Love determines what we do.

“Believing in Christ means the acknowledgment that one belongs not to one’s self but to him, and belonging to him means belonging to the body of Christ, the community of brethren who have been redeemed and claimed by the one Lord. This belonging to Christ and hence to one another is the presupposition and crucial preorientation of all the believer’s choosing and doing. The believer is not on his own in matters of conduct, nor is he, on the other hand, in possession of prescribed requirements for life in Christ. What is to be done must be discerned and decided in the individual case but always with reference to God’s gift of love as it has been met in Christ and God’s demand of love as it is repeatedly met in the neighbor.”

Victor Paul Furnish, Theology and Ethics in Paul (237).

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3 comments
  1. Andrew said:

    Re: his comment that “The believer is not…in possession of prescribed requirements for life in Christ”: how would he understand the inclusion of haustefeln, sin lists, and the appeal to some requirements of the Torah, in Paul and other apostles? Seems like the simplest way to understand them is as rules that give the outline of what love really looks like. Furnish’s contrast between love and requirements seems a bit like situation ethics to me, and IMHO one of the big problems with situation ethics in terms of theological anthroplogy is that love is to will the good, and the human good has a determinate structure in Adam and Christ, given by the hand of God. Love must pay attention to the created order, or it is not really willing the good (it was the created order that God declared good in the beginning, after all). But if the created order is what good, then morality has an order, and if it has an order, it can be summarized (not comprehensively, but truthfully) in lists, if necessary.

    My two cents.

    • jt* said:

      Well, I mean that’s a good question. Is this situation ethics? I’m not sure. I’m not familiar enough with Furnish (I’ve only read parts of the above book) nor am I that familiar with situation ethics. Though, from what I gather my gut reaction would be to say that the Pauline ethic which Furnish argues for isn’t the same as situation ethics, though there may be some similarities (as there would be with virtue ethics, etc).

      Even within Paul I think we see things like haustefeln and the Torah reinterpreted in light of love and life in this new community, the church. I’m not sure that Paul holds these sorts of things up as ethical ideals that we ought to submit to regardless of the situation that may present itself. I’m thinking here, with haustefeln in particular, that Paul seems to subvert the common understanding of this and other societal roles in the name of Christ, with love for one another, koinonia, being the determining factor.

      I think Furnish’s point is simply that whatever apparent rules Paul may have need to be seen in light of his understanding the body and the call to “build up” the body, thus considering others before self.

      I’m interested in your last point but am not sure I totally follow. What do you mean by “love is to will the good, and the human good has a determinate structure in Adam and Christ.”

      Peace.

      • Andrew said:

        Re: the last bit:

        On the definition of love, I can do no better than link to Aquinas on God and love: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles1.htm#91

        On the rest: God created humanity in the beginning with certain features and characteristics that have certain intrinsic purposes. Because God is the author of our nature, our nature is a reflection of his will. Thus, in Adam, the original creation that God said reflected his will (was “good”), we can see God’s intentions for our lives (how he wants us to live). God’s intentions ought to be fulfilled (since we owe him everything, and for many other reasons), and so the intrinsic structure of Adam’s unfallen being gives us our standard of action. Insofar as we can describe the different features of our being with their different (divine) purposes, we can actually list out God’s intentions for us in the form of rules or directives or commands.

        Grace perfects nature, and Christ’s regeneration of the created world restores God’s original intentions; it does not change the human being into something fundamentally different, but heals it of its sinful defects. Christ himself, as the Righteous One, perfectly fulfills the intentions God always had for the unfallen Adam.

        At least that’s how I see it.

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