Christian philosophers of the extentialism time examined love from different perspectives. There are philosophers who talked of true love while others looked at it from the opposite perspective. Among the important Christian extentialist philosophers were Soren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre, St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and Plato Symposium. Thus, there is need for examination of true love from the perspectives of Christian extentialists.
Soren Kierkegaard was considered an outsider in the philosophy. What is evident, however, is his unique authorship that comprises a puzzling range of narrative viewpoints. Like his role models Christ and Socrates, Kierkegaard takes people lives to be the main gauge of being in truth. As a Christian ethicist, Kierkegaard can be considered different from the various ways in which mainstream religion appears to function from the points of view of an outside observer. Apparently, his distinction is not only because of Christian extentialism, but also due to his time period and political events that were taking place in his native home country of Denmark.
The thematic issue of love can be seen all over Kierkegaard’ works as he looks on the various kinds of love. However, Works of Love as can be seen within his series has remained monumental. The work presents a very enlightening analysis of the various love’s basis and types. Kierkegaard acknowledges how important the Works of Love is based on various reasons. His first argument is that love can never be described since God, who cannot be understood, is love. Secondly, the author tries to understand the manifestation of love among Christians.
In this piece of work, Kierkegaard examines the various features of divine love in a systematic manner and tries to expand on how they are related to erotic kind of friendship as well as love. In the initial chapter, and throughout the piece, he stresses that the love that should exist among Christians ought to be truthful and real. It is different from erotic kind of love as well as friendship that have both remained temporal in most cases. To him, whenever love contains self-contradictions, it would come with a great torture since no one has to hide love. He emphasizes that it is never simple to conceal true love because even when a person tries to do that, love still finds other ways of having itself expressed to be recognized by people. His argument was that charity-based work can never be categorized as work of love whenever it has no element of love. Therefore, individuals ought to put efforts towards manifesting love as they live. Though no one can give a perfect description of God, people can see the kind of love He has from what He does. His doings are meant to be helpful to others and to be revealing Him, though He cannot be cannot seen.
Kierkegaard says that the Gospel is directed to people as individuals. The gospel is never about men, or persons. It speaks to people on the need to let love be known by the fruits that accompany it. It is until people have genuine love, that the fruits that accompany it can be seen. Kierkegaard says that only those who dwell in love can recognize it, and it is the same way that the love of such people can be known. St. Augustine’s belief in true love seems to concur with that of Kierkegaard. He talks about virtues, which he considers as the perfect love of God. According to him, virtue refers to the type of love that an individual would want to receive from other people while vice is referred to the love of evil. Augustine says that love can motivate people to what is good and also what is bad, therefore, people must know the type of love that they choose. He seems not to advocate for vices because he considers them ugly expression of disorderly love while virtue is a true love that is directed towards God. Virtue is, therefore, living rightly or well. Augustine emphasizes the virtues of hope, faith, and love, but he apportions highest importance to love. St. Augustine advocates for true love.
Kierkegaard emphasizes the commandment of Christ that people must love their neighbors as they love themselves. According to Kierkegaard, a neighbor is that person who lives nearer than anyone else. He, however, goes ahead to note that it is not right to love a neighbor with partiality or favoritism compared with those who are not nearer because that would promote self-love. Kierkegaard cites Mathew 5.46 onwards, and believes that the concept of neighbor implies duplicating one’s self. The most outstanding element in the argument of Kierkegaard is that God commands love. He says that people are mandated to love when it becomes a duty to love, particularly when love is secured from external changes, made free and protected against despair. Even though inclinational and instinctive love can bring joy, happiness, and confidence; spontaneous love in its beautiful moments creates a sense of security. For instance, when two people pledge fidelity to one another, they pledge friendship. Then, there is the duty to love when love is externally secure. The implication here is that the external security removes all anxiety, thereby making genuine or true love perfectly secure. But, this kind of love may still have the anxiety over a possible change because anxiety can be hidden. This is never Kierkegaard’s type of love since it is never true. Spontaneous love can change within itself to the opposite, which is hate. It can also turn to jealousy, and from happiness it can turn to torment. Therefore, when Kierkegaard says, “You shall love”, he implies that true love must be free and must always stand and not fall depending on varying circumstances. Love that is truthful is known by its ability of standing and falling with eternity’s law.
Kierkegaard looked a neighbor when talking about loving the neighbor. He recalls the parable of the Good Samaritan them utilizes it in describing a neighbor as well as what should be expected of him/her. As he explains his point, gives a comparison of the love given by a neighbor to that which one should receive from a Christian as well as a friend and erotic love. He describes the latter as preferential kind of love. Thomas Aquinas equally describes the kind of love one gets from a neighbor and gives an example with the Good-Samaritan’s story while describing a truthful love. He also believed in the respect of the ten commandments of God. Kierkegaard argues that it is the Christian love that discovers and acknowledges the existence of a neighbor, because every person is a neighbor of another person. He argues that whenever human are able to love those who they neighbor, then no selfishness as well as segregation would be experienced.
In contrasting Kierkegaard’s idea of true love, Satre argued that possessing something is a show of wanting to be united with it. As a consequence, the goal of love, according to him, is to possess one’s lover, or to put it in nice words, to be united with one’s lover. He does not talk about physical possession; he infers possessing the consciousness of one’s partner. This idea pays attention to Plato’s Symposium which had suggested initially, people were round creatures; in fact, the creatures had two faces, four legs, and four arms. These people attacked gods, which led to Zeus punishing them by cutting all of them into two. From that time, people have continually been searching for their other halves, leading to what is currently known as soul mate. In Plato’s Symposium, it is clear that love must be accompanied with goodness. But, Socrates adds that those who have love are motivated to do good. The argument is in support of Kierkegaard’s understanding of a truthful love.
The ideas of love from Satre do not present the meaning of true love. Satre acknowledges that even though possessing one’s lover is right, it is, however, not right to completely control them because that destroys their objectivity. Without objectivity, it is impossible to get an independent view from them, leave alone a loving relationship. Sarte seems to promote the belief that loving is a deception because it is an act of demand, which is contrary to the traditional type of loving that was based on commitment and generosity. Though the philosophy of Sarte support reciprocity, he does not indicate if that reciprocity is mutual. Therefore, it is appropriate to say that he does not advocate for true love.
Christian love is an ethical duty while erotic love is a good fortune. The ethical nature of love is highlighted when referring to the Purity of Heart. In true love, neighbors are not expected to change before they are loved. Kierkegaard cites Christ’s boundless love for Peter even after he had denied him; he never said that Peter had to change to become another man before he could accept him again. Men might consider how to find the perfect people to love them, but Christianity talks about being the perfect person who loves without limit the people he or she sees.
According to Kierkegaard, a true love fulfills the law. The New Testament asserts that love fulfills the law because with true love, people cannot kill, steal, harm or defraud their neighbors. Christ represents the fulfillment of the law because he was the only sinless man who ever lived. Since God defines love in Christ as a fulfiller of the law, it means that love must always center on God because he personifies love. Kierkegaard says that people have to be warned about the challenges that come with love. For instance, true love can make people unhappy or wretched because many people will oppose it. He cites the example of Christ who was crucified, which did not make his apostles happy, but they had to carry on with his mission even if they were persecuted.
When Kierkegaard talks about the love that comes from God and offered back to Him who perfects it, he could have meant that he did not want people to become pretenders in Christianity. He noted that people needed to be either hot or cold, but not lukewarm. Therefore, according to Kierkegaard, true love can be summed as a kind of love that is recognizable by its fruits, love that fulfills the laws of God, and is full of conscience. True love also builds up, never deceives, never shames, or seeks for its own. A true love is merciful, hides numerous sins, abides, and wins for the conquered.