As step four of my twelve-step program to stop obsessing about the election, I’m working on part of my introduction to my study on THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF THE FAMILY, first unveiled at BYU.

For the Christians, the law of nature is love, personal love. Our hardwiring for personal logos, so to speak, extends to the core of being itself, to everything that came into being through the creative logos of the personal Creator.

So for Plato and Aristotle, the big questions are about whats—what is God?, what is justice?, what is philosophy?, what is Man?, and so forth. For the Christians, the big questions, which can actually be answered, are about whos, who is God? and who is man? The whos who we are—the beings with names who can name—are persons made in God’s image.

The Christian doctrine that expresses the truth about God as personal logos is THE TRINITY. Because truth is LOGOS, true theology must be monotheistic. The Christians agree with the Greeks that all polytheism—including or especially the gods of the city—is degrading fantasy.

The God who is logos is one. But it’s also true that there are three persons in one God. How that is has an irreducibly mysterious dimension for us. Still, we can see that the personal God must be relational. It’s impossible to be personal, to be loving, all by oneself. So not only is our God an awesome God and a rational God, he’s a relational God, a God moved by personal love.

Nothing else could move God to create but personal love. So the LOGOS—the oneness of unified wisdom—who is God is interwined with EROS—meaning love of particular persons.

Our present pope goes as far to say that the source of sin is not acknowledging what we can’t help but know—we’re both rational and relational persons—and not acting in accordance with that personal truth. We, like God but not like Socrates in his own mind, are relational all the way down.

When Socrates thought most deeply about who he is, other persons disappeared. Even the person Socrates disappeared, because a truthful account of BEING—of what we really can know—has no place for and is no respecter of particular persons.
But for Christians, BEING itself is somehow personal all the way down. We are, as they say, hardwired for personal, relational freedom, and the cosmos was created as a place for us.

That means, of course, that what’s most worthy of wonder is not the stars or even the cosmos but us. There’s nothing more wonderful than persons, and our longing to know is most deeply the longing to know and love persons. Our personal logos and personal eros, like God’s, are intertwined.

Due to sin—or the invincible limitations and distortions we experience as the result of our embodiment and the miseries of our biological mortality—our desire to know and love other persons doesn’t achieve perfect fulfillment in this world. I long to be transparent—and loved just as I am—before other persons whom I love. It turns out that our deepest personal longing is to be transparent before the personal God. The highest human longing, as Thomas Aquinas says, is to know and to love and to be known and loved by God.

Next to our longing for God, the deepest human longing is the personal love of man and woman opening themselves to and completing each other through sex, procreation and talking about and getting to know each other through the shared joys and responsibilities. A person’s experience of erotic union with another person in this world is an image of—but not a perfect one—of the love of the personal God for us and our love for him.

The haven from a heartless world we seek through the family is never a perfect haven. Even the most intimate of human loves and attachments, St. Augustine observes, are plagued by misunderstandings and even unexpected betrayals, because we’re never able to really read the whole heart of another person in this world.

For us, the mysterious elusiveness of other persons—our inability fully comprehend and control them—is part of their charm of being lovable. Mystery, of course, infuses even or especially our love of God here and now.

Because each of us is unique and irreplaceable—a singular creation of infinite value, our experience is even that perfect knowing might even be at the expense of personal loving.

Perfect personal knowing and perfect personal loving become possible through our redemption, our lives that continue on beyond our sinful experience of this biological life. Our deepest longing doesn’t get fully satisfied here and now, and so our hearts remain somewhat restless even in the best of relational circumstances, while being located in the most loving of marriages and families.

MORE TO COME, OF COURSE.

Articles by Peter Lawler

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