Love according to Kierkegaard

In "The Works of Love", Sören Kierkegaard insists on the Christian conception of love as opposed to the pagan one. He affirms that, for Christianity, God is love and without love everything is banal.

Santiago Leyra Curiá-March 28, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes

Statue of Kierkegaard (Wikimedia Commons / Arne List)

You have a lot of resources in "The works of love", dated 29-IX-1847, Sören Kierkegaard insists on the Christian conception of love as opposed to the pagan one. He affirms that, for Christianity, God is love and without love everything is banal. God is the source of love in the deepest and unfathomable intimacy of the human person.

Only the one who loves participates in love and drinks from its very source and, thus, "the absolutely Other" becomes close because in every true loving relationship God appears: true love is not a relationship between one person and another, but rather a person-God-person relationship; God is "the Common Denominator".

The book by the famous Danish author is divided into a first part, which deals with the origin of love, and a second part, which deals with the characteristics of love.

It begins with a prayer in which, among other things, it states:

"How could love be rightly spoken of if You were forgotten, O God, from whom all love in heaven and on earth proceeds, You who bargained nothing, but gave all for love... You who revealed what love is!"

In the first part he says that love springs from within man in the same way that a lake is nourished by a hidden spring. This spring is infinite because it is God himself.

Love in the world manifests itself temporarily, but its source is eternal. God is continually sustaining us with his loving action. If this love were to withdraw for a single instant, everything would return to chaos.

In the second part, he deepens the idea that lovingly keeping the memory of the deceased in memory constitutes the act of human love. "more selfless"the freest and most faithful of all.

That is why Kierkegaard advises: "Thus remember the deceased and you will learn to love the living with an unselfish, free and faithful love". 

Eternity and freedom

The works of love manifest the eternity of God and are proof of his existence. Out of love, God creates, incarnates himself and manifests himself to mankind.

Our love makes us similar to Him and makes us sharers in His life, for it is "the fountain of water springing up to eternal life".  

God has granted us freedom because only a free love is true love. To Him we owe a correspondence of absolute love. There is only one being whom man can love more than himself. This being is none other than God, whom one must love not as oneself, but with all one's heart, with all one's soul and with all one's mind.

As the origin of love is hidden "the secret life of love is known by its fruits", for the works.

We can only speak of true works of love when it is the love of God that moves us to act from the depths of our being. Although good works are not always a reflection of love, love is manifested in good works.

For Kierkegaard we can only be authentic Christians if we become singular persons and are willing to suffer for the truth.

Instead, mediocrity, worldly intelligence, "it is eternally excluded and abhorred in heaven, more than any vice and crime, for in its essence it belongs, more than anything else to this vile world and more than anything else it is estranged from heaven and the eternal!"

There is an enormous distance between Greek eros and the Christian agape that appears with the New Testament.

The first is a love of desire that tends to the possession of the beloved person; in agape, the other is loved as other, the lover rejoices in the existence of the beloved person and wants his or her good.

The person close to whom we love is not an abstract being but a concrete being whom the circumstances of life have placed close to us. We must love him or her as ourselves.  

Christian love and pagan love

Love has a double object: the good that is wanted and the subject for whom that good is wanted. 

True, Christian love is respectful of the loved one because it wants the good for him/her and has a divine foundation, it never grows old because it is not according to the flesh but according to the spirit, it is not finite but infinite.

To love truly is a duty, that duty makes abnegation the essential form of Christianity; to love is to obey the divine law that commands to love for love of God, not for love of duty, as in Kant.

Pagan love is selfish and possessive, it does not spring from the eternal spring nor is it bound to eternity, it is the child of temporality; it is a rebellious love against Love, it fights against all dependence, it recognizes neither renunciation nor abnegation nor duty. It is an outdated love.

If a person ceases to love, it is a very clear sign that he has never loved. Mediocrity and worldly intelligence are eternally excluded from heaven because they belong essentially to the world that is out of date.

The human person attains his self by self-realizing himself as unique before God. To despair consists in wanting to be what one is not and in not wanting to be what one is.

The aesthetic man is not yet an individual; the ethical man begins to present the characteristics of the singular individual and begins to be in a position to discover the truth.

The first condition of religiosity is to be a singular individual because it is impossible to build or be built up en masse, even more impossible than to be in love en masse. ("My point of view on my activity as a writer", 1848).

If we become unique people, willing to suffer for the truth, we can aspire to be authentic Christians.

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