David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Canadian Journal of Philosophy 26 (3):433 - 453 (1996)
Do we rightly expect a perfectly loving God to bring it about that, right now, we reasonably believe that He exists? It seems so. For love at its best desires the well-being of the beloved, not from a distance, but up close, explicitly participating in her life in a personal fashion, allowing her to draw from that relationship what she may need to flourish. But why suppose that we would be significantly better off were God to engage in an explicit, personal relationship with us? Well, first, there would be broadly moral benefits. We would be able to draw on the resources of that relationship to overcome seemingly everpresent flaws in our character. And we would be more likely to emulate the self-giving love with which we were loved. So loved, we would be more likely to flourish as human beings. Secondly, there would be experiential benefits. We would be, for example, more likely to experience peace and joy stemming from the strong conviction that we were properly related to our Maker, security in suffering knowing that, ultimately, all shall be well, and there would be the sheer pleasure of God's loving presence. As a consequence of these moral and experiential benefits, our relationships with others would likely improve. Thirdly, to be personally related to God is intrinsically valuable, indeed, according to the Christian tradition, the greatest intrinsic good. In these ways our well-being would be enhanced if God were to relate personally to us. Moreover, the best love does not seek a personal relationship only for the sake of the beloved. As Robert Adams rightly notes, "It is an abuse of the word 'love' to say that one loves a person, or any other object, if one does not care, except instrumentally, about one's relation to that object."1 Thus, God would want a personal relationship with us not only for the benefit we would receive from it but for its own sake as well. So, if a perfectly loving God exists, He wants a personal relationship with us, or more accurately, every capable creature, those cognitively and affectively equipped to relate personally with Him..
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