Maranatha Media

For the Love of God; `Eros', `Agape' and `Caritas'

Posted Nov 11, 2011 by kym Jones in General
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The Greeks believed that the greatest form of love there is, is that a man lay down his friends. Imagine the shock they received, when the Christians of the first century told them that this wasn't really `it' at all, for the greatest form of love is that a Man should lay down His life for His enemies! (Romans 5: 10)

The Greeks believed that the souls of men originated in the one-in-all pantheist God, which infused small parts of  itself into all matter. But as the souls of men were considered to be originally a divine part of the One God-in-all, then the souls of men were considered to be `good', simply because God is good.  But as a stone which is dropped into a pond creates  ripples which slowly reduce in amplitude the further that they move from the `original event', so also did the Greeks believe that creation was a process of divine emanation, in which god begat god, and as each pair of gods proceeded from those before them, so also did they come to lose their inherent knowledge (gnosis) of the One. They thought that the material plane of existence in which we dwell originated so far from the original source, that it has lose almost all knowledge of the `original source', and must therefore be evil, for it has originated in the absence of true light, or divine goodness.

Needless to say, this earthly plane of existence was considered to encumber  the soul, and weigh it down. Death was considered to be a release, at which the soul would be set free from the prison of the body which housed it, so that it could return to the One from whence it came. But this union with the One was believed to take great discipline and effort, for it was only by the doing of good deeds for others and thinking pure thoughts that enabled the soul to be purified to the point that at death, the soul might have been cleansed from the stain of the body, so that it might finally achieve union with the One. But this was no guarantee, for if  the soul was weighed in the balances and found to be wanting, then at death it would be reincarnated into another body at which the entire process would begin again.  

Plato defined the natural affinity of the soul seeking the divine home from whence it came as the divine love of god, for this was a process of mutual attraction, in which that which is good attracts all other good. He called this form of love `eros', and defined it as a `heavenly eros', for the movement of the purified soul returning to the One from whence it first came removed all pagan conceptions of  the mire of debauchery and sensuality which it had fallen into. This was a noble and virtuous form of `eros'; not only did it compel men to imitate the action of the gods by procreating and having babies, but it also compelled noble and virtuous men to lay down their lives for their friends! But if all that they ever did was so that in the end, they might be saved, then the question must be asked - how could this form of love truly represent the character of God? For Scripture teaches that the love of God represents His character, and the true love of God is unconditional love, and was called  `agape'.

Does the character of Christ constitute `eros', `agape', or a mixture of these two antagonistic concepts of the character of God? But what about the doctrines which comprise the faith of the Church? For instance, what about the doctrine of the Trinity, from which all Christian faith, and by extenuation, all Christian doctrine is reputedly derived? Does this doctrine, and the doctrines which fall within  its umbrella as its `daughter doctrines' truly represent the `agape' of Christ, or is it instead a result of the Greek idea of the character of God (which is `eros'), being intermixed with the apostolic conception of the character of God, which is `agape'? According to the following statement by a respected Protestant publication, the answer is indeed yes, as `the deeper instincts of the heathen mind' discovered `a presentiment of the threefold distinction in the divine essence' of the Trinity, and `'like all the deeper instincts of the heathen mind, serves to strengthen, rather than weaken the Christian truth': ` . . . the Hellenic philosophy operated from without, as a stimulating force upon the form of the whole patristic theology, the doctrines of the Logos and the Trinity among the rest; and that the deeper minds of heathen antiquity discovered a pre-sentiment of a threefold distinction in the divine essence; but only a remote and vague presentiment, which, like all the deeper instincts of the heathen mind, serves to strengthen, rather than weaken the Christian truth. Far clearer and more fruitful suggestions presented themselves in the Old Testament . . . But the mystery of the Trinity could be fully revealed only in the New Testament after the completion of the work of redemption and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost.' (`Bibliotheca sacra', Vol. 15, Xenia Theological Seminary of the United Presbyterian Church of North America, p. 728.) Thus, Catholic and Protestant sentiments about the character of God are the same, as Catholicism and Protestantism hold to the Nicene Creed, or doctrine of the Trinity as the central tenet of their faith. For while the doctrine is purported to be a `mystery' that cannot be understood, yet the apostle Paul clearly indicates that God does not keep secrets that only the lucky, clever, or those that are `initiated' into the `higher mysteries' are able to fathom, for all is revealed to us, `even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse' who tell us these things: `For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.' (Romans 1: 18 - 20.) The concept of `eros' did not originate with Plato; it instead originated in the mind of Lucifer, when his love of self compelled him to usurp the very throne of heaven. So if we are to first look at where this love of self originated, we first turn to Nimrod, the great-grandson of  Noah, who built the Tower of Babel. His wife Semiramus taught that at death Nimrod was reincarnated as Tammuz, the Son of the Sun, who had been purified by the immolating rays of the sun. This idea that the soul is purified by the sun led to untold multitudes of men believing that they must be good before God can first accept them, and expressed the pagan conception of the character of God - which is that God will only save those that have proven that they are worth saving; for they believed that only the good are worth saving! But what says the Scripture?

`The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are altogether become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.' (Psalms 14: 1 - 2)

Thus we find that the pagan conception of love was based upon an erroneous assumption of the character of man - that man is basically good by nature, simply because the soul is of divine origin and therefore of itself inherently good. This was reflected by their corresponding belief that God must a deistic Prime Mover Who promptly set the universe in motion and then forgot about it, simply because if He were even aware of the corruption that resides in men, then this would in turn corrupt His divinity - and God would be no longer God! This was completely unthinkable! But what was regarded to be completely untenable, was what they considered to be the completely repugnant teaching that God Himself  had descended from the lofty heights of heaven and manifested Himself in the base corruption of a human body. As far as they were concerned, this was nothing but foolishness! (1 Cor. 1: 21) Almost as unthinkable as God actually descending to earth and taking upon Himself the corruption of a human body. Eventually this confusion about the character of God found its way into the early Christian Church under the modified form of Greek Platonic philosophy, after Plato travelled to Egypt to learn of the Hebrew One god, and subjected this to the coarse idolatry of the Greeks, and thus sowed the seeds of corrupting the One God of the Hebrews with the pantheist gods of paganism.


St. Augustine and `Caritas'

Very early on Christians began to realize that the Greek concept of love - that God is `eros' - inadequately expressed the character of God. For the Greeks believed that we must do good works in order to purify our souls, so that at death we might be reunited from the One in all pantheist God from which we came. This amounted to self-love, for the only reasons why they helped other people, was so that ultimately, they themselves would benefit. The Christian concept of God turned this on its head, for not only did Christians teach that God is actually aware of our existence (which is a teaching that is anathema to any Platonist), but God had actually somehow descended from heaven, so that we might be lifted out of the morass of sin that weighs us down, so that we might achieve salvation. But that's just the point!. The medieval Church retained the idea that salvation was something which could be achieved by human effort.   

So in the fifth century, St. Augustine attempted to synthesize the `eros' of the Greeks with the `agape' of Christ and then called it `caritas' - for Augustine believed that `caritas' best expressed in doctrinal form the outpouring of love which the Trinity has for us:

`The most striking contrast is with Anders Nygren, whose `Agape and Eros' . . . drew a stark contrast between the seeking love of eros and the giving love of agape. He had great admiration for Augustine's synthesis of these concepts in the doctrine of caritas, but Augustine was wrong, or at least misled. They key New Testament notion of love is agape. This is particularly powerful in the thoughts of St. Paul. When Paul wrote that `nothing can separate us from the love of Christ' (Rom. 8: 35), he meant God's love, but Augustine turns this on its head to mean our loving of God. Luther's rediscovery of the primacy of agape was the linchpin of the Reformation and the rediscovery of genuine Christian ethics.' (`The Oxford Handbook of Theological Ethics', G. Meilaender, W. Werpehowski, 2007, p. 456.)

`Caritas' is Latin for `loving-kindness', and in the King James version of the Bible has been mistranslated as `charity' in the famous love chapter of the Bible, which is 1 Corinthians chapter 13:

`And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing . . . Charity suffereth long, [and] is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil . . . (1 Corinthians 13: 2, 4, 5)

When seen in the context of agape, this chapter takes on a powerful new meaning, for it is `agape', not `eros' or `caritas' which `seeketh not her own'. Thus, if I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not agape - I am nothing!   Thus, by the time that the pagan doctrine of the Trinity had been adulterated by Christian concepts of love, with the `mystery of the Trinity' leaning heavily the doctrine upon the divine origin of the soul as its basis, by the fifth century we also find Augustine further declaring that the human soul is but a reflection of the divine essence of the Holy Trinity - which verges perilously close to Pantheism, for the entire edifice is built upon the notion that the souls of men are of divine origin - for the pure soul desires to be free of the corruption of the material body, so that it can return to the divine home from whence it originally came. Thus Greek logic was used to declare that the very essence of the operation, or economical function of the Trinity is reflected by the human soul. The Greek Father:

` . . . Gregory of Nazianzus, for example, compared the three divine persons, Father, Son and Spirit , to the three faculties of nous (intellect), logos (reason or word), and pneuma (breath or spirit) within a particular human being. It is usually assumed that such uni-personal or "psychological" analogies are more characteristic of St. Augustine and the Latin West than they are of the Greek East. While this is basically true, the "uni-personal" approach is by no means absent from the Greek Patristic authors. It is found, for example, in Gregory of Nyssa, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, John of Damscus, Nicetas Stethathos, Gregory of Sinai, Theoloptos of Philadelphia, and Gregory Palamas, all of whom saw the interaction of faculties within the human soul as a reflection of the Trinity.' (`The Trinity and an Entangled World', J. Polkinghorne, 2010, p. 118.)

This idea that the human soul reflects the divine essence is in fact derived from the pre-existing `a priori' belief that the human soul is of divine origin, and it is for this reason that  Athanasius, the formulator of the Chalcedonian (Athanasian) Creed, stated that:

 `For He [Christ] was made man, so that we might be made God' (`On the Incarnation', 1: 54).

Needless to say, the pantheism that is inferred in this statement is repeated in Catholic Catechisms which are printed today. Ironically, the entire of edifice of Christianity, Catholic and Protestant, is built upon subtle pantheist assumptions of the human soul. It's fruitage is seen in the more overt transcendent theologies of Pentacostalism that is found in some Protestant and Catholic Churches, and forms a bridge between this and the New Age Christ of the New Age Movement.