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The Point Of It All | Peter Kreeft | Excerpt
God Who Loves You
The Living Christ Is the Point of It All
The point of Christianity cannot be contained in words because the point
of Christianity is the living Christ. He is not an ancient ideal but a real
person here and now, ready to barge in and transform our lives. Being a
Christian is more like having your soul possessed by a spirit than having
your mind clothed with new beliefs. It is more like being well-possessed
than well-dressed. It is like being haunted by the Holy Spirit. We are haunted
The love of God is the answer not only to (i) the quest for the supreme
valuethe summurn bonumand to (2) the quest for the supreme
reality-the fundamental principle of the cosmos-but it is also (3)
the answer to a third quest, the quest for life's deepest meaning
Kant said there were ultimately only three important questions:
(1) What can I know? (2) What should I do? (3) What may I hope?
What I can know is truth, truth about being. Since the ultimate nature of
being is loveeither in God or in some creature that reflects GodGod's
love is the answer to Kant's first question.
Love is also the fundamental value. It is the answer to Kant's second question,
"What should I do?" On the two commandments to love God and neighbor "depend
all the law and the prophets" (Mt 22:40).
Finally, love also gives my life meaning and purpose. It gives me a goal
or a hope to shoot for. Hopelessness means purposelessness. Since the ultimate
purpose of my life is to learn to love, love is also my hope.
What to Believe, How to Live, and What to Pray
Thomas Aquinas said that there are only three things we absolutely need
to know, and they correspond nicely with Kant's three questions: what
to believe, how to live, and what to pray for. Aquinas then says that
the Creed answers the first question, the Commandments answer the second,
and the Lord's Prayer answers the third. Therefore if we fully understand
just these three things, the Creed, the Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer,
we will know everything needful, What do these three things have to do
On close inspection, each article of the Creed, each of the Commandments,
and each petition of the Lord's Prayer is a form of love. They can be
rightly understood only relative to that center. Let us sample each of
them to see how this is so.
"I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of
heaven and earth." The point of each word of this first article of the
Creed is unlocked by the key of love if we really think about it. "I"what
is the I? What is the center of the self? What most fundamentally determines
who I shall be? Answer: How and what I love. Lovers of God or of self,
of good or of evil, of persons or of things-these are different Is.
"Believe"what does it mean to believe? What determines belief?
Is it logic and evidence? If so, why don't all believe the same things?
The evidence and the logic is public and universally available. No, the
key to faith is love. We believe only if we love. Trust is the middle
term; only if we love, do we trust; and only if we trust, do we believe.
"In"what is the difference between just believing that and
believing in? To believe in God is to trust Him and to love Him.
I believe that the sun will appear tomorrow, but I do not believe in the
sun as I believe in the Son. Belief that something is so is just
an opinion. I would not die for an opinion. But belief in someone is a
personal relationship of faith and trust and love. That is worth dying
"God"who is this God we believe in? "God is love."
"The Father"God is our Father. What does a father do? He loves his
children into existence and into maturity.
"Almighty "why is God almighty? What is the secret of His power?
What was the secret of Christ's power? He did not march on Rome with arms.
He did not compel anyone's will with miracles. He did not even save Himself
from death on a cross. Yet no man ever had more power over the human race.
The secret of power is love. Amor vincit omnia: "Love conquers
all." It may take time, and it may work invisibly, but it works infallibly.
"Creator"why did God create? He needed nothing, being perfect and
eternal. There is only one possible motive: altruistic love, sheer generosity,
the desire to share His goodness and glory with others.
"Heaven and earth"it follows that Heaven and earth, the whole creation,
is a song of love because Love is the singer.
Do you see the pattern? Each article in the Creed, each word of
the Creed, is about God's love. Rather than going through every other
word in the Creed, I will assume that the pump has been primed and let
you the reader finish the meditation. That would have more educational
value than leaving someone else do it for you. All you have to do is to
think deeply about the meaning of the words, and you will find God's love.
You don't have to stretch the point. You don't even have to connect
each article with love, as if love were something extraneous. You just
have to look, and you will see love lurking there at the center each time.
The same is true, of course, for the Commandments. They are ways of loving.
Everyone knows that Jesus made it perfectly clear that "on these two commandments
depend the whole law and the prophets"to love God with our whole
heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
It is not just that the Commandment to love is the most important one.
It is really the only one. "Love, and do what you will", wrote Augustine
dangerously but accurately. It is dangerous because the saying seems to
invite the misinterpretation that "doing what you will" could be anything
at all. But it is accurate nonetheless because if we do love God, then
we will love His will and His law. We will keep His Commandments, but
out of love and not just fear or even duty.
Each Commandment makes sense only when you see it in the light of love.
Take the first, for example: "You shall have no other gods before me."
Why? Because God is an egotist? No, because God is a lover. What lover
wants half the heart of his beloved? Also God is a realist. He knows that
false gods simply cannot make us happy, however many times we are deceived
into believing and acting as if they could. Love, of course, seeks the
beloved's happiness. It is God's love of us, not self-love, that is behind
The one Commandment that may seem not to conform to the patternlove
does not murder, love does not steal, love does not bear
false witness against neighboris: "Thou shalt not commit adultery."
It seems that it is precisely love that does commit adultery. But it is
not true love, not unadulterated love. True love respects marriages and
will not lay them waste.
Each of the Commandments is specific and clear. They show us how to act
out of love in different situations. We must love only the beloved and
not graven images. Love honors the name of the beloved and does not take
it in vain. Love takes time, a sabbath, a sabbatical, or a honeymoon with
the beloved. Love honors the authors of its being, the father and mother
whose love gave birth. Love does not defraud, deceive, debunk, debar,
devour, or dehumanize. Love is the fulfillment of the law.
Finally, everything we are commanded to pray for in the world's most perfect
prayerthe only one straight from the lips of God Incarnate in direct
answer to the request, "Teach us to pray" (Lk 11:1)-is also love.
We call God "our Father" because we believe in His fatherly love and care.
We want His name hallowed and loved and praised, because we love Him and
want others to do the same.
We want His kingdom to come because His kingdom is the kingdom of love.
We want His will to be done, even in preference to our ownwe will
the abolition of our own will when it is out of alignment with Hisbecause
we know His will is pure love. Ours is not.
If this is done on earth as it is in Heaven, then we will approach
heaven on earth, the annihilation of lovelessness.
We ask for our daily bread because we know His love wants to give it.
Love longs to fulfill the needs of the beloved.
We ask to be forgiven as we forgive because love forgives. "It is not
irritable or resentful" (1 Cor 13:5).
We ask to be delivered from temptations against love and fromthe evil
that comes when love leaves, because we know "the one thing necessary".
Finally, we praise His kingdom, His power, and His glory because they
are nothing but the reign of love.
"Why do you speak of nothing else?" "Because there is nothing else." John
the Beloved Disciple knew the point of it all.
(This excerpt is taken from
chapter two, "The Point Of It All," of The God Who Loves
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love is the subject of Peter Kreeft's imaginative and thoughtful book
God Who Loves You (a revised and updated version of his book Knowing
the Truth of God's Love).
With unusual clarity, Kreeft points out that the
man or woman who begins to glimpse the God who is Creator, Redeemer, and
Lover of our souls, will never be the same. He describes Scripture as
God's love story and then tells why divine love is the answer to our deepest
problems and the fulfillment of our deepest desires.
Posing the hard questions about love that rankle the heart, Peter Kreeft
never settles for easy answers. He exposes today's superficial attitudes
about love to lead people to a deeper understanding of what it means to
be loved by God, addressing these issues and many more:
How can I really know God's love for me?
What does it mean to say that "God is love"?
If God is love, why do bad things happen to good people?
What is the point of life?
What is real love? How can I know it?
Ph.D., is a professor
of philosophy at Boston College. He is an alumnus of Calvin College
(AB 1959) and Fordham University (MA 1961, Ph.D., 1965). He taught at Villanova
University from 1962-1965, and has been at Boston College since 1965.
He is the author of numerous books (over forty and counting) including:
C.S. Lewis for the Third Millennium, Fundamentals of the Faith, Catholic
Christianity, Back to Virtue, and Three Approaches to Abortion.
More info about Kreeft and his many Ignatius Press books can be found on
his IgnatiusInsight.com author page.
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