Hooo boy! Here we go again! As you can see my BS meter is pinging.
I am amazed at the lengths to which some laypeople and even clergy will go to twist the understanding of God so that eternal conscious torment of sinners can be slipped in the back door of their theological belief system. Once again I have entered into another discussion online. I am accused of using a univocal definition of love and applying it to God. As you will see in the posts below, the one opposing me is trying to say that there are different definitions for love and that I can’t use a single, univocal (having one meaning only) definition of love, especially in regards to God.
DEFENDER OF ECT: For my sister and I, love obliges us to do more or less similar things. My father is married, and has a regular, paying job; so for him love includes providing for his family and then helping the poor. My paternal grandfather is old and sick, so for him love asks something different. My grandaunt is orphaned, unmarried and childless, so she practices love in a way different from my sister or father.
All of us should love,yes, but the way in which we love is different.
From the above, you will have realized two things: Firstly, different people practice love in different ways, secondly, what form love should take depends on who we are, what we have,etc.
Now let us apply this to God.
God is extremely different from man, and hence God’s love is extremely different from man’s love.
To use a simple example, love implies that man should not judge. This is because we are sinners ourselves, and because we don’t fully know the other’s situation. But God is completely sinless and omniscient.
Another: Man is indebted to those who do good to him. But no one can do a favor to God, because God is perfect and doesn’t need anything from any creature.
And my response to this theological crappola:
ME: In trying to remain irenic and charitable to a brother in Christ, I will refrain from my first thoughts when I read this.
1. No, the way we love is not different. Love means one thing and one thing only – that you do that which is BEST for the object of your love. THAT is way you love. When Jesus tells us to love our enemies, he even defines it in the Scriptures, talking about doing good to them. These actions are not predicated on our emotions towards the enemy or how we are feeling in a given moment. Now the manner of doing good may differ. One person may need her rent paid for the month. Another may need a visit in a hospital room. Still another another may just need a nice smile and a compliment on her job, a small act of love, but an act of love nonetheless. In any and all the varied cases of giving love, both to enemies and friends, the act is always one of positive self-giving and doing GOOD for the other.
Now suppose you tell me how torturing someone in eternal fire meets that criteria? i would be interested in how you define such an action as a “good” for the one that is being done to?
2. Doing good does NOT depend upon who we are, what we are, etc. The MEANS of doing good, as I outlined above, may differ according to the need, but you do not love your enemy in a different manner than you love your friend. In both cases, you seek to do that which is good and best for them.
3. Where do you get the idea that love implies that we should not judge? The very act of loving another means that you MUST judge in order to do the BEST for them. I know what you are getting at. People assume that sloppy sentimentalism, the idea of “not judging” people but “accepting me as I am” (even in their sins) is love. Bunkum. That is not love, that is emotionalism. Love always judges. It judges the circumstance and the person so that it can do the BEST for them. And this is how God judges also. Here is how love judges.
3. God is different from man, but that does not change the ontological nature of love. Love is doing the BEST for the other person. That is in Scripture in Matthew 5 and 1 Corinthians 13 as well as at the Cross, where love did the BEST for all of mankind, not some small group of “the elect.” (Romans 5: 12-19). Love is the same whether God practices it (NOTE: He can’t “practice it”. He IS love, therefore, as TheJack and I have discussed, what He is, He does) or man practices it. You are trying to make love somehow different with God so that you can crack the door open a few inches, slip eternal conscious torment into the room, and then call that love. I find such a misrepresentation of the ontological character of love to be…………….never mind.
4. God is indebted to no one because, as TheJack has taught me, He is simple and free. But God IS love, therefore, He does what He is. The torment that sinners feel (and remember, those who teach Patristic Universalism do NOT deny that there is torment for sin after death) is the “scourging of God’s LOVE” (St. Isaac the Syrian) and it is intended to do something. It is intended to bring the soul to its senses by the torment of the realization of its vanity, the vanity of sin, the nothingness of existing without God, and a very personal knowledge of the harm done to others.
I experienced a very, VERY tiny taste of this one night eleven years ago in the monastery where I was discerning a call to that vocation. My mind was suddenly filled with a very deep knowledge of how badly I had treated my first wife (I thought myself to be a wonderful and devout Christian – HAH!) I was shown things that hurt so bad……I can’t even begin to describe the sheer horror of it.
IT FELT LIKE A FIRE IN MY SOUL!!!
And if this is what my very infinitesimal taste of the truth felt like, I don’t want to ever experience something like that again. It will be a horror beyond belief to the fornicator, the thief, the lying politician, the murderer, etc. to experience the truth of their sins in such a manner.
But to leave them in that state forever is not love. Don’t even try to persuade me that such an action is love. Remember, love does the BEST for the object of its love, therefore, since God loves all – ALL – (in opposition to the despicable Calvinist idea of His limited love to the elect and His HATRED for all others) then LOVE will do the BEST for all. And the best is to use that torment to cure the soul and bring it into its proper teleological end, which is union with God. That is what the soul is ordered to, that is what love will bring it to, and God is powerful enough and loving enough to bring it to completion.
Anyone who can look at the Cross and see the free, immutable, loving, all-powerful God reduced to being spit upon, mocked and cursed by His creatures, suffering the most agonizing death imaginable, and yet imagine that in regards to these creatures would say “Meaaaaaa……….I’ll let most of them be destroyed and only save a handful” DOES NOT UNDERSTAND LOVE.
THAT is not love. Not even close. **
When I read the statement that God is vastly different from us, therefore His love is different from ours, my immediate and first thought involved particulate that emerges from the rear end of a cow. This is the kind of linguistic, philosophic, and theological gymnastics that people resort to when they are cornered. It is profoundly dishonest. Love does not change in what it is because it is held by different beings. It may be expressed differently and in different forms, but it always remains love – that is, it is always the doing of what is the BEST for the object to which it is being expressed. In fact, (I just thought of this) the problem with this is that God is immutable, that is, unchanging. My opponent would defend this position, yet he is saying in essence that God is changeable, that He is now love and now something else (anger, rage, justice, getting even, whatever you want to call it). God doesn’t change, therefore, since He is love, His being love doesn’t change either.
Anyway….if you can show me that unrelenting torment without any hope of healing, reconciliation, or even mercy is in the best interest of a soul, as opposed to scourging that soul, healing its condition, and eventually bringing it to completion, then I will get on the ECT (eternal conscious torment) bandwagon.
** I’m sure I will get another response in which I am told that my definition of love is wrong and that I am wrong for believing in it. I’ll keep you posted, dear reader. I hope that these postings about God who IS love, and who actually loves instead of getting revenge, are edifying for you.