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
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.