“Who then are you, my god?”: Augustine of Hippo and Jean-Luc Marion and the nature and possibility of loving God
Philosophy of religion has traditionally privileged epistemic questions about God (Does God exist? Can we understand God's nature?) to questions concerning our love for God. Philosophy of religion focuses on epistemic questions because it assumes that love is a subjective emotion that has no bearing on our knowledge of God and that we experience God primarily as an object of knowledge. But if God desires a relationship with us, as traditional Christian theology contends, then our love for God is vital for our understanding of God. My project questions philosophy of religion's two assumptions by developing Augustine's and Jean-Luc Marion's accounts of our love for God. Both philosophers argue that our love for God and our knowledge of God are mutually dependent; we cannot know God without loving God. Additionally, they maintain that we must experience the loving God in and through a loving will and not solely as an object of intellectual comprehension. My project thus urges philosophy of religion to consider our love for God both as a source of knowledge of God and as the primary way that we must relate to the loving God. I ask two main questions of Augustine and Marion: (1) How is the love of God possible?, and (2) What should be the nature of our love for God? To question (1), each argues that love for a transcendent, loving God is only possible because God lovingly reveals Himself to us. To (2), they argue for a unified conception of love. In love, we primarily desire a loving fellowship with the beloved. Thus, agape (gift-love) and eros (need-love) do not represent two completely opposed desires, but each love is necessary in our love for God. I conclude by showing how Augustine and Marion can counter two contemporary arguments that dismiss the possibility of loving God. The first is J.L. Schellenberg's argument that divine hiddenness proves that theism is unreasonable. The second is Jacques Derrida's claim that we must love without any possibility of reciprocity, a claim implying that we cannot love a God who desires a loving relationship with us.
Hubbard, Kyle Philip, "“Who then are you, my god?”: Augustine of Hippo and Jean-Luc Marion and the nature and possibility of loving God" (2010). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3416001.