The Divine Love, Pt. 1: A Fundamental Truth.

December 12, 2017.

It’s been quite some time since I have written something here, and I want to apologize for that. I love writing, and I want to get back into the habit of fleshing out some spiritual thoughts through this medium, as other priorities and plans seem to have taken precedence over this over the past year. I can’t say that is a thing of the past, as there are simply many important things to do, but I would like to see it change a bit in the favor of writing and putting out similar content. That being said, the topic I have chosen to get back into the mode of writing is probably more daunting than it should be- but hey, life is boring without a challenge! It turned out to be a rather long piece, so I have split it up into several sections that I will post on subsequent days. If you would like the full text in  PDF form, click here! I hope you stick with me for a bit as we tackle some of life’s hardest questions.

A Fundamental Truth

Over the past couple of years, I have been talking with a friend in Germany about many complex concepts and topics, and one that we seem to have come back to time and again is that of objective truth and whether or not it exists. Recently, I had a discussion with my sister-in-law about absolute truth, and, again, whether or not it exists. Each conversation started from a different angle and was nuanced by the starting beliefs of all parties involved, but they each sought to tackle a question that the human race has struggled with for a very long time. These are not easy discussions that end in simple answers, and I do not suppose here to answer these questions definitively, nor give a robust argument for the existence of objective/absolute truth. That would take a different medium, with more space (though I also can’t promise this to be a short post)- and many greater minds than I have took on this task.

Rather, here I would like to make a proposal that there is at least one fundamental/absolute truth, and it is through our understanding of that truth that many of our biggest questions, both inside and outside of religion, can at least begin to be answered. I will not make an argument for the fact that this fundamental truth exists, but rather put it for as an axiom upon which the theory/understanding of life is built and makes sense. I want to make this point clear so that you do not read this as an apologetic for the absolute truth that I am proposing per say, except that by its explanatory power it may be established to be a fundamental truth.

This may seem a strange way of understanding truth, but it is actually how we understand most anything. All scientific disciplines are built on axioms and universal assumptions that cannot be proven- they are assumed and then the discipline is built on these assumptions. In mathematics, for example, there is the axiom of equality which states “For each variable x, the formula x = x is universally valid.[1] Some may condescendingly call this simply a tautology, and you may ask how this is an “assumption”- but that reaction precisely reveals the nature of the axiom. There is no theorem that can prove this statement- it is self-evident and must simply be assumed for mathematics to exist.

I say all this not to derail the discussion, but rather to set it up. I have come to believe that there is at least one fundamental truth, and it is through this fundamental truth that we can understand our existence, purpose and suffering.

I believe the fundamental truth is this: Love.

Throughout the rest of the discussion, I will assume this truth and discuss how love (in a Christian context) can answer some of our deepest questions. I will also define what I mean by the term “love” throughout.

Who is God?

I will begin with what perhaps may seem to be the most difficult question, but this is only because I want to be up front about what I am and am not answering, and then move on to further questions that I think I can answer more comprehensively (though not completely, of course). I do not claim to hold a complete answer to who God is, but rather I think the fundamental truth I have proposed can help us understand one of the hardest concept about the Christian God.

But I will start with the simple statement in I John 4:8 and 16: “…God is love.” This is one of the main reasons that I have assumed a/the fundamental truth to be love- I believe God is love. By this admission, I do not mean to say that you must simply believe it to be so because the bible says so- I am only explaining my starting point. I am a Christian, and I am taught that God is love. And this is the starting place to understanding the Christian God.

The Christian God is said to be three in one- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There have been many explanations and analogies given over the years to try to explain this concept. I personally like the analogy of the flame, which pictures God as the flame that is generated from three candle sticks whose wicks are held in close proximity. However incompletely we explain how the Godhead works, there has always been a harder question in my mind- not how is God three in one, but why?

Historically, Christianity has argued vehemently that we are a monotheistic religion- we believe in one God, or that God is one. This obviously finds its roots in Judaism, really tracing its roots back to being an Abrahamic religion. But the thing is- it didn’t have to be this way. When Christianity was born in the first century, it challenged and overturned many of the Jewish beliefs that it came from. Why should the notion that God is one need to remain? I believe that the tension between “God is One” and the trinity remains because the fundamental truth demands it to be so.

Interestingly, the idea of multiple persons in the Godhead is not necessarily completely of Christian origin. There is ambiguity in the Hebrew scriptures in certain books about the nature of God and how He could be in two distinct forms at the same time, such as when the deliverance of Israel from Egypt as God and the Angel of the Lord (see Judges 2:1-3, I Sam 8:8, Micah 6:4). This lead to a belief (whether it was always heretical or not cannot be clearly ascertained) of “two powers in heaven”, or binitarianism.[2] Dr. Heiser argues further that there are even hints at the trinity in the OT.[3] Whether this sheds light on what ancient Israelites actually believed or not, I believe it at least hints at the divine nature of God, and gives evidence that God has been seen as multiple persons in one being for a very long time.

But why must this be so? As seen above, I John 4:8 states that “God is love.” I didn’t think that this verse held an answer to this question until I read C.S. Lewis’ compelling thoughts on the matter in Mere Christianity when discussing the Godhead:

All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that ‘God is love”. But they seem not to notice that the words ‘God is love’ have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love. Of course, what these people mean when they say that God is love is often something quite different: they really mean ‘Love is God’. They really mean that our feelings of love, however and wherever they arise, and whatever results they produce, are to be treated with great respect. Perhaps they are: but that is something quite different from what Christians mean by the statement ‘God is love’. They believe that the living, dynamic activity of love has been going on in God forever and has created everything else.[4]

Lewis goes on to describe how he views the Holy Spirit arising from the Love that is shared between the Father and the Son, so that this love itself is in fact the third person of the Trinity. I believe this is one of the best rationales for why the Godhead exists as multiple persons. If Love is a/the fundamental truth (as I believe can should be derived from I John 4:8, at least in a Christian context), and God is love, then He must exists as multiple persons.

God in three persons- Father, Son and Holy Spirit- is the ultimate embodiment of the fundamental truth of love.[5]

Who are we?

Building on the concept that God is love, I think we can begin to answer another question that has plagued mankind for thousands of years: who are we? Or rather, why are we here? There are different answers that have been given over the years to this question, and I do not claim that mine is in any way all that novel. However, if we take a/the fundamental truth to be love, then our very existence falls right in line with this ideology. We must be careful to point out here, however, that mankind is not needed for love to exist- at least if we take what has been said previously as truth. God is love, and always has existed as love in the Trinity. Mankind does not fulfill some need of God to love. However, I do believe that we can view our existence as stemming from the overflow of the love of God. In what is perhaps the most quoted verse of all time, John tells us:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
(John 3:16)

And further in I John:

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
(I John 4:9-10)

There will be much more to say about the concepts that these verses convey in context, but here I only want to point out that we exist because of and for the love of God. In Genesis 1:26 we are told that man was made in the image of God- or rather to be His representatives on earth. This why I believe the fundamental truth of love to be evident- we were created for this purpose, to be like God. In fact, John goes on to say in verse 11 of I John 4, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” I will come back to this idea in my concluding section.

(to be continued in Pt. 2)

____________________________________________________

[1] Check out the Wikipedia page on axioms for this example and more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axiom.

[2] For more information about the “Two Powers in Heaven”, see Alan Segal’s seminal work “Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism.” In his dissertation, Dr. Michael Heiser expounds on Segal’s to bridge the gap between Segal’s book and the Hebrew Bible. See http://drmsh.com/the-naked-bible/two-powers-in-heaven/ for more information. Also see http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/OTGodheadLanguage.pdf.

[3] http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/OTGodheadLanguage.pdf.

[4] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, book 4, chapter 3 (p. 142-143 in “The Complete C.S. Lewis signature classics” paperback).

[5] Please note here that I am in no way speaking of causality here. I’m not saying the fundamental truth of Love created God. I am simply saying that God is love, and because of that He exists in three persons. With the equivalence given that God=love, the two cannot be separated in any way, and thus one did not “cause” the other. They simply are.

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