Thursday, February 02, 2006

Reading Benedict: Deus Caritas Est - Summary and Commentary, Pt 2 --
Cross posted to Street Prophets

OK, so I have been reading Deus Caritas Est and posted the first part of my thoughts already online.

Now, on the the next section.

The newness of biblical faith

9) God, creator of the universe, has an elective and personal love for man which may be describable as eros, but which is certainly agape.

10) God's love is agape because it is bestowed gratuitously with forgiveness. There are two images of God at work, one the metaphysical being, the other a passionate lover.

11) Human nature includes a feeling of incompleteness and a searching for completion. Marriage attempts to fulfill this longing.

Jesus Christ – the incarnate love of God

12) A definition of love must begin with the radical love shown by Jesus dying on the Cross.

13) This offering of self endures through the Eucharist, which can be considered as a sort of flesh-and-blood consummation of the metaphorical marriage between God and Church.

14) There is a totality of experience. Love of God and of neighbor are united through the Eucharist. Faith, worship, and morality/ethics are things that are intertwined, and to separate them is to fall short of the goal of unity in ~agape~.

15) The New Testament opened up the definition of neighbor beyond the community. The Church has a duty to interpret this concept of neighbor with regards to daily life.

Love of God and love of neighbour

16) We may ask "Can we love God without seeing him? And can love be commanded?" Love of neighbor is inseparable from love of God and is necessary before we can "see" God.

17) God is not inaccessible. We can experience his love from the stories of the Bible, from the sacraments, from holy men and women from Church history, from the living community of believers. We are called to respond in kind.

Love is not mere sentiment, but also involves intellect and will. Love in constantly changing and maturing and is never fully "finished."

18) Love of neighbor involves loving, in God and with God, the person you do not even know or like. A loveless relationship with God lacks love of neighbor; others are not heeded in pursuit of "religious duties."

And now, on to my comments.

The love bestowed by God is held up as sort of the Platonic ideal form of love. The measure of love, then, is how well human beings an replicate this love, which involves love of neighbor.

We have an existential longing for meaning. Benedict finds completeness in the process of loving fully.

There's a sort of trick here. One method in argument is to agree on the surface with someone and then to subsume that into a wider definition. In the prior sections, Benedict said nothing particularly controversial about agape and eros before plunging into how this love is modeled on God's love. It's a more conciliatory tactic that I'd like to see used more often in an age of confrontational politics.

Love of neighbor is established as more or less a practical expression of love of God. Benedict gives the Church a role in teaching people who is their neighbor. At this point in time, the Church teaches that the fetus in a mother's womb and the prisoner on death row are both your neighbor, as are many others. This concept of neighbor-ness goes beyond political and cultural boundaries, which implies that the state cannot be the sole instrument by which we care for our neighbors.

There is the concept of love as an unending process. I have always held that God is a dynamic God. The nature of the world involves change; a static worldview is far from this (take that, creationists!). Evolution, a living U.S. Constitution, and many other beliefs I hold flow from my conception of a dynamic Truth which allows for certain shifts over time.

Human beings are not created perfect from the onset. This lack of perfection causes an existential crisis as we seek meaning and purpose. Benedict suggested a feeling of "incompleteness," which seems removed from the concept of a soul-staining original sin. This reminds me of a description of Hell as the painful awareness of separation from God rather than literal fires. (I forget which theologian, but I remember it from high school.)

Some would seek perfectability totally within, a self-centered worldview bordering on solipsism where no one else matters. Deus Caritas Est suggests that the road instead lies through an other-centered love of neighbor.
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