R.I. Willroth. Absolute Love. Bloomington: WestBow Press, 2011. See here to buy the book.
The message of this book is one that you will find in a number of Christian books: that God is love, and only in a relationship with God can one find the security, the perspective, and the inner transformation that he or she needs to love others truly. Some Christian books express this idea in a shallow, simple manner. Some Christian books are more sophisticated. Absolute Love leans more in the latter direction.
The book quotes a variety of thinkers and authors: J.I. Packer, John Piper, Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis, M. Scott Peck, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Francis Schaeffer, Bernard of Clairvaux, the Koran, and the list goes on. If I were to guess, I would say that R.I. Willroth leans towards a Reformed Christian perspective. The resources that he recommends at the end of the book are largely Reformed.
The book was a bit rambling, but it was an edifying read. Willroth picks some great quotes. Sometimes, the quotes overshadow his own voice, but the quotes are still good. I think of Francis Schaeffer’s statement that Christianity helps us to value others as equals to ourselves, which is why we should try to make things right with people when we sin against them (a perspective that, oddly enough, actually resonates with me as an introvert). There is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s critique of how human love is often self-interested, whereas divine love values all people rather than seeking to manipulate or exploit them, and that divine love enables people to leave others to Christ (another perspective on interaction that resonates with me as an introvert). M. Scott Peck presents a compelling picture of letting go of pretense and self-justification, which can open people up to others. There is C.S. Lewis’ statement that rebelling against God can set the stage for seeing why sin is wrong, and another person’s statement that God is an abundant stream who gives, not a dry well desperate for us to provide its needs. While Willroth does not believe that God is a dry well who needs our adoration, Willroth still maintains that God punishes people out of love, since God must oppose injustice, which threatens order and well-being.
Willroth did have some good things of his own to say. His discussion of various attributes—-love, loyalty, etc.—-promoted a poise, security, and an outlook of purpose that I would like to have.
I did struggle with a few things in reading the book. Of course, drawing on Christian thinkers, Willroth presents non-belief as a fallen, deficient, dark state, whereas belief is when the light goes on inside of a person, enabling him or her to love others truly. I have my doubts that things are that simple, for there are non-believers who seem to be good people, and believers who are not-so-good in the moral quality of their lives. Willroth also critiques the view that people can become more loving by being inside of an unconditionally accepting community, saying that confrontation is loving, and appealing to the prophet Amos. (Either Willroth says this, or the person he’s quoting says it. I do not remember offhand.) I do not entirely disagree with Willroth here, for I think that both elements are important: people modeling and showing unconditional love, and people getting shaken out of their complacency. I struggle, primarily, on account of the abuses that can occur in the name of Christian confrontation.
Reading this book can be an act of worship. I am not sure if I learned anything dramatically new from it, but I was edified as Willroth and the people he quoted explored and celebrated God’s love, and the importance of love in general.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book through BookLook Bloggers, in exchange for an honest review.