God’s Pluriform Love for Us
Most Christian theologies restrict divine love. According to many, God only expresses agape. According to others, God only expresses eros.
Some theologies may say God expresses hesed but cannot affirm divine ahavah. Other theologians mix and match love, depending on their philosophical and theological assumptions.
In my new book, Pluriform Love, I argue that God expresses agape, eros, philia, kenosis, ahavah, hesed, and more. Divine love is pluriform.
Love’s Meaning is Uniform; Love’s Expressions are Pluriform
The biblical witness, the history of creation, and our lives bear witness to God at work in wild and wonderful ways. Our imitating God requires that we express pluriform love. The diversity of love forms to which God calls fills a lifetime of enjoying and sharing abundant life.
To illustrate visually how I understand the definition of love as uniform but its expressions as pluriform, I offer the figure below. Note that some forms mentioned are quite broad, while others are fairly specific.
There are millions more forms of love than I list. And many forms mix with others.
For instance, I can both love my daughter by appreciating her value and love her by expressing my disappointment that she made an unhealthy decision. I can act for my nation’s well-being in collaboration with others while actively opposing policies the majority seem to adopt. And so on.
God’s love is mixed too. God both loves by appreciating the value of creatures while loving in anger when they abuse one another. Rather than one-dimensional, God’s love is pluriform.
3 Primary Ways God Loves Us
God loves creation in at least three primary ways.
First, God acts for creation’s good, even when creatures harm themselves and others. God loves even when we are unfaithful to God and the well-being of all. God’s love takes the form of acting for good in spite of the negative that creatures have done.
As a forgiving lover, God expresses agape.
Second, God acts for creation’s good when encountering its intrinsic value. This form of divine love does good because of the beauty, worth, and importance of creation. The world God created and creates is good.
As an artistic lover, God expresses eros.
Third, God loves by coming alongside creatures in the work of promoting well-being. God empowers and seeks collaboration from creation for the common good.
As a loving friend, God expresses philia.
Each broad form of divine love takes various expressions. But in each, God seeks to promote well-being.
For more on these ideas and many more, see Pluriform Love: An Open and Relational Theology of Well-Being.