Why there is no obligation to love God

Religious Studies 60 (1):77-88 (2024)
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The first and greatest commandment according to Jesus, and so the one most central to Christian practice, is the command to love God. We argue that this commandment is best interpreted in aretaic rather than deontic terms. In brief, we argue that there is no obligation to love God. While bad, failure to seek and enjoy a union of love with God is not in violation of any general moral requirement. The core argument is straightforward: relations of intimacy should not be morally imposed upon autonomous beings. We contend that such reasoning applies to human beings’ relationship to God. So, even if our ultimate end is to enjoy communion with God, God has no right that human beings seek a relationship with him. If this is correct, then the command to ‘love God’ is not the sort of moral principle that can be supported by threats of hellfire or other forms of coercion.



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Author Profiles

William Bell
Washington University in St. Louis
Graham Renz
Marian University

Citations of this work

Divine Authority as Divine Parenthood.Nick Hadsell - forthcoming - Religious Studies.

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References found in this work

The Moral Nexus.R. Jay Wallace - 2019 - Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Horrendous evils and the goodness of God.Marilyn McCord Adams - 1989 - Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press. Edited by Eleonore Stump & Michael J. Murray.
Rights Forfeiture and Punishment.Christopher Heath Wellman - 2016 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

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