All Passion is From God: Sort Of (Questions from Crown 6!)

photo-1459789587767-1a947412a440_optAll passion is from God, but what we make of it can range from the diabolical to the sublime. Humans, all of us, can receive a good gift and misuse it, God forgive us, and in other cases take the same gift and serve other people, thank God. Passion can empower our reason to do good or if ruling can destroy all the good around us.

How could both be true?

God is love and ground of being. Nothing is that does not owe existence to Him and nothing is beautiful except it draws beauty from Him. We exist, because He is and desire because He is beautiful and so nothing that is can be less than desirable. Yet all is not well since what we do with our being and our desires does not have to be rightly ordered.  More than one great philosopher has struggled with this truth including Aristotle.

A student asked me:

If humans are different because they desire, do you think Aristotle would have thought that this desire came from God?

Aristotle (see Metaphysics) knew that the cosmos required a God to exist, but could not imagine that such a great and good God could care about us at all. Aristotle knew there was a God, but the philosopher was not quite imaginative enough. Aristotle knew humans had desire, but because it went wrong so frequently, his God was free from desire. Aristotle’s God would have been the reason for our passion, but He would not have given us our desire directly.

Aristotle’s God does not know or care that we exist, because even one thought of us would pull him from the sublime to the ridiculous. And in part Aristotle was right: God is not a slave to passion ever. Yet the great philosopher was not imaginative enough. He did not consider that God could be the source of passion, because God is good, truth, and beauty, and yet free of passion’s embrace. As all good, God knows whatever good there is in passion without any temptation. God’s love embraces every particular being in His creation as a part of His appropriate love of the good, truth, and beauty that is His nature.

God is love and His love is reasonable while His reason is loving.

This is our great chance. We have many desires and associate those desires with certain actions. We need not. To want is not to do. We can control passion, by God’s help, and direct it to other ends. I fail at this as most of us do, but over time God helps us do better than we have done. God created us, gave us being, so we partake in His nature. God gave us desire, because it is appropriate to want the great good that God has and is. We love and that love drive us to sublime truth, clear beauty, and utter goodness.

Our God is greater than Aristotle ever dreamed.

 

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*The remarkable chair of the Honors Program had some questions for me based on my book When Athens Met Jerusalem. If I get to them all, there are twenty-two questions. Here is: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.


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