Is Love God?: Kierkegaard and the Catholic Tradition on God and Human Love

Student Author(s)

Chikara Saito

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Jack Mulder

Document Type


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All Christians must accept that “God is love” in some sense, given the claim’s biblical pedigree (1 John 4:8, 16). But the idea that love, especially neighbor-love, is God is a much more controversial claim in the Christian tradition. In his Sentences, Peter Lombard famously thought that the Holy Spirit is the love between the person, God, and the neighbor. Philipp W. Rosemann calls this claim theological dynamite and suggests that it is an important way to understand deeper differences between Protestantism and Catholicism. Søren Kierkegaard appears to endorse a doctrine like this in his Works of Love. The Catholic tradition, however, following Aquinas and continuing into the present day, has tended to side against this view. Aquinas instead holds that love must be a created disposition, though divinely infused, if one is to avoid the alleged dilemma between determinism and Pelagianism. In this paper we will detail Aquinas’s view of charity, articulate how Kierkegaard’s view differs, and finally consider what prospects might exist for rapprochement.


This material is based upon work supported by the Jacob E. Nyenhuis Student-Faculty Research Grant.

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