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Christian Love. Philosophy of Love and Sex. Terminology. In the Bible, the words philia and agape are used almost interchangeably. These words apply to all forms of love, including erotic love. In the Greek translation of the Song of Songs, the erotic love is denoted “ agape ”.

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christian love

Christian Love

Philosophy of Love and Sex

  • In the Bible, the words philia and agape are used almost interchangeably.
  • These words apply to all forms of love, including erotic love.
  • In the Greek translation of the Song of Songs, the erotic love is denoted “agape”.
a religion of love
A “religion of love”
  • What does this mean?
  • All morality is somehow summed up in the duty to love God and neighbor.
  • St. Augustine: “Love and do what you will”
  • “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:2).
  • So, Augustine’s maxim is not a permission to do whatever you like. If you love, you will obey God’s commandments.
  • God is love, and the central doctrines of Christianity (e.g., Trinity, Incarnation, Sacrifice of the Cross) express God’s love.
what is love of neighbor
What is love of neighbor?
  • Love is often tied to actions.
  • “For God so loved the world that he sent his only-begotten son.” (John 3:16)
  • “Greater love than this has no man, to give up his life for his friend.” (John 15:13)
  • All the forms of love should be agape.
a puzzle x loves god iff x loves neighbor
A puzzle:x loves God iff x loves neighbor
  • Does this mean that atheists cannot love neighbor?
  • Restrictive approach: if x doesn’t seem to love God, then probably x doesn’t love neighbor, despite appearances.
  • Expansive approach: if x seems to love neighbor, then probably x does love God, despite appearances.
  • Maybe you can count as loving God if you love God’s creatures and are grateful for their existence—even if you do not know that God is the one you are grateful to.
  • Or maybe to love God is to obey his commandments, and by loving neighbor one does that?
aquinas on love
Aquinas on love
  • Love of concupiscence
    • x benefits and appreciates y because y benefits z (z might or might not be x)
  • Love of friendship
    • x benefits and appreciates y for y’s own sake
  • Love of friendship is the better kind of love
  • Puzzle: If love of friendship is the better kind of love, and love for God is the best kind of love, how can we have a love of friendship for God? After all, we cannot benefit God.
  • Aquinas’ suggestion: We can “benefit” God in an extended by benefiting God’s friends—i.e., our neighbor. (This is like Nozick’s well-being extension view—God’s well-being extends to include the well-being of thos ethat God loves.)
two kinds of union
Two kinds of union
  • Formal union: Always present in love (a directedness to the good of the other)
  • “Real” union: An additional union that one pursues (spending time with the other, engaging in marital relations, teaching, etc.)
  • The formal union is just as real. (The terms are unfortunate.)
  • Formal union is basically the same across different kinds of love
  • Real union is different
mutual indwelling in formal union
Mutual indwelling in formal union
  • The beloved is in the lover intellectually: the lover keeps on thinking about the beloved
  • The beloved is in the lover in will and affection: the lover pursues the beloved’s good as if it were her own
  • The lover is in the beloved intellectually: the lover wants to know the beloved from the inside—from the beloved’s point of view
  • The lover is in the beloved in will and affection: whatever hurts or helps the beloved hurts or helps the lover
  • Grace builds on nature
  • Should love those close to us more than we love our enemies—but should love our enemies
  • Need for prudence