Love and truth: the road and the destination

Before going further I think it important to indicate why I’m writing about this topic: why I think it’s an important topic and what I hope to gain by writing on it.

First, my general topic is evangelical Christianity.  More particularly, given my experience of God “showing up” in my existence, I’m interested in why evangelical Christianity is a good thing and what “works” about it.  However, in order to get there much of what I’m going to write about is why evangelical Christianity is a bad thing and what doesn’t “work” about it.

For some people, holding such a contradictory stance (because I really do mean bad—not just “misunderstood” or “regrettable”—and I really do mean doesn’t work—not just “in process” or “fallible”) is a non sequitur.  This is because in many cases Christianity as a whole is either a very good thing or a very bad thing.  And the matter is settled.  If you are in either of these camps, I hope in the course of my writing to change your mind about this.

Literally.  In other words, if you are a Christian (or are well-disposed towards Christianity) I hope to have you see the very real problems and failures with Christian belief and practice and to embrace better ways of believing and living: ways that orient you toward yourself, others, your world, and God with more truth and greater love.  In essence, “better” because they are more Christian in being more authentically human, and more human in being more truly Christian.

And if you are a non-Christian (or are ill-disposed towards Christianity) I hope in the same course to have you re-consider the possibilities and value in Christianity—I hope to re-open what is likely, for you, a closed discussion.

I hope to do this by offering resources such that accepting these possibilities is not an act of stupidity or desperation but is legitimate and valid.  “Legitimate” in that it is commensurate with your best aspirations for selfhood and your clearest understanding of truth about the world and your existence.  “Valid” because it engages an essential interaction of affirming (you and your beliefs) while yet critiquing (them in direction of your / their ownmost possibilities).  Legitimate and valid, in essence, because their acceptance completes selfhood, understanding, and relationship in the direction of more truth and greater love.

Throughout this writing one of my key presuppositions is that these two things are co-central to both human existence and Christian faith (or more so, to the Christian God): truth and love, love and truth.  Yet this is not only where I’m coming from but, actually, where I’m ultimately headed.

Yes, literally.  As Augustine believed that the goal of human life was happiness (not God or relationship with God), so I believe that that which is most essential to human existence is love and truth (not God or relationship with God).  Now I too, like Augustine, believe that God (the Christian God, whose identity and character do need fleshing out, though we’ll put this off for now) has a good bit to do with how this works out—more on this too, later.

But suffice it for now to indicate my belief that love and truth are the two key constituents to the topic under discussion, both as its goals and its means.

7 thoughts on “Love and truth: the road and the destination

  1. Definitely looking forward to the follow-up post on Augustine.

    I’d think many Christians would cringe at the notion of that the goal of life is to be happy–particularly those that believe life on this planet is grim journey and enjoying it is definitely not the point. I’ve observed this as the notion that “This world is not our home” and that we are closest to God when we are “suffering for Him,” not trying to make ourselves happy.

    Were does Augustine write about happiness and his belief that it is the goal of life?

    • Hi Santiago,
      How bizarrely contradictory. Jesus in the NT claims to have come to bring “abundant life,” and the Psalmist encourages readers to “taste and see” God’s goodness. And of course, when created, the earth and humanity are deemed to be “good.” I think such self-denigrating notions are the result of a concept (and experience?) of love that is too limited, if not dysfunctional. More on this shortly.

      As to Augustine, his De Beata Vita (where we find his view on happiness) is considered by many scholars to be key to understanding his entire orientation. While there’s more to it than this, where happiness remains the goal and God its source, there is a built-in corrective against just the thing that you’re describing here: experiences of misery or grimness do not prompt complacency or thanksgiving, but discomfort and questioning. Nor is happiness equated with pleasure. So while suffering is not entailed in happiness, neither are they mutually exclusive. On this model our experience of the world has an informing role to Christian faith, as such faith does to one’s understanding of the world.

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  3. I am all about seeking truth and love and would concur with what you’ve said above… and it seems to me my relationship with God continues to be central to this quest as well… as if in seeking happiness, truth and love, I cannot do that without first dedicating my life to the will of the Ultimate Rock Star or meeting up with Him along the way. In my experience it is one and the same… not necessarily mutually exclusive, but God for me is happiness, is truth, is love… I don’t believe in “hell” anyway… other than the one humans create here on earth. But that’s a whole other story…

    • Hi Mama Moonbeam,

      Thanks for this–I am glad to hear the role that love and truth play in your life.

      Your comments make think how, in my experience, most Christians equate God with truth is such a way that nothing can truthful that casts doubt on their belief system. I find this really problematic.

      For it seems to me that where, say, scientific developments (like the evidence for evolution) can prompt revision of belief content (like holding a non-literal view of Adam & Eve), existential developments can additionally prompt revision of the very notion / possibility of authenticity of the belief itself.

      My point is that certain existential developments (or a series of such) can not only make one doubt one’s beliefs but, under certain circumstances, should prompt one to revise one’s view of the authenticity of Christian belief. Murder, child abuse, and the deception and power-mongering of the clergy—or particularly, all of them combined—within one’s personal experience may, depending on one’s circumstances, paint the stark and undeniable picture that evil is more powerful (and more real) than the Christian God.

      In this case, being dedicated to t/Truth necessarily results in rejecting Christianity, because in light of such experiences it may be that God simply cannot seem real. Stated differently, we none of us can hold that Christian belief is ultimately true, for we are contingent and finite. And if our best and most “authentic” resources point to the contrary, then sticking with Christian belief despite such makes us (at least) fools and liars.

      My goal is not to castigate Christianity: I am a Christian.

      Rather, I am concerned that in our efforts to encourage people to think (and so become more Christian) we sometimes render them less human. How so? Because despite our contingency, for Christians the only unrevisable revision is Christian belief itself. Yet in some cases, failing not only to accept but to encourage their atheism vis-a-vis their experience of this God or that Jesus is tantamount to a betrayal of their very humanity.

      In Christian terms, gainsaying their most authentic existential resources denigrates both their creatureliness and the reality that creation is not only good, but is a good enough resource for all to decide how (and how much) God is real, is love, or just is.

  4. Mr. Monteith, your deep concern for the spritual health and well being of others may be one the most compassionate things I have ever witnessed. A boundless passion for this subject and a deep and primal respect for yourself and others comes through in your writing. Wow. I am so excited and pleased to see how deeply your beliefs are rooted in love. Thank you for sharing and I agree… wholeheartedly.

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