The present Archbishop of Canterbury recapitulates the theology and practice of the desert fathers, particularly their ability to take sin absolutely...moreThe present Archbishop of Canterbury recapitulates the theology and practice of the desert fathers, particularly their ability to take sin absolutely seriously and at the same time to absolutely refuse to judge others' sin. (less)
St John the Theologian tells us -- twice in the fourth chapter of his first epistle (verses 8 and 16) that 'God is love.' Not 'God is loving,' nor 'Go...moreSt John the Theologian tells us -- twice in the fourth chapter of his first epistle (verses 8 and 16) that 'God is love.' Not 'God is loving,' nor 'God loves.' No, God simply is love. So it shouldn't be surprising if a priest or theologian says the same thing. But the most splendid explication of this from a philosophical perspective has recently been published -- Jean-Luc Marion's The Erotic Phenomenon (University of Chicago Press, 2007).
Marion is a Roman Catholic layman and arguably the leading philosopher in France today. Although he has written on a number of philosophical topics, including his important work on Descartes, he is best known in theological circles for his God Without Being: Hors-Texte (University of Chicago Press, 1995). In that work he argued that most philosophical and even theological discourse about God is irredeemably metaphysical, i.e., it speaks of God in the language of 'being.' As a result, much discourse about God is guilty of 'conceptual idolatry.' The proper name for God, Marion argues, is Love. His affinity to the apophatic tradition of Eastern Orthodoxy was immediately apparent upon reading his book, and he is, in my opinion, the most important living philosopher and the one whose work is most congruent with the Orthodox worldview.
Now, more than a decade later, Marion returns to his theme in an extended philosophical reflection upon and account of love in many forms -- but all, at root, as having to do with God. While the book is not a light read, it is a rewarding one, and I believe it is a timely one for Christians. As a reviewer for Le Monde wrote, 'In attempting to place love at the center of things, Jean-Luc Marion wishes to escape the reign of heartless reason.' While I don't have the time or space here to reprise the contested nature of reason today, particularly religious reason, I do want to give you a sample of Marion's work. Here is the better part of the work's last two paragraphs.
'When God loves (and indeed he never ceases to love), he simply loves infinitely better than we do. He loves to perfection, without a fault, without an error, from beginning to end. He loves first and last. He loves like no one else. In the end, I not only discover that another was loving me before I loved, and thus that this other already played the lover before me (§41), but above all I discover that this first lover, from the very beginning, is named God. God's highest transcendence, the only one that does not dishonor him, belongs not to power, not to wisdom, not even to infinity, but to love. For love alone is enough to put all infinity, all wisdom, and all power to work.
'God precedes and transcends us, but first and above all in the fact that he loves us infinitely better than we love, and than we love him. God surpasses us as the best lover.' (less)