Converging and Convincing Proof of God: Argument from Desire
In Christ, the yearning of love's desire is fulfilled.
As the Dominican theologian Aidan Nichols describes the theology of St. Gregory of Nyssa in his book A Grammar of Consent, St. Gregory of Nyssa's "approach to God discovers transcendence through eros itself--seeing all finite human desire and finite human loving finally purified and satisfied in an endless movement of loving desire towards God." From this insight of St. Gregory of Nyssa, we may draw out a "converging and convincing proof" through reason alone, that God exists, and he is both the source and ultimate end of this love.
Human desire is one of those universal human experiences upon which the illative sense can be applied to come to a conclusion, based upon reason alone, that there must be a God who is the source of, and ultimately the only satisfaction of, this desire. It sets us up for the possibility of faith in a revealing God.
In exploring the role of desire and how it points to the existence of God, we shall draw from the insights of St. Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 335 - ca. 395) and what we might call the "Nyssenian parts" of Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Nos. 3-11.
As humans, we desire, and therefore love, many things, from the most mundane to the most honorable. We say we love red wine, our loyal Pekingnese (whose name is Moo-Shu), or a fine Cuban cigar given to us as a gift by Fr. James, with the same breath we say we love our wife and children. We clearly love things we apprehend as good.
But surely these goods, and therefore these loves, are not of the same order? Surely some loves are better than others?
As Pope Benedict XVI observes in his encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, love is a vague term, and includes everything from love of work, to love of family, love of friends, the love between a man and a woman, and even the love of God. Loves are legion.
The Greeks, who understood that there were different kinds of love, used a number of words to distinguish them: storge (love between family members), philia (love between friends), eros (love between a man and a woman), and agape (love between God and man).
Of the various loves known to all men and women, however, "one in particular stands out: love between man and woman, where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness." This love between a man and a woman "would seem to be the very epitome of love; all other kinds of love immediately seem to fade in comparison." (Deus Caritas Est, 2)
This "epitome of love," as Pope Benedict XVI puts it, is the love the Greeks called eros.
Humans have always held eros in high regard; it is universally considered a great good worthy of great praise. The love between a man and a woman is the subject of poems, of plays, of songs too innumerable to count. All normal men and women have experienced this desire, this eros, and, even if they have not personally experienced it, certainly would hold it to be a great good, a great ideal, something to be desired.
The urge for eros is so strong, is a value so appreciated, that it seems to excuse all other realities, even law. It is a commonplace, a topos, to say that "all is fair in love and war," meaning that love (eros) is so strong as to virtually be its own law, its own justification.
Eros may therefore be said to be universally regarded as a great desirable. However, eros is also the kind of love that may be misdirected, even stunted or perverted, and so the eros that is the great desirable is a "disciplined and purified eros," not a "warped and destructive form of it," not an "intoxicated and undisciplined eros," and certainly not one "reduced to pure 'sex.'" (Deus Caritas Est, 4)
There is then a huge difference between eros purified and disciplined, and eros impure and undisciplined. Unfortunately, the latter seems to be the eros of the day. But even modernly, eros purified and disciplined is held out to be the ideal except by the most dissipated and the most craven among us, the misogynist, the androginist, the advocate of homosexual love, or the materialist who is convinced that eros is nothing more the a mix of chemicals and pheromones.
The "disciplined and purified eros" is an eros that arises when the human dimensions of both body and spiritual soul are "truly united." It is when body and soul are united in eros that the love between a man and woman attains "its authentic grandeur," and it such grandeur even intimates divine love. (Deus Caritas Est, 5)
When eros approaches its purified and disciplined ...
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