Post Title: The Lunacy of Love
"I have something a bit different to share with you that is always timely, interesting, and challenging. For a deeper dive into this subject, I commend to you my audio seminar, In His Image: Biblical Insights Into Love, Marriage and the Family."
"Keep thy eyes wide open before marriage, and half-shut afterwards." - Ben Franklin
I want to share some thoughts from my current reading and study. Although it might seem a bit of a departure from our usual approach to teaching foundational biblical subjects from a Hebraic perspective, I assure you it is not. These ideas impact us all at some level.
Before I begin, for those interested, I have an in-depth seminar examining what God's Word teaches concerning love, marriage, and the family (click here to see it in our store). In it, you can get a perspective on the biblical foundations and some much-needed corrections related to the world's misconceptions and misplaced values.
In this teaching, I want to share with you some additional insights and reflections on the issue of romantic love. What is it? What is it not? What is its relationship to biblical love, if any?
Romantic love is an enduring topic of interest. Indeed self-help books on love are perennial best-sellers. People have a deep and abiding need to be loved, love, and know more about it. They will go to considerable lengths and spend enormous amounts of time and money to learn how to experience love in greater depth; even if it has to be done vicariously by watching movies and shows or reading love stories in books.
Love is an elusive thing to define because we use the terminology in so many different ways: brotherly love, fatherly love, love of a family, love of country, love of Israel, love of God, love of his Word. We stretch the term to say we love things like sports or Italian food. Many of us are crazy about chocolate! But what does the word love mean?
What do we mean when we say "I love you"? Psychologists suggest there are six different types of love conveyed in this expression.
Again, these categories from psychology can be referred to when someone says "I love you." It all depends on who is saying it and in what context.
They also found distinct differences between how men and women use love terminology. Based on surveys, when an American male says "I love you" he speaks primarily from a passion or sexual interest point of view. By contrast, a typical American woman thinks of love more in terms of friendship. However, when surveyed, Chinese and Taiwanese women related more to the aspect of pragmatic love.
The understanding of love varies from culture to culture, from males to females, and historically—in the past and in our present.
The subject of love has been the preoccupation of philosophers and poets. Plato indicated that the desire for love is the desire for restoration to that primordial state of oneness. The poets speak of love and extol its virtues. The earliest example of love poetry dates back 1500 years before Jesus. Ancient examples of love poetry in Egypt are remarkably similar to what we read in subsequent history. Perhaps it can all be summarized in one stanza, "Love is a disease for which there is only one physician, the beloved."
Romantic love, as we know it, can be traced to a particular time in European history. We find the first promotion of romantic love in a book by Andrew Capellanus in 12th-century France. It was called The Art of Courtly Love and it inaugurated a craze of romantic love, which was spread throughout Europe by troubadours traveling about singing and reciting poems that exalted the ideal of romantic love.
It spread rapidly throughout Europe. So much so that by the 16th century romantic love was considered the prerequisite for, and the basis of marriage. This is an unfortunate belief which persists even to this day.
These ideas about romantic love have been intensified and magnified by the multi-media world in which we live. Popular music is among the worst offenders in this regard. One leading author writes, "If there were laws against promoting unhealthy compulsive codependent romantic love relationships, popular music would be thrown in prison for life."
Television shows and movies rarely depict the stronger love that leads to enduring relationships. Why? Because it isn't exciting enough, it doesn’t create intense conflict. They are preoccupied with a distorted view of love, which we are calling, for the sake of this discussion, romantic love.
I believe the kind of romantic love that is extolled and sold in movies, music, magazines, and books is an enormous deception. I would go as far as to call it a disease. One that is demonic in some respects. For instance, as we'll discuss, it is a deception capable of destroying marriages and the whole basis of marriage, which is authentic love.
Let me be clear. Authentic love may include romantic love, but romantic love is not the basis for biblical marriage.
Romantic love creates illusions and false expectations of what love should be. In fact, romantic love (as we are defining it) is not something that will last in a marriage. It eats away at true values that create godly, strong marriages and tends to encourage selfishness and a fixation with sensation and emotions. It leads to dissatisfaction, inducing mates to have a wandering eye and to look outside of marriage to capture the promised thrill and excitement of romantic love.
Think about the terminology employed for romantic love. It is very revealing. Often, this type of love is expressed in terms of sickness. One can be lovesick. A young person "in love" grows feint and weak-kneed when their object of affection is near. We say their head is spinning and their heart is fluttering. In reality, we are describing feelings and intense emotional responses.
We speak not only in terms of sickness but also in terms of irrationality. For instance, we talk of falling in love. Ouch! [laughter] We are encouraged to be "madly" in love. We use language like moonstruck. Interestingly, the full moon is seen as the time for ardent passion therefore it is appropriate to say that people infected with this kind of romantic love are experiencing a type of lunacy. [laughter]
It is sad and tragic that this prevailing view of romantic love has become the normal and in many cases the sole basis for marriage. I see that as a type of temporary insanity, don't you?
Our style of courtship conveys this. It is often artificial, juvenile, and capricious; it is based on romance, sex appeal, charm, and affluence rather than the deeper aspects of character. One social commentator of the 19th century made a very poignant observation. He said people look at the character and the pedigree of the horses they are going to breed far more carefully than the partner they marry.
A noted French sociologist recently wrote that we are a part of living out—and failing miserably at—one of the most "pathological experiments a civilized society has ever imagined." And that is, basing marriage, which is meant to be lasting, upon "romance which is passing fancy." And we all witness the results of it today in our society.
The truth is that statistics show that Christian marriages reflect cultural trends. We suffer the same high divorce rates and of those marriages that remain, many partners are miserable. Although not singularly responsible, I contend this is due in no small part to the illusion of romantic love and a total misconception of what real love is and what the basis for marriage should be.
The solution to all this is to find the acceptable affirmation you need in God's love. I imagine you all agree with that statement. But how do we do just that? I pray that what I share in this teaching will help you answer that question for yourself, and others.
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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.