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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Do You Agree?

Recently, while doing some research I ran into this quote:

"An atheist who lives by love is saved by his faith in the God whose existence (under that name) he denies." - - William Temple (1881-1944)

Do you agree? Why or why not?


Blogger Jim said...

I disagree. Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. God does not force himself on anyone- ergo, he does not force himself on atheists.

Second, atheists are capable of ερος but not αγαπη. αγαπη is the only love for God which has redemptive quality and that sort of love is implanted by grace when the believer comes to faith. Hence, even if atheists "love" it is not redemptive love but a self love masquerading as something more than it is.

Besides, we aren't saved by love but by grace.

10:15 AM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Well Jim . . . I agree with you.

This quote just jumped off the page at me and I read it and re-read it again and thought, surely William Temple doesn't believe this.

I think, and this is simply me speculating (since this was a quote from another work siting Temple), William Temple might have been trying to make a case for salvation via the created order (i.e. we know and can have faith in God through what we see that evidences His existence in creation). If that is the case, I still think that does not "save," if anything it assures condemnation (Romans 1).

10:55 AM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Doug E. said...

I would disagree because it is actually impossible for the athiest to live by love. Scripture says we are to Love God and Love our neighbor. Since He does not love God he does not really live by love.

God Bless,


12:28 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Interesting quotation. I wish we could ask William Temple exactly what he meant, but I agree that no one is saved by love (although many try).

Second, I wonder about Jim's statement that "atheists are capable of ερος but not αγαπη." I suppose it would have to depend on how you define αγαπη, but the word itself was used in the broader Hellenistic culture well before the writing of the NT (or even the LXX for that matter, where it also appears). Would a citizens of Athens during the time of Homer agree that he or she was incapable of αγαπη?

Since I'm on my Powerbook and have Accordance handy, I looked up the definition in a couple of lexicons for the sake of curiosity.

BDAG (3rd ed.) states: "the quality of warm regard for and interest in another, esteem, affection, regard, love (without limitation to very intimate relationships, and very seldom in general Greek of sexual attraction)."

Louw & Nida define it as "to have love for someone or something, based on sincere appreciation and high regard — ‘to love, to regard with affection, loving concern, love.’"

Of course, I am ignoring the "fellowship meal" definitions based on our context of discussion.

I would wonder, Jim, if you are defining αγαπη with added theological meaning that differs from the cultural use of the word at the time that the Bible was written?

12:32 PM, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Rob said...

Doug are you being ironic when you write "it is actually impossible for the athiest to live by love"? I can see how you could think it unlikely, which itself would demand an awful lot of proof, but I can't imagine what kind of evidence could support the idea that love is impossible to an atheist.

12:38 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Theway2k said...

An atheist may quelle his own conscience with such thinking, but if he has heard the Gospel and denies Jesus Christ I think the atheist will have a tough re-awakening at the Resurrection of all humanity.

1:39 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger nelmezzo said...

The quote goes into areas outside our ability to fully know or speculate. What information we do have (through revelation) strongly tends toward contradicting it.

What is the purpose of an atheist living by love? Surely, if this exists, it exists to bring that atheist to the knowledge and love of God. If the atheist does not come to know and love God, ultimately love has not achieved its purpose.

8:17 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Ερος seems to be used most frequently as a love of passion related to sex. However, it can also mean, depending on the context a love of compassion where one feels a type of eros (not sexual) but needful love or desire. This is certainly not a love that “saves” is a salvific sense. It is never used in the bible as such.

Αγαπη (agape) is, in most passages, is used as a love to describe God’s love for us, or our love for God or others that reflects God’s love for us. This is a love that is usually a gift. But it also describes a loyal love between a man and woman (as in Ephesians 5:28) but this also seems to be in the context of God’s love (as Christ loved the Church), and as a mutual love between believers (John 15:12) but also a love for outsiders (those not a part of the Church as in 2 Peter 1:17), or those who are our enemies (Matt. 5:44) It, also, is never used in reference to salvation other than John 3:16 egapesen (singular indicative aorist tense). So, αγαπη seems to sometimes indicate that it is a love that is given but not deserved.

So I agree with Jim in that when aγαπη is used in any sense of salvation it is always a love that God gives us according to grace, such as in Jude 12 – “love feast” A love between God and his chosen people.

Paul declares that agape is the greatest of all between faith hope and love and this is probably so because God extends this type of love to us, not vice versa. We never love God until He loves us. But we are certainly not “saved” by love, and definitely not in a state of mind which rejects the God who first loved us.

In response to the comments above I would venture to say that an atheist in one sense or the other demonstrates both types of love. Certainly in the eros (ερος) since it is more of an erotic love. However, regarding aγαπη an atheist could and would certainly extend this type love to a person who did not necessarily deserve it (which is usually how this type of love is used). For instance, an atheist still loves his/her children even when the children do something wrong and do not deserve the love provided (a human to human act). But I do not think this type of love can be demonstrated by an atheist toward God until God first acts on the heart of the atheist – God first loves us, then we love Him.

However, I agree with R. Mansfield when he declares that the context of αγαπη is needed in order to understand its meaning.

But, to say that an atheist who lives by any kind of love, and yet rejects God can still be “saved” by the love that atheists lives by (equating that love as faith) is simply twisted in more ways than one. Ok, I have rambled on enough . . . I’ll stop now.

10:14 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Ben Myers said...

For me, though, the main problem with the statement is that it undermines the atheist's freedom and humanity. A person who chooses not to believe in God is not simply a "believer in disguise". It seems patronising to presume that such a person really believes in God, or that belief in God is somehow a "necessary" part of human existence.

Still, even though I would never say that such a person is "saved by his (pseudo-)faith in God", it's another question whether this person might yet be saved by the God in whom he does not believe, i.e., the God who has already overcome not only sin but also unbelief.

So I think that atheism should be taken seriously and treated with respect; but I think that God's triumphant grace should be taken even more seriously.

10:59 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Carmel said...

I think perhaps not saved, although I also believe in purgatory and perhaps he could get to heaven from there.

1:40 AM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Hey Carmel,

Welcome to my blog . . . I see you at CR's spot a lot. . . glad you dropped by.

8:53 AM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger Gordon Cloud said...

May I offer a non-philosophical answer?

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

7:48 PM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not nor claim to be a philosopher, nor am I formally educated in the faithful art of Biblical Exegesis, so, my comments may have a flaw that I am not aware of. With that said, after viewing the comments and especially the comments of Mr. Temple- A little Bible may be in order...

Romans 8:6-8 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law NOR CAN IT DO SO. Those controlled by the sinful nature CANNOT PLEASE GOD.

12 Gage

11:03 AM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Philothea said...

I think that when considering this quote, people are focusing too much on the atheist, and not enough on God. God is love, God is all that is good in this world. WE CANNNOT DO GOOD WITHOUT GOD. Period.

When we say that an atheist cannot do any good whatsoever, we are putting God, and His ability to act in someone's life, in a box. A tiny, itty bitty box of only our limited, human understanding. God's infinite Grace is rained down on EACH AND EVERY one of us, it's just that some of us have our umbrellas up, trying to block that Grace.

While an atheist may not acknowledge the saving power of our Lord and Savior, they still believe in the power of love, of goodness, etc. Just because a person denies JESUS, does not mean they are an intrinsically evil and bad person. If such were the case, then no one could be saved, for we are ALL atheist until we accept Jesus into our lives. And at some point in our lives, God rained down on us the Grace to accept Him in the first place.

I guess I'm rambling (and very ineloquently so, my apologies), but I can definitely see what he's getting at.

Let us think on GOD, and on His infinitely loving nature, and not on the atheist. For while the atheist may have the free will to deny Christ, he also has the free will to do good, which is what Christ called us to do in the first place.

6:09 PM, December 03, 2010  
Blogger Philothea said...

"Love covers over a multitude of sins".

Also, while an intellectual assent to have a relationship with Christ is important, Paul tells us that even if we ARE "Christian", if we have not love, we have nothing.

I could certainly think of quite a few instances where myself, and fellow Christians, have been a worse example of Christ than even an atheist who denies His existence.

I highly recommend the book: "Grace, Predestination, and the Salvific Will of God" by Fr. Most. Truly amazing.

6:16 PM, December 03, 2010  

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