So, you don't believe in God...Do you believe in love?

The equation for God is both simple and complex. It goes something like this:
Light + Love = Life
A cord of three strands: The holy trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; proton, neutron, and electron; body, soul, and spirit; the way, the truth, and the life. Three points of contact. There were three big bangs.

The matter here is one of history and not of philosophy so that it need only be noted that no philosopher denies that a mystery still attaches to the two great transitions: the origin of the universe itself and the origin of the principle of life itself. Most philosophers have the enlightenment to add that a third mystery attaches to the origin of man himself. In other words, a third bridge was built across a third abyss of the unthinkable when there came into the world what we call reason and what we call will. Man is not merely an evolution but rather a revolution.
G.K.Chesterton, The Everlasting Man
One: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness." Two: The spark of life. "Let the land produce vegetation...Let the waters teem with living creatures." Three, the pinnacle: "The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life, and the man became a living being." He was a living being "in the image of God." Into man came reason and will, the realisation of life - self-consciousness, self-awareness, knowledge of his existence. This "breathing into him the breath of life" was the very breath of God. His spirit, His life, and above all things, His love.

These three points of contact are lost in the distant past. Origins don't matter. The writer of Genesis was not concerned with mechanics. The source of life was God, and our writer accepts this without a shred of anxiety. What method was used is of no concern. We are here now as we are. This is what it has led to. How long it took does not diminish the magnitude. Time and distance are of no concern to God. As G.K.Chesterton wrote in The Everlasting Man
I do not believe in dwelling upon the distances that are supposed to dwarf the world; I think there is even something a trifle vulgar about this idea of trying to rebuke spirit by size. And as the first idea is not feasible, that of making the earth a strange planet so as to make it significant, I will not stoop to the other trick of making it a small planet in order to make it insignificant.
As for the eons of time needed to create this miracle we call life, he goes on to add:
An event is not any more intrinsically intelligible or unintelligible because of the pace at which it moves.
God is unconcerned with probabilities. He cares about possibilities. We might deny the existence of God, but do we deny the existence of love? What is the scientific equation for love? What is the experiment that proves the existence of love? God is love. Love is God. Just as light exhibits the characteristics of both a particle and a wave, so God exists both as an external force and an internal emotion. You don't want to talk about God? So, let's talk about love. And light, and life.

The Greek word for the love expressed by God is agápē (verb, agapen). We have an English word which looks the same, "agape". It means "wide open". Love/God is wide open, expansive, all-giving with no expectation of return. It is unconditional and unrestrained. William Barclay identifies Matthew 5:44, 45 as a summary of God's love. Jesus said, "I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." In defining this love, Barclay says:
No matter what a man is like, God seeks nothing but his highest good. Agápē is the spirit which says, 'No matter what any man does to me, I will never seek to do harm to him; I will never set out for revenge; I will always seek nothing but his highest good. It is unconquerable benevolence, invincible good will. It is not simply a wave of emotion; it is a deliberate conviction of the mind issuing in a deliberate policy of the life; it is a deliberate achievement and conquest and victory of the will. It takes all of a man to achieve [Christian] love; it takes not only his heart, it takes his mind and his will as well."
New Testament Words
So what of man? He has the capacity for being God-like in his possession of love. Instead, he is catastrophic. Love/God is wide open, all-inclusive, outward-looking; Man is closed, and inward looking. God expects nothing in return; Man wants to be compensated. Sin is man doing anything for any other reason but love.

How did it all begin? Who knows.
  • It began when a man first planted a flag on a piece of land and said it was his own.
  • It began when a man wanted something in return for something offered.
  • When man invented money - the very antithesis of love.
  • When a man put a monetary value on talent.
  • When he began to exploit his fellow man.
  • When a man began to rate one thing against another.
  • When one man thought he was better than another.
  • When he claimed rulership and began to dominate.
  • When he timidly accepted another man's power over him.
  • When he wanted to make a name for any cost.
Every time each of these acts took place, and many others like them, nobody had the courage to stand up against it. "There is no fear in love." When there is no love, there is fear.

Satan was right in the story of Job. Man would abandon love if his life was threatened.
"Skin for skin!" Satan replied. "A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face."
(Job 2:4)
The book of Job is wishful thinking. It is a fairy tale, but it is not a very fair tale. The reader knows that Job's life is protected by God even if Job doesn't. There is no suspense. Even Job's motives are called into question when God gives him a dressing-down in the later chapters. And what of Job's children? They are all wiped out. Are we expected to be relieved when Job is blessed with ten more children as if they could compensate for the ten he lost? Whatever Job's final victory, something collapsed forever inside his soul when he was given the news that his precious sons and daughters had perished.

God gives no guarantee that the protection given to Job can be given to all men. The good man dies. If man stands up against this system, he will be killed. This was demonstrated in the case of Jesus.

We need to step back from the book of Job and view it from a distance to see what the writer was aiming to say: It would work if we tried it. Man allows fear, guilt, shame, and lies to dominate his life. He clings to his existence because of those emotions. They are what drive him and not love. If love was the dominating force, he would gain the victory.

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” G.K.Chesterton (1874-1936)
Christianity has been tried. It is love that has been found difficult and not tried. We cannot claim that Christianity has the monopoly on love. It matters not a jot that, in Barclay's words, Christianity "fastened on agápē" as the love which could conquer all. Christianity has proved unable to bear it.

David Attenborough told the Radio Times that he was asked why he did not give "credit" to God: "They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator."

It is not God he does not believe in, it is love. It seems Attenborough was referring to the loa loa or African eyeworm. This is an ailment that can be treated with some medication and surgery. Why is this treatment not carried out for free? We have adverts on the television pleading for money to be donated in order to help the sick and starving. Why does it need charity? Why does it cost money? It is because somewhere down the line someone wants payment. Someone wants exclusivity. Someone wants their own private swimming pool. Someone does not want to mix with the low-lifes and dregs of society. Such exclusivity doesn't come cheap.

By its very nature exclusivity excludes. It is not inclusive. It is not love. It does not cross the minds of men that the reason there are low-lifes, dregs and undesirables is because people are treated as such. Love overcomes such difficulties. Love would work throughout society. But, man does not wish it.
"Go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. At this the man's face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth."
(Mark 10:21)
So, the starving starve and the worm goes untreated.

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
Epicurus (341-270BCE)
Now, try saying the same thing, but replace God with the word "Love". Anyway, how do we know that God is not willing? How do we know that he is not waiting for 7 billion of mankind to say, "God help us. We don't know what to do." If all of mankind was to say that, it would express humility. It would acknowledge vulnerability. We could then begin to help one another instead of being at each others throats because we are so violently protective of our own life. We could give without any expectation of compensation. We could live in security, and peacefully because we would remove fear.

God simply allows life to exist. He does not rule, force, subjugate, or cajole. His non-interaction is his blessing. His complete trust is that man is perfectly capable of living without his help. He believes in man.

C.S.Lewis was mistaken when he said, "The words 'God is love' have no real meaning unless God contains at least two persons." He is contradicted in the Bible when it says you must love your neighbour "as yourself." Modern psychology has brought itself up to date with ancient scripture when it recognises that love means self-acceptance, self-esteem, being able to give of oneself completely without any fear that any part of oneself is lost. Such is love, and such is God. Love is all powerful, and it never fails.

Genesis is tied to Jesus when the original theologist stated that God "separated the light from the darkness." The light was deemed "good", the darkness was not. The writer of the fourth gospel focuses on Jesus as "the light". He was a guru - a man who could guide others out of the darkness. The motif of light and darkness is a perfect one. Our fears live in the darkness. Our shame, our guilt, are hidden away. Only by shining the light of love in these dark places have we any hope of rising out of this chaos.

But it was not just "light". "Life" and "love" were also observed in this carpenter from Nazareth. They branded him the Messiah that all of Israel was waiting for. But, if he said those who listened to him would be "baptised with Holy Spirit", it meant he expected them all to bear the hallmarks of the messiah. If he really was part of a holy trinity - Father, Son and spirit - It meant he believed all men could be sons of God, and one with the Father. If he said anything approximating, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," it was only because he believed that all men could be the way, the truth, and the life for themselves and each other. And if he said, "You are the light of the world," and, "As I have loved you, so you must love one another," and if he extended the opportunity for all men to have "life in you", it meant that he believed all men could be a source of light, life, and love.

Is it beyond man to live by love? It would mean every single individual looking into themselves and asking "Why?" It would mean man seeking the source of his own personal shame, guilt and fear. This self-analysis - this repentance - holds the key to man's need to dominate, his need to demand exclusivity, his need to be submissive.

Man could live this way. Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is within you." Man has it within himself to live a life dominated by love. It is within all of us. It is not God who is unwilling, it is man. He has no trust. He does not love his neighbour, he fears him. He does not love himself. It is not that he can't live like this, it is that he won't. He is terrified of the light.

Left to his own devices, with his absence of faith, his lack of belief in God and his lack of trust in his own capacity to love, man is destined to repeat the cycle. Survival of the fittest can only lead to a violent and oppressive society. All the apocalyptic visions of the future will be true. We use words like "passion" and "will to live", but all we mean is that someone has just a little more hate, a little more anger. Man fears the collapse of society. Certain quarters encourage stockpiling food and water, preparing for the troubled future. And how should we protect our stockpile? By carrying a gun. So the violence is perpetuated, and the cycle begins again. Worldwide catastrophe, and no lesson learnt.

If a worldwide spiritual awakening is too much to ask, then mankind needs to be saved by some other means - an all-powerful external force. An intervention is needed. Faith allows for that possibility. (It turns out the book of Job was right after all - there is no suspense!) Faith recognises that this salvation is not limited to some exclusive class. God's love has room for everyone because he fully understands the "Why?" of every individual. Because he understands, he forgives.

Faith allows room for this hope to be extended to all of mankind, past and present. We are not talking about the saving of some faceless "human race", as noble as that goal might be. Love is not impersonal. Love cares about each and every individual because every one matters to God. Nobody is collateral damage. No one is a casualty of war. Lives did not have to be sacrificed. Love is agápē, is wide open. It is infinite, eternal, with room enough for one more. We have to cease believing in chance and start trusting in love. The only way for man to survive peacefully and pull mankind back from the brink is through love. And, if mankind is too blind to see that truth, then God will have to do something in order to help them to see.