Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Disinterested love

As William Hasker writes, “All sorts of experiences and relationships acquire a special value because they involve love, trust, and affection that are freely bestowed. The love potions that appear in many fairy stories (and in the Harry Potter series) can become a trap; the one who has used the potion finds that he wants to be loved for his own sake and not because of the position, yet fears the loss of the beloved’s affection if the potion is no longer used,” D. Baggett & J. Walls, Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality (Oxford 2011), 242n14.

i) Does the Arminian God love us for our own sake? In classical Arminianism, election is conditional rather than unconditional. In that case, God’s love has strings attached. God’s response is contingent on our foreseen response to him.

By contrast, unconditional election is a paradigmatic example of disinterested love. Indeed, God loves us in spite of ourselves.

ii) Also, while this illustration is very romantic, it’s not very realistic. No doubt it’s flattering to think a woman simply loves a man for his own sake, but in many cases, isn’t there a pragmatic consideration?

Take two versions of Jerry Walls as a bachelor. In both versions, Jerry has the same appearance and personality. But in one version, Jerry is the heir to a great fortune. In another version, Jerry works at a 7/11. Which version do you think a woman is more likely to marry? The version who works a dead-end, low-wage job–or the independently wealthy version?


  1. After reading that above, the three wives of Jacob come to mind setting aside the fool's love he had for Rachel so that time didn't seem to be of any affect working for her dad for seven years.

    Which of those three women had a choice to love Jacob?

  2. Steve: I am not sure that your criticism goes through. Perhaps you can say more to assuage the worry I have. You asked whether God loves us for our own sake according to classical Arminianism. As support of a negative answer, you cite the commitment of their view that "election is conditional." Then you say: "In that case, God's love has strings attached." And it is this last inference that I doubt.

    To say God's love has strings attached is ambiguous. One way of understanding "God's love" is quasi-emotional; "quasi-" because I want to separate God's emotions from those understood in the case of humans and animals. In this case, God's love exists prior to God acting toward the beloved. (Compare: in writing this comment, I do not cease to love my wife, though I also do not act out of love toward her in writing this post.) The second way of understanding "God's love", then, is God's acting in particular ways that manifest his love.

    This second sort bears focusing on. The Arminian will say that God surely acts out of love to all his creatures. But some of the sort of acts that are manifestations of God's love depend on the creature's responses. The act of providing eternal life depends on the creature's free act of faith. But even without performing that act, God's love as a quasi-emotion exists, and he still performs other acts that are not violations of the autonomous character of the creature. So whether God's love has strings attached is not quite right. Rather, some of God's acts of love have strings attached.

    1. This is how Katherin Rogers puts it: "I have a hard time seeing why one would prefer a God incapable of unconditional love...I find in myself...a longing to be loved, wholly and completely, by someone who does not want anything from me. I do not think such love has a place in the created universe. As far as I can tell, the most likely candidate for a being who can perfectly will good for us without demanding anything in return is...God," Perfect Being Theology, 52.

    2. In Arminian theology, God's dispositional love and his manifest love are inseparable. If he did nothing to help the lost, then his "quasi-emotional" love would be considered a charade. Indeed, that's an objection Arminians typically level against the well-meant offer in Calvinism. God can't *really* love the reprobate, for he makes no provision to save them.

  3. OK. I'm familiar with some of Kate's work, though not this particular book. That said, I am not clear on how you think this passage addresses my worry.