On the face of it, this topic might seem to be only about the subtleties of Christian theology. However, it’s more than that; it is the foundation for an argument that suggests that God might require his existence to remain unproven so that humans can fulfil their calling to love selflessly.
What is Love?
‘Love’ is an ambiguous word that has many meanings. In fact, you could consider there to be four categories of love, each named after an ancient Greek word: Storge (pronounced Stor-gay), Eros, Philia and Agape. Storge refers to the love found within families, Eros refers to the desire to draw out all that is good, beautiful and true (particularly in a romantic context), Philia is the love within a friendship and Agape refers to a selfless love.
The first three of these categories, Storge, Eros and Philia, could be considered to be kinds of love that are typically offered on condition that they will be reciprocated. For example, the love found in families can often be accompanied with expectations of loyalty and behaviour. Romantic love and friendships often only function when they are reciprocated.
However, Agape love, in contrast, is not offered conditionally. By definition, it is most likely to be unreciprocated, and the giver is less likely to withhold it even when it is unreciprocated.
Agape Love in an Imperfect World
In my topic, ‘Human kindness would never exist if our world was perfect’, I argue that humans can only develop traits of kindness by learning to compromise their desires and by learning to act in compassion and that their opportunities to do this depend on them living in a world of conflict and suffering. These traits (being able to compromise personal desires) and acting in compassion are those that are most akin to the characteristics of agape love.
Agape Love in the Bible
I personally believe that the Christian calling is predominantly a calling to love selflessly. I’m not trying to undermine the importance of other aspects of Christianity such as divine forgiveness, prayer, worship and evangelism. However, I do feel that the Christian calling to love selflessly is by far the most important and is sometimes more neglected than it should be.
References to the overriding importance of selfless love within Christianity can be seen throughout Jesus’ teachings. For brevity I list only two passages taken from the Gospel of Matthew; there are others.
“Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
In the topic “God doesn’t want his existence proven,” I argue that God may require his existence to remain unproven so that our actions are more likely to be acts of selfless love rather than reluctant acts of obedience.