Saturday, April 9, 2016

That's Amore

Since I am supposed to be doing research on love (if ever something cries out not to be researched, it is surely love), Pope Francis's latest statement has proved timely. It is called Amoris Laetitia - The Joy of Love. Francis is not reflecting on love per se (whatever that might mean), but on love as it pertains to family life.

I have only began to read what is a fairly long statement, but the following line caught my attention. Francis says:

The ability of human couples to beget life is the path along which the history of salvation progresses.

This claim comes in the context of "fruitful" human love being understood as imaging the fecundity of the divine life. I have two things to say about it.

First, it is not true. If Scripture teaches us anything, it teaches us that it is precisely the inability of human couples to beget life that is the path along which the history of salvation progresses. The child of promise, and not the child of the flesh, is the one who carries forward the divine blessing. This is a basic theological truth, but it is one so easy to miss, and one whose implications are enormous.

Second, Pope Francis's claim shows how tempting it is to speak the language of natural theology when we talk about love between human beings. Indeed it is hard to know how to speak about love and *not* engage in a bit of natural theology, intentionally or otherwise. My hope is that Karl Barth might teach me how to do so, and thus help me to avoid the notion of agape as the civil virtue which keeps the machine running. (Not that that's what Pope Francis is doing, I hasten to add.)

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