The Revelation of Love

The Revelation of Love December 12, 2011

One of the great revelations about God which we find in Scripture is that God is love. The way to God is the way of love, and it is through our love or its lack which we shall be judged. God loves us, and we learn of that love, the depth of that love, on the cross. We, who come to God in faith, return that love. Perhaps, initially, we only give a little back. But that little is like a seed, and if it is nurtured and not strangled, our love for God can grow, and in that growth, our relationship with God will improve and we will slowly find ourselves perfected because of that love. We will manifest that perfection in the way we deal with and treat others. The Apostle John put this beautifully when he wrote:

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit (1 John 4:7-13 RSV).

Our eschatological fate is one filled with hope in accordance with our love: we become on earth as God is in heaven, acting out of love, and so we will be judged with that same love we have shown others. “In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17 RSV).

The revelation of God as love can lead us to great insight, such as on why God must be a personal God, one who is not just an abstraction of being, but being which is always one and the same as the Tri-personal God.[1] The supreme being is personal and loving. Philosophically we can establish the concept of pure being, but the further understanding of being as personal, as loving, is something beyond the ability of metaphysics. It requires more than inquiry but a direct experience of said being – only then can one know this being is not some cold, heartless, logical construct (such as the unmoved mover of Aristotle):

Man in his search for truth can never arrive by philosophizing – in however simple or academic a way – at the statement ‘God is love.’ For against this statement the world, as it appears, raises a categorical objection. At best man can push his way forward to the statement that God is the reconciliation of the contradictions internal to the world. A place of peace, where one no longer suffers, where one can forget life, where the painful boundaries between individuals fall away, where we are taken up into the realm of that which is without distinction.[2]


There was only one way by which men might approach the statement ‘God is love.’ God first had to reveal himself as the one who is in all things in himself, who in his freedom disposes all things, who predestines and promises, in brief, to show himself as the absolute person; as the one who takes our fumbling hand firmly, only too firmly, in his.[3]

This progression of our knowledge of God, from the human standpoint to that of God’s revelation of himself to us, seems to be particularly lived out in the experiences of Philip K Dick. His own philosophical examinations always left him with the coldness of being – he saw the unity in that being, he saw the sense of peace given by that being, but he did not discern the loving, personal nature it possessed. His first major mystical experience led to him seeing God as if he were a kind of computer, following through in his actions with logical precision. God as Logos allowed him to understand Logos-centered theology, but it did not lead him to ascertain the deeper, transcendent aspect of God, of the personal, loving nature of God. It was his second major theophany which made him understand this, too, was necessary. PKD was then to realize, as von Balthasar points out comes from this revelation, that God is absolute person:

Today I’ve tried to work on my exegesis – as I’ve been doing for 6 ½ years. I can’t do it. Why not? Because the love and personality that God showed me on 11-17-80 make any intellectual understanding seem unimportant – pale and weak and dry and faded. Never had I known anything like that love; and the personality – it was as distinct as any human personality. And this does not even consider the infinite bliss I felt. He answered all my questions anyhow; I have no more questions.[4]

This personality was understood by PKD in relation to what he understood about persons via humanity, and yet he understood – it was something transcendent:

Human personality is imagined upon his personality (I realize). This is why although it was infinite it was – well – it was like an infinite augmentation of such love as I have in fact known in life – but – it was beauty-in-the-form-of-love. But it was more intimate(as well as more intense). It pulsated like – maybe a light.

And he knew me. And yet still he loved me.[5]

What is more, he understood it could only be the Judeo-Christian God who had come to him, that it could only be understood in relation to the revelation provided by the Christian faith.[6] God could be experienced – and yet there was something transcendent about him beyond what we know or comprehend. “And he gave me to understand that (much as I had already figured out) I had experienced only traces of him here in this world; he is in his transcendence much more – infinitely more.”[7] His encounter with God helped him deal with and free him from all the evil and oppression which he was suffering from – God’s loving wisdom and power overcame the darkness and helped him recover.

God’s love is great. Even though it was revealed to us with Jesus, we are still learning what it means. It transcends everything we can come to know by ourselves. Human logic can’t comprehend it. Our words falter. Like a mystic, what PKD points to is the need to describe what he felt and experienced and the inability he has to do so:

I see no precedent for this revelation by Jesus. We even today, 2,000 years later, have little understanding of this total, accepting loving-kindness, because of which God adopts us as his sons and heirs. […] Words can’t describe it, whereas words can describe logic and reason and justice.[8]

It is only with a God who is love that the world and what is in it can be rendered credible, and yet at the same time, this love is so incredible, so transcendent, our words fail when we try to explain it. Everything we say fails to do it justice; human justice, human reason fails in relation to God. And yet, God reveals himself to us in a human way. We can talk about him. We can talk about what he has done and what he continues to do. The task is not to get lost in our words but to remember their value and limitations. They are to point us to the divine. We must not get lost in the letter but follow the spirit which leads to their creation. Only then can we find ourselves outside of the black iron prison of the self and with the liberating God of love.   But, to get out of that prison, we must also respond to the love of God with love, a love which will always transcend everything we can explain. In the end, that is what will determine our eternal fate. Do we respond to love with love?

[1] See Richard of St. Victor’s On the Trinity, especially book III, for a way this can be done.

[2] Hans Urs von Balthasar, Elucidations. Trans. John Riches (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), 54-5.

[3] Ibid., 55.

[4] Philip K. Dick, Exegesis. ed. Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2011), 653.

[5] Ibid., 653.

[6] See ibid., 653.

[7] Ibid., 654.

[8] Ibid., 655.

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