This is a second of a series on the importance of love in Christian theology and contemporary culture.
In the last post we talked about the relegation of love within the theological priorities of post-Reformational traditions where love comes in a very definite second to faith.
In this post we’ll look at the opposite trend: how in (some) contemporary Christianity love is celebrated and extolled, prioritised and spoken about in terms that elevate it to such a degree that it becomes a goal in itself.
By this I mean that love takes on a sentimental and even mystical nature, that when experienced you have reached a higher spiritual existence.
Love itself becomes divine – the ground of our being.
This links back to a post on how, in contemporary culture, we have shifted from John’s famous statement, ‘God is love’ to ‘Love is God’. Where love itself is idolised and revered as that alone which gives life meaning.
As the fab 4 sang, ‘All you need is love’.
This is all quite subtle and hard to pin down, after all, you have to be a miserable old curmudgeon to be anti-love don’t you?
‘Love Alone’ theology
Here are some symptoms of what I call ‘Love Alone’ theology
1. Love is spoken and sung about in ways that it is detached from the narrative of the Bible. Love becomes what we want it to be. Yet, in contrast, Christian love has a particular character – it is shaped by God’s self-giving love in Christ. It calls for a wholehearted response of obedience to God. It requires humility and repentance. It depends on God’s grace. It entails deep cost to the self.
2. The ‘content’ of love is assumed – the assumption being ‘sure we all know what love is don’t we?’. That content tends to be sentimentalised – love is warm, inclusive, feel-good, fulfilling. It is that which meets our deepest needs.
3. The difficulty of love is downplayed – it is assumed that love is automatic and easy. Little or nothing is said about our own distorted loves and sinful desires.
4. The cost of love is ignored – love is that which brings happiness and joy, not that which often involves pain and sacrifice.
5. The focus of love tends to be individualistic – faith in God is what gives ‘me’ an experience of God’s love that brings me comfort and hope.
6. Love trumps all – if something is loving, the presence of love trumps all. So, for example, a couple in love who want a baby to love pay a woman to rent her womb. Love trumps any ethical concerns over surrogacy. The outcome (love) justifies the means.
Comments, as ever, welcome.