God as the Middle Term in Human Love Relations

Central to the possibility of Christian love is a relationship to God, which for Kierkegaard is 'the mark by which the love for people is recognized as genuine', even in special relations to spouses and friends (WL 120). Kierkegaard contends that:

However beautiful a relationship of love has been between two people or among many, however complete all their desire and all their bliss have been for themselves in mutual sacrifice and devotion, even though everyone has praised this relationship—if God and the relationship with God have been omitted, then this, in the Christian sense, has not been love but a mutually enchanting defraudation oflove. (WL 107)

If a love relation does not contain a relation to God or lead both parties in the relation to God, it is not true love but only a worldly alliance or what the world calls love, which is the opposite of Christian love. What the world regards as love is, at best, 'to love the good and humanity, yet in such a way that one also looks to one's own earthly advantage and that of a few others' (123). Christian love, by contrast, includes God as a third party or middle term in every love relation and actually makes God, who is love, the sole object of those relations. This is one of the most profound insights in Kierkegaard's understanding of Christian love, which goes beyond the mutuality that characterizes merely human love to require 'threeness' or the presence of God as that which not only binds us in love but teaches us what it truly means to love ourselves, to love others, and to be loved in return, which is to love God: 'To love God is to love oneself truly; to help another person to love God is to love another person; to be helped by another person to love God is to be loved' (107, cf. 130). Since God is love, this means that the object of every love relation, including the relation to one's own self, is God or love itself rather than either party in the relation. In other words, Christianity seeks to make every love relation an expression of sacrificial love by teaching both parties to help the other to love rather than seek to be loved in and through their relation to one another.

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