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Ah, Strong, Strong Love!

Ah, Strong, Strong Love!

Rev. Geoffrey Bingham

by Rev. Geoffrey Bingham

Subject: Love (Theology of)

Book Code: 271

Pages: 278 pp, Book

Pub. Date: 1993

ISBN: 0 86408 166 9

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See also:

Constraining Love

Liberating Love

Where I Love I Live

All Things are Yours

 

Ah, Strong, Strong Love!

Introduction to the Book

Prescript to Love to
'Ah! Strong, Strong Love!'

For the Person Wishing to Know More of Love

The purpose of writing this book—as is the case with most books I have written—was to clarify my thinking along biblical lines. Clarifying of the mind is a personal thing—a thing of the heart. One wants to know what love is, and how to live in it, especially as we are commanded to love God and to love one another. The process and exercise of clarifying the subject may not appeal to all. A proof-reader is primarily looking for things to do with the flow of writing, the syntax and grammar, typographical errors and the like, and so reading is a drawn-out and often painful thing. One proof-reader spoke of 'wading through it all', and that was a fair enough statement. The writer hopes that when all the work of proof-reading, correction and editing is completed that the book will be more easily read.

Having written a book like this I feel as though my exercise has been completed. I have made my way through the subject, and now the best thing to do would be to take the essence of the material and re-write it in a simple flowing style, thus vastly reducing the size and the notes one has made along the way. I am sure the abridged volume would be more readable and assimilable. The problem with this kind of writing is that a thoughtful reader, and one who is theologically critical-in the right sense of that term-will want to know how I arrived at my conclusions, especially if those conclusions are of significance. Ideally I would wish to write two books—the one in which I made my way steadily and in detail to a proper conclusion, and the one which was the simple essence of the writing and researching adventure. I often think, 'Alas! I can write neither successfully. The first book is for "waders" and the second I cannot write because I would find it difficult to reduce its substance and still be convincing.'

The writing in which I feel most at home is that of poetry and fiction. In poetry one can escape from discursive composition and convey deep theological reality: in fiction one can skilfully convey theological truth without using the language and argumentation of theology. Character studies tell their own truth, short fiction can convey through minor plots, whilst sustained fiction-the novel-can use the interchange of characters and narrative to draw out principles that are theological, but which are not stated explicitly. Some of my friends say to me, 'Stick to poetry and fiction; they are your forte. Your theology is too complicated and drawn out.' I bow to them politely because I respect all critics and know how much I need them. It may be that some remain silent, preferring to take pity and not comment. At the same time I have the practical proof of innumerable people who have read almost all my books and gained considerable profit from them. Some have said, 'I learn just about all my theology from them.' So I persist, and time and posterity may give a modest place to my homespun endeavours.

Take this present book, for example: such truths come through study of the Scriptures and historical theology which are so dynamic as to move me deeply in my heart and mind. I am confronted not by ideas but by God. My thinking is changed not by deduction or induction, but by the Word of God Himself. He is speaking to me. This I cannot convey to the reader. I hope something in my writing resonates for him, so that he or she picks up the vibrations. When I later return to read what I have written it seems there is no resonation, that the music I heard when writing is now only flat silence. I am disappointed. When I try to animate what I have written the text gives no response. The animation is pathetic, and is not life. Then I think, in hope, 'Ah yes, but my reader may be just in that position of life and experience that he or she will find this apt and thrilling, just as I did.' In fact I know that some will find the material exciting and enriching, and probably they will be folk whose minds are not already satiated with much teaching, and overmuch theological reasoning.

I always keep in mind the fact that for many years I have written material for pastors, teachers and leaders who are not theologically sophisticated, who like to ponder what others have researched, and then use it. With them are folk who love to gain all biblical knowledge possible, and out of that gathering they also gain wisdom. More and more of the whole picture becomes known to them and is seen by them. I respect the person who differs from me and my theology. Their life-experience has been different to mine. For my part I must write from what I know, and in the only way I know how to write. If I am permitted more years of life, then I trust I will improve both in knowledge and the ability to write, but most of all I covet the wisdom that comes with the knowledge God gives. Wisdom is a great treasure, and yet wisdom can only be communicated from one heart to another. That is why all theology must be primarily of the heart.

The essence of all theology is the matter of love. Love has the primacy since God is love. I hope and pray that you will read this book with the end in view of growing in love-in true agape. For those who like to read the last chapter first, and so know the goal of their reading, I recommend that they-you-pass immediately to 'Postscript to Love', the conclusive writing at the end of the book. It will not give you the plan of the book (which, anyway, you can find in the Table of Contents), but it will give you the essence of all the material, and can then act as a key to the whole volume.

Geoffrey Bingham