Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Christian Theology of Romantic Love

Harry Blamires provides in The Christian Mind a list of a handful of books that break some ground in forming a much needed Christian theology of romantic love. I admit a fondness for such lists by someone such as Blamires. First Blamires discusses the sorry state of Christian thinking regarding sexuality:

"Whilst Christians have been aware of this pattern of demand and response in moral sphere and in the spiritual sphere, its relevance to such things as human sexuality, or experience of beauty in art and Nature, has been largely ignored. This is because we lack a Christian mind. The field of discourse upon these rich areas of human experience has been left to the secularists. Some of them have trodden there with clinical irreverence. Others, like the poets [he means the Romantic poets], with greater reverence but with too little understanding. Hence the moving, sensitive, but eventually frustrating raptures of a Shelley. Hence the grand gropings of Wordsworth, a melancholy monument to the ultimate dissatisfactions of Christian brinkmanship."

Blamires then provides the following list of books as the ones that he drew on in the chapter "Its Sacramental Cast":

He Came Down From Heaven and The Figure of Beatrice by Charles Williams.
The Meaning of Love by Vladimir Solovyev
The Unknown Eros and The Rod, the Root, and the Flower by Coventry Patmore

He writes in particular of Charles Williams, the most idiosyncratic member of the Inklings (C..S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien being other members):

"Charles Williams tried to fill the gap. He left behind him a comprehensive, illuminating, and orthodox Romantic theology which does justice to the spiritual significance of sexual love. Christians who are aware of the need to reconstitute a Christian mind able to cope with all human experience theologically ought to consult his work, notably He Came down from Heaven and The Figure of Beatrice."

(See this Touchstine article "What About Charles Williams?" for more about him. Beatrice was the woman that Dante Alighieri fell in love in his youth and regarding whom he wrote La Vita Nuova. His experience of romantic infatuation with Beatrice and her early death had a decisive formative effect on Dante. )

Vladimir Solovyev is said to have put Russian philosophy on the map. His lectures were attended by Tolstoy and Doestoevsky and he became a friend of Doestoevsky. It is thought that Doestoevsky based both Alyosha and Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov on Solovyev. It appears no small praise that Hans Urs von Balthasar saw in Solovyev ""the greatest artist of [conceptual order] and organization'- after St. Thomas- in the entire history of thought, a thinker who borrows from all systems after purging them of their 'negations'. His philosophical and religious thought is 'a work of art' on a large scale- a drama, an epic, and a hymn to the universe" (George L. Kline). It is also said of Solovyev that he was the first contemporary thinker to devote himself to the reunification of the churches. George L. Kline calls him "perhaps the most impotant proponent of ecumencial principles in Europe after Leibniz." I have just acquired Solovyev's The Meaning of Love and Lectures on Divine Humanity and anticipate posting on them in the future.

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