Please forgive me for duplicating an article written for the Fordham Times here – time has forbidden me from writing something else! What is love? Of course, many are sceptical about love even existing. “What’s love got to do, got to do with it, what’s love but a secondhand emotion” sang Tina Turner. Or “What’s loooooove anyway, does anybody love anybody anyway” sang Howard Jones (I’m revealing my age here). There is scepticism about love in our culture. This scepticism is most notably expressed by the new atheists when they make it clear that from the theory of evolution, if you believe it to be the only truth, love is illusory. The book “The selfish Gene” declares that altruism (self-sacrificial love) is simply genetically programmed kin selection (love is selfishness in disguise, so that genes are replicated even though individuals die). There is the suggestion that science reveals that love does not exist and that this is fact. It is difficult to disagree with scientists, unless you know that this is poor science and even poorer philosophy. Few do. Of course, in reality, few live or believe that love is simply chemical reactions in our brains or genetically programmed responses based on kin or runaway selection. I’d suggest that if most secularists actually lived like this, we’d be less attracted to it. Most of us still believe that self-sacrifice is noble. But, if we do believe that the science of biology is the only explanation of our behaviour, we have to come to the conclusion that love is illusory. Does this sit comfortably with us? Are we sure that this is all love is? For the Christian, love is not an illusion, but rather it is right at the heart of the universe. Why? Because God has come to show his love for the world through his Son Jesus Christ, dying on the cross, taking the judgment we deserve so that we can be freely and unconditionally loved by him. Through this event in history God has shown himself to be love, love amongst the three persons of the one God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That God is love, means that the whole of creation is founded on love and this explains why the truly meaningful aspects of our lives, are those relationships which are genuinely loving. Love for our children; love for our beloved; love for our parents these are all, for the Christian, aspects of a deeper reality. So, as we approach Valentines day, which celebrates romantic love, is this just our urges creating chemical responses in our brains for the furthering of our genetic material? Or is there something deeply meaningful in love, including romantic love? Does love make life worth living? Is being besotted with another, falling in love, selflessly remaining faithful to another, are these a thin veneer on the reality of “survival of the fittest” or, are these deeper realities that selfishness can actually, never destroy? Thankfully, for the Christian “This is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:10-11. Let us love one another, not just in the romantic way that our culture is so obsessed by; good as romantic love is, but in that self-sacrificial and other-person-centred way, the way in which God loves, so that we might connect not with an illusion that goes against our genetic makeup, but with the ultimate ground of being. When love is betrayed, we do not just exclaim, “C’est la vie”, there goes the selfish genetic programming. It hurts deeply. Our world is shaken. This helps answer the question: What is love? It is deeply real because God is love.
With much love in the only Lord, John Parker