RS180 Lecture Notes - Eudaimonia, Irredeemable, A Grief Observed

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Published on 5 Dec 2013
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Module 8 Introduction
Charity, the love of God
- Journal of C.S. Lewis’s experiences with the death of his wife, Joy
- Use it as a transition from looking at the love of Eros to the love of Charity
- We are going to use the rest of Lewis’s story to look at how he has, in his own life, struggles with
his faith in God
- His experience of this death raised many questions for him about God
About his faith in God
About who God is
About what life means
About what death means
- In our culture we have a very narrow sense of what this love of charity is about
It is often profound experiences, like experiences of death, experiences of suffering that raise for
people questions of ultimate meaning
- Sense in Lewis that his own struggle with this grief really brings to the surface the root of his
questions
- Why bother to love in the first place if love will inevitably lead to suffering and loss
- The interconnection between love and suffering
Suffering as a Way to God Jerome Miller and A Grief Observed
Jerome Miller article, The Way to Suffering
- Heart is not just about the feelings we have
- My heart is the very core of who I am
- Miller gets this sense of heart from the Hebrew scriptures and writings
- “That mysterious centre of my being that’s so hard for me to know.”
- Miller talks about what happens to your heart, to yourself, when you have very deep
experiences
- “When the very centre of the self is deeply affected, as happens for instance to a young person
when he or she falls deeply in love for the first time. What happens? One’s whole way of thinking
about the world, one’s whole way of feeling about the world, is profoundly and permanently
altered, and no part of you is exempt from that.”
- Somehow who I was before this experience of love, that person is no longer there
- The world is different, and my understanding of it is different, my experience of it is different
- That sense of being totally changed at the core of one’s being; that is what falling in love can do,
that is also what experiences of death, suffering, and loss, can do
- That also through suffering we can come to know things about ourselves, we can understand
the world and we can shift our understandings of God
We don’t really think about God all the time
- “if God does exist there is little effect on us, we keep our hearts as buried as we can”
- We don’t want God interfering in our everyday living
- Challenge that Miller puts to us is trying to deal with the kind of God we thought we knew, the
kind of God that we had in mind
- How profound experiences bring all of our senses of God into question
- Sense of God as a good God, a protector, a God who loves us profoundly, who loves the world
profoundly
- Lewis asks, “Where is that God?”
- It seems to Lewis that when we are in our deepest moment, God is silent
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- He describes God as: “Some kind of doctor, cutting me open, breaking open our hearts. Giving us
those profound experiences, not taking them away, not protecting us from t hem, not stopping
the suffering in any kind of way”
- If we have this sense of God as protector, then when we have real experienced of loss, we are
rightly so full of anger, full of resentment, full of questions, about where God is
How do you find out about who this God really is?
- Will not be able to find out about it unless you allow yourself to enter into that suffering
- If you stay with the ideas about God that you may have had when you were growing up, or the
ideas about God that may be present in our culture, if that is what you hold on to, then your life
will be full of resentment of this God
- Lewis and Miller agree that something quite different happens for people
- Jean Vanier in Being Human talks about the heart needing to be broken open, that there is a real
place for suffering in human living
- Choosing to enter deeply into suffering can bring you to an understanding of God, a more real
sense of who God is
- Important to surround yourself with love and to have support systems available to you, people
who will allow you to deeply enter into the suffering
- For Miller, the way to come to know of God’s existence is through experience
- When we enter into the suffering, we find a deep sense of nothing, a sense of darkness
- It’s not hard to enter into despair, to think that life doesn’t really have much meaning
Friends can give us space, hold us while we enter into grief, keep hoping and believing for us
- I know you are in darkness, and I know that in that darkness, it is easy for you not to hope
- I will hope on your behalf
- I know something new is being born here
It is in the silence that we find God
- You have to enter into the solitariness of that pain to hear it
- Lewis learned the value and importance of entering into the suffering, and in doing that, came
to a real sense of who God is
- It changed his sense of who God is; he came to know God’s existence in a way he never had
before
- The experience of grief profoundly affected his relationship with God, his love for God
- Part of experience loss and grief is going through total disbelief of God
- Lewis through his struggle with grief, finds it hard to find evidence that God is good
- It’s in this process that he came to realize how little he knew of God, how little he really knew of
joy
- What is this love of God that people do find?
The Nature of the Love of God
The love that God is, is different from the capacity in human beings on their own to give love to other
people
- When people who come to experience the love of God, they realize that they are sharing in
God’s very being, or love
- They recognize that this love is very different from the love that they are able to give other
people
There seems to be a limit in human being’s capacity to give love to another person
- It is difficult for us to just give love to another
- There is some dimension in human beings that when we give love to another person, we expect
to receive something in return
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- The contrast that Lewis makes between human capacity to give love, and God’s giving of love, is
that God absolutely gives love just because God wants to love
- God simply desires what is best for the beloved; for human beings
- When people come to know God, and how God’s love works within them, their own loving
becomes more like God’s
- To really share in the life of God, and to share in the love of God, means that we can love the
way God loves
- We can love people better for their own sake, not for what we can derive from that love
It is natural for human beings to find certain people and things loveable
- When we allow God’s love to be a part of our lives, it becomes possible for us to love even those
who are unlovable
- This is where you see the limitations of human loving
- All of us can probably confront in ourselves, those people who we find hard to love
- With God’s love, the capacity and the limitations start to get transformed; I am able to love
what I naturally would find difficult to love
When God shares with us God’s very own self, it makes us want to give love to God in return
- It’s not because God needs our love, or that we are somehow giving back to God something that
God doesn’t have
- What is it that I can give to God? What do I have to give to God?
- All spiritual writing makes it very clear that what we have to give God is ourselves
- In the Christian context, we are created free, and we don’t have to respond to what God has
given us
- I can withhold myself from God and God’s love, and I am free to give myself to God and to God’s
love
- The other thing we can give to God is the way in which we love people
- What is clear to those who know the love of God is the capacity to
Love other people just because of who they are
Love people who we find unlovable
Give myself to God
Love strangers and love enemies
- Christians believe that all of this is possible because God is working in us because God is working
in us because God’s love becomes a part of us, an transforms our capacity to love
- There is a whole part of spiritual writing that is about giving, letting go of our desire to do
everything, and allow God into our lives
- God gives us a share in God’s own being, God’s own reality as love
Dangers of Other Kinds of Love
Before the 19th and 20th centuries, the love of God was explored in all the writings about love
- It was an inherent part of the way that people would have talked about love and explored love
- This is not so automatic in the 20th century
- There were many warnings about how we can get too caught up in other kinds of love, too
caught up in the love of our wives, husbands, children, or parents
- These other kinds of love can keep us from loving God as fully as possible
- It is possible for us to get caught up in the world around us that we have little concern, or
attention, or interest in a love of God
This warning comes out of Augustine’s own experiences, from his autobiography, confessions
- Saint Augustine is one of the great Christian writers and teachers
- Although he has many wonderful things to say, some of his ideas have been problematic
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