In his contribution to Spirituality and Moral Theology: Essays from a Pastoral Perspective (84), Edward Vacek discusses the “three forms of love” that are “intermingled” in God.
His summary statement is a helpful riposte to Nygren: “As an ‘agapist,’ God creates generously and without the good of getting some return. As an erotic lover, God is the center of the universe, and God blesses, rewards, or forgives in accord with what brings glory to God’s own self. As one who participates in a mutual love with us, God sanctifies us, enabling us to share life with God. In the Christian dispensation, philia, or friendship with God, is the origin and goal of Christian life as well as the proper context for the other two loves.”
Earlier, he has defined philia as a love in which “members affectively affirm one another as participants in a common life together” (83). In a philial relationship of openness, trust rather than rights or duties prevails. Lovers give to one another not to demand a return but “out of a sense of the ‘grace’ of the relationship” (84).
This fine, brief summary should be perfected with Trinitarian theology.
From a Trinitarian angle, we can see God’s triple love for creation as an expression of an eternal triple Trinitarian love. Agape, eros, and philia all characterize in different ways the eternal communion of Father, Son, and Spirit.
And, each of the expressions of love for creation should be refined Trinitarianly. Instead of simply “God creates generously and without the good of some return,” which is true if the return is from creation, we might say: The Father creates through generously through His Word and Spirit, looking for the good of return from them; His gift of creation through them becomes their gift of creation to Him. Erotic love is not flatly “God’s love for God’s own self,” but the jealous love of the Father for the Son, the Son for the Father, the Spirit’s jealousy for Father and Son. Philial love characterizes the eternal relations of the Persons, who give and receive and give again out of the infinite joy of their very communion.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 4:50 pm
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