Excerpt from Robert Hamerton-Kelly's Sacred Violence: Paul's Hermeneutic of the Cross, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1992, pp. 161-173.


Sacred Violence

and the Reformation

of Desire

Eros and Agape

Nyni de menei pistis, elpis, agape, ta tria tauta; meizon de touton he agape. (1)
1 Corinthians 13:13
From your neighbor comes life and death.
Apophthegmata Patrum: Anthony 9:77B
Sacred violence and deformed desire need to be redeemed. Eros is the desire that needs reformation and agape is the redeeming action of God. The dialectic of grace is the dialectic of eros and agape. Just as the deforming act of desire produced a system of violence based on rivalry, so the reforming act of God produces a system of nonviolence based on love. Although Paul does not use the term "eros" in this way, he is a chief source for the idea of agape, and the organization of the discussion in terms of eros and agape is quite compatible with his thought.

Eros and Agape: A Different Angle
on the Same Triangle

Eros and agape are two forms of the same basic human propensity, one alienated and the other integrated. Eros is desire deformed by acquisitive and conflictual mimesis; agape is desire reformed by generous and consensual mimesis. When the model of nonacquisitive desire replaces the model of acquisitive desire, when agape replaces eros, mimesis does not progress to conflict and the system of sacred violence does not come into being. In terms of triangular desire, this replacement happens when agape takes the place of eros at the apex of the triangle.

To recast the discussion in mimetic terms, we must show that the analysis of eros corresponds to our analysis of acquisitive and conflictual mimesis, and the analysis of agape to generous and consensual mimesis as revealed in the Cross of Christ.


Nygren contrasts agape and eros as unselfish and selfish love, respectively. (2) In a classic study he argued that agape is, according to Paul and John, the divine love that creates and bestows value on the beloved, while eros is the pagan desire that seeks its own fulfillment first. The finest form of eros is the Platonic desire of the soul for the good, which infected Christian spirituality through the influence of Neoplatonism, and turned the gospel of the descent of the divine into the discipline of the ascent of the human, the humanization of God into the divinization of humanity. There is a sharp Protestant edge to Nygren's argument, that cuts away the Catholic idea of grace perfecting rather than replacing nature. By this argument even the most noble of human capacities, like the fine philosophical eros, are inimical to the divine grace. Sola gratia and without the synergy of nature God re-creates the divine image in us, while we were yet His enemies and long before our desire turned to Him.

The Greek tradition holds that eros is the child of lack, or as Diotima puts it in the Symposium (203 b-e), the bastard offspring of wealth and poverty. It also knows that eros is triangular. Anne Carson writes:

But the ruse of the triangle is not a trivial maneuver. We see in it the radical constitution of desire. For, where Eros is lack, its activation calls for three structural components -- lover, beloved and that which comes between them. (3)
She bases this judgment initially on the following exquisite poem by Sappho, which we quote in Carson's translation:
He seems to me equal to gods that man
who opposite you
sits and listens close
to your sweet speaking

and lovely laughing -- oh it
puts the heart in my chest on wings
for when I look at you, a moment, then no speaking
is left in me

no: tongue breaks, and thin
fire is racing under skin
and in eyes no sight and drumming
fills ears

and cold sweat holds me and shaking
grips me all, greener than grass
I am and dead -- or almost
I seem to me. [Sappho Fr. 31] (4)

"It is a poem about the lover's mind constructing desire for itself." (5) Sappho approaches her desired through identification with the man who sits "equal to gods" (isos theioisin) in her aura and is not consumed. Her desire is mediated and obstructed by this "divine" model/obstacle:
Thin lines of force coordinate the three of them. Along one line travels the girl's voice and laughter to a man who listens closely. A second tangent connects the girl to the poet. Between the eye of the poet and the listening man crackles a third current. (6)

Mimetic theory is particularly interested in the nature of this third current. The line from the poet to the girl runs through the man. It is not the sight of the girl alone that gives wings to the poet's heart, but of the girl and the man together. He is the mediator of the poet's desire, and mimetic rivalry causes the line between them to "crackle." He is "equal to gods" because he is the model/obstacle and as such representative of the sacred victim. As model and obstacle he represents the double valency of the Sacred. He defines eros because as obstacle he provides the element of lack that keeps desire taut, fascinated, and unfulfilled. "The man sits like a god, the poet almost dies: two poles of response within the same desiring mind." (7) The sacred and violence, god and death: two poles of response in the aetiology of sacred violence. Jealousy as erotic deference brings death ("greener than grass / am I and dead"). (8)

Eros in its scandalous need for the obstacle is the love of death. This has been documented by De Rougemont in his studies of the links between the courtly love of the troubadours and the Catharist heretics. (9) The Catharii rejected the material world as a burden on the spirit, and divided their followers, as the Manichees did, into the "perfect," who eschewed sexual relations, and the "auditors" who were sexually active. Out of this renunciation came the extraordinary phenomenon of courtly love and troubadour poetry that celebrated a forever unconsummated and extramarital passion. It is the "love of love," which De Rougemont, describing Tristan and Isolde, says:

. . . has concealed a far more awful passion, a desire altogether unavowable, something that could only be "betrayed" by means of symbols, such as that of the drawn sword and that of perilous chastity. Unawares and in spite of themselves, the lovers have never had but one desire -- the desire for death. Unawares, and passionately deceiving themselves, they have been seeking all the time simply to be redeemed and avenged for "what they have suffered" -- the passion unloosed by the love potion. In the innermost recesses of their hearts they have been obeying the fatal dictates of the wish for death: they have been in the throes of the active passion of Night. (10)
The passion of night seeks fulfillment by a self-denial that is an inordinate self-assertion. Instead of accepting the self as mediated by the beloved, it seeks the self beyond and apart from the beloved, by the deliberate invention of the obstacle (the drawn sword placed between them). Thus eros refuses the other's service and cherishes its own lack. Its denial of the body of the other is a denial of its own creaturehood and dependency, a form of the desire to be as God. It will not have its lack filled by another. In fleeing from carnal concupiscence, it commits the concupiscence of the spirit that is rivalry with God. "The soul lives by a perpetual renunciation of the finite because the finite fails to give it what it wants, and it cannot rest until it passes beyond desire, never to return, and embraces and is lost in the All." (11)

It achieves this mimetically by idolizing the beloved, turning the beloved into the perfect model/obstacle by assimilating the model/obstacle point of the triangle to the object point. This in effect transforms the beloved into the Sacred, with reference to which the self can love only its own love, desire its own desire, because as total obstacle the other no longer mediates but merely reflects the self, while as perfect model it binds the self to itself absolutely. This is what Kierkegaard calls the essence of the state of anxiety, to love that which one fears, to be attracted by the terrible, fascinated by the awful, obeying "the fatal dictates of the wish for death." It is what Girard describes as the phenomenon of the "scandalon" in his "interdividual psychology."

"Falling in love with love" is the worship of the pure energy of mimesis apart from any object or content, the worship of sheer violence, the love of the absolute obstacle, which is really the love of one's own love. Thus the Gnostic renunciation of the creation by the renunciation of embodied love and the stable mimesis of marriage is the culmination of the mimetic spiral that scapegoats the beloved and isolates the self. It is the worship of the Sacred through the sacrificed mistress and as such the love of death.


Eros does not really wish that there should be two in love: one of them must cease to be, and this feeling is so strong as to seem irresistible and the working of destiny. But agape accepts the other and thus guards and foments mutual love, heightening that love by the promise of fidelity which boldly challenges evil and fate .... Moreover, married love wants the good of the beloved, and when it acts on behalf of that good it is creating in its own presence the neighbour. (12)
Eros is the bad mimesis that seeks to possess the self in the other by taking the place of the other; agape is the good mimesis that cherishes the other in the self, and thus creates "in its own presence the neighbor." In agape the other is not the model/obstacle that is both cherished and overcome so that the mediated self can be possessed immediately, but the neighbor who is no obstacle and whose mediatory service is accepted with gratitude and willingly returned. Thus one loves the neighbor as oneself because one loves oneself in the neighbor. Agape is the transformation of the other from model/obstacle into benign mediator.

There is, therefore, a proper love of self and a proper way of mediating that love through the other without reducing the other to the erotic service of the self. It is the love that "is patient and kind, not jealous, boastful, nor puffed up, that does not behave indecently, nor pursue its own interests, is not provoked to wrath, does not keep score of wrong, does not rejoice at unrighteousness but in the truth. It throws a cloak of silence over what is displeasing in another person, and it trusts, hopes, and has patience in all circumstances" (1 Cor 13:4-7). It is the "fruit of the Spirit" that comes to those who "belong to Christ Jesus and have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal 5:24). It is the renunciation of mimetic rivalry and the grateful acceptance of the other's service in the mediation of desire. Rather than acquisitive or conflictual, it is consensual mimesis.

The propriety of this proper love is in its priorities; the other must be prior to the self because the self in its lack needs the other as the other needs the self. One loves the other first by serving as mediator, and then as the other comes into being through that mediation, so the self comes subsequently into being. One creates oneself by creating the other, and the more one enhances the other, the more one enhances the self. This is the mimetic meaning of the gospel saying that he who seeks to save his life shall lose it, and he who loses his life in the service of the gospel shall save it (Mark 8:35). Faith is the trust that puts the other first, and hope is the confidence that by so doing one will receive from the other one's true self.

This act of faith is based on the prior experience of faith in Christ as the new creation by which we ourselves have been reconstituted by the divine other and now exist in him (Gal 2:20). Thus mimetic theory gives us a precise phenomenology of faith, hope, and love, and shows that love is the greatest because it is the whole of which faith and hope are parts. Love is the good mimesis of co-creatorship with God (Gen 1:28), structured as a triangle with its apex in the divine.

The Different Angle

Eros is triangular -- lover, model/obstacle, beloved -- and agape is triangular -- lover, creator/God, beloved. In the latter triangle the different angle is the divine nonacquisitive desire instead of human acquisitiveness. The creator God in the place of the model/obstacle gives to the mimesis of desire its proper form as the constituting power of the self. Eros is desire structured by lack and the pursuit of death; agape is desire flowing from the divine plenitude that fulfils our lack. They are both triangular, but there is one angle that is different, and that distinguishes the nature of each.

According to Nygren, agape is essentially the divine love whose primary form is love of enemies (Matt 5:44; Mk 2:17). While we were enemies, God gave the son to us, who died not for the righteous but for the ungodly (Rom 5:6-10). "God's attitude to men is not characterized by justitia distributiva, but by agape, not by retributive righteousness, but by freely giving and forgiving love." (13) Agape is spontaneous and unmotivated, indifferent to value, creative, and the initiator of fellowship with God. When the divine is the apex of the triangle of desire, acquisitiveness is unnecessary, because the plenitude of agape fulfils desire's every need, and thus sets desire free for consensus. The divine desire expressed in agape is not acquisitive but generous, not conflictual but consensual. When the self mimes the divine desire, it becomes generous and agreeable rather than acquisitive and conflictual. This mimesis threatens no vengeance, sacrifices no victims, and spins no myths.

The key element in the concept of agape is creative generosity, the opposite of acquisitiveness (2 Cor 4:6). It is the power of the creation and the new creation, which takes its cue from the first command in the Torah, to imitate God's creativity. The command in Genesis 1:28 to "be fruitful and multiply" is essentially a command to mime the creative activity of God as pro-creators of the divine generosity. Since the relationship between the creator and the creature is necessarily an unequal one in which the former gives and the latter receives, this mimesis can only be a dependent, secondary one, as expressed in the term "pro-creator," and structured by the primal prohibition on rivalry with the divine.

Since there is nothing in the creature that the creator desires, excepting that the creature should be, there is no ground for mimetic rivalry between the two poles, because there is no envy in the divine. (14) The creation is unmotivated excepting as a decision of the divine freedom to confer the unparalleled blessing of being upon a nothingness that by that very conferral begins to be as a thanksgiving to its source. This creative love is by definition indifferent to any prevenient value of its creature because it creates that value itself along with the creature, and it initiates a relationship with the divine by virtue of the fact that it initiates the possibility of any relationship at all and holds the creature in being by nothing other than relationship. The doctrine of agape is, therefore, a form of the metaphysical doctrine of the total contingency of the creation upon the creator, and an expression of the limitless generosity of God.

Agape is also the prelapsarian innocence of Adam, when the prohibition defended him from the knowledge of evil and kept access open to the tree of life, while eros is the knowledge of good and evil. Agape trusts the God of the prohibition, puts hope in place of rivalry, and thus fulfils the Law. Eros suspects the prohibition of excluding it from an entitlement and so has deformed itself into rivalry with the divine, and the prohibition into a principle of competition in the mimetic game.

Eros's misrepresentation of its lack and the divine plenitude necessitates the threefold structure of lover/rival/beloved. Without the rival there is no obstacle to perpetuate and exaggerate the lack by which eros lives. This is the sense in which eros is the worship of death; it is internally structured by a nothingness that it wants to perpetuate. Agape on the contrary is the creative power that brings something out of nothing and satisfies all lack. It is a proper mimesis of God, the desire to imitate the divine in creative generosity and so fulfil the first biblical command to be pro-creator (Gen 1:28).

Agape removes the lack that eros cherishes, because it is the fulness that precedes the lack that deformed desire attributed to the divine and then realized in itself by turning away from the divine plenitude to its own emptiness in the denial of ontological dependency by misrepresentation of the prohibition. In agape the creature accepts both its own need and the divine sufficiency; in eros it cherishes its need and rejects the divine plenitude. Eros chooses emptiness, and persists in it freely; agape manifests the divine plenitude and causes desire to rejoice in it thankfully.

There are, however, two possible objections to the sharp distinction between eros and agape, one from the human point of view and one from the divine. Approaching from the human point of view, D'Arcy takes the natural law position and argues that there is a proper lack in human love. This view has powerful support from Augustine, who claims that the desire of the creature is naturally for the creator and "our hearts are restless" until they rest in God. There is in the creature an ontological need for God and so even life in agape is constituted by a sort of lack.

This lack is very different from the other, however; not a void that must be filled but rather a dependency that evokes a trust. This must be affirmed phenomenologically and theologically. The restlessness of the unfulfilled creature is an observable phenomenon that stems from the root cause of the deformation of desire to rivalry. Nevertheless, it is a deformation of an original ontological dependency that can be discerned beneath its pathology, and which is expressed in the command to procreate. That ontological dependency is, therefore, mimetically structured. Human being is originally in a mimetic relation to God specified as being in the divine image (Gen 1:26). (15) Being in the divine image means being in a mimetic relationship of the kind Paul describes when he says that Christ lives in him and he in Christ (Gal 2:20), or that he imitates Christ (1 Cor 11:1). This means that eros must not be denied altogether but redeemed, by a proper identification of human lack and a restoration of mimesis to the form of the image of God in humanity.

The sinister element in eros is its making a virtue of the lack that it misrepresented by its self-deformation, by the turning of trust to envy. The mind of love is confused in self-assertion and sacred violence, and this confusion cannot be cleared up without the intervention of grace. Grace comes as the Cross of Christ exposes the deformation of desire and makes the act of faith possible. By faith eros is transformed into agape by a proper acceptance of ontological dependency through the restoration of the angle of the divine creative desire to the place usurped by human acquisitiveness. In this sense grace perfects nature and the amor concupiscentiae becomes the amor amicitiae. Agape, therefore, is also a form of desire: the ontological dependence of the creature expressed as the creature's mimesis of the creator through being in the divine image. In this way mimetic theory restates and corroborates D'Arcy's view that the two loves have the same structure by legitimating the ordered self-seeking of redeemed eros.

In what sense could agape, however, also be the desire of God for the creature? According to traditional theology the creator cannot be ontologically dependent on the creature and so the divine desire must be essentially different from the creature's, arising not from lack but from plenitude. Arguing from the point of view of the divine, D. D. Williams substitutes the "process" metaphysic for the traditional patristic one of the impassible God. (16) According to this metaphysic there is a mutual if not equal dependency between God and creatures, and God does not love without any hope of reciprocity, but rather needs the response of the creature. Indeed, the being of God as love is incomplete without this reciprocation. Essentially there is only one kind of love and it always presupposes a need in the lover, even in God.

Williams's insight needs to be restated and corrected in mimetic terms. The divine need arises primarily from plenitude, not lack, and is therefore, the need to give. Since there is no envy in God, the one need God has is to give and to share. It is essential to maintain this self-sufficiency of God as the antidote to the mimetic misinterpretation of the divine as envious and rivalrous. However, the relationship between the divine and the human is mimetically constituted and, therefore, the divine needs the mimetic reciprocity of the creature for the relationship to succeed. When the creature misinterprets the divine desire as envious and turns to mimetic rivalry, the loss sustained by the divine is not ontological but mimetic. The divine suffers not diminishment but violence, as the Cross reveals. Thus the divine suffering occurs in the divine desire, not in the divine substance. In this way we maintain both the traditional doctrine of God's self-sufficiency, and the concept of the necessary reciprocity of love.

This can be summed up in Paul's statement, "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). There is no self-contained or self-sufficient self, only the violently mimetic self of deformed desire or the God-related self of the restored creature. And that restoration comes through the reorientation wrought by the mimetic identification with Christ's affirmation of me by my affirmation of Christ. He lives in me and I live in him; a perfect expression of the mimetic constitution of the self in creaturely contingency, which takes account of the interests both of D'Arcy and Williams, without invoking natural law or the imperfection of God. This happens when the divine becomes the apex of the triangle of desire and the relationship of desire between the subject and the model is transformed by agape.

D'Arcy's proper self-seeking in the creature is the mimetic orientation to the divine other and Williams's divine need is the creator's reciprocity that holds the creature in being. The proper self-seeking is the orientation of the creature to the creator and the creator to the creature, and every other such self-seeking is a deformation. Therefore, Nygren is both right and wrong. He is wrong to deny the natural orientation to God and right to suspect desire's urge to cope with dependency by its own striving. The natural orientation is the creaturely contingency, while the striving is the attempt to escape it, to possess the self alone and defy the mimetic constitution by absorbing the divine pole.

However, within the structure of sacred violence based on Adam's sin it is highly probable, though not inevitable, that we shall seek to escape from contingency and thus deform our natural creaturely desire into mimetic rivalry. Therefore, the natural propensity to enhance the self that D'Arcy commends remains highly problematic. In principle it is desire's proper need for creative reciprocity; in practice it is desire's violent rivalry with all others for its own independence. This practice must be reordered, and that reordering requires faith and grace. At best, therefore, the natural self-seeking is the ground of the possibility of redemption, at worst the energy of sacred violence.

Therefore, the relationship between eros and agape is dialectical and they both confirm and deny each other in the dialectic of nature and grace. Eros confirms agape to the extent that it is incomplete in itself and open to the completion that comes from the mimetic relationship with the other, and ultimately from God. It denies agape to the extent that the mimetic relationship is rivalrous and attempts to possess the self in the other by displacing the other, and substituting the model/obstacle for God. Agape confirms eros in that it too is open to the other but denies it in that it seeks its own satisfaction by affirming, not displacing, the other. Agape finds its own fulfillment in the fulfillment of the other because it knows that it can only possess itself mediately and not immediately, and ultimately only in God. This is the truth both of D'Arcy's proper self-seeking and Williams's divine commitment to the human.

The human is not impaired but restored by grace, and the divine impassibility is not impaired, because the creative love that mirrors the human other lacks nothing. Agape is not contingent on the human response, but is unconditional and entirely adequate, the power that creates something out of nothing. Nevertheless, as creative love it is abidingly open to the creature, and in that sense it is vulnerable to the violence of deformed desire and the Sacred, but never in need, and always unchanging in its plenitude of grace. The divine agape is driven by one desire only, the need to give of itself generously, and that is the desire we mime in the triangle of restored desire.

The True Triangle of Desire:
Faith, Hope, and Love

Agape is creative and graceful, and brings forth joy ex nihilo. It is essentially the power of divine grace. Paul, however, uses the term most often to describe a way of being human in the world, a way to walk and fulfil the Law. Agape describes the ideal of reformed eros and, as such, it is triangular like all desire. It is the paradigm of desire as triangular, because the mediator of agapaic desire is God the creator. For this reason agape can never be rivalrous; the mediator is ontologically beyond comparison and agape is the desire to give, not to acquire. Faith and hope describe agape's relationship to the divine mediator in the trust and confidence that marked Adam's relationship prior to the deformation of desire.

Thus there is an alternative to sacred violence even within the violent order of the old world; it is the order founded on faith, hope, and love (1 Cor 13; Rom 5:1-11). These three are the poles around which Christian existence in this world and the next is organized. They are the benign counterparts of the poles of sacred violence, deceit, mistrust, and rivalry. They are, like their negative counterparts, individual attitudes as well as communal conditions, and function as parts of an alternative social system. They are the conditions of the original creation before its corruption by the deformation of desire to violence. In 1 Corinthians 13:13 they are said to "abide" (menei) beyond this world and into the next -- that is, they are the fundamental conditions of human existence, not temporary adaptations to life in the temporal order. We shall understand them better if we analyze them by comparison with their deformations as found in the Adam story, since they are the structural characteristics of the life of paradise before the fall.

Faith is the trusting acceptance of the primal prohibition as part of God's order for the well-being of Adam in paradise. As long as Adam observes it, he has access to the tree of life and is beyond the reach of death. The one requirement for this observance is that desire trust God and accept the prohibition without question, resisting the temptation to deform itself by acquiescing in the possibility of envy that arises along with its freedom. Faith is thus the opposite and antidote to envy, because it assumes that the desire of the other is innocent, not deceitful; to benefit, not to best, the self. Faith is freedom from envy, especially with reference to God, and joyous obedience to the divine command (Rom 5:19). (17) It is the opposite of deceit because it assumes that the prohibition is beneficent and not a ruse. Abraham's trust in the promise of God is the exemplar of this faith (Rom 4).

If we are confident that there is no envy in the divine, then we may trust that whatever God does will be for our benefit even when that is not immediately evident. This is the attitude of confident dependence appropriate for the relationship between the creature and the creator, not only here but also in eternity. The gain in knowledge that occurs (1 Cor 13:12) does not reduce the need for faith, because faith is not a substitute for knowledge but a fundamental attitude of trusting dependence that defines creaturehood. The creature is not and never will be self-sufficient, and faith accepts this fact without anxiety. Faith accepts the mimetic nature of the self and affirms the good mimesis of the imitatio Christi (cf. Phil 2:6-11).

The opposite of faith is an unbelief posited on the suspicion that God is trying to deceive desire through the prohibition. This unbelief takes the form of a striving to defend one's own interest. In terms of the Adam story it is the transgression of the limit in order to gain the knowledge of good and evil, which is the ability to run one's own affairs and so no longer be dependent on the divine in the game of rivalry. This is precisely the attitude of the zealous Jews that Paul resists in Galatia and Rome; they take matters into their own hands, because they do not trust God. Prior to the transgression Adam was in the state of innocence knowing only good and depending on God; subsequently he had in his own hands the power to dispose of himself morally, to do either good or evil. In that state God could not allow him continued access to the tree of life, because there can be only one immortal disposer over good and evil. To regain immortality we must regain innocence in the sense of trust in God.

Hope is the expectation of good from the one whom we trust (Rom 5:2-4; 8:24-25). It is essentially the same as faith in that it is a modality of creaturehood's dependence on the creator. Whereas faith contemplates the fact of existence, hope contemplates its promise. Faith marvels at the fact that I am rather than am not, while hope takes that fact as the basis for the expectation of a good future, especially for the confidence that the one who brought me into being did not do so just to let me die. Hope trusts the creator for eternal life. In terms of the Adam story, hope is the access to the tree of life that was open to Adam as long as he approached in faith -- that is, as long as he accepted the prohibition (Rom 8:18-25). If faith accepts the prohibition because it believes that God is true and not a deceiver, hope accepts it because it trusts the promise that those who eat of the tree of life will live. Since observance of the prohibition is the condition of access to the tree of life, hope like faith is structured by acceptance of the true intention of the Law.

Love is the greatest of the triad, but is not essentially different from its two partners. It is the confidence in God that grounds faith and hope, their presupposition and motive power. As faith believes God is no deceiver, and hope believes that God will give and not withhold the good future, so they express the love that is nonrivalrous imitation of the divine, the pro-creatorhood of the image of God (Gen 1:28). Love is the return to innocence that allows God to dispose over good and evil, and is content with the good alone as God gives it to be enjoyed. It is the basic reality of which faith and hope are modalities, because it is the life of God in the lives of men and women. Love is the imitation of the divine agape within the triangle of desire.

When we love we are in the image of God. D. Williams expresses this eloquently:

If creation for freedom to love is the image of God in man, sin is a perversion of man's essential being. It draws its power from what man really is. There can be no sin without love, either love perverted, love distorted, or, and here we peer into a deeper depth, love destroyed by a revengeful unlove which turns against life itself. (18)
The image of God is the freedom to love, but this freedom takes place within the triangle of desire as the freedom to mime the divine apex of the triangle. Therefore, under the circumstances of the fall, the restoration of the divine image in the human begins with the faith that allows the divine desire to replace the desire of the human model/obstacle in the triangle of desire. Then as the human mimes the divine desire it takes on the lineaments of agape, until the point of mimetic doubling is reached and the image of God in the human is restored.

Christ as the Exemplar and
Mediator of Agape

For Paul the chief concrete image of agape is the self-giving of Christ in the crucifixion. In Romans 5:1-11 the triad of faith, hope, and love points to the work of Christ as the substance of the idea of love. The essence of the divine agape is the act of God in giving the Son to die for enemies (Rom 5:10). In Galatians 2:19-21 the crucifixion is a demonstration of the fact that God "loved me and gave himself for me" (tou agapesantos me kai paradontos heauton hyper emou -- Gal 2:20). In 2 Corinthians 5:14 -- "the love of Christ controls us because we are convinced that one has died for all (hyper panton); therefore all have died" -- expresses the same idea.

The essence of these statements is in the preposition hyper with the genitive: Christ died on our behalf, to do us good, to give us something of value. This inverts the insinuation of the serpent that God is envious. It demonstrates the divine generosity and thus disarms rivalry with God, replacing it with the proper mimesis of God's love.

1. "Now abide these three, faith, hope and love; but the greatest of them is love."

2. A. Nygren, Agape and Eros.

3. Anne Carson, Eros the Bittersweet, 16.

4. Ibid., 12-13. Cf. Catullus's Ille mi par esse deo videtur.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid., 13.

7. Ibid., 17.

8. Cf.:

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy,
It is the green-eyed monster, which cloth mock
The meat it feeds on.  Othello, Act 3, Scene 3
9. D. de Rougemont, Love in the Western World.

10. Quoted in M. D'Arcy, The Mind and Heart of Love, 36.

11. Ibid., 45.

12. De Rougemont, in D'Arcy, ibid., 47.

13. Nygren, Agape and Eros, 70.

14. Cf. Wisd 2:24 "By the envy of the devil death entered the world." On the general theme of envy in the divine, see Plato, Tim. 29e "He was good, and in him that is good no envy (phthonos) ariseth ever concerning anything; and being devoid of envy he desired that all should be, so far as possible, like unto himself." This is the "supreme originating principle (arche kyriotate) of Becoming and the Cosmos." Cf. Phaedr. 247a: "envy is excluded from the divine chorus" (phthonos gar exo theiou chorou histatai), quoted by Philo in Quod Lib 13; cf. Spec Leg 2.249, Leg All 1.61, 3.7, Abr 203-4. That the gods need nothing is a commonplace of Greek philosophy; see the evidence cited by H. Conzelmann, Acts of the Apostles, 142, commenting on Acts 17:25. The generosity of the divine was, therefore, a commonplace of Hellenistic philosophic and religious thought.

15. Being in the divine image entails having dominion over the other creatures (Gen 1:26) just as being fruitful entails dominion (Gen 1:28). The concept of dominion in both verses, therefore, identifies being in the image with being fruitful.

16. D. D. Williams, The Spirit and the Forms of Love.

17. V. P Furnish, Theology and Ethics in Paul, 182-87.

18. Williams, The Spirit and the Forms of Love, 143.