Moria Refugee Camp on Lesvos

Moria Refugee Camp on Lesvos
Moria Refugee Camp on Lesvos

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

What is love?

I wrote this just before Valentine's day in 2015; you read it at the earliest in Holy Week 2016 - two wonderful examples of the complexity of the question ‘What is Love?’; the word ‘love’ has so many meanings.

Every month I go along to Lincoln Drill Hall for something called the Philosophy Cafe, really just a group of people meeting to explore ‘philosophical’ questions like, ‘what is love’, ‘what makes me, me.’ On occasions I have been asked to introduce the discussion and I was working away at how to introduce the question ‘what is love.’ I decided to quote from St Paul Corinthians 13, Shakespeare Sonnet 116 and the four (or more) words the ancient Greeks had for love. I was shot down; to use an extract from the Bible would offend some people and that would destroy the discussion. We couldn’t agree, so someone else introduced the discussion using only the Greek words.

It set me thinking.

I accept that to some people the Bible might be divisive, but in one sense what it is, is just the thinking of a middle eastern people between two and four millennia ago. So, not so very different to the writings from around the same time from the Greek world.

The Bible, Shakespeare and the literature of the ancient Greeks are, together with a few other bits, the foundation of the English language; they are the ‘air we breathe.’ I suspect that no-one in the Drill Hall talking about what is love, will not have been influenced in their thinking by at least one of these sources and probably by all three. To exclude the Bible because it may offend is nonsense.

As Christians, we believe that the Bible is more; it is God’s word or at the very least an account of man’s relationship with God. The Bible responds to the question ‘What is Love?’ with the answer, God is love.

What fascinated me in the discussion about love without the Bible, was that many people saw love as underlying everything. Whatever Greek meaning was taken, romantic love, family love, friendship or love for mankind - charity, the meaning that St Paul used -,  we seemed to come back to the same point that love underlies everything, like God really.

May I wish you a very happy Easter

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

This book is both disturbing and rewarding. Whilst Pullman emphasises that it is a story, it does follow, in a great many respects, the story of Jesus as told in the Gospels.

There is a jarring early on as the Annunciation is replaced by a rather equivocal scene with Mary and an angel in the guise of a young man. The result is twins and this provides the machinery of the plot. The elder, Jesus, is a good man who does not claim to be God. His younger and weaker twin brother, named Christ, has no such scruples. Jesus is passionate about calling all to repentance for the Kingdom of God is very close at hand. Christ is altogether more circumspect.

There is real pleasure in coming across stories from the Gospels told so refreshingly and well. That of the Prodigal Son would come first on my list. But there are then those stories, which although based on the Gospel account, deviate in some material way. This can both upset and let the hackles rise, until the note on the back cover is recalled: This is a Story. It is a story and, for a story to work, particular actions and motivations must be present. On a second reading and on reflection these deviations begin to shed light. Some are precious Gospel stories and so the deviations also jar deeply.

Peter’s confession at Caesarea Phillippi is met by a furious denial by Jesus, but, in the context of this story, this is in character. The Feeding of the Five Thousand in this story is about sharing. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins is given an intriguingly different twist. With others the precious elements are missing. The journey to Emmaus has none of the burning in the disciples’ hearts as the scriptures are revealed; Jesus is not recognised as he breaks bread. There is no Last Supper and so no washing of Peter’s feet. The Eucharist is introduced after the resurrection and then misunderstood.

For all the jarring, I found myself drawn yet more closely to Jesus of Nazareth and his goodness and honesty. Pullman has created vivid depiction of the man, even if many Christians would dispute his theology.