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  • Loving God

    This question stems from my recent readings about Catholicism, but I think it applies to anyone with a broadly classical theist view of God--as either Being itself or as possessing aseity.

    What does it mean to love God? I understand how one could come to love Jesus as a human being, but how does one love Being itself? Is it a different kind of love then the love I have of spouse or parents? Is it merely showing a reverence or respect in the face of a mystery (evidenced perhaps by your disposition towards prayer or the sacraments?) Is it something intellectual that we call love by analogy only?

    I understand loving my neighbor and I can even understand loving a stranger, or enemy, or animal. But unless I conceive of God as a person, I don't think I understand what is being asked of the believer.


    Any thoughts on this?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Brian View Post
    This question stems from my recent readings about Catholicism, but I think it applies to anyone with a broadly classical theist view of God--as either Being itself or as possessing aseity.

    What does it mean to love God? I understand how one could come to love Jesus as a human being, but how does one love Being itself? Is it a different kind of love then the love I have of spouse or parents? Is it merely showing a reverence or respect in the face of a mystery (evidenced perhaps by your disposition towards prayer or the sacraments?) Is it something intellectual that we call love by analogy only?

    I understand loving my neighbor and I can even understand loving a stranger, or enemy, or animal. But unless I conceive of God as a person, I don't think I understand what is being asked of the believer.


    Any thoughts on this?
    No doubt Christianity also points to the incarnation as the ultimate example of God's love for man, which in turn makes it possible for man to love Christ the God-man. But Catholics also put emphasis on adoration, worship and reverence due towards God by acknowledging yourself as a creature entirely dependent on Him both metaphysically and spiritually. Thomas Merton said something along the lines of contemplating our relation to God by realizing that here and now we are being continually created by Him.

    It might also be worthwhile checking out the link below from the Catholic Encyclopedia. There's a section entitled "Love of God".

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09397a.htm

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    • #3
      I used to be interested in this question some time ago but no longer. Similar to you, I was also puzzled by it but if I had to give an answer to this question, I would say as Jesus said.

      Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, 36I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’

      37Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’

      40And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.

      This is at least one way of loving God. A more elegant way of defining loving God, I think is "obeying God in order to become an mirror of him(almost the same way Jesus was a mirror for God) for other human beings". So in this not only you are praising/worshiping God (because you becoming the mirror for him shows that you find him the ultimate Good) but also showing his goodness and beauty to others.

      PS: Of course, there is a problem; that these definitions are meaningless for loving the God of classical theists. For all that I said in a sense requires a sort of personal being. I think this is also why WLC finds the Thomistic God different than the God of the bible.
      Last edited by nojoum; 04-10-2019, 02:42 PM.

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      • #4
        nojoum Why do you think the classical theist God is impersonal?

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        • #5
          I usually try to summarize instead of link, but the conversation about whether God is personal reminds me so much of this short article that I can't help but link it. (I also came across this by Eleonore Stump while I was pulling the article up, for anyone with the time and interest. I haven't watched it and can't vouch for it.)

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          • #6
            Originally posted by RomanJoe View Post
            nojoum Why do you think the classical theist God is impersonal?
            Honestly, I just accepted Brian's premise.

            For WLC's comment, watch the video below.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xU2WLZ9mO8o

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            • #7
              Does G-d Have Emotions? is one of my go-tos on the subject of personalism. Maimonides was an Aristotelian radically less optimistic than Aquinas about our capacity to say anything about G-d. Recognizing why "Silence is praise to thee" is to attain a type of enlightenment. Knowing all the things that can't be ascribed (and why) = what we can know.

              Originally posted by David Fohrman
              But here is the problem: Are you comfortable worshiping a being that cannot experience love? Love is an emotion. Compassion is an emotion. Are we really comfortable in just saying God acts compassionately, acts as if he loves us but the feeling of love and compassion is utterly alien to God? What if you felt that your mother acted lovingly towards you but didn't feel any love in her heart? That wouldn't feel so good. Is that the way you are supposed to feel about God? ...

              A higher life form even than us, does God have no emotion? Or just no emotion that we can understand? Of course God has emotion, utterly inscrutable emotion. ... You can use the word 'Love' but it doesn't do justice to the richness, the passion, of an experience that's completely out of our league.
              Great Classical Theists think alike.

              Originally posted by Ed Feser
              In fact, our delight and joy are much less than God’s, and precisely because they are limited by the body and the senses. God’s delight and joy never wane, and they are not limited to a succession of fleeting experiences of particular finite goods at specific times and places. Rather, they involve the eternal and metaphysically necessary possession of an infinite good. It is preposterous to think of that as somehow inferior to the piddling pleasures of which we poor rational animals are capable.

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              • #8
                Thanks for all the replies (and apologies for the delay in responding--I was out of town.)

                I've been lead to understand that on that Catholic view God is personal by analogy, but still truly personal. He is not personal in the way I am--being a composite of intellect and will, having a more or less personal psychology that gives a rather unique perspective to our views, having sustained emotional habits and reflexes... As Friar White puts it in his book The Light of Christ God (as Trinity) is a community of persons, but God is also a metaphysically simple entity that has no potentiality or parts.

                It seems that I can conceptualize either one of these "pictures" of God, but not both, which is what seems to be required. And I understand how a community of persons bounded by love (as the Trinity is) would command love, good works, obedience, etc. It is when I imagine God as Being itself that I don't really know what love could even mean to God. I was reading a section of the Summa the other day and Aquians says this: "Now to love God above everything else suits man's nature just as it does that of all other creatures -- reasoning, non-reasoning, or even non-living: interpreting love in a way appropriate to each creature." This passage makes me think that 'love' here is a type of intellectual activity as opposed to an emotional one (or maybe it is both). I've also had an acquaintance say that to love Christ and to genuinely believe in the salvific powers of the sacrament are ultimately the same thing. I suppose I am just confused at this point.

                I suspect, assuming that the Christian view of God is more or less right, that true love of God is like a culmination of all these things. If God is really our natural end, and he actively draws us towards him, love could increase in intensity until it is like a beatific vision, which is intellectual and emotional and a lot of other things. And on a more mundane level one can love God through silence, prayer, good works, emotional ecstasy, intellectual contemplation. Loving God, if this is right, is a spectrum which can start in any number of ways.

                But at that point I begin to question whether the love Jesus talks about is really the same as the intellectual contemplation that Aristotle and Aquinas talk about. But that is really a different question about the harmony between Greek philosophy and Jewish revelation, and whether the metaphysically simple God of Aquinas is really the same god being described in Job and the Psalms. But I think I'm beginning to ramble. I'll be sure to check out the articles, encyclopedia entries, and videos linked above. Thanks again.

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