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Thoughts on the Meaning of Life…..by Todd Helmkamp

Thoughts.

Posted by Vogeler on May 25, 2007

There is a world of difference between “I love you, Jesus” and “I’m in love with you, Jesus.” One is an appropriate, Biblical response, the other is not. Let’s remember that as we worship.

(hats off to Mark Hadfield from “north of the Wall” for his excellent thoughts on this topic!)

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9 Responses to “Thoughts.”

  1. Mark H said

    “north of the wall” Are you in England / Wales Todd? Or is that just a turn of phrase?

  2. Nope. I live in Indiana, US. But I am a student (amateur!!) of all things King Arthur, and I like Roman history too. I’ve always wanted to visit Hadrian’s Wall, Dun Edyn, and the rest though. 🙂

  3. Mark H said

    Aaaah!
    😀

  4. Tara said

    Hmmm… I actually disagree with you here. I can understand the difficulty with men wrestling their way into the bride-bridegroom imagery and language, but I would really challenge you to show me what’s unBiblical about saying “I’m in love with God” (or, if you’re being picky on the Trinity here, “I’m in love with Jesus.”)

    No, Jesus is not my boyfriend, but He does categorically call Himself our Lover in the Scriptures, over and over again. And, yes, it’s Lover in the sacred sense that waits for the consecration of that marriage, between the Bride and Bridegroom, the wedding feast that will occur at the end of time. This is love expressed with the agape context and God loves His people, collectively and individually.

    Jesus isn’t my boyfriend, nor do I have any desire to control Him, but He is unashamed about calling Himself Bridegroom and Lover… what grounds are there for saying that “I’m in love with God” is unBibilical in this context?

  5. Welcome Tara!
    I don’t remember any Scriptures where God calls Himself our lover (but you know how my memory is).
    The reason I have issues with the “in love” thing is what that phrase implies. The simple term “love” used as a verb means affection (such as “I love pizza”) or as you mentioned, agape love (which is selfless love). “In love” clearly indicates a romantic, or eros, type of love.
    Maybe I’m wrong, but from my personal study and recollection, the bride/bridegroom or lover metaphors used (especially in the Old Testament) refer to the intimacy of our relationship with God, or in the Old Testament, Israel’s “adultery” with paganism and sin.
    Many times over in the Gospels and the Letters we are told flat out that God is our Father, and we are His adopted children through Christ. The actual relationship with God is one of parent/child, not lover/beloved.
    The intimacy is only one aspect of the relationship, and is a useful metaphor. The actual relationship itself, however, is parent/child. (Galatians 3, Matthew 6, among others).
    And, Jesus only calls himself the bridegroom (I am not counting parables, which are simply metaphors also; see above argument) in Revelation, which is highly symbolic. Compare that to the many times Jesus Himself, in the Gospels, and Paul in his letters, call God our Father (John the Baptist once compared Christ to a bridegroom in John 3, but again, that’s a metaphor compared to explicitly stating that God is our Father).

  6. Tara said

    The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New… and it’s important to remember that. He hasn’t and doesn’t change in His nature.

    To say that we are essentially and only in Father/Child relationship with God is to deny Christ’s sayings (as He does over and over again) that He is our friend, and we are His (Matt. 20:13, Luke 5:20, Luke 12:4, John 15:14, and the big one, John 15:15 where He says we are no longer called servants but friends). As much as you try, you won’t have a really deep friendship relationship with your child–not when they are young and immature. And even when the grow up, there is something that makes that friendship different. A true friend relationship is different than just parent/child. Abraham was called God’s friend. And that’s just a few instances.

    Your point that one is a metaphor (bridegroom) and the other a direct statement is a bit of a strawman.

    To say that God is *actually* our father would be to say that we were physically born from Him. God as our Father is an analogy… it is one of the ways that we see Him, that He gives us to understand who He is in relation to us. But He is also Trinity… Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To camp on “Father” and say that is the only true and given way to see God is to deny *all* of the other names that He is called by (Elohim, El Shaddai, Jehovah, Yahweh.) The term “Father” for God occurs only 5 times in the Old Testament… Jesus is the one who actually invites us to use it more and more and more, because it is the word He uses most often for God. Father is an analogy that breaks down, because to say that God is *only* Father makes God much smaller than He actually is. He isn’t *just* our Father. He is our Healer, our Counselor, our Shield, our Strength, our Wisdom… I could go on.

    The image of God as Father is something He gives us to help us understand His nature. He *is* our Father in heaven, but to say He’s our physical father is actually where the analogy falls apart. His essence may be in us, His hand in forming us in our mother’s womb, and it is in Him that all things hold together… but we weren’t born because of the sperm of God… that’s Jesus. And we are definitely not Christ.

    In the same way, God isn’t our *actual* bridegroom or our *acutal* lover… they are analogies, ways that God gives us to talk about and see His various attributes and characteristics.

    So, limiting God to *just* Father is as reductionist as limiting God to *just* Adonai, or *just* Bridegroom, or whatever you have it.

    You’re proof-texting, my friend. 🙂 Not a very secure argument.

    If you want some overarching themes that bring God to us as Lover/Beloved, Bride/Bridegroom, you can look at the Ten Commandments to start… they’re phrased in the form of a kettubah, which is the Jewish marriage covenant. The entire book of Hosea is God talking to His people… husband and wife analogy.

    And then there’s Is. 50:1, which is difficult for most people to wrap their minds around, where God actually says He divorced His people. God as a divorcee? What? 🙂

    I haven’t even *touched* on the Song of Songs, which isn’t just a man/woman relationship model. It’s a model of our relationship with God. Just as much as Father is. But don’t argue wit me about it, you can argue with some of the greatest Biblical minds out there, including Saint Augustine, and my personal favourite, Bernard of Clairvaux, who wrote 81 sermons on the Song of Songs, didn’t even get halfway through the book, was a single monk who ran many monasteries and truly brought God’s kingdom into the world, and talked in depth about God’s relationship to us as Lover/Beloved.

    God is pretty unabashed about speaking of His romantic (eros) love for us…. but ONLY and ALWAYS in the context of agape love. God’s commitment to us is unconditional, and it is only in the safety of that love that He expresses eros. I think, in part, what you might be reacting to is that expression of eros love (God doesn’t love us like THAT?)… but that may (and I’m guessing here) come out of the fact that our society has done such a horrific thing in ripping eros out of the context of agape, where it was never meant to belong, and that has caused severe damage, not only to us and our relationships with one another, but how we have done damage to our relationship with God.

    If you’re interesting, there’s an amazing sermon series which opened my heart up to some huge healing in relation to agape love and who and how God made us to be, based on solid, Biblical truth, which I can point you to (it’s free on iTunes).

    So… that’s my 10 cents… or two bucks… and that’s what you get for taking on a seminary student. *grins*

    Thanks for the provocative debate, Todd-my-friend.

    Tara

    p.s. I don’t think “I love pizza” is agape love, by the way. *grins* I think it’s totally selfish. 😉

  7. Hmm. Sorry for the delay, its been a busy week. I had hoped that someone would have posted here too, but alas.

    Anyway, I don’t have the time to answer all of your arguments, and I acknowledge that I have been fairly out-debated. I still don’t agree with you, but you win. 🙂

    Now the score is one-to-one (remember the Original Sin descent debate? I think I won that one!!).

  8. Tara said

    Uh… actually. I won that one. You conceded at the end of it.

    And if you don’t agree with me, I haven’t won anything.

    “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

    It’s no big deal… this is a “non-essential” on which we don’t have to agree to live harmoniously as brother and sister in Christ.

    Of course, if you don’t agree and don’t have any good reasons why you don’t agree, then you have no reason for your faith and are going against the biblical injuction to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15). 😉 But that one’s between you and God. 🙂

    And how dare you be busy, you dad-student-husband-busy-guy!! *grins*

    In His love,
    Tara

  9. Ha ha! Wait til I have MY seminary degree, and read Greek and Hebrew. We’ll see then!!! 🙂

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