Karl Barth: The Difference Between Agape & Eros

March 14, 2017 — Leave a comment

This term for homeschool we’re walking through Romans. As a result of my own lesson preparations, I’ve found myself surrounded by some excellent statements that easily speak to the world today, as they did when they were first penned.

Here’s some interesting ones from Karl Barth on the difference between two of the four loves, eros & agape. They’re assembled from his discussion on pages 453 & 454.

(Summarizing Barth comes with the danger of misrepresenting Barth. So, I have rearranged some of the sequence so as to not impact negatively on the integrity of intention or his original meaning. I, in fact, consider both to be positively amplified by it):

‘Eros deceives. As a biological function it is now hot, then cold. Eros does not merely deceive: it is also uncritical. Agape on the other hand, consistently accepts and rejects. Only the love which is strong enough to abhor that which is evil can cleave to that which is good. Agape is therefore both sweet and bitter [involving a Yes & a No]. It can preserve peace; but it can also engage in conflict. Love forgets – and knows; forgives – and punishes; freely receives – & utterly rejects.’ [i]
(Barth on the Romans, 12:9)

I’m also working on a post about Paul’s imperative in Romans 12:9 to ‘hate evil and cleave to good’.

My starting point is a question:

a) How do we hate evil in a world that hates both hate, and hates anyone who proclaims that evil exists?

The follow-up:

b) How do we as Christians respond to those who simply, and sometimes, for no real good reason, contradict themselves in a curious secularized jihad of hate against hate?

Not only am I trying to engage with Barth on this subject, but I’m also working on bringing in Calvin, Spurgeon and Chrysostom.

Hopefully I can keep it at 800 words or less, but since putting pen to paper yesterday it’s looking likely to be over that.

Stay tuned! 🙂


[i] Barth, K. 1922, Epistle to the Romans, 12:9; Oxford University Press, assembled from pp.453 & 454

Image: Karl Barth with gun, via Faith-Theology.com

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