Love as Revelation

This post is the final in a series of responses to papers delivered at the Biennial Conference on Philosophy, Religion and Culture at the Catholic Institute of Sydney, 5th-7th October 2012.

Well, I’m not sure that I’ve kept the best till last, but I’ve kept my own paper till last in this series reflecting on ‘The Expressible and the Inexpressible’ conference.  I’ve given you here a copy of the abstract, introduction and conclusion of the paper.  Click over to the reddresstheology writing page to read the whole paper if you’re interested.

 

‘Love As Revelation’

Abstract

In his 1963 work Love Alone: The Way of Revelation, Hans Urs Von Balthasar proposed a ‘third way’ of conceiving the theological category of ‘revelation’ beyond cosmological or anthropological methods.  He calls this method love as revelation.  This paper asks, first, what did von Balthasar mean by this phrase and second, why would contemporary Australian theologians be interested?  Von Balthasar is seeking an aesthetic way of speaking about God that respects the particularity of the Christian gospel whilst acknowledging the limitations of human knowing.  As such, it is a resource that might address some contemporary philosophical concerns about knowledge and reason, subjectivity and objectivity, being and thinking.

Introduction

Good afternoon and thank-you for coming to hear about Love after lunch.  I am Michelle Trebilcock.  I live in Melbourne with my two gorgeous boys aged 6 and 8, I’m an Anglican Priest, and I’m 8 months in to a full-time doctoral student with St Mark’s Canberra in Public and Contextual Theology.  My project is developing a mystical hermeneutic for Public conversations about God, religion and ethics, grounded in this concept of Love as Revelation which I am sharing with you today.

In this paper, I will outline a proposal from Hans Urs von Balthasar that, at its foundation, Christian truth is not just about love, it is love.  Love is not just the content of Christian revelation – God so loved the world(John 3:16); God is love (1 John 4:8); Love the Lord your God…and your neighbour… ( Deut 6:5/ Matt 22:37/ etc.); and so on – Love is the way of revelation. 

Love is the how, the how we know, the how we know it and the how we make sense of being human.

Love is the methodology, the step-by-step process, the hermeneutic and epistemology of spirituality and of religious knowledge.

Conclusion

When we love another person, we love them for the ways that they are different to us, as well as the ways that they are the same. When we love another well, we help them to become all that they are uniquely capable of being, without diminishment of our own uniqueness.  It is not relative truth, but neither is it one-dimensional. Love is empirically conscious only by its symptoms and causes but within the subjectivity of the person experiencing love, is known absolutely.  To apply love as an avatar for ‘how we know’, is to insist on an embodied, conversational epistemology and hermeneutic. The goal is kenotic openness to the ‘truth’ of the person before us, without diminishing the ‘truth’ of our own selves.

Just imagine, how the hyperpluralistic, public discourses of our country would be transformed is Christians entered into the dialogue in this way: leading the conversation towards beauty, goodness and truth by its tone and tenor, rather than the abstract presentation of dogma.  That is my vision for a mystical hermeneutic for public theology – a hermeneutic of love as revelation.

4 thoughts on “Love as Revelation

  1. Hi Chelle. This is good. I really like the image too!
    My question is what “mystical” means for you. I associate it with inexpressibility, with a supra-verbum event. So I struggle to work out how mystical and conversation go together, they seem almost like oil and water. A

  2. Thanks Angus,
    I’ll keep your comment in mind.
    Presenting this paper was a fantastic opportunity to refine my thesis project and I’ve decided consequently that I’m going to ditch the idea of love as an avatar because it requires a PhD in and of itself to explain. Instead I am going to propose a mystical definition of love – which is likely to be a loose metaphor around the idea of ‘space’ or Gillian Rose’s broken/holy middle.
    So, happy to answer your question, but give me a few months!
    Chelle

  3. Hi Chelle. I wanted to read your paper, but come to a google page requiring a password etc. I had no problems with the two sermons below; I could read them… would you please be able to e-mail me a copy via my gmail account on my blog…?

    Many thanks

    Paul

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