Author Topic: What do Christians mean when they say that they love Jesus?  (Read 1528 times)

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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: What do Christians mean when they say that they love Jesus?
« Reply #15 on: March 25, 2017, 12:05:33 AM »
I am on a forum with a fair amount of Christians and temped to ask but get the feeling that I would get a shit storm.
I have to wonder if maybe,  like many things, it is an issue that many never actually think about.

That's because it never occurs to anyone to question what it means - it's the sort of question only atheists ask. "Love" has a distinct definition, several actually, and none of them are particularly difficult to grasp.

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Re: What do Christians mean when they say that they love Jesus?
« Reply #16 on: March 25, 2017, 12:31:51 AM »
I am on a forum with a fair amount of Christians and temped to ask but get the feeling that I would get a shit storm.
I have to wonder if maybe,  like many things, it is an issue that many never actually think about.

That's because it never occurs to anyone to question what it means - it's the sort of question only atheists ask. "Love" has a distinct definition, several actually, and none of them are particularly difficult to grasp.

But that's just the issue: which of those several meanings is meant?  The question isn't predicated on the difficulty of understanding the various meanings, but on the ambiguity of the phrase.
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Offline arthwollipot

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Re: What do Christians mean when they say that they love Jesus?
« Reply #17 on: March 25, 2017, 12:40:40 AM »
I am on a forum with a fair amount of Christians and temped to ask but get the feeling that I would get a shit storm.
I have to wonder if maybe,  like many things, it is an issue that many never actually think about.

That's because it never occurs to anyone to question what it means - it's the sort of question only atheists ask. "Love" has a distinct definition, several actually, and none of them are particularly difficult to grasp.

But that's just the issue: which of those several meanings is meant?  The question isn't predicated on the difficulty of understanding the various meanings, but on the ambiguity of the phrase.

The answer isn't hard to find out.

Offline Eternally Learning

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Re: What do Christians mean when they say that they love Jesus?
« Reply #18 on: March 25, 2017, 05:57:18 AM »
I'm pretty sure it's a nebulous expression that no one really ever firmly defines and thus everyone means something different when they say it.  That was certainly my experience growing up; having lots of things told to me as facts with very little explanation beyond rote answers with very little specific meaning.  When I said I loved Jesus, I think I meant something similar to how I might say I love my country.  His concept is familiar to me, people have been telling me my whole life about how great he is, there are a lot of legitimately admirable things about him, I feel like I should love him for everything people say he's done for me, and so on. 

Other people I've known, I'm fairly certain have a distinct impression that Jesus is a persistent force in their lives and is a literal person who advises them on what to do, effects change in their daily lives, and someone who literally loves them more than anyone else.  They believe that they literally hear his voice and that he literally hears them and those interactions have lead them to love him.  Not sure if I'd say everyone I've known who expresses this type of "personal relationship" would fall into the hallucinating category as some people I think just convince themselves of it so they feel like they are "good Christians," but some I would definitely put into that category.  They certainly seemed 'touched' by something.

I'm sure I could categorize more if I thought on it, but I feel that the above 2 broad categories probably sum up most of them to varying degrees of extremeness.

Offline Redamare

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Re: What do Christians mean when they say that they love Jesus?
« Reply #19 on: March 25, 2017, 08:42:05 AM »
My handle (Redamare) actually comes from Redamare Deus, which was my handle on a Christian forum. It refers to the fact that I did actually feel love for God, something which I did and do feel is uncommon among Christians.
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Re: What do Christians mean when they say that they love Jesus?
« Reply #20 on: March 25, 2017, 10:19:10 AM »
My handle (Redamare) actually comes from Redamare Deus, which was my handle on a Christian forum. It refers to the fact that I did actually feel love for God, something which I did and do feel is uncommon among Christians.

Can you explain what you mean by that?  What kind of love are you talking about?  How does it compare to other meanings of the word 'love'?

I am on a forum with a fair amount of Christians and temped to ask but get the feeling that I would get a shit storm.
I have to wonder if maybe,  like many things, it is an issue that many never actually think about.

That's because it never occurs to anyone to question what it means - it's the sort of question only atheists ask. "Love" has a distinct definition, several actually, and none of them are particularly difficult to grasp.

But that's just the issue: which of those several meanings is meant?  The question isn't predicated on the difficulty of understanding the various meanings, but on the ambiguity of the phrase.

The answer isn't hard to find out.

Yes, because we're all in the habit of translating English words into Koine Greek before looking them up on Wikipedia. So silly of us to have forgotten in this case.

Moreover, I doubt that most Christians have ever considered the love they claim to feel for Jesus in such terms.

That aside, I've read through that entire article, and it does not clarify for me what Christians claim to be feeling or doing at all.  It says that they claim to be doing it or feeling it unconditionally, without expectation of reciprocity, etc. But throughout the article agape is defined in terms of the word love, rendering its use as a definition of the word "love" tautological.

I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Online Mr. Beagle

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Re: What do Christians mean when they say that they love Jesus?
« Reply #21 on: March 25, 2017, 10:53:30 AM »
Frederich Schleiermacher wrote, in the early 1800s, a foundational text for liberal, post-enlightenment theology, called On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers. In it he says that Christianity, and religion in general, is not really about adherence to doctrine, rather it is a "feeling," or close to what German theologian Rudolf Otto later called the "numinous" experience. In short, it makes you feel good (maybe).

My perception is that Christians are all over the map. To some it is a "logical" experience of rules and duties. To others, an exercise in knowing the "correct" doctrine of who God is.

To others, it is an "aesthetic" experience. I had an atheist friend who loved Handel's Messiah so much that he said it gave him an orgasm. He regularly attended "high church" services just to hear the music and "feel" the ritual.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: What do Christians mean when they say that they love Jesus?
« Reply #22 on: March 26, 2017, 01:32:58 AM »
The answer isn't hard to find out.

Yes, because we're all in the habit of translating English words into Koine Greek before looking them up on Wikipedia. So silly of us to have forgotten in this case.
Well, I got to that page directly from the Wikipedia page for "Love" so *shrug*.

Quote from: Wikipdia
Ancient Greeks identified four forms of love: kinship or familiarity (in Greek, storge), friendship (philia), sexual and/or romantic desire (eros), and self-emptying or divine love (agape). Modern authors have distinguished further varieties of romantic love. Non-Western traditions have also distinguished variants or symbioses of these states.[4][5] Love has additional religious or spiritual meaning—notably in Abrahamic religions. This diversity of uses and meanings combined with the complexity of the feelings involved makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, compared to other emotional states.
Second paragraph.

Moreover, I doubt that most Christians have ever considered the love they claim to feel for Jesus in such terms.
Again, *shrug*. Your experience is what you have. I think it very much depends on the type of Christian you're talking about. Catholics, for example, are removed from direct contact with God, so most Catholics are unlikely to profess this kind of love for Jesus. Protestants, on the other hand, have a direct and personal relationship with Jesus, so their claims of love are much more direct. I personally knew people when I was part of the church who professed actual romantic love (eros) for Jesus. Some Christians do in fact treat Jesus as an actual real person who is constantly present, so their claims of loving that person are far more concrete than claims of loving some nebulous immaterial spirit.

That aside, I've read through that entire article, and it does not clarify for me what Christians claim to be feeling or doing at all.  It says that they claim to be doing it or feeling it unconditionally, without expectation of reciprocity, etc. But throughout the article agape is defined in terms of the word love, rendering its use as a definition of the word "love" tautological.
Wait - you ask for the definition, I provide you an extremely detailed definition, and you say that it is insufficient for you to understand what it means? What more do you want?

Look - you're unlikely to ever personally experience this kind of love. And experiencing it is the best way to understand it. Imagine you met someone who had spent their entire life alone in some kind of scientific research facility - they had never even encountered another human being, let alone had to deal with emotional attachments thereto. How would you describe the love you feel for another person to that individual? They wouldn't have the intellectual tools to understand it.

It's a bit the same talking about the love for God and Jesus to an atheist. Religion requires a heap of intellectual structures and shortcuts that lifelong atheists just never have to bother developing. Agape is one of those things. It's hard to explain to someone who has never experienced it and never will.

The point is, that's okay. You don't need to understand it - it won't change your life, and the mental hoops that you'd have to go through to understand it are likely to frustrate you.

Curiosity is a virtue, but when a person explains something and you refuse their explanation, there's not a lot more that they can do.

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Re: What do Christians mean when they say that they love Jesus?
« Reply #23 on: March 26, 2017, 09:24:25 AM »
The explanation that you offered amounts to this: "the love that Christians profess to feel for Jesus is the kind of love that God feels for humans and humans feel for God."  It's tautological.  If you asked me what skepticism was and I said, "It's the activity that skeptics do," would you feel you'd been answered?

The assertion that I'm not capable of understanding the concept is a bit premature, since you haven't yet tried to explain it.  It's also a bit ridiculous.  There are many things with which I have no personal experience but which I understand perfectly well through the miracle of language. We have a rich and expressive language, supplemented by imagination.  There's no reason you shouldn't be able to convey the nature of the feeling just as I could describe the nature of the feeling ai have for my mother, wife, or child.

So, since you claim to have felt it, why not have a go at describing it in your own words?  Use as many as you want, use any analogies or metaphors or similes you need.  The only thing I ask is that you not use the word love to define itself.

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Offline daniel1948

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Re: What do Christians mean when they say that they love Jesus?
« Reply #24 on: March 26, 2017, 10:50:22 AM »
Examples of love #1734:

For God so loved Mankind that he killed his Only Begotten Son in the most agonizing way possible, that whosoever believeth in Him should have everlasting life, and whosoever believeth not in Him should suffer infinite torture in a burning lake of fire for ever and ever, amen.

Fundamentalist Christians love Jesus because if they don't, God will f**k them over good. They love him with all their heart and soul because they're terrified of the alternative. And they love you and me the same way God loves them: With fire and brimstone and threats of death.

Mainstream Christians just mouth the words without putting any importance to them.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: What do Christians mean when they say that they love Jesus?
« Reply #25 on: March 26, 2017, 09:11:20 PM »
The explanation that you offered amounts to this: "the love that Christians profess to feel for Jesus is the kind of love that God feels for humans and humans feel for God."  It's tautological.  If you asked me what skepticism was and I said, "It's the activity that skeptics do," would you feel you'd been answered?
That was not even remotely the explanation that I offered. The second sentence of the article I linked says "the love of God for man and of man for God", and that is a translation of the word, not an explanation. If you had some obscure Navajo word for skepticism, it would be perfectly okay to translate that by saying "it's skepticism".

If you read past the second sentence into the greater body of the article, you will come across phrases like "a selfless love, a love that was passionately committed to the well-being of the other" and "If we could imagine the love of one who loves men purely for their own sake, and not because of any need or desire of his own, purely desires their good, and yet loves them wholly, not for what at this moment they are, but for what he knows he can make of them because he made them, then we should have in our minds some true image of the love of the Father and Creator of mankind."

But to get to those bits you have to read more than two sentences.

The assertion that I'm not capable of understanding the concept is a bit premature, since you haven't yet tried to explain it.  It's also a bit ridiculous.  There are many things with which I have no personal experience but which I understand perfectly well through the miracle of language. We have a rich and expressive language, supplemented by imagination.  There's no reason you shouldn't be able to convey the nature of the feeling just as I could describe the nature of the feeling ai have for my mother, wife, or child.
The only tool that a lifelong atheist has to understand this kind of love is intellectual. As I said, you will probably never feel love for Jesus unless you wholeheartedly convert to Christianity some day, which I think you will agree is unlikely. It's a bit like describing colour to a sightless person. You could say that red is light of a certain wavelength, and that it has certain cultural connotations, but that person would be unable to experience actually seeing the colour red. They will be capable of only a broad intellectual understanding of what it's like to see the colour red.

I could understand what you mean when you describe the feeling you have for your mother, wife or child, because I have a mother and I have a child (I don't have a wife) and I have experienced the familial and romantic love (philia and eros) that you would be describing. I have a reference point. A lifelong atheist has no reference point for understanding agape because they have never felt it, and never will unless they become religious.

I could say that agape love is completely selfless, that people feel it towards an entity that they believe feels it towards them, and that people who feel it will willingly sacrifice everything they have without any thought of reward, but those are just words. Words will be able to convey an intellectual understanding of what it's like to feel agape love, but they will not and cannot possibly convey the feeling itself.

The Wikipedia article on agape has quite a lot of words on the subject, and you have said that you consider them insufficient. I certainly can't describe it to you in better words than Wikipedia does. A good poet may be able to. Are you likely to be seeking out religious poetry for any reason?

So, since you claim to have felt it, why not have a go at describing it in your own words?  Use as many as you want, use any analogies or metaphors or similes you need.  The only thing I ask is that you not use the word love to define itself.
Excuse me - would you please point out exactly where I claimed to have felt it?

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Re: What do Christians mean when they say that they love Jesus?
« Reply #26 on: March 26, 2017, 09:28:08 PM »
I apologize, Art.  I had you confused with Redamare.  Since you do not claim to understand what Christians mean, you're off the hook for explaining it.  But, then, you really can't opine on what the correct definition is.

As for the rest of what you've written, you make an awful lot of unjustified assumptions about me, my life experience, and even the extent to which I read the article you linked. This shows bad faith, and I therefore don't think it is worth engaging with you further on this topic.

I will say in parting that I daresay that I am more qualified to opine on the meaning of a Greek word than you, whether you've read a Wikipedia article on the subject or no.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: What do Christians mean when they say that they love Jesus?
« Reply #27 on: March 26, 2017, 09:53:42 PM »
I apologize, Art.  I had you confused with Redamare.  Since you do not claim to understand what Christians mean, you're off the hook for explaining it.  But, then, you really can't opine on what the correct definition is.
And that's why I referred you to Wikipedia.

As for the rest of what you've written, you make an awful lot of unjustified assumptions about me, my life experience, and even the extent to which I read the article you linked. This shows bad faith, and I therefore don't think it is worth engaging with you further on this topic.
Are you not a lifelong atheist? My apologies - I thought I had seen you somewhere say that you had never been religious. Regardless, most of my comments referred to lifelong atheists, but I admit I did use "you" a few times as a shortcut.

I will say in parting that I daresay that I am more qualified to opine on the meaning of a Greek word than you, whether you've read a Wikipedia article on the subject or no.
It isn't a language problem. People use the Greek word because that's the language in which it was originally defined, but later writers have elaborated in English. Some of them are quoted in the Wikipedia article. There's plenty of resources in English to be found.

Offline Redamare

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Re: What do Christians mean when they say that they love Jesus?
« Reply #28 on: March 26, 2017, 10:30:12 PM »
Speaking for myself, I have no clue intention of defending a theory of Christians and love.

But it has seemed to me the Christians I knew growing up rarely if ever described their feelings for God in terms that overlap with any conventional understanding of love as I know it.

Furthermore, to speak of "loving" a being that can't possibly need anything from you, who can never be killed or taken from you, and whose ways and means are totally beyond your comprehension doesn't really make sense.

It seems to me that you can't be said to love someone whom you could never worry about.
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Re: What do Christians mean when they say that they love Jesus?
« Reply #29 on: March 26, 2017, 11:29:44 PM »
But, Red... you said that you did feel love for God.  What was that feeling?  That's all we're asking.
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