Monday, June 11, 2012

Book Review; Jonah Hadadd, Leaving Dirt Place: Love as an Apologetic for Christianity

With the Bible as their guide, Christians make the audacious claim that God is love, and that God demonstrated is love toward us by becoming Incarnate in order to reconcile us to God through the perfect life, sin-cancelling and demon-defeating death, and glorious historical resurrection of Jesus Christ, the God-Man. Therefore, the concept and reality of love vibrates at the living center of all Christian thought. This titanic claim should not be taken for granted; neither should the concept of Christian love languish amidst clich├ęs and intellectually superficial invocations.

While many apologetics books and articles have defended the love and power of the Christian God in relation to the miseries of this fallen world (addressing “the problem of evil”), few writers have made love itself a profound apologetic for the Christian worldview. This largely neglected task is the burden of this unique and much-needed work by Jonah Haddad. In a poetic yet philosophical approach, Haddad explains the vexed question of the very meaning of love. He then investigates which worldview best explains the objective existence of love by carefully and fairly assessing each “live hypothesis” (William James) available to answer this query.

While humans speak of love, yearn for love, give love, receive love, and have their hearts broken (and break other hearts) by the manifold betrayals of love, the very fact of love is often unexplained or (worse yet) explained away by philosophies that cannot bear its bitter-sweet weight. Haddad, however, does not shrink from this daunting task, but rather marshals the theological and philosophical resources required to set for a compelling case that only the Christian vision of existence can give love its proper meaning, value, and significance—even (or especially) amidst all the tears, blood, and fears of a world “east of Eden.”

Love is an inescapable mystery that has stymied many of the best of philosophers, poets, and prophets. Yet love finds its answer—philosophically, theologically, and existentially—in the person of a crucified Jew, who, two thousand years ago, manifested the greatest love of all and who gathers all other loves under his suffering arms. As George Herbert wrote in the concluding lines to “The Agonie” (1633):

Love in that liquour sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as bloud; but I, as wine.

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