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By Rich Hoyer

Most people agree that we should love one another. But what does it mean to love others?

The Redefinition of Love—Resulting From the Loss of Truth

Love can’t mean what our culture says it means.  It can’t be untethered from a transcendent moral standard (i.e., God’s word and natural Law) and left to be defined subjectively by our feelings, to be molded and fashioned into whatever shape current societal trends bend it. The average person in the US today is a Popular Secularist[1] and has accepted the Popular Secularist definition of love. When most people speak of love today, to speak of “loving others” means something like, “I want you to have whatever you want; to exist in whatever state you think will make you happy.” Love is now defined in terms of the core Popular Secularist values of comfort and happiness rather than by the traditional values of goodness and truth. Thus, in today’s culture, to be unloving or hateful is to stand in the way of a lifestyle choice of another which that person thinks will bring him happiness and satisfaction, even to tell someone that what they want is “wrong” in some way and to suggest that they should deny themselves of certain wants and desires. That’s what it means to be “unloving” in our Popular Secularist culture today.

When the concept of knowable moral Truth (a standard of right/wrong and good/evil which originates from beyond mankind and beyond societal opinion) is rejected by a culture, there is nothing by which to authoritatively measure our wants and desires. It becomes impossible to say, “My desire for this person is wrong,” or “My desire to do this is bad for me and for society.” All that is left is for people and society to voice their opinions. Yet, many in our society don’t act like their definition of love is opinion. Some even seek to impose their opinion on those who disagree with the dominant societal view even though there is no solid philosophical foundation to justify such action. Society is still left to talk about concepts like love, but the traditional definition of love which joins love tightly to Truth is lost.

Thus, love becomes like a boat that is untethered from its moorings, left to drift here and thereby the wind and waves of societal fads.

Yet love and Truth go hand-in-hand. Without Truth, that which is claimed to be love is a counterfeit—much like what happens when a person mistakes infatuation for love. Love for another must include a desire for that which is good in the life of the other. More specifically, to love someone is to work to bring about that which is good in the life of another. Yet the only way to measure “the good” is to have a standard that originates from a source beyond society’s opinion by which we can examine the choices put forward. Thankfully, we do have a true measuring stick to measure the good in the form of God’s revelation given to us through the Bible and through natural Law.

Christians should know what love is and what it looks like. We shouldn’t be deceived into accepting the cultural definition of love that is grounded in feelings rather than Truth. In fact, we can learn a lot about love simply by looking at the assumptions at play in the conversation when Jesus answered a Pharisee’s question in Matthew 22:36, “What is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus’ answer is found in verse 37-40:

Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)
37  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
38  This is the first and greatest commandment.
39  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
40  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus said that to love God and to love others as yourself are the greatest commandments, the highest responsibility of man. It’s at this point that the Popular Secularist might agree to say, “Yes, LOVE is the greatest value! See, even Jesus said so. You Christians should be more loving of people. You should affirm them and not criticize their lifestyle choices and beliefs just because they are different than yours.” Sadly, we are seeing more and more Christians affirming immoral lifestyle choices in the name of being more inclusive, affirming, and loving—even in the spirit of the Love of Christ Himself!

Yet those who adopt such a stance fail to consider the context as well as WHAT WAS ASSUMED by the Pharisee’s question and by Jesus’ answer. Both assumed that moral truth CAN BE KNOWN. Both were basing their definition of love, not on subjective feelings, but on the clear revelation of moral Truth originating from God Himself. After all, the question was, “What is the greatest commandment in the Law?” We must ask the question, “To which Law are they both referring?” The answer, of course, is the Law that was given by God to the people of Israel! And from where did that Law originate? From God! In other words, if you want to love God and love others, you must do the things detailed in God’s Law given to Israel.[2] As Jesus said in verse 40, “All of God’s law is designed to help you love God and love others” (my paraphrase).  This is not a subjective concept of love, but one that is based on the clear ability to access and to know God’s revelation to man.  In short to love God and to love man is to obey the Law of God.

That very revelation to man is what the now dominant Popular Secularist worldview denies. According to Popular Secularism, God may or may not exist, but we certainly can’t definitively say “who” God is, much less what God wants. Thus, the concept of love is left to float about and be defined by whatever wind and wave of doctrine the current version of society pushes. Love becomes like a boat detached from its moorings floating aimlessly this way and that.

While it may not surprise us when non-Christians such as Popular Secularists adopt this viewpoint, it should surprise us when professing Christians adopt this viewpoint. It is partially because many Christians don’t know the Scriptures because they don’t read the Bible, that they are easily led astray by this “wind and wave” of false doctrine that is born from the Popular Secularist worldview. Some professing Christians, I would dare say, are really Popular Secularists at heart even though they profess to believe in Jesus. Their actions and attitudes, just like those of everyone else, flow out of their deepest convictions, which align more closely to the culture at large rather than Christianity.

Yet as Christians, if we truly are Christians, we must accept the teachings of the Bible, the words of Jesus Christ Himself, rather than the convictions of our current culture. We must measure everything we see and hear by the measuring stick of God’s revelation to us. If we fail to do so, we will not be transformed into the image of Christ and will instead conform to false notions of all sorts of things—including distortions of fundamental concepts, even love.


[1] Popular Secularism is the dominant worldview in the West today. Popular Secularism holds the following assumptions about reality:

  1. God may or may not exist.
    1. If God does exist, no one knows which God is true.
    2. No one can rightly say one religion is right and another wrong.
    3. To make such claims is intolerant.
  2. As such, no one can claim to know what God wants mankind to do to the exclusion of the claims of others.
    1. Thus no religious book (the Bible, the Koran, etc…) can rightly claim to be the word of God.
    2. Each book carries the same weight, but less weight than the wisdom of elite educational progressive knowledge today.
  3. Morality is probably real but has more to do with the survival of society rather than the pleasure of God.
    1. It’s undeniable that “evil” is real.
    2. Yet since we don’t know if God is real or who he is, no one can rightly say that someone’s actions are objectively wrong unless the majority of society agrees.
    3. Thus, morality is a construction of society rather than a product of God’s revelation to us.
  4. Comfort and happiness are the highest human considerations.
    1. Humans should work to make sure that everyone is comfortable and happy.
    2. Anything that denies comfort and happiness should be avoided and possibly forbidden.
  5. Economic considerations should always be held in higher regard than religious claims.
    1. Public policy/laws should be decided by considering whether something will provide more money for society rather than based upon “religious” claims about morality.
    2. As a contemporary example: If legalized gaming with bring added revenue to a city to alleviate budget shortages, that knowledge should be considered more important than religious claims that added gambling opportunities are not “good” for society.
    3. “The good” is defined in economic, sexual, and environmental terms.
  6. (Near) total sexual freedom is something to which everyone is entitled.
    1. Homosexuality, Transgenderism, sex outside of marriage, are all legitimate lifestyle choices as people should have the right to do what they want.
    2. Only those sexual activities that “harm” others are wrong.
    3. A growing number of Popular Secularists believe that each person should be entitled to freedom from being offended, including silencing dissenting voices.
  7. Ignorance and the abuse caused by “the rich” are mankind’s two main problems.
    1. If we educate people, many of the world’s evils and inequities will disappear.
    2. Governments also need to pursue income redistribution to bring about economic justice.
    3. If all would cooperate, we could usher in near utopian conditions, and life would improve for everyone.
  8. No one knows what happens when we die.
    1. If there is no God, there is no Judgment Day to worry about.
    2. On the other hand, some believe that just about everyone goes to heaven.
    3. In the minds of those, only the really bad people go to hell, if there is such a place.

[2] Today, one must not immediately institute all the Old Testament laws willy-nilly.  One must recognize that God’s revelation is progressive in nature.  The Moral Code is repeated in the New Testament and is still valid, while the Ceremonial and Civil laws are obsolete, having been fulfilled by Christ.

Recommended resources related to the topic:

Is Morality Absolute or Relative? by Dr. Frank Turek DVD, Mp3 and Mp4

Right From Wrong by Josh McDowell Mp3

Counter Culture Christian: Is There Truth in Religion? (DVD) by Frank Turek

Deconstructing Liberal Tolerance: Relativism as Orthodoxy (Mp3) by Francis Beckwith

Defending Absolutes in a Relativistic World (Mp3) by Frank Turek

Is Morality Absolute or Relative? (Mp3), (Mp4), and (DVD) by Frank Turek


Rich Hoyer is the Senior Minister of Lyndon Christian Church in Louisville, KY. He is also the Chairman of the Board for the Reveal Conference, which seeks to educate people in the Louisville area regarding the evidence for the truth of Christianity. Rich received his Master’s in Religion from Cincinnati Christian University. Christian Apologetics is one of Rich’s greatest passions.

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