Love of God

Love of God

Love of God (philotheia and philanthropia) are central notions in monotheistic and polytheistic religions, and are important in one's personal relationship with God (or the gods) and one's conception of God (or the gods).

Love of God can mean, in the philotheia sense, the love that someone has for God, or the gods, and is associated with concepts of piety, worship, and devotions towards God.[1]

Love of God, in the sense of philanthropia, means the love God has for us, as in Psalm 52:1: "The steadfast love of God endures all the day"; Psalm 52:8: "I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever"; Romans 8:39: "Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God"; 2 Corinthians 13:14: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all"; 1 John 4:9: "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him"; etc.

Theophilia means the love or favour of God,[2] and theophilos means friend of God, originally in the sense of being loved by God or loved by the gods;[3][4] but is today sometimes understood in the sense of showing love for God.[5][6][7]


Bahá'í Faith

The teachings of the Bahá'í Faith hold that the love of God is the primary reason for human creation, and one of the primary purposes of life. The love of God purifies human hearts and through it humans become transformed and self-sacrificing, as they reflect more the attributes and qualities of God.[8][9] `Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the religion wrote: "There is nothing greater or more blessed than the Love of God! It gives healing to the sick, balm to the wounded, joy and consolation to the whole world, and through it alone can man attain Life Everlasting. The essence of all religions is the Love of God, and it is the foundation of all the sacred teachings."[10]

Bhakti movements

Devotees of Krishna worship him in different emotional, transcendental raptures, known as rasas. Two major systems of Krishna worship developed, each with its own philosophical system. These two systems are aishwaryamaya bhakti and madhuryamaya bhakti. Aishwaryamaya bhakti is revealed in the abode of queens and kingdom of Krishna in Dwaraka. Madhuryamaya Bhakti is revealed in the abode of Braja. Thus Krishna is variously worshipped according to the development of devotee's taste in worshipping the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, as father, friend, master, beloved and many different varieties which are all extraordinary. Krishna is famous as Makhanchor, or butter thief. He loved to eat butter and is the beloved of his little village in Gokul. These are all transcendental descriptions. Thus they are revealed to the sincere devotees in proportion to the development in their love of Godhead. Vaishnavism is a form of monotheism, sometimes described as 'polymorphic monotheism', with implication that there are many forms of one original deity, defined as belief in a single unitary deity who takes many forms. In Krishnaism this deity is Krishna, sometimes referred as intimate deity - as compared with the numerous four-armed forms of Narayana or Vishnu.[11] It may refer to either of the interrelated concepts of the love of God towards creation, the love of creatures towards God or relationship between the two as in bhakti.


As an Attribute of God

In Christianity, God's love for mankind or the world is expressed in Greek as agape (ἀγάπη), famously in John 3:16: "God so loved the world" (οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον). The same Greek word agape is used also of the love of Christians for one another and for other human beings, as in 1 Thessalonians 3:12: "May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else" (ὑμᾶς δὲ ὁ Κύριος πλεονάσαι καὶ περισσεύσαι τῇ ἀγάπῃ εἰς ἀλλήλους καὶ εἰς πάντας). The corresponding verb agapō (ἀγαπῶ) is used not only of God's love and of the mutual love of Christians, but also of Christians' love for God, as in 1 John 4:21: "And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother" ( καὶ ταύτην τὴν ἐντολὴν ἔχομεν ἀπ᾿ αὐτοῦ, ἵνα ὁ ἀγαπῶν τὸν Θεὸν ἀγαπᾷ καὶ τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ).

To avoid the sexual connotations of the Latin word "amor", the word "caritas" was preferred as the Latin equivalent of this New Testament word. Thomas Aquinas taught that the essence of sanctity lies in love of God, and Thérèse of Lisieux made love of God the centre of her spirituality.[12]

Christian Mysticism

The experience of God's love is a central part in most traditions of Christian mysticism. In Ignatian spirituality, coming to know God's passionate love, individually, is a formative experience that allows you to make decisions that are more in line with God's will for you, who is the source of one's existence. This formation for discernment, can help with big decisions (such as vocation) and seemingly small, such as helping your neighbour in a particular way. This experience of God's love plays a central role in the Spiritual Exercises, which are the foundation of Ignatian spirituality. As St. Ignatius wrote to St. Francis Xavier, a long-time friend and companion, 'Go set the world on fire [i.e. with God's love]!'[13] God's love also plays an important part in the writings of Medieval German mystics, such as Mechthild of Magdeburg and Hildegard von Bingen, who describe divine love as a burning passion. Julian of Norwich expresses the same sentiment in her Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love (ca. 1393).

Greek polytheism

In polytheism, that which is loved by the gods (τὸ θεοφιλές) was identified as the virtuous or pious. Socrates famously asked whether this identification is a tautology, see Euthyphro dilemma.

The Greek "philotheos" and "theophilos"

In Greek philotheos means "loving God, pious", as philosophos means a lover of wisdom (sophia). The word Theophilos was and is used as a proper name, but does not appear as an adjective or common noun in Greek,[14] which uses instead the form theophilês, which means "dear to God" but also "loving God".

Eric Voegelin has used "theophilos" as a common noun: "In the Phaedrus, Plato has Socrates describe the characteristics of the True thinker. When Phaedrus asks what one should call such a man, Socrates, following Heraclitus, replies that the term sophos, one who knows, would be excessive: this attribute may be applied to God Alone : but one well call him philosophos. Thus "actual knowledge" is reserved to God; finite man can only be the "lover of knowledge," not himself the one who knows. In the meaning of the passage, the lover of the knowledge that belongs only to the knowing God, the philosophos, becomes the theophilos, the lover of God."[15]


In Hinduism, in contrast to kāma, which is selfish, or pleasurable love, prema – or prem – refers to elevated love. Karuna is compassion and mercy, which impels one to help reduce the suffering of others. Bhakti is a Sanskrit term, meaning "loving devotion to the supreme God." A person who practices bhakti is called a bhakta. Hindu writers, theologians, and philosophers have distinguished nine forms of bhakti, which can be found in the Bhagavata Purana and works by Tulsidas. The philosophical work Narada Bhakti Sutras, written by an unknown author (presumed to be Narada), distinguishes eleven forms of love.

On the mystic side of Hinduism, one of the forms of Yoga includes Ishvarapranidhana, or self-surrender to God, and His worship.


The love of God, and the fear of God, are two of the foundations of Islam. The highest spiritual attainment in Islam is related to the love of God. “Yet there are men who take (for worship) others besides God, as equal (with God): They love them as they should love God. But those of Faith are overflowing in their love for God.” (Quran 2:165)

Islam, as Christianity, has numerous mystics and traditions about the love of God, as in:

“O lovers! The religion of the love of God is not found in Islam alone.
In the realm of love, there is neither belief, nor unbelief.” (Rumi)[16]


The love of God has been called the "essence of Judaism." “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deut. 6:5)

Meher Baba

The spiritual teacher Meher Baba described the transformative power of love for God: "When love for God reaches its zenith, it destroys the 'I-ness,' and all desires and longings. Nothing remains except God and his lover united as one!" [17]


Goethe expresses the sentiment of love of God alongside the opposite sentiment of hatred of God in his two poems Ganymed and Prometheus, respectively.

See also


  1. ^ Liddell and Scott: φιλοθεΐα
  2. ^ Liddell and Scott: θεοφιλία
  3. ^ Liddell and Scott: θεόφιλος (refers the reader to θεοφίλητος
  4. ^ Liddell and Scott: θεοφίλητος
  5. ^ Teofil
  6. ^ The Baby Name Bible: The Ultimate Guide
  7. ^ Theophilos
  8. ^ Smith, Peter (2000). "love". A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. pp. 227–228. ISBN 1-85168-184-1. 
  9. ^ Hatcher, W.S.; Martin, J.D. (1989). The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. New York, New York: Harper & Row. pp. 100–101. ISBN 0060654414. 
  10. ^ `Abdu'l-Bahá (1912). Paris Talks. Bahá'í Distribution Service (published 1995). pp. 82–83. ISBN 1870989570. 
  11. ^ Scheweig, (2004) pp. 13-17
  12. ^ The Story of a Soul
  13. ^
  14. ^ The word does not appear in the great Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon
  15. ^ Science, Politics, And Gnosticism by Eric Voegelin. Publisher: ISI Books ISBN 1932236481
  16. ^ Rumi's Quatrain no. 768, translated by Gamard & Farhadi. Versions of this quatrain have been made by Shahram Shiva, "Hush: Don't Tell God," p. 17 and by Azima Kolin (based on Mafi), "Rumi: Whispers of the Beloved," p. 71. [`âshiq to yaqîn dân, ke musulmân na-bûd dar maZhab-é `ishq, kufr-o îmân na-bûd]
  17. ^ Kalchuri, Bhau (1986). Meher Prabhu: Lord Meher. 5. Myrtle Beach: Manifestation, Inc. p. 1766.


  • MULLICK, Bulloram (1898). Krishna and Krishnaism. S.K. Lahiri & Co. 
  • Thomas Jay Oord Defining Love: A Philosophical, Scientific, and Theological Engagement Brazos Press, 2010. 1-58743-257-9
  • Thomas Jay Oord The Nature of Love: A Theology Chalice Press, 2010. ISBN 9780827208285
  • SCHWEIG, G.M. (2005). Dance of divine love: The Rasa Lila of Krishna from the Bhagavata Purana, India's classic sacred love story. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ; Oxford. ISBN 0691114463.
  • HAWLEY, John Stratton: Three Bhakti Voices. Mirabai, Surdas, and Kabir in Their Time and Ours. 2nd impression. Oxford 2006.
  • Bahá'u'lláh (1991) [1856-63]. The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-87743-227-9. 

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