APOLOGIA is a column in which I address issues having to do with faith, science, and ethics, and in which I try to use careful reasoning and evidence to seek what's true. Undoubtedly I will end up disagreeing with at least a few people. And probably I will make a mistake here and there. My hope is that I will show respect to those with whom I disagree, that I (and others) will learn from my mistakes, and that we'll get closer to what's true, good, and beautiful. - Hendrik van der Breggen
February 22, 2013
John Lennon vs. Jesus Christ
APOLOGIA By Hendrik van der Breggen The Carillon,
February 21, 2013
John Lennon vs. Jesus Christ
The internet (especially
Facebook) is full of philosophical quips that seem impressive, persuade many,
but deserve critical attention.
Here is a quote attributed to
former Beatle, the late John Lennon (1940-1980), famous for the song
"There are two basic
motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life.
When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion,
excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all
our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully
open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and
all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness of open-hearted vision of
people who embrace life."
I am not a musician, nor am I
a music critic, so I won't speak of John's music other than to say there is
often real beauty there. But I have studied philosophy, so when a famous
musician sets out a philosophical remark, I think about what is said.
Here are my thoughts.
Concerning John Lennon's
comment, I appreciate the sentiment about self-love. Self-love is important, to
be sure. I also appreciate the emphasis on love rather than fear: truly, a life
filled with love rather than fear makes for a better life.
However, I think the
ex-Beatle stumbles when he says we should love ourselves first.
Consider the philosophy of
life given to us by Jesus of Nazareth. It's important to notice that Jesus
would disagree with John about the primacy of self-love. Remember Jesus’
greatest commandments? According to Jesus, the first and greatest commandment
is to love God with all of one's heart, mind, and strength, whereas the second
greatest commandment is to love others as oneself.
According to Jesus, then—and contrary
to what John would have us believe—we should not love ourselves first; rather, we should love God first.
Yes, I'm a fan of much of John
Lennon's music and, along with millions of others, I was deeply saddened when John
was murdered. But I think it’s wise to go with Jesusand his understanding of what's most important. Why? For two
First, I think Jesus' view
makes good sense from the point of view of reason and philosophy. Love for God, i.e., love aimed at the Being
who is the ultimately True, Good, and Beautiful, requires an ordered love, a just love—a love that puts the ultimately True, Good, and Beautiful
first and thereby structures and
informs our love for others and self. This is reasonable, surely.
Second, though both John
Lennon and Jesus Christ were murdered, it turns out that, unlike the case with
John's death, there are good reasons for thinking that Jesus didn't stay dead
after he was killed.
Significantly, the historical
evidence of Jesus' life, death, and physical
resurrection provides us with good grounds (a sign) for thinking that Jesus
is who he claimed to be: God.
In Jesus, the God of the
universe became a human being to give us a glimpse of true Love.
P.S. For a look at some of
the evidence for Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, see William Lane Craig's
books On Guard (2010) and Reasonable Faith, 3rd edition (2008). See too some of my relevant Apologia columns.
(Hendrik van der Breggen, Ph.D., teaches philosophy at Providence
University College. The views in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.)