Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Divine Love As Giving (Miroslav Wolf)

So, what do we Christians mean by love? First, let’s consider what we don’t mean. Plato’s Symposium is likely the most influential text about love in the whole of Western literature. In it, Socrates argues that to love is to desire something one does not have and considers to be good. Apply this definition of love to God, as some Muslim theologians do, and you immediately see the difficulty. God lacks nothing that is good, and God has no needs. So God cannot desire anything God doesn’t have. Therefore God cannot love— in Socrates’s sense of the word. Now, Christians agree with Muslims who think this way. All responsible Christian theologians insist that God doesn’t love in this “needy” kind of way; such love wouldn’t be worthy of God. 

Does it follow, however, that God doesn’t love at all? We use the word “love” in another sense— not just to designate desire for what we lack, but commitment to give of what we have and of who we are. This is the main sense in which the Christian tradition speaks of God’s love. “For God so loved . . . that he gave,” reads the famous verse about God’s love quoted earlier. When God loves, God doesn’t long to get something, but undertakes to impart something. God gives when God creates; God gives when God delivers; God gives when God forgives; God gives when God grants eternal life. God gives, and in giving God loves. All of God’s works are done out of generosity, none out of acquisitiveness.

--Mirsoslav Wolf (Allah: A Christian Response, p. 154)

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