s hair falls around her face is just absolutely breath taking and I love it when we sit back-to-back against each other so we can sit up and read on the library floor. So, along with loving her as my best friend and wanting to give all my best-friend-ness to her, I also find her very attractive. If that one feeling in the combination of feelings I have about my best friend mean I’m being prohibitively gay… well… shoot.
Hi, Sarah–since I don’t advocate terms referring to sexual orientation, what I’d say about any potential feeling of sexual attraction arising in the midst of other emotions is that you have to *discern* whether such an attraction is in accord with your pursuit of purity of heart, or not. You’re not called to actively will an experience of attraction to the sexual values of someone of the same sex, because that’s not what that person’s sexual values exist for. And there is a difference between *experiencing* such a sexual attraction and having an objective *awareness* that another person’s sexual values might place them among those others would consider beautiful or handsome or appealing. A person with SSA (just like every person in general) really has to be ready and willing to make this discernment regarding every experience of attraction…
>Thus, if two men hold hands because of same-sex attraction, Scripture *would* prohibit that because holding hands then becomes a choice of the will to say “yes” to that same-sex attraction, which ought never be willed.
True but it doesn’t logically follow that two SSA men cannot hold hands at all. I can give a chaste friendship kiss to a female co-worker but obviously if I am hot for her in a disproportionate way I have no business trying to kiss her(I am married you see).
It is just plain silly to think all gay people are hyper sexed 24/7 & are in a content state of uncontrollable lust.
>This is not something culturally “sexualized”–whether or not sexual attraction is involved originates within the person, not the culture.
Yeh no. That would only apply to inordinate specific attraction to specific individuals. If you are overwhelmingly sexually attracted to a person as to be tempted to the point where if they gave their consent you would sin with them then that is the problem.
I’m pretty certain Brian is not talking about two men holding hands because they are physically attracted to each other. He is speaking to the culture at large that assumes *because* two men are holding hands that they *are* or *must be* attracted to each other. A culture that sexualizes and still shuns this activity in men but tolerates/accepts it without question in women. How sad. Two men should be able to hold hands. What a remarkably non-sexual physically intimate and bond-forming thing it can be. 🙂 Thanks Brian
I alway take comfort in the story of Joseph. Genesis 39 says that while he was in prison, the Lord was right there with him.
Regarding holding hands, wow. I might just have to stick to holding hands with men I’m not attracted to. 🙂
However, I can say what a wonderful thing it was when I shared about my same sex attraction with 3 hetero Christian men and they all embraced me and showed me they cared. Yet we haven’t hugged since then and I’m not sure how I can really fill my “love” bank sufficiently through them.
I’ve tasted these bits of affection and am left longing for more.
I’m with you on the physical affection love tank/bank. (Five Love Languages? WHOOP!)
I know I’ve had at least one guy not hug me because he knew I was attracted to guys. I’m nearly certain this is because he didn’t want it to be a temptation for me, because he kind of stood there awkwardly and when I went for it he seemed relieved. So maybe bring up that it’s actually more helpful for you to get hugs than not. I know that’s true for me, anyway, even though talking about it would feel awkward. I don’t want to come across as needy, y’know? So, I usually just go for it and try to read in the two seconds between putting my arms out and embracing whether or not he seems comfortable with it.
This has definitely been a journey for me. Before I came out, I didn’t initiate hugs with guys or girls because I didn’t want either one thinking I was hitting on them. Then, when I did talk about it I got a whole bunch of hugs, and it was AWESOME! I felt comfortable hugging guys and girls and I did it a lot for a while. Then I kind of tapered off for no reason; it sort of lost its novelty. I realized about a month or so ago that I needed to keep doing that, so I’ve gotten back in the habit of hugging. It’s been good.
I’m so happy to have somewhere like here to put all this, because it feels weird enough writing it here. I can’t imagine doing it elsewhere.This shouldn’t be so awkward!
Thank you for your post. I am realizing more and more that my relational needs are significantly different from the norm of culture. Learning to not beat myself up over feeling lonely is difficult to do and your conclusion of the matter is encouraging… Christ also experienced this as well. The pressure is always there for me to “get plugged in” and yet I know that it will never be the solution. Taking up my cross will yet again be becoming Jesus for those around me who are are in their own isolation, even if my own is never fulfilled. I hope you post more often regarding your process in dealing with your loneliness.
Brian: I appreciate the post, since I have experienced similar things: loneliness, shame about loneliness, the inability to imagine Jesus or God’s love, shame over that as well. I’ve found that the path to wholeness is, as you say, to accept loneliness and other emotional as a part of life and to reject the feelings of shame about them that sometimes arise. But a long way on my path still remains.
Jim: The Bible paints a picture of friendship that’s much brighter and vibrant than portrayed in most churches. Marriage is permanent by design, but that doesn’t imply that friendship need be less intense or temporary. John says “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend”, referring to Christ. Paul uses the same picture for marriage, when he says that a husband should sacrifice himself for his wife as Christ died for the church. Therefore, marriage and friendship are both pictures of Christ’s love for the church, and friendship may, or perhaps even should, involve self-sacrifice like that of marriage. For someone who is not married, friendship may be the only place where such self-sacrifice can be exercised.
Gabriel–I always understood the love of which there was none greater–that of total self-gift unto death–was *agape* and not “philios.” Just because the word “friend” is used in reference to those for whom the greatest love–agape–is given does not mean that love is “philios.”
The unicity of eros-agape in marriage is the kind of unicity one finds in the example of Christ the Bridegroom, whose eros-agape for His Bride allows Him to make the greatest gift of love for Her–the Divinely erotic-agapeic self-emptying on the Cross.
And this “great mystery” as expressed in Ephesians 5 is utterly *nuptial*. We’re not talking about friendship-love (philios) in the “no greater love” passage as I see it. Indeed, in the Greek, the word for love in “no greater love” is….agape.
>The unicity of eros-agape in marriage is the kind of unicity one finds in the example of Christ the Bridegroom, whose eros-agape for His Bride allows Him to make the greatest gift of love for Her–the Divinely erotic-agapeic self-emptying on the Cross.
I call foul.
Deacon how can Christ literally have eros love? As God in his divine person and nature He is immutable and has no passions or emotions. This is infallible dogma defined by the councils and the Popes. God’s love is a pure act of divine will. In Christ’s human nature his divine person has complete domination over it so he does not & cannot have inordinate passions. Thus he cannot feel lust because he is without sin & or mere sexual desire without willing to do so first. Since Christ has no human bride to which he would literally wed then he would have no cause to ever will his human mind, emotions and body to ever experience eros.
There is no mystery here. Eros imagery in Eph 5 & or between god and Israel in the Song of Songs is clearly metaphorical.
As an committed Thomist I have a problem with this.
The word’s philia
Jim: I can read Greek, and I’m aware of the three words for love. I think I didn’t phrase my point very well. I’m aware that marriage is the great mystery that uniquely shows agape. What I mean to say is that agape is commanded in philia as well. Jesus says that the greatest agape is when he laid down his life for his philoi, and commands the disciples to show the same agape to one another. In a similar way, Paul says that husbands should show the agape of Christ to their wives. Thus, agape is supposed to be united with philia as well as eros.
What I mean about pictures is that the picture of Christ dying for his people is the image I should have in mind when thinking of friendship: that in being a friend, I should give my life for my friends as Christ gave his. Since I’m an idealist, that is inspiring to me, though I don’t embody it perfectly.
Christ is a Divine Person with two natures Divine and Human. Thus in his Divine Will which flows from the divine nature he wills agape/divine charitable love for us & via the dogma of the divine simplicity He is the very love that he wills for us. In his human nature his human will is moved by his divine person to love us via philia love as well since that is a power of his blessed human nature which is supported and amplified.
I don’t believe Christ could have felt eros for the reasons I told Deacon Jim. The eros part here is a metaphor not literal. Thought the eros agape love between husband and wife mirrors the love between Christ and his church.
James: I’m just a layman, unacquainted with St Thomas, and don’t know whether I agree or disagree with the Thomistic view of the nature of God. My understanding of the Bible is simple, and since the Bible says that God feels desire for us, I suppose this must be true in some sense, or the Bible would be lying. If God’s eros is only metaphorical, that’s not the same as saying it doesn’t exist. Metaphorical eros is still in some sense eros. If you have more to say about what metaphorical eros is, go ahead, and I suppose it may be an interesting topic, but I don’t have a lot to say about it.
Hi, all–a roundup reply here:
Lorenzo–yes, thanks, mistyped but meant “philia” to be sure.
James Scott–to understand why the Church teaches that God’s eros is definitely *not* merely metaphor, read Pope Benedict’s awesome “Deus Caritas Est.”
Gabriel–I think we would largely agree that there is a universal call to “agape” regardless of whether one is married, or not. I think, however, that I would continue to assert that, in the example of Jesus Himself, His expression of “agape” is necessarily united to His expression of divine Eros for His Bride, the Church. As Bridegroom, He lays down His life for His Bride who is also His friend, much like the voice of the Song of Songs refers to “my sister, my bride.” In Christ, this love for us is always eros-agape, united. But in us, eros is reserved for the conjugal love of man and woman.
Jim: I’m glad we’re in agreement on the question of agape.
Eros is more complicated, and I don’t know that much about it. I’ve been told that the primary direction for eros is towards God, and all other erotes (to use the Greek plural) are secondary. That’s a good summary of what Jesus says about himself, I think.
If eros is understood as desire for good things in general, then I am not troubled by the concept of eros existing in friendship. It is appropriate to admire a friend, and to desire his or her company and good qualities. If eros is understood narrowly as sexual desire, then it’s not appropriate in friendship, because it leads to inappropriate lust and over-possessiveness, which cause pain in both members of the friendship, or to sexual sin.
Thus eros in the sense of desire leading to lust is to be avoided in friendship, but eros in the sense of admiring good qualities and desiring another’s company is appropriate. I have a tendency to the first and inappropriate kind of eros, but with practice and self-knowledge I’m able to experience the second and appropriate kind. This distinction I’ve learned partly from Spiritual Friendship, and is helpful to me.
I’ve always felt very isolated and friendless, and although I’m thankful for the good relationships God’s given me as an adult, I don’t believe I can find what I’m looking for (true knowing and being known) on this side of heaven. I wait with eager longing for the day when God’s people are united with him and each other, and we can know the perfect communion we only get tastes of on earth.
If anyone’s interested, this is one of my favorite poems illustrating the dread of isolation and the impossibility of truly knowing other people: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/listen/
>I’m just a layman, unacquainted with St Thomas, and don’t know whether I agree or disagree with the Thomistic view of the nature of God.
Most of it isn’t so much Aquinas but the dogma of the church.
Thought I highly recommend studying him. He helped save my soul.
> My understanding of the Bible is simple, and since the Bible says that God feels desire for us, I suppose this must be true in some sense, or the Bible would be lying.
Well Christ is the Door according to Scripture but he isn’t literally a slab of wood blocking an entrance. This metaphor shows us that Christ is the way or entrance to salvation.
>If God’s eros is only metaphorical, that’s not the same as saying it doesn’t exist.
God must will His own good by nessecity but he wills our good
gratuitously. It is pure agape which means charity. That is it is
something not owed to us. There is no true reciprocity on our part to God. Eros is the metaphor for a love that is agape or as Pope Benedict put it in Deus Caritas Est “We have seen that God’s eros for man is also totally agape.”
>Metaphorical eros is still in some sense eros. If you have more to say about what metaphorical eros is, go ahead, and I suppose it may be an interesting topic, but I don’t have a lot to say about it.
Well the footnote in Deus Caritas Est refers back to Pseudo Denis THE DIVINE NAMES where PD refers to God as Eros but that is only in the sense of the philosophy Photius who believe a cause has something of the effect in it. As that was a feature of Pseudo Denis.
God’s love is not an emotion. Love in the metaphysical sense is simply to will the good of something. God’s Love is an act of divine will to grant us gratuitously good. Starting with our creation and willing our potential salvation by granting us sufficient grace.
It’s a good thing God’s love isn’t an emotion. Emotions change God is unchanging and immutable and so it his love.
You aré misrepresenting Pope Benedict and Deus Caritas Est…
Not at all I am arguing eros is a metaphor. Benedict doesn’t address the topic. So as far as I can tell it’s my interpretation of Benedict on this tangent issue vs Deacon Jim’s.
If you disagree that is fine I would love to hear your thoughts.
The sentence you are using from Deus Caritas Est is completely out of context and it certainly doesn’t support your claim that in the Bible, God’s eros is only metaphorical. What Benedict says in his letter doesn’t support your claim.
As Benedict himself notes “eros” does not appear in the NT and only twice in the Greek translation of the OT. I am certain I mentioned it somewhere either here or over at Crisis so how can I be making a claim that Benedict teaches the Bible teaches “X”?
I am interpreting Benedict’s statement based on my knowledge of Thomistic philosophy and theology. You haven’t given me any reason to think I am wrong. Deacon Jim however has attempted to do so from Theology(I am not convinced by his answer but he attempted to answer in the right way).
There is no point in us having a conversation about this if you can’t be specific.
God bless & have a Blessed Sunday.
OK. Since want theology and I think the Encyclica “Deus Caritas Est” contains enough theology to explain what God’s eros is and how it relates to God’s agape, I will proceed to present you with a summary of this letter of Benedict. As I don’t have time to do it all at once I will have to do this in multiple posts.
The Encyclical has one goal: “to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others”
The Encyclical has two parts.
Part I intent is “to clarify some essential facts concerning the love which God mysteriously and gratuitously offers to man, together with the intrinsic link between that Love and the reality of human love”
Part II talks about “the commandment of love of neighbor”
I will only summarize he first part as it is the one that talks about God’s eros. Each part in the Encyclica has subparts… I will try to make a summary that conveys the spirit of the first part of letter but this is available for anyone who wants to read it and of course there is no substitute for reading the entire thing.
“A problem of language”… The word love, it was been used and misused. One particular use stands out: “love between man and woman, where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness” However there are other forms of love and the question is “are all these forms of love basically one, so that love, in its many and varied manifestations, is ultimately a single reality, or are we merely using the same word to designate totally different realities?”
““Eros” and “Agape” – difference and unity”… What is eros? “love between man and woman which is neither planned nor willed… was called eros by the ancient Greeks”. Of the three Greek words for love: eros, philia and agape, the Bible makes preferential use of agape, while this is seldom use in Greek itself. This fact “points to something new and distinct about the Christian understanding of love” and many have criticized Christianity because of its (supposedly) “poisoning of eros”. The question is: Is this true? Has the Church killed eros? What does the Church has to say about eros? At this point Benedict starts discussing what eros was to the Greek “as a kind of intoxication” that leads to religious practices as “sacred prostitution”. However, even though the Old Testament condemns these religious practices, It doesn’t reject eros itself. Only the destructive expression of eros is rejected. Eros itself is not rejected but purified. “Purification and growth in maturity are called for; and these also pass through the path of renunciation. Far from rejecting or “poisoning” eros, they heal it and restore its true grandeur”. In fact, the current view of eros in our culture leads to the “debasement of the human body”
The Song of Songs exemplifies this path of purification that eros must undergo: dodim “a love that is still insecure, indeterminate and searching” is replaced by ahaba “a love which involves a real discovery of the other, moving beyond the selfish character that prevailed earlier”. As love grows and purifies it seeks to become definite, it looks to the eternal, it is not a moment of intoxication but a journey. The journey that leads Jesus to the cross and to resurrection.
So, is agape and eros completely antithetic? No, in fact eros and agape “can never be completely separated. The more the two, in their different aspects, find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realized” They are two aspects of the one reality of love. Then Benedict goes on to present how these two aspects are present in the human person, how the person must go to the source of love (God) to replenish and to “take from the source” in order to give back to the community. And then he concludes: ““love” is a single reality, but with different dimensions; at different times, one or other dimension may emerge more clearly. Yet when the two dimensions are totally cut off from one another, the result is a caricature or at least an impoverished form of love”
Eros is then a real “dimension” of love. As it is agape…
“The newness of biblical faith”… First, God is the Creator and God loves man. Greek believed that God was the object of love and desire (man ought to desire and love God) but He does not love. In contraposition Israel knows God’s love. “God loves, and his love may certainly be called eros, yet it is also totally agape”
Benedict says: “We have seen that God’s eros for man is also totally agape” From this it can be concluded that God has true eros for man but eros transform by agape because “God is the absolute and ultimate source of all being; but this universal principle of creation—the Logos, primordial reason—is at the same time a lover with all the passion of a true love”. He is passionate for us. Eros and agape are different yet one love in God. Eros is not metaphorical but “eros is supremely ennobled, yet at the same time it is so purified as to become one with agape”. Further, man can become one with God in spirit, much in a manner in which man and woman become one flesh, “a unity which creates love, a unity in which both God and man remain themselves and yet become fully one”. Thus from the Bible presents the image of God as the creator and as the lover, then presents the image of man and, from the narrative of the creation of man and woman it is clear that “first, eros is somehow rooted in man’s very nature” and second “eros directs man towards marriage”.
That is a neat and accurate summery of Benedict’s thought here.
It doesn’t show me where I “misrepresented Benedict” but it is an accurate summery.
Of course when I took a friendly pot shot at Deacon Jim I was trying to show him by way of satire how easy it was to read errors into ambiguous or ordinary theological statements and find fault with them.
For example: God is angry merely means God wills Justice. It’s doesn’t mean God is literally feeling the emotion of anger which is given God’s known nature in Natural and Revealed theology an incorrect statement. But it is a statement of common speech both inside and outside Holy Writ.
If you have something specific rosamin of where i misrepresented Pope Benedict I wouldn’t mind seeing it otherwise let’s move on before we highjack the thread.
You took the words of Benedict to support your claim that God’s eros is metaphorical, but in reality what he states is that love, indeed God Himself, has two very real dimensions: eros and agape, none of which is metaphorical at all.
No eros is the metaphor for agape which is charitable love or undeserved love. God “desires” or more accurately wills to give undeserved love & unlike eros it has no true reciprocity apart from Grace acting as a divine mirror to reflect it back to Him.
Eros is clearly metaphorical as Benedict says the marriage imagery is metaphorical & eros is a necessary part of marriage and can’t be separated. Thus it is a metaphorical for a love that is wholly agape.
This seems to me to be the natural Scholastic interpretation.
Rosamin you can’t do Theology Sola Benedict. Tradition is too big….
>So, is agape and eros completely antithetic? No, in fact eros and agape “can never be completely separated. The more the two, in their different aspects, find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realized” They are two aspects of the one reality of love.
Christ is the Door and Christ is the Word. Obviously given the divine simplicity neither can be truly separated but that doesn’t negate the fact one is a metaphor the other a real divine relation. In the Augustinian sense(because of the Platonic influence) something of an effect is found in a cause and God is the cause of eros in man so in some sense eros is in him but never the less God doesn’t have emotions or passions. Thus Eros can only be a metaphor here since Gods love by nature in essence is agape.
Better yet God as the Bridegroom is a metaphor.
> Then Benedict goes on to present how these two aspects are present in the human person, how the person must go to the source of love (God) to replenish and to “take from the source” in order to give back to the community. And then he concludes: ““love” is a single reality, but with different dimensions; at different times, one or other dimension may emerge more clearly. Eros is then a real “dimension” of love. As it is agape…
Being “The Door” is a real dimension of Christ but He is not a literal slab of wood blocking an entrance. Eros is not literal desire for God as it is for us in the sense we desire other things or God. Eros is the metaphor for a love that is agape in essence. A Willing for the Good for us that is pure charity. I don’t see how “being a real dimension” negates it being a metaphorical term?
>“The newness of biblical faith”… First, God is the Creator and God loves man. Greek believed that God was the object of love and desire (man ought to desire and love God) but He does not love. In contraposition Israel knows God’s love. “God loves, and his love may certainly be called eros, yet it is also totally agape”.
The reason the Greeks believed this is because as we see with Aristotle the Prime Mover/Architect is not a creator God & He causes the Cosmos to exist from all eternity by necessity. That is Aristotle’s God has to cause the world to be. Aquinas corrected this by showing (consult the Summa) God is a creator and God did not have to create in order to fulfill His Goodness so his act of creation is an act of pure charity/agape. God’s love is not an emotion by the willing of the Good for something. Merely creating us is by itself an Infinite act of Love. But in Charity God gives us more.
>Benedict says: “We have seen that God’s eros for man is also totally agape” From this it can be concluded that God has true eros for man but eros transform by agape because “God is the absolute and ultimate source of all being;
Eros is intense desire and is being used here as a metaphor for the greatness of the divine love in wanting to save us.
But again it is not a literal passion. God has no passions or emotions. Eros is the metaphorical description for a love that is agape in essence.
>He is passionate for us.
Not literally. Not Unequivocally and not even analogously but metaphorically since God has no passions and no emotions since if He did that would violate both the Divine Simplicity and the Divine Immutability.
> Eros and agape are different yet one love in God. Eros is not metaphorical but “eros [being] supremely ennobled, yet at the same time it is so purified as to become one with agape” equates eros not being a metaphor here?
Either or fallacy and the fallacy of the undistributed middle. You have not shown that eros is supremely ennobled, yet at the same time it is so purified as to become one with agape” is incompatible with Eros being used here as a metaphor.
God & Israel as Bridegroom and Bride is metaphorical but you cannot say it is not in some sense a reality. ” God’s relationship with Israel is described using the metaphors of betrothal and marriage;” but you cannot say there is no literal union.
> Further, man can become one with God in spirit, much in a manner in which man and woman become one flesh, “a unity which creates love, a unity in which both God and man remain themselves and yet become fully one”. Thus from the Bible presents the image of God as the creator and as the lover, then presents the image of man and, from the narrative of the creation of man and woman it is clear that “first, eros is somehow rooted in man’s very nature” and second “eros directs man towards marriage”.
Hmmm if you are trying to claim that I am claiming just because Eros is a metaphor God does not really love us or desire us that is not what I am saying at all.
Why do you say I do theology based only in Benedict?
I’m going to tell you what I agree with you:
– God doesn’t have emotions or passions (I did say he is passionate for us and this is a metaphor)
– Christ is the door is a metaphor
– Christ is the Word is not a metaphor
– Marriage in the bible is use as a metaphor for the relation of God with its people.
– Agape is willing what is good for another
– Eros is desired for another.
– Any reciprocity of man towards God is pure Grace.
What I disagree with:
– Eros is a metaphor for love that’s agape. Eros is thus used as a metaphor
From my point of view this is very simple:
– Eros is desire to be intimately united to another.
– Agape is willing the best of the best for another.
– The best of the best for man is complete (spiritual) union with God.
– God wills and desires complete union with man.
– In God (which name is Love) agape and eros are two very real and different dimensions in one, much like the Three Divine Persons are a single God… a Mystery.
This is a truly beautiful post. THANK YOU for writing it!
What is the basis for saying God does not have emotions? Throughout scripture God is described with vivid emotional words. We are made in His image with emotions. The word’s latin root means “to move” and so emotion represents an internal motivating force to move, take action. So God’s emotions would be His internal process whereby He decides to move toward us, to take an action. Granted the nature of God is always in some sense unknowable or inscrutable but to ascribe to God the character of a cosmic machine without passion seems an extreme view.
The biblical basis:
James 1:17 (RSV) . . . the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Malachi 3:6 For I the LORD do not change . . .
Psalms 102:27 but thou art the same . . .
Hebrews 1:12 . . . they will be changed. But thou art the same . . .
The bible uses metaphors so that we can understand God. It shows God as having emotions but these are all metaphors for God is “I AM” and no more than that.
Reblogged this on Reluctant Mysticism.
I agree with you Brian Gee. 100%