Loving God Is Not Romantic

There is a big difference between loving God and “falling in love” or “being in love” with God. It is not only junior high girls who struggle with this issue, however. Confusing romantic love with “chesed”—God’s rich, loyal, covenant-keeping love—is an ancient tradition.

Song of Solomon

The origin of confusing loyal love for God with romantic love may stem from a sincere attempt to apply the Song of Solomon to the Christian life. Up until the late 19th century, the most common interpretation of this book was allegorical; it supposedly referred to the love Christ has for the church (and vice-versa).

The Song of Solomon (a.k.a., “Canticles” or “Song of Songs”) is a collection of romantic love songs. A number of interpreters have postulated theories to enhance the story line to help the book flow, but most modern conservative interpreters understand this book to be a collection of songs that describe the romantic (and erotic) love between a man and a woman (within some sort of narrative). It is intended for a mature audience; the rabbis would not allow a young man to read it until after his bar mitzvah (age 13).

Since this book was interpreted for so long by so many as a book depicting the relationship of Christ to the church, this assumption naturally created confusion between the love God has for us and the romantic love between a man and a woman.

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Is the Bible Anti-Intellectual?

Viewed in isolation, some passages of Scripture seem to convey that there is a special danger in the human intellect—danger that is greater than the hazards of, for example, “the heart.” Sadly, these passages are often viewed “in isolation” in churches strongly influenced by revivalism, romanticism (see also IEP), or both.

Used as slogans, passages like the following seem solidly anti-intellectual:

Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. (1 Cor. 8:1)
God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. (1 Cor. 1:27)
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit. (Col. 2:8)
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim. 3:7)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. (Prov. 3:5-6)

Based on passages like these, anti-intellectuals teach that Christians should focus more energy on “matters of the heart” in contrast to the intellect. Study and analysis should be viewed with greater suspicion than impression and intuition (supposedly, the special domain of the Holy Spirit). The quality of worship should be gauged by what’s felt more than by what’s thought or learned.

But these are errors, and we can correct or avoid them by looking more comprehensively at what Scripture reveals about the inner man. What follows is intended as a start.

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Romanticism vs. church membership in "Is Church Membership Biblical?"

"Do formal commitments enhance or stifle the heart’s longings? Romanticism, as the 19th-century literary and philosophical movement was called, insists that formality represses truth and that the only honest lifestyle is to follow one’s heart."

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