Rambling thoughts on the insufficiency of God’s love

You don’t care*. No, don’t deny it, it’s true; but I understand. Humans have a limited capacity to care, limited time and attention to give. You have yourself and your family and so many other closer friends to care about first- there’s not much space left for a once a year friend except maybe once a year.

Humans have a limited capacity to care- limited time and attention. That’s one reason they invented god (or the modern concept of god, anyway). God, who has unlimited capacity to love all and everyone, and does it better then any human ever could. Because that’s what most people want most in life- to love and be loved. To feel cared for. To feel like they matter.

And yet some people would take that away from others– forbid them to love and be loved. (I’m referring to homophobic sentiments, of course.)  Why do you and how can you deny people such a fundamental need of their emotional well-being?

And this god– supposedly his love is all you need, his perfec love. The love that quenches your thirst eternally while every other leaves you wanting. And yet people who feel his love, who bask in his love are not satisfied– god is not enough (what blasphemy!) and they still need the love and support if their community, the love and support of their family, the love and support of their friends, and the love and support of a significant other. Why can’t you subsist on god’s love alone?

All men have a god shaped hole in their hearts, they say. Yet even when you’ve filled that hole with god, there’s still some hole left. How can it be that god’s not enough?

One of the favourite ‘trump cards’: the fall. We live in a fallen world. Our relationship with god now on earth is not as it’s supposed to be. It’s been tainted with sin, restricted by sin.
But even in paradise, even before sin and the fall, god wasn’t enough. Man was made to worship god, but worshipping god didn’t fulfill man enough, didn’t make man satisfied. God wasn’t enough, and god said so himself: it is not good that man should be alone. But he wasn’t alone, he was in PARADISE, with god, in his intended, untainted state, with all the incredible wonders of creation at his beck and call. And… It still wasn’t enough.

How can it get better than that? As Adam, the first man, in paradise, knowing god? Isn’t that what Christians claim is god’s original, intended plan? Trump card ‘the fall’ is out of commission; it hasn’t happened yet. Isn’t that the thing that is separating us from god, and isn’t separation the thing that is keeping us dissatisfied? Apparently not. Adam had it all, and still it was ‘not good’.

Apparently you still need AT LEAST a mate (in addition to all of paradise and being on one-on-one speaking terms with god) to be satisfied and fulfilled.

As little sense as this makes, it makes even less sense to believe all that and still deny some people the right to love another**. God himself said that even with everything else absolutely perfect, it’s still ‘not good’ to be alone.

*Is there a difference between actively not caring and not actively caring? If there is, I mean thelatter.
**I guess this refers specifically to people who admit that homosexuality natural and beyond an individuals control but insist that they should abstain from being an ‘active’ homosexual. 

7 thoughts on “Rambling thoughts on the insufficiency of God’s love

  1. Some thoughts in response (as a Christian and gay): God’s love is experienced directly and not just thought or taught. The reason that it can be both sufficient and insufficient is that the only way we get to experience God’s love is as finite beings. Ironically, the only way to get to experience God’s love is to first believe in him, and that he is all-good, and then to submit to Him. (Who would want to submit to a being that is not all-good?)

    As for Adam… I think the fall is not really about a ‘perfect’ before and a ‘corrupted’ afterwards, but a story of transition from innocence (which is different from maturity) and corruption. Innocence is corrupted by our our thirst for ‘knowledge of Good and Evil’, the illusion that we can independently determine what is right and wrong apart from God – God being, of course, all-loving and all-good. I recommend comparing the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) if you’re into all that. It’s a good way of recognising that human suffering has meaning, and if suffering is the result of the fall… so be it.

    What this means about partners… well I think that’s like an extra bonus from God. You’re absolutely right about it not being good for man to live alone. This goes back to the point that God’s love is experienced directly and not just thought. It’s the same for human love (gay or straight): it is experienced and for that reason shouldn’t be denied. But it’s also the case that being in love makes people want to be together forever, and we should honor that, as God recommends us to…

    • Hi, thanks for your response. It always good to consider a different point of view and nice to have someone else’s input.

      As a non-christian I suppose I’m having a lot of trouble understanding the concept of god’s love. I understand that it’s something one ‘experiences’ and not just mulls over intellectually, but that shouldn’t mean you can’t think about it as a concept either, right?

      “The reason that it can be both sufficient and insufficient is that the only way we get to experience God’s love is as finite beings.”
      I’m afraid I can hardly understand this. Why does being ‘finite beings’ make god’s love both sufficient and insufficient? What do you mean by ‘finite beings’?

      I don’t think most people experience a partner as merely a ‘extra bonus’ from god. An ‘extra bonus’ implies something you don’t need, something you don’t actively desire too much. If you get it, that’s great! But you were perfectly happy without it anyway. However, that’s not the case in reality. Most people get attached rather than not. It seems to be a given rather than an extra bonus. And most people are obsessed with getting attached. We all strongly desire another person whom we can connect with on a deeper level, whom we can love and be loved by.

      I suppose to me the concept of god’s love is extremely paradoxical and contradictory. On one hand, it’s supposed to fully fulfill us like nothing else can, yet it obviously doesn’t. It’s supposed to be the perfect love, yet it’s so conditional. You experience it, but not from anything physical that was said or given to you, or anything that was done for you here and now. (I mean that it is something very different from how I know another person loves me.)

      • Thanks for reading through that comment, it was long. I wrote it partly for my own benefit. What I mean by ‘finite’ beings is that we have limits (the root is in the latin for ‘limit’ or ‘boundary’). We can only take in so much of God’s love at one time, although it is boundless. When you experience God’s love it is direct, overwhelming and it ‘fills you up’ (is fulfilling) and in that sense ‘sufficient’. But the description of God’s love as ‘sufficient’ is really just a way of describing it – talking about (as we are). It is not ‘supposed to be’ that way; it is just is, when you know it.

        But you are right when you say that experiencing God’s love is not like experiencing love from another person. God is not visible, it is hard to attribute actions or purposes to God that we can consider good or loving. I find it helpful to think of God as primarily an inner reality. If you begin by looking for the God within and believing in/searching for your own innate goodness – meditating or praying in a focused, inner manner, beyond thought, maybe the love of God will become apparent there. These are the ‘conditions’ (among others) in which God’s love can be made apparent.

        The idea of partners as an ‘extra bonus’ didn’t come across well. What I meant is that the longing for a partner is a gift from God for us, a marker of his love for us.

        • Thanks for your reply.

          I’m afraid I’m still not getting it. So when you say ‘it just is (sufficient), when you know it’, you mean that it’s fulfilling? because fulfilling and sufficient are quite different in meaning.

          with respect to looking within one-self… i do agree you can find something very positive, but different people would label the same experience as different things. Some experience it as the love of god, some experience it as the love of a different god, some experience it as enlightenment, some experience it as a love for life… I mean, the variability in interpretations of our similar experiences is the reason why so many different world views exist, right? To me, this sort of experience that arises from inner reflection says much more about people than it does about god.

          okay, I see what you mean by ‘extra bonus’ now. but it’s really hard to go from ‘longing for a mate’ to ‘god’s love’.

          • Yes: fulfilling and sufficient are different in meaning. But I think they are connected. Like you suggest in your post, couple love has a funny way of making us temporarily, completely satisfied. God’s love is similar: fills you up completely, but the feeling of love fades. That just draws you back to it, and (so far as I know) that process can go on for ever. It is consistent. Heaven, I think, is a place full of God’s unending love and in that context it would be eternally sufficient, prompting us into constant worship of God. I think there is no Christian consensus on whether there is sex in heaven, because no-one really knows, but Jesus does suggest that after the resurrection that no-one is ‘married nor given in marriage’.

            I would agree that when you get into religious experience it can be hard to relate those inner realities to labels and language in the real world. That is why religion is helpful – at least, that’s how I approach Christianity.

            There are many ways to interpret the same reality but there are also obviously limits to how varied to those interpretations can get. Is it realistic to say that ‘Some experience it as the love of god, some experience it as the love of a different god’? I would suggest that they are pointing at the same experience in different language or in different cultural settings. In this sense, the variety of expressions will definitely say more about the people than about God. But the underlying point is: if understanding of God is the goal (rather than understanding others’ understandings of God) then the best way to it is pursuing some kind of spiritual practice or religiosity.

            Thanks again for reading :)

            • To check if I’m understanding you correctly: are you saying that god’s love as we experience it on earth is temporarily fulfilling, but not sufficient? but probably this would be different in heaven?

              Your point about there maybe not being sex or marriage in heaven (ie it being different in heaven)– that relates to my original point about adam needing eve. My train of thought was, as you’ve suggested in this last comment, that god’s love alone doesn’t seem enough but perhaps this is a result of us being on earth and not in heaven. Just as you’ve suggested here, I thought perhaps in heaven, everything would be more ‘perfect’; heaven would be ‘full of god’s love’ and god’s love would be ‘eternally sufficient’. But then why did adam still need eve? Does that not imply the same for us, that even in heaven, even in god’s presence, we’d still -need- a mate the way adam still needed eve?

              Why is it not realistic? When a christian prays, he experiences it as the love of jesus, or the love of the god of the bile. When a muslim prays, he experiences it as the love of allah. repeat for every other religion on earth.

              It’s difficult to ‘want to understand god’ if you don’t believe he exists. I’ve tried praying for a period, as sincerely as i could muster. It only served to move me from agnostic to atheist. How do you suggest I can “pursue some kind spiritual practice or religiosity”? Because unless god reaches out literally to you as an individual and whispers things in your ear, pursuing god by looking within (as opposed to pursuing other people’s interpretation of god as i am doing now) is going to have the potential to throw up any god, any kind of god(s), as there have been throughout history.

              I mean to say, I’m sure your church does not encourage people to ONLY pray. Instead, you need to attend church, listen to your pastor, read the bible, and many christians would also seek out other christian books to deepen their understanding. Aren’t all of these activities seeking other people’s interpretation of god? My point is, you can’t have one without the other. Only seeking god without influence from other people will result in a even wider myriad of gods (other world views) than there are today.

  2. I think those boxes are just going to keep getting narrower. Hence the new comment.

    Yes, you understand me correctly. But I cannot be certain about whether Adam would still need Eve in heaven. I’m inclined to think not, and I’m basing that on the words of Jesus I quoted above and on the idea that Adam was not fully in the presence of God in Eden – i.e. not ‘perfect’, but innocent.

    There is some truth in the idea that a christian experiences the love of god as the love of the god of the bible and a muslim experiences it as the love of allah. But I think it is not so simple: I would suggest that religious experiences are immediate and come before thinking. Those experiences are then expressed as the love of the god of the bible/of allah and put into that framework. But as you rightly suggest, those frameworks then direct how we search out and process further experiences. So my church doesn’t only encourage people to pray. There is a whole lot of other stuff that contribute to that framework. And that is engaging others’ understandings of God, as a part of seeking to understand God. Wow, yeah you’re right they’re definitely connected.

    Now you’ve brought up a really interesting question. “It’s difficult to ‘want to understand god’ if you don’t believe he exists. I’ve tried praying for a period, as sincerely as i could muster. It only served to move me from agnostic to atheist. How do you suggest I can “pursue some kind spiritual practice or religiosity”?”

    I don’t know you so well – I haven’t read your blog aside from this post. But you said would rather not proliferate perspectives on God by thinking up your own one. In that case, if you really do have questions, it might be worthwhile searching out a church or similar organization that has some kind of introductory course for ‘seekers’. (Are you in the UK? I’m thinking of something like the Alpha course.) That way you can question whatever framework it is they are working with and grapple with something more substantial than (your own) subjective opinion.

    On the other hand, I can recommend books. But that can also lead to a somewhat individualised worldview. I think maybe what you would prefer is some kind of community environment?

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