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Valentines Day – What Is Love?

It’s February 14, 2018, and here in the United States that of course means it’s once again Valentines Day.  It is a day for many when they receive amorous notes, flowers, candy, gifts, and all manner of special attention.  It is a day that greeting cards are passed around like currency and the lines at all stores are replete with hurried customers purchasing their last-minute items for their significant (or what they hope to be at least) other.  It is a day where candy is given and consumed, where florists earn their wages, and when romance efforts are on display.  It can also be a day full of sadness, fraught with loneliness, but most importantly, it is a day that is dedicated one very special thing – love.

Love is uniquely human.  Love is a feeling, yes, but it’s more than that.  Love is an action, but it is more than just this as well.  Love is also sacrificial by nature.  Love says to someone, “I value you more than myself,” and because of this great expressions are exhausted to show the worth those we care about just how significant they are to us.  But why does any of that matter if God does not exist?  In other words, without God isn’t love merely an illusion, or does love actually point to God?

For the sake of time I want to focus mainly two schools of thought: 1. The Christian worldview and 2. The Atheist/Naturalist worldview.  I want to begin with the latter.  Most atheists and all naturalists by definition believe that the sum total of all things can be explained by the natural world with observable phenomena.  This means that in essence everything can be observed and broken down to be proven by what is natural.  This certainly may be (and is) true for some things, but the problem with naturalism is that it cannot account for philosophy.  In fact, one of the most revered and brilliant scientists ever, Dr. Steven Hawking, recently said “philosophy is dead.

This presents quite a problem however.  Love is not something that is purely natural.  There is an element to love that cannot be explained.  Yes, we know that neurons fire and our brain reacts in certain ways that spawn emotional responses, but is this all love is?  Is it just cold and scientific?  Richard Dawkins once famously said, “The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference” (Dawkins 2015, 133).  This of course would mean that love too would have these same natural attributes, but we know this isn’t true.

Love is not apathetic.  Love in fact is the opposite of apathy.  As stated earlier, love is at its core putting someone else ahead of yourself, but if love is just indifferent there would be no reason or need of such a thing.  We know without doubt that love is much more than series of natural chemical reactions, and if that is true then certainly naturalism cannot be the reigning contributor for what our definition or explanation of love is.

So what then does the Christian worldview tell us.  The Bible tells us that God created all people in His own image (Gen. 1:27).  If this is true then it means all people have worth, value, meaning, and a capacity to think and feel.  If we are made in His image then it means we are crafted carefully to showcase our Creator.  The Christian worldview believes that not only does God define love, but He defines love because He is love (1 John 4:8). The Christian worldview accounts for love as much more than just chemical process, and gives it actual meaning.  It gives love significance.  It gives love purpose, and it tells us the reason we able to experience love and all the complexities that come with it.

For the Christian, God demonstrates His perfect love (Romans 5:8) for us as a way to bring our rebellious hearts back to Him, but He uses His love as a model for us to follow (Mark 12:30-31).  Love is an enigma, but love also has an origin, and that origin is in the God of the Bible.

Of the two worldviews discussed here there are clearly opposing views.  One says love and everything else can systematically be explained through natural causes, but there is nothing natural about loving others enough to be willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice (John 3:16; John 15:13).  Giving one’s life for the sake of another is direct conflict with the idea naturalism.  The Bible is the only source that accurately explains the way in which we are to understand and show love to others (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

This Valentines Day as you celebrate those significant others remember that love is more than flowers and candy.  Love is a direct result of a gracious and loving God.  As such, let’s not ony love the ones in our lives that we know, but let us also love the estranged and the ones we don’t always feel like loving (1 John 3:23).  Love.  It’s more than a feeling, it is a gracious gift of God.

 

Dawkins, Richard. River Out of Eden. Orion, 2015.

Warman, Matt. “Stephen Hawking tells Google ‘philosophy is dead’.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 17 May 2011, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/8520033/Stephen-Hawking-tells-Google-philosophy-is-dead.html.

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