The Origin and Nature of Christian Love

Like a spring whose source is hidden and impenetrable, human love has its abode in and flows from the secret, innermost being of a person, where it originates even more hiddenly and mysteriously in the unfathomable, deep spring of God's love, without which there would be no love (WL 8-10). The conviction that human love has its source in divine love underlies Kierkegaard's whole theology of love and forms the basis for his understanding of Christian love as well as other forms of love from which it must be distinguished. For Kierkegaard, the Christian doctrine of love is summed up in the first and second commandments of the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6: 5; Leviticus 19: 18) and New Testament (Mark 12: 28-31; Matthew 22: 37-9; Luke 10: 27): 'to love God with one's whole heart and the neighbour as oneself' (44). The first thing to be said about Christian love, therefore, is that it is commanded love, which makes it a duty to love.24 In Kierkegaard's view, the 'very mark' and 'distinctive characteristic' of Christian love is that it contains the apparent contradiction that to love is a duty (24-5). Love is commonly thought to be a matter of inclination or feeling that cannot be commanded, whereas duty, as construed in Kantian

23 Cf. Nygren (1954). For critical studies of Works of Love, see Ferreira (2001); Walsh (2005: 93-112); Perkins (1999b); Cappel0rn and Deuser (1998); L0gstrup (1997: 218-64); Adorno (1940).

24 See Evans (2004: 112-222), and Quinn (1998) vs. Ferreira (2001: 40-2), on the interpretation of this work as espousing a divine command theory of moral obligation.

ethics for example, has its ground in the rational will, which for Kant is self-legislating.25 As Kierkegaard sees it, however, Christian love is not a natural inclination but a passion that has undergone a fundamental change so as to become a matter of conscience, which means that it is consciously based on a relation to God or the eternal. Moreover, in his view Christian love 'did not arise in any human being's heart' but has its origin in divine revelation, through which 'Everything has become new' in the duty to love (24-5).

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