Christian Relaunch

Agape Love

The New Testament urges agape (usually translated love, but not to be confused with eros or philia), and some Christianoids see this as a special quality that Christ inspires his people with, expressing itself in all their actions, involving kindness and sociability but also much more, impossible to pin down but discernable by God's friends, indeed the chief sign by which they recognise one another. Even if the practical principles stated in this Creed are true, it is said, they are secondary compared with agape, and I am intolerant to reject those who differ with me on such details.

I find that such critics identify agape with self-satisfied sentimentality. It is easy to fall into this trap if we allow ourselves to be influenced by the sentimental aspects of the English word "love". The baloney about "we can sense it but not pin it down" acts as an excuse for declaring folk to be welldoers regardless of their conduct. In the New Testament, agape (active benevolence) shows itself by proper choices, not by good wishes. See The Epistle of James 2.14-18. James' ironical challenge to "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith" (James 2.18) alerts us to the fact that it is impossible to perceive someone's faith except by observing their actions.

"The appeal which men make to the essential life, as distinct from the material facts of conduct, is generally prompted by a desire to assert their own subjectivity and to elude an absolute and objective judgment."

Hegel, Encyclopaedia, Zusatze to "Paragraph" 112.

Of course such critics are not consistent; in practice they regard others' principles as unimportant, but not theirs. If it comes to war between the gangsters and free men, I suppose they will support the gangsters.

Back to Universal Natural Standards.