29 October 2009

The Giving Love of God is NOT a Zero-Sum Game

... a popular heresy [of the past], imported from Greek and Islamic philsophy, was that God knows and loves only
universal species and concepts, not individual persons.[The thought was}..God would demean Himself by caring
for individuals ...but..the God of the Bible works. He cares. He broods over His people like a mother hen...-
because He is love and love is always particular.

But particularity sounds snobbish to many people. How are the Jews claim to be the chosen people? The incarnation [of Christ] itself has been called by some universalist scholars “the scandal of particularity.” How dare God be so discriminatory as to pick out individuals for special merit? Not the rest of the world, but Abraham; not Ishmael, but Issac; not Esau, but Jacob. And Moses, Mary, Peter and Paul. Throughout Bible history God is not egalitarian. This is particularly hard for Americans to accept.
….God is not an American…God is a lover. Americanism—[carries with it the] ideal of equality, and love knows nothing of equality. …to the eyes of love the beloved is not equal to others but unique. If comparison is made at all, the beloved is always the best. But love does not compare, it just loves.

The lover does not love his beloved’s eyes because they are perfect. They are perfect because he loves her. He does not love her because she has beautiful black hair. He loves black hair because: ‘Black, black, black is the color of my true love’s hair.”

But then what becomes of univsality? That is also a divine truth. God loves not just some but all. But he loves all individually. Put abstractly, the probem is this: we want both concreteness and universality. We want neither a love that stops with the abstract universal nor a love that stops with only one concrete individual, but a love that is both concrete and universal.

[The philosopher] Hegel’s solution was to start with the universal, which is the philosopher’s temptation, and to declare it concrete. His god knows and loves “the concrete universal.” Like Plato, Hegel thought that abstractions like humanity or the state were things in themselves. He thought they were more real than individual things and were the proper objects of belief and love for both God and man.

The Bible…[puts forth] just the reverse. Scripture starts with the particular and then universalizes it. You are called to love your concrete individual neighbor and then to realize that every individual is your neighbor. The point is not to destroy concrete neighborhood in a fit of universalism but to expand the local neighborhood and embrace the universal neighborhood.
This is exactly what parents do with their children. They love them all, but they love them each. That is why Father is the best analogy for God. Good parents are not particular in an exclusive way by loving this child but not that one. Nor are they universal in an abstract way by loving all in general but no one in particular. Rather, they are universally particular by loving each totally and specially. Love works by a wholly different mathematics than the mathematics of finitude, in which equality becomes division. In math, if I give you half, I have only half left for myself or for another. But love gives all to each and loses nothing.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You, 157-159.