Awakening From the Meaning Crisis by John Vervaeke, Ep. 16 — Christianity and Agape (Summary & Notes)

“All agapic love is fore-giving love, because it is giving before the person that is receiving the love can in any way be said to have earned it.”

  • Jesus, and people around him, seem to have understood him as a kairos (turning point), in part as a result of some sort of participatory relationship with God
  • (Think back to previous lectures re: participatory knowing. You’re making it, it’s making you, etc etc. This is how we relate to things like culture and language. They don’t come about as a gathering of beliefs but in how we are transformed.)
  • Love, too, deeply transforms who we are. Our salience landscape, our character… And remember the Greeks had 3 terms for love: eros (the love of being one with something), philea (love born out of cooperation), and agape (love of creation) which is the kind Jesus emphasizes. It’s the love a parent has for a child.
  • “It’s a god-like ability that we have. By participating through love in another being we can transform that person from a non-person into a person.”
  • This power brings about a metanoia — a fundamental turning of your whole orientation. A personal kairos.
  • “You fundamentally gain your self-understanding, your sense of self, and your ability to reflect on yourself by how you are reflected through other people.”
  • A child in a sense is consuming the love the adult is giving them and becoming one with it. So it’s a very ego-centric perspective. But from the parent’s perspective it’s not ego-centric at all, because as a parent you are no longer the center of your salience landscape. Your child is. The problem with that metaphor of “turning” is that all turning is still ego-centric. The turning here is going from ego-centric to being centered around someone else.
  • Jesus’ teaching was that we could all experience this. We could all become vessels throw which agape creates other human beings.
  • Agape has a sacrificial element to it because you give before the person earns.
  • Jesus does not anywhere in the gospels present himself as the means by which we obtain forgiveness from God (he often presents himself as a “way” etc.), but when asked his consistent message is: by forgiving other people.
  • “All agapic love is fore-giving love, because it is giving before the person that is receiving the love can in any way be said to have earned it.”
  • One person who seems to have been an early persecutor of Jesus is Saul. He was interesting because he was a Jew and also a Roman citizen at a time when these two groups were very antagonistic to one another. He seems to have integrated these two different aspects to his personality by way of the law.
  • Followers of Jesus weren’t originally known as that — they were originally referred to as followers of “The Way.” Because that’s what Jesus was teaching, a “way” to achieve these insights and this “fore-giving” of agape
  • Saul saw these followers of Jesus and their language of agape and adoration of Jesus as deeply threatening, both to his Jewish heritage and to Roman order. He began persecuting them, and it was at about this time that they started being referred to as, disparagingly, “Christians” (followers of Christ, which means “the anointed one.”)
  • After being taken in by the very people he had persecuted, Paul goes into the desert (a symbolic place for transformation across a number of belief systems) and returns transformed. Not just in mind, but in name: from Saul to Paul.
  • He also returns with a message about agape, a powerful one that is also often misread at weddings (since it isn’t really about romantic love): And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and angels but have not love then I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have faith that can move mountains but have not love then I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames but I have not love I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, it always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies they will cease, where there are tongues they will be stilled, where there is knowledge it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes [‘perfection’ here meaning ‘completion’] the imperfect disappears. When I was a child I tacked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways behind me.
  • “If you’re really really oriented towards candy and toys and playing, then of course you’re not growing up as an adult.”
  • Then Paul continues: Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love.”
  • Gnosis. (A deep knowledge of spiritual meaning that is bound up with agape.)
  • There’s a danger in all this though: a danger of misunderstanding. Any aspect of yourself that you do not understand can get projected onto what you love. Paul, in a sense, projects his own inner conflict (between the “old Paul (Saul) and the new Paul”) as the inner conflict of God.
  • “What this is going to mean is that people who experience deep inner conflict are going to find a welcoming home within the auspices of Christianity.”
  • “We carry the grammar of God but we no longer believe any of the things we say with it.”

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Mark Mulvey

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