One of my classes for my Master of Arts in Theology is particularly frustrating. We spend a lot of time on a book called Method in Theology, by Bernard Lonergan, SJ. The ‘SJ’ stands for ‘Society of Jesus’… Lonergan was a Jesuit thinker who wanted to find some sort of unifying method of thought across all disciplines, which is in part what his book is about. The book is hard to get through – that’s what makes it frustrating. But quite often there’s some interesting thing to think about and agree with or disagree with.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about Lonergan’s understanding of ‘faith’ as ‘being in love with God.’ Often we equate faith with knowledge, with some sort of credo that we can profess. I think it can be dangerous to get too far away from that classic idea of faith, but Lonergan reminds us of something true, beautiful and necessary. Faith (especially a living faith) isn’t just about knowledge… it’s a passionate love for God. It is this love, a love from God and for God, that interrupts the Lonergonian thought process and allows a person to transcend the things of this world and look to what lies beyond.
This is what unapologetically ‘colors’ the life of a religious person. When you’re in love, you do stupid things for the one you love. You might frequently read a certain old book because it is connected to your love. You might have “your song(s).” You might be willing to travel to a foreign country for the one you love. Maybe even die at the hands of ISIS. When you’re in love, you not only think the best of the object of your affections but you are willing to believe it in the face of substantial evidence to the contrary. You’re even willing to wade through Method in Theology!
Love of God, just like love of another person, is often hard to understand from the outside. A non-religious person may ask, What does she see in Him? just as easily as anyone may question the bond between significant others. In the end, it is this incomprehensible bond that binds us to God through Jesus Christ. It’s a mystery.
Our faith – our love of God – comes only because He loved us first. Whatever we do pales in comparison to what God has already done for love of us. That’s why (for example) while crazy, sporty lovebirds propose at football games, some Christians hold up John 3:16. We can’t help being crazy, we’re in love.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, ESV)