Christian Love as Self Denial

Another way of expressing this is to say that Christian love is self-denial's love, which is the boundless and passionate giving of ourselves to others in such a way as to drive out selfishness in ourselves by placing the neighbour as a middle term or third party between self-love and its 'other I' in the beloved or friend (WL 54). As Kierkegaard sees it, self-denial is 'Christianity's essential form' and is what distinguishes Christian love most of all from other forms of love such as erotic love (Elskov) and friendship (Venskab) (56). These forms of love are based on personal preference and thus are exclusive in nature, loving one person above or in contrast to all others, whereas 'self-denial's boundlessness in giving itself means not to exclude a single one' (52). 'The Christian doctrine', Kierkegaard asserts, 'is to love the neighbor, to love the whole human race, all people, even the enemy, and not to make exceptions, neither of preference nor of aversion' (19).

Yet Christian love is not a separate type of love in contrast to other types of love; rather, in Kierkegaard's view Christianity recognizes only one form of love, spiritual love, which can and should 'lie at the base of and be present in every other expression of love' (66, 146). Thus Christianity does not seek to do away with other forms of love but undertakes to bring about a 'change of infinity' or transformation of the eternal in them so that the other, including the spouse and friend, is loved first and foremost as a neighbour or human being, which is the fundamental category of every individual: 'Each one of us is a human being and then in turn the distinctive individual that he is in particular' (139, 141).

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