Converging and Convincing Proof of God: Argument from Desire
state, it "seeks to become definitive," and it does so by "exclusivity," attaching to "this particular person alone," and by "being 'for ever.'" (Deus Caritas Est, 6)
Moreover, as it reaches its purified form, eros ceases to be self-regarding and results in a sort of "ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self giving." Eros thus purified is no longer "self-seeking." Rather, eros purified "seeks the good of the beloved," it "becomes renunciation" of self, "and it is ready, and even willing for sacrifice." (Deus Caritas Est, 6)
Thus, a purified disciplined eros is faithful, exclusive, self-renouncing, other-regarding, and even sacrificial. And though it "embraces the whole of existence in each of its dimensions, including the dimension of time," it "looks to the eternal."
That this is our common experience is quite easy to establish. "Love" and "fidelity" and "sacrifice" and "forever" are commonly found together, in poems, in lyrics, and in our imagination, in our most inner desires and hopes, in the ideals we hold out for human love.
This is part of our human experience, and is something shared by all men, irrespective of faith. It is a part of reality, of what is. "That love between man and woman" which is called eros, "is neither planned nor willed" by us; it is something that "somehow imposes itself upon human beings." (Deus Caritas Est, 3)
What is this "somehow" that "imposes" love upon mankind? Is there a "someone" behind this "somehow"?
St. Gregory of Nyssa seized on the desire that is reflected in the love called eros, and ran with it to develop a rich philosophical theology. St. Gregory of Nyssa, it might be noted, was married to a woman named Theosebia, but his sister, St. Macrina, and his brother, St. Basil the Great, lived monastic lives. According to Aidan Nichols it was the "combination of awareness of the world, with its own varied loves, and intimate acquaintance with the monastic life, with its unum necessarium, the love of God, that provided the impetus for Gregory's own philosophizing."
As Aidan Nichols describes the Nyssenian theology 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.
As Aidan Nichols puts it, from his observation of the world about him, St. Gregory "disengaged the theme of eros," and saw "humankind as desire." This suggests that man and his desiring is something recognized as a universal, as the theist St. Gregory, along with the pantheist Spinoza and the atheist Russell whom we quoted at the beginning of this article, all saw humanity as "a living flame of desiring."
St. Gregory, however, saw something "behind" desiring that neither Spinoza nor Russell saw because they blinded themselves to the greater reality by failing to use the illative sense in its fullness.
What St. Gregory of Nyssa saw was this: the fact that we desire at all means that we are essentially incomplete beings. We are unfinished. If we were self-sufficient, if we were our own good, if we were already finished, we would not have any desire. The reason for this is that desire is nothing less than a yearning for a good which we do not possess.
St. Gregory of Nyssa saw that the fact that we all experience desire, the fact that we are erotic beings, is witness to a reality that we are incomplete and that something within us yearns for and requires someone not ourselves which we need to complement us, to complete us.
"For man is essentially erotic: man is openness, wanting, and thirsting to be filled," is the insight that St. Gregory of Nyssa had in the words of Aidan Nichols. It is this fact where "Gregory finds the point of insertion of the divine into the human."
St. Gregory saw meaning behind this inability of finite, created goods to satisfy human desire, and this included even that epitome of all loves, that love between a man and a woman, eros purified
From this inability of even the best human good--the love between a man and a woman at its best, eros purified--to satisfy, St. Gregory saw a signpost, a signpost which pointed "irresistibly towards an infinite satisfaction, ...
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: illative sense, God, natural theology, proofs of God, St. Gregory of Nyssa, Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, , Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
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