Skip to main content

TomKat and Perfect Love

Another Hollywood marriage came to an end this week. Even though most Hollywood marriages struggle to make it to five years it is always a bit of a shock when another couple announce the reality of their unhappiness together. It all looked so perfect. And perhaps therein lies the problem - perfection and the lack of it.

It is possible that, before tying the knot, Tom sat down with Katie and said something like, "Katie, I'm not perfect; I'm going to make mistakes, but I will always love you." This sounds reasonable. Most people don't think their partners are perfect; they know that they will not love perfectly. Yet people get married expecting to have enough love (to give and recieve) to sustain the marriage.

Whatever else has alienated them, Tom and Katie have decided that what love they had was not enough. They knew it was not going to be perfect, yet that is exactly what they wanted it to be. What is going on here?

What I want to suggest is that there is such a thing as perfect love and that human beings are designed to receive such a love. I don't mean that there exists in some platonic form some kind of thing called perfect love or an abstracted ideal from human experience. Nor do I think human beings, in their present state, are capable of producing perfect love. I mean that the design of human beings is appropriate to being loved perfectly and being loved by a person who is able to love perfectly. And because such a function of human design is unavoidable (it appears to be a universal human property) no human is fully satisfied without being loved with a perfect love by a person who is able to love perfectly.

If, on the other hand, human beings evolved through a process of natural selection (in what Plantinga calls "unguided evolution") human beings cannot be said to have been designed at all. Instead human beings are a result of natural selection, a process by which the traits of a species are enhanced or reduced over generations in reaction to the environment. If this is indeed how we got here then this need for perfect love would be a good candidate for elimination. It causes dissatisfaction in marriage, divorce, pain, damaged children and even early death. There is no good evolutionary reason to keep it. If there is no person able to love human beings with a perfect love, then the human desire/need for perfect love is a useless destructive function of the human species. So, until natural selection does its work it would be appropriate to find other ways to mitigate this destructive urge. Drugs, therapy and electric shock treatment could all help remove such a useless part of human nature.

Something I heard on Moody Radio the other day sheds some light on the matter. A pastor was talking about the way Jesus spoke about perfect love (or the "greatest love"). Jesus tells his disciples that the greatest love a man can give is that he lays down his life for his friends. Of course, this is what Jesus does. But Jesus knows that there is such a thing as perfect love; he assumes it. Since he is also the designer of human nature he would surely know if the human design contains a defect. But, for Jesus, it is no defect to be designed for perfect love. The defect lies in the human resistance to such love, the rebellion against the only one capable of providing for such a need.

Let me suggest that God is able to love perfectly and that we are able to be sure of his love because we have seen it in the death of Christ.