Truth on love

Christianity teaches that God is Love. Loving God and loving others is the essence of Christian teaching. It teaches that agape love exists in full measure in the Trinity. The members of Trinity, the Father and the Son, relate to each other this way according to Holy Writ:

Jn 3:35 The Father loves the Son and has placed all things under his authority.

Jn 5:19 So Jesus answered them, “I tell you the solemn truth, the Son can do nothing on his own initiative, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does, and will show him greater deeds than these, so that you will be amazed.

Jn 17:24 …You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

Jn 14:31 … but I am doing just what the Father commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.

Is 53:6 ….but the Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him.

Is 53:10 …. the Lord desired to crush him and make him ill…

If an earthly father states he loves his daughter and then rapes her, we would not conclude that the father has demonstrated a love for his offspring. We would label this, at best, a warped , unhealthy, bizarre relationship.

How am I to understand Christian truth on love?


This is a tough question I too wondered this,Jesus loves us deeply as the Father does, Jesus demonstrated His love for us by dying on the cross (this went far deeper than just the physical pain and torture- I believe Jesus gave up more than we know),from the perspective of the Father He had to give up His one and only Son,this was not an easy thing to do, even us earthly fathers will do anything to spare our children grief, but God did it for us, it was a plan from the beginning to save us, it was the ultimate plan of love and sacrifice. I think i will never fully grasp the depth of that love in this fallen state i may see only a small glimmer of it, maybe only when He returns would I, all of us really understand.


Dear Lowell,
First, you have quoted verses from John showing only the Love of the Father for the Son and the Son’s position of obedience. However, when John is read as a whole, you will also find that the Son Himself was in agreement with the Father. The Son LOVED us and He gave Himself, He lay down His Life for us. The whole of John expresses a more complex picture that this was a joint choice made in the unity of the Trinity.

[Jhn 13:34 KJV] 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you , that ye also love one another.

[Jhn 15:9, 12-13 KJV] 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you : continue ye in my love. … 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you . 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends .

[Jhn 13:1 KJV] 1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end .

Second, The verses from Isaiah are an unfamiliar translation which, to me, twists His intent. Here are these verses in the KJV, which was once the “common language” of His body.

[Isa 53:6, 10 KJV] 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. … 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put [him] to grief : when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see [his] seed, he shall prolong [his] days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

To me, these avoid the inference of a malevolent father. To me, these show a Father Who sees His creation being destroyed by a burden of lies, sin, iniquity, Who, knowing that His beloved Son has the ability to take that burden upon Himself, and though that burden would bruise Him and cause Him grief, that His Son would survive, even thrive, for it would bring about the defeat of His enemy. By taking this burden from His created ones and taking it upon Himself, the Son would have a Joy set before Him that would be far greater than the grief He would bear, far greater than the grief of seeing those created in His image being destroyed by their burdens.

Perhaps it may be helpful to look at it in the terms of a King and a Prince protecting those who serve them, those they love. The enemy is upon them and has captured some of them. The King commands the Son to lead the attack against that enemy, thus putting His Life at risk, but the Son, Who has been trained to be King, also loves those captured ones and it is His Own strong desire is to lead the charge to free them.

The translations, to me, bring about very different ways of viewing the relationship between the Father and His Son. Which is correct? I assume, by your question, that you do not know Hebrew, neither do I. So, how can we know which picture is a more accurate description of this crucial relationship?

First, I would recommend looking up key words in Strong’s. If you do not own one, it is easily available online through Look up Is 53:6, which you have quoted as “….but the Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him.” and Is 53:10 which you have quoted as “…. the Lord desired to crush him and make him ill…”

When I am studying a verse(s), I turn on the Strong’s numbers and copy the verse into a document, like this:

[Isa 53:6 KJV] 6 All we like sheep[H6629] have gone astray;[H8582] we have turned[H6437] every one[H376] to his own way;[H1870] and the LORD[H3068] hath laid[H6293] on him the iniquity[H5771] of us all.

[Isa 53:10 KJV] 10 Yet it pleased[H2654] the LORD[H3068] to bruise[H1792] him; he hath put [him] to grief:[H2470] when thou shalt make[H7760] his soul[H5315] an offering for sin,[H817] he shall see[H7200] [his] seed,[H2233] he shall prolong[H748] [his] days,[H3117] and the pleasure[H2656] of the LORD[H3068] shall prosper[H6743] in his hand.[H3027]

Now I read through and find the points that concern me.

In Is 53:6, it seems to me that it is the Hebrew words [H6293] and [H5771] that are the ones which require study. In Is 53:10, the Hebrew words [H2654], [H1792] and [H2470] need to be examined.

As an example of how to begin to study these, click on [H2470]. A new page will come up that describes the Hebrew word. Notice that the majority of the time, this word is translated as sick, which gives some support to the translation you have quoted. But, as you read on, this word is far more complex. It means not only sick, but to entreat, intreat, to grieve, pray, even a woman in travail. There seems to be no English word that encompasses all of this variety of meaning. We come now to the challenges of translation. How does an Eskimo, with 32 words to describe the various types of snow, communicate to one who speaks English and has only one word for snow? Understanding must come by the slow process of example. Scroll further down the page of the Hebrew word at Near the end, you will find a list of all the verses in His Word which use this Hebrew word. Start reading through them and asking questions. What is the common thread in all of these that may reveal the meaning of the word in ways which English words are unable to capture? Read not only the verses, but the chapter or the story which those verses are in.

In Gen 48:1, Isaac is weak, in bed, at the end of his days.

In Ex 32:11, Moses, the leader of the mixed group of Israel, is sharing his burden of leadership with Yahweh as he besought Him.

Deut 29:22 describes the consequences of one who turns from Him, even his land will be weak, ill, sick though those who live there may not see the difference, it will be noticeable to those in the future and those who come from the outside.

Samson consistently describes the loss of his strength as becoming weak.

Saul felt compelled to offer a sacrifice, to make supplication, using this same word.

No, I will not go through all 75 times this word is used. But, from the few examples above, it does not seem that the use of the word is consistent with our current definition of ill as defined at “of unsound physical or mental health; unwell; sick:” To me, that is most obvious in the use Samson gives. The loss of the gift of strength did not mean his physical health was then unsound, only that he no longer had the gift, he was simply weaker without the gift.

Something similar might be said of Moses and Saul. Their “besought” and “supplication” did not make the physical or mental health of our Creator unsound. It more likely refers to the position of authority of the King of kings. In Esther, the king had the authority to require the life of any who dared enter without invitation. Extending the scepter meant the king chose to lay down that option, to open himself to the presence of another and consider their concerns, listen to their petition. Some consider this a position of weakness compared to power he had to order the end of their life.

Likewise, taking the burden which another is unable to handle, does not make one’s own physical health unsound. It does require strength that one was not previously exerting, making one weaker, but not unsound. The burden could not only weaken one physically, it may also effect one’s heart, and cause grief. Noah Webster often sheds additional light on the meanings of the King James English, which I have often found helpful. In this case, the word grief in the KJV seems to me to combine the idea of injury with the sense of this weakness that seems to be shown in the Hebrew.

GRIEF ,n. [L. gravis.]

  1. The pain of mind produced by loss, misfortune, injury or evils of any kind; sorrow; regret. We experience grief when we lose a friend, when we incur loss, when we consider ourselves injured, and by sympathy, we feel grief at the misfortunes of others.

  2. The pain of mind occasioned by our own misconduct; sorrow or regret that we have done wrong; pain accompanying repentance. We feel grief when we have offended or injured a friend, and the consciousness of having offended the Supreme Being, fills the penitent heart with the most poignant grief.

  3. Cause of sorrow; that which afflicts.

Who were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah. Gen.26.

A foolish son is a grief to his father. Prov.17.

For fundamental questions such as “How am I to understand Christian truth on love?” I have found I must study on at least two levels.

First, do an in depth study of the verses which brought the issue to my attention. I have given examples of how I might go about this and mentioned some of the resources I have found helpful.

Second, and at least equally important, I read His Word, cover to cover, with colored pencils in hand, to draw attention to verses which He teaches me have an impact on understanding the whole of the Truth He is having me study. Without considering the WHOLE of His Word, it is FAR too easy to take a few verses that support a partial truth (often called a lie) and be led into error. When I was studying the Trinity, I used purple for every mention of the Father, red for every mention of His Son, and blue for every mention of His Spirit (the temple colors). I also read through His Word multiple times before gaining insight into the Trinity. Even now, as I re-read His Word, the colors of past studies continue to prompt new truth on subjects I have previously studied.

Lowell, if your heart is truly to know the answer to this basic question of Who He is, it will likely take a considerable amount of time and study before you come to peace about this. But, do not study only with your mind. Yield yourself to Him, quiet your thoughts and listen for His still small voice. I encourage you to take that time, to make that commitment, to be the king He is calling you to be.

[Pro 25:2 KJV] 2 [It is] the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings [is] to search out a matter.

My prayers are with you.


Sally, the fact that the son is in agreement with the Father is what prompts my question. It seems an unhealthy kind of love within the Trinity. Are you saying that when correctly understood, agape love as defined and presented in scripture includes violence on the object of love? Humans love imperfectly, yet understand that love is defined as kindness toward and the protecting of the well being of the one loved.

How then can a perfect agape love (basic Christian theology: God (trinity) is love) include violence and still declare “the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father?”

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@Lowell Thanks for your clarifying response. Could you please expand upon it for me?

What prompts you to say “Are you saying that when correctly understood, agape love as defined and presented in scripture includes violence on the object of love?”

If a stronger child wants to help bear the burden of a weaker child, do you see it as violence against the stronger child if the parent asks him to do what he desires, to bear the burden of the weaker child?

A prince desires/chooses to lead his army to rescue his subjects. If his father, the king, respects him and knows that he is the best trained for that position of leadership, do you consider that to be violence against the prince if the king commands/requests/agrees that he lead the army?

If the prince is killed by the enemy during the battle, because the king knew it was a possibility, would you consider that to be violence of the king against the prince?

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I will try my best to expand. If there is a Kingdom of God to seek and find, do you not find it disturbing when you discover that the rule of a God of love looks like the kingdom of darkness when the Father plans to brutalize the Son? How is this a picture of agape love in the Trinity? (my question excludes the redemptive purpose of God for people and is concerned with understanding the character of a loving Trinity)

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Let’s say a father finds a stranger in his daughter’s room in the middle of the night, with his back to him. The father sees him standing over her with a knife raised, ready to plunge it into his little girl. The father must act quickly to save his daughter. He shoots to save his daughter and kills him. At the trial, the reason for the shot, that the man was standing over his daughter with a knife raised to plunge into her sleeping body, that this was an act of loving protection, is not allowed. The only fact allowed is that the intruder was shot in the back in the man’s home. Will the man get a fair trial when all the facts are not presented; when the reason for the violence is separated from the act?

If we did not exist, the cross would never have happened. Why do you feel a need to separate the reason for the death of the Son from His death as you look at the relationship between the Father and His Son? This feels to me like there is more behind your question than what I am grasping. Do you care to share more?


Sally, it seems to me that you are becoming desperate to avoid the question. Thank you for your time.

P.S. It seems to me that the only clue given is scripture is Heb 12:2 In some way unknown to us, agape violence leads to an eternal joy for the Son and an unsurpassed glory for the Father.

But this is a hard one for my skeptical friends. “The more I know, the less I understand.”



Perhaps the answer lies in understanding that humankind love cannot define agape love. Nor human violence vs. righteous judgement. When we try and apply the logic that surrounds the manner in which we love each other, it utterly fails because agape love follows a different definition. And honestly, humankind love is a total failure for humanity as well.

One simple way to know is that the same agape extended to the rape victim is also the love extended to the rapist. When GOD enters the equation the book is rewritten. If for no other reason than He is GOD and we are not.

I think your friends will never understand agape so long as they hold to the concept that humankind has superiority in any situation, place, thing or person. That’s a misguided untruth.


Hi, @Lowell! Thanks so much for bringing this question here, because, like you said, this is a very difficult (and common) question from skeptics. I wrestled immensely yesterday trying to compose a reply to the questions you were asking. And the more I tried to get to an ‘answer’, the more I kept coming up with more questions! :woman_facepalming: At any rate, I’d be interested to know if anyone in the @Interested_in_Theology or @Interested_in_Philosophy groups can open up Trinitarian doctrine for us a bit.

At the core of your question (and mine!), is a concern about violence. How can we not only understand the eternal relationship within the Trinity, but, when Jesus (the Second Person) was incarnate on earth, did His relationship with Father (the First Person) and Holy Spirit (the Third Person) change? If so, how? That may help us understand what was going on when the punitive wrath (which comes across as violent and angry) of the Triune God was essentially poured out on a part of Himself. Philosophers and theologians have been wrestling with this for centuries, so I think we’re in good company.

But one thing I did want to mention was that I felt that your definition of love was a bit too narrow…

I don’t necessarily disagree with what you’ve specified above, but I would imagine that in the intra-personal, Trinitarian love relationship, much more than kindness is involved. I would also contend that our idea of ‘protection’ and God’s idea differ a bit. (We had a disussion on that a couple months ago that you can find here.) But love also involves patience, humility, long-suffering, justice…and sacrifice.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. [John 15:13]

In the Godhead, all these elements (and maybe others I’ve missed?) hold together in perfect unity. Somehow. Would welcome some more insights from others! :slight_smile:

Until then, here is a short article from Prof. Donald Macleod (Systematic Theology, Edinburgh Theological Seminary) on this idea that the atonement is divine (or ‘cosmic’) child abuse. It’s rather theological, but it makes some interesting points!



I see a few problems with your question. You are working with a narrow concept of love here. Love is as complex as the lives we lead and every experience between two people who love each other further defines the love that they share. My wife and I have been married for 35 years. The love we shared on our wedding day is not the same as the love we have now. There are aspects of that that outside of her and I only God can understand. Love is very complicated.

Also, There is another complication in the Trinity. You need to add the verse where Jesus says, “I and the Father are one”. John 10:30 When the Father rejects Jesus He is rejecting Himself. The violence He commits against Jesus He is committing against Himself. That is hard for us to understand.

Lastly the example you use of the father who rapes his daughter really does not fit. That is not at all what is happening. Rape is a violent act to control someone else. When Jesus goes to the cross He is in compete control over the situation. He is ruling and reigning from the cross. The Father is reigning together with Him, but still they remain one with the Holy Spirit. The violence you see is the process God (The Father Son and Holy Spirit) planned from the beginning to break the curse of sin. They are each three working together to save us from our sinful nature and that is love working in concert to complete the sacrifice that the law required for sin.

If you look at Jesus and the Father as separate and individual beings it can look harsh, but they are very much working together as one in the greatest act of love for you and me. No greater Love has any man then he give his life for a friend. John 15:13


Tim, the essence of my question was feeling a need for a broader definition of love within the Trinity.

Would you then agree with the following statement: “As an article of Christian faith, the agape love that exists between the Father and the Son, includes the brutalization of the object of love, the incarnate Son.”

Few find discomfort with the idea of “one laying down his life for another” as a demonstration of love. God does something for God and believers in the act of redemptive love receive the benefit (penal substitution). This aspect of agape is not what I am exploring in the forum.

How does the Christian worldview find a palatable way to talk about a love the Father has for the Son that includes violence on the object of love? If the Trinity IS Love, and Calvary was planned before the foundation of the world to commit visible violence in the name of love against trinitarian personhood, then yes, I have a very narrow idea of what love is.

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Hi, Lowell. I’ve been reading this thread, and what catches my attention is that there is a line of thought introduced here that implies that it is logical to remove the “violence” from the redemptive purpose. To take the redemptive purpose away is to take context away from anything and everything the Trinity has done in human history. When we take something out of its rightful context and say we can explore it outside of that context, then it is all too easy to twist it, and we can make that action out to be anything we want. I think that is part of the misunderstanding. The focus is on the Trinity, but if the focus is on the nature of the Trinity, then that must include the purposes of the Godhead, because the purposes are tied up in the nature. Therefore, to try to understand the Trinity apart from His purposes is misguided and will end up in wrong turns.

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It seems like you have a faulty view of the perichoretic nature of the Trinity. This objection of “divine child abuse” has been raised over and over again for years. Unfortunately, it always mistakenly presupposes that Jesus isn’t fully divine, that he is ontologically somehow inferior to God the Father. It would behoove us to recall that Jesus, after all, is God in His essence. Thus, His atonement on the cross is an act of His own will, just as it is also an act of the Father’s will. Therefore, it is not an unwilling, reluctant act due to some tyrannical wishes of a pre-existent Father. It is the very same God making the sacrifice, even if it is the role of the Son to be the person that will be hung on the cross.

Thus, we can state with equal validity both of these propositions: 1) Jesus willingly sacrificed himself on the cross for the sake of humankind, and 2) Jesus obeyed the Father by going to the cross as a sacrifice for mankind. The problem of “abuse” only arises when we wrongly interpret Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane as an unwillingness to obey the Father. But, the Church (all churches) have traditionally understood (and rightly so) that this is Jesus’ human nature experiencing the natural tendency toward doubt, and that due to the limits of his human knowledge. Because Christ was also fully human, he experienced the full range of human emotions–emotions like doubt. As was often said in the early church, “what was not assumed, also was not redeemed.” Since Christ was fully human, all of our human nature was redeemed.

So, in sum, once we understand that Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, who was “slain from the foundations of the world” (Rev 13:8) makes, from all eternity, the freewill choice to die for the sake of all mankind, then we know that it is not only an act of love; but the act of love that defines all other acts of love. It is love because it is purely free, and because it is purely for “the other.”

Grace and Peace,


@Lowell in each of your arguments you claim that the Father committed violence on the Son. This is not true. WE committed violence. Not God the Father.
We rejected Him. He died on the cross because of my sin and yours. I don’t agree that the abuse of the cross was from the hand of God. It was from my hand and yours.

It was God’s love for us that caused Him to execute this plan to save us. John 3:16 says, “for God so loved the world that He GAVE His son” (Emphasis mine) He did not destroy, brutalize or crucify Jesus. We did that, and we should not make God responsible for our actions.

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Hi all!
I still think, in light of @Lowell’ s question, that we’re still not addressing the violence itself…also referred to as ‘brutalisation’. I agree with @tfloraditch here, but I’m wondering we can expand on it?

This is the question in play:

As I understand it, when dealing with the love of God, we have to also alongside it acknowledge His just wrath. The violence mentioned is tied to God’s wrath (holy, righteous anger) that’s directed toward sin. We see this especially on display in the OT sacrificial system, but we also see it right there at the beginning in Genesis.

And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. [3:21]

I’ve heard it posited that an animal had to die in order for Adam and Eve to be covered in their shame.

At the cross, then, it seems that Jesus (the Son) becomes, for a time, an object not of love, but of wrath. He becomes sin (2 Cor. 5:21). He becomes the Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7). The object of wrath (sin) cannot be an object of love. The brutalisation of the cross was because of sin both in the sense that humans, in their sin, brutalised Jesus, and, in that Jesus became, in the cosmic sense, the ultimate Passover Lamb. At the cross, the wrath of God (which is violent in the sense that it destroys/kills/obliterates) against the sin of the world is absorbed by the one thing that can endure it without being completely obliterated: God Himself. This is the act of love by God, and the object of that love is humanity.

So, no, I would not say that Trinitarian love includes the brutalisation of an object of love.

Sidebar: The best breakdown of God’s wrath that I’ve encountered is in John Stott’s The Cross of Christ. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it!

Am I off-base here, guys? Or am I still missing the question? :slight_smile:


@KMac You may have missed my last post, but I am retracting this statement you quoted.

I really don’t see God the Father has having committed an act of violence. He permitted it to fulfill His plan, but crucifixion was not His doing, it was ours. He did not tell anyone to do it. The violence was a brutal act. Humans spent many years trying to perfect the slowest and most painful way of killing someone. I just can’t put that on God when it was my sin that required Him to go through it.

Doesn’t that change the story quite a bit here?


Hi, @KMac. Right, I thought of this–Jesus as an object of wrath, but in response to anything bringing up redemptive purposes, including God’s wrath towards sin being satisfied in Christ, Lowell keeps saying the question is about Trinitarian love, excluding God’s redemptive purposes, which is why I was trying to address that.

This qualifies the question and the response and effectively benches the explanation of Jesus as an object of wrath–because that automatically violates the qualifier by including God’s redemptive purposes (without redemption being involved, why would Jesus be treated as an object of wrath?). However, if we want to understand the Trinitarian relationship in regard to the crucifixion, we cannot but bring up redemptive purposes which includes Jesus becoming an object of wrath. In other words, if we cannot bring up God’s redemptive purposes in regard to the brutalization of the crucifixion–only Trinitarian relationship–then we cannot speak of Jesus as an object of wrath. In order to get to that point, it has to be understood that the redemptive purposes cannot be cut off from understanding the Trinitarian relationship in regard to the crucifixion. I do not think we can adequately address the question, which is faulty because it is based on the premise that the Trinitarian love relationship can be discussed apart from Trinitarian love for humanity and creation as expressed in and through redemptive purposes in regard to any of the actions of the persons of the Trinity during Jesus’ time on earth as a human being. Any talk of Jesus as an object of wrath outside of the Trinitarian love for humanity as expressed through redemptive intentions just lands us right back at the original question.

I think if we want to adequately address the question of “violence” on the Son and what it says about the character of Trinitarian love, we must first demonstrate that the qualifier that excludes bringing in redemptive purpose is faulty. I think the place with which we must first start is the person and nature of Jesus. Before the Word became incarnate, we just have the Trinity which is completely separate in existence from the creation, from humanity. So what happened when the Word “became flesh?” We have the person of Jesus who contains and has joined within his single person the fullness of God and the fullness of humanity. Because of this, we no longer simply have the Trinity, but humanity has now communed with a person of the Trinity, which means the love that is shared within the Trinity among the persons of the Trinity is now being extended to and including humanity. So to say that we could talk about the violence done to the Son only within the relationship of the Trinity, without redemptive purposes being brought to bear, does not make sense, because humanity and its redemption is now a part of that sharing giving and receiving of love within the Trinity. Now we can say in that moment on the cross, Jesus was not an object of love but an object of wrath as a perfect representative of the depraved human population, because we have shown that the incarnation does not limit the love of the Trinity to just being among the persons of the Trinity anymore but, rather, extends it to the human population. And that love in and among the Trinity now shared with humanity is expressed through the redemptive violent sacrificial action of Jesus on the cross. The love of Jesus for the Father means Jesus has the Father’s heart for humanity and expresses that agreement in heart in giving himself willingly. The love of the Father for Jesus and humanity is expressed Jesus’ resurrection and glorification, through which not only the Son is glorified, but through which many children of God will be glorified as well.

Am I making sense? Trying to find words adequate to explain what I am trying to get at. These were my thoughts.


Also with regard to this question about the love that exists between the Trinity, I like how Alistair Begg describes the atonement in this dialogue here with Denis Prager. There is more going on in the atonement than just God sacrificing Himself for the sake of us sinners, there is a mystery at the heart of the atonement that includes God being separated from God for our sake. To miss this in favor of some “divine child abuse” theory, is to make a category error, it is to move down the great chain of being as opposed to up it (speaking ontologically).

Begg describes this internal alienation well from 1:04:50 to 1:12:00 in the video:



Lindsay, I find this helpful to me. Thanks for responding and penning this line of thinking. You may have given me the “out” I was hoping for. I will be thinking more on this.

I am quite happy to retract an invalid question.


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