We now have a platform – such as it is – from which to observe what it means for God to be all-loving.* As mentioned above, here we are taking just one angle, and it can be no more than a guide. The analogy is not the reality.
If souls – or centers of consciousness, if you like – require a medium to communicate (indeed, a medium through which they can be fully actualized), then God must set the stage.
Our author likewise creates a world in which to tell her story, and we imagine that she is creating for the sake of the characters themselves, and not for an audience. Or, in a sense, the characters are also the audience.
Now the good of the characters is for each of them to realize their innate potential, that which the author has invested in them. Though we don’t have time to fully articulate the point this is more than an semi-inspirational notion. This is, rather, the notion that some part of their being lies in wait, requiring perhaps the right circumstances, or an act of the will, or even the impetus of the author herself, in order for that potency to be actualized. “Be all you can be” is a nice slogan, but it imposes a limit of only those roles the Army can provide; it does not exalt the very being of a person beyond this world. At best, in the sense we mean it, the Army could only be a stepping stone, however deep or shallow that might be.
To love the characters, then, is to desire and provide for their good – to aid in their self-actualization, to fulfill the purpose for which they were created.
Can the author, then, be all-loving? We have said she created the characters for their own sakes, and the story is told for them. She must simply desire – and provide for – the fulfillment of their purposes.
But this is trivially true, isn’t it? Even in a bad story, the author wishes for the characters to fulfill their purpose – usually, entertaining an audience – and she tries to provide for it, even if she is not quite effective in achieving entertainment.
Maybe this isn’t perfect love, then – for if, despite the author’s best efforts, the characters fail to entertain, then they truly have not achieved their purpose, nor seen their potential actualized. It may be truer than expected to say that the more an author really loves her characters for their own sake, the more they are likely to achieve the purpose she has for them. But the waters get muddy here, and we have some ground to cover.
Our better author, then, who creates her characters for their own sake – can she be all-loving?
If I may skip to the point, this seems to pivot on the concept of a villain.
Of course the author will love the hero – at least this love is more readily obvious. The villain embodies the problem of evil, which we have reflected on at some length, and so poses the chief obstacle here.
The villain, in fact, is almost a utility, a force and source of drama, and even to respect a villain enough to make him “three-dimensional” is uncommon. He is, in a certain sense, already actualized, fulfilling his purpose from the start: He is evil, because the hero needs something to conquer.
If that is true, this is a peculiar kind of love indeed; but can we say it is not love? In what respect, since he is the author’s creation? It is not his purpose to be “good,” according to the standard of the author’s will.
This is not far off from the problem of evil, and even the narrow way many of us – or even all of us, some of the time – conceive of the world. Politics is finally useful: To the liberal, conservatives are wrong, evil; and vice versa. And they are largely irredeemable, we think, and thus only obstacles to be conquered. Imposition of our (good, right) will upon them is the only suitable course of action. Otherwise the world is doomed – the story will end the wrong way.
We, however, need not be restricted by this view. And whatever we do, God is absolutely not so restricted.
Here, God shakes the earth, loosens the analogy from the reality, and it is done by the introduction of a simple and terrible faculty: Free will.
The author, even the best author, can only hope to imitate free will, to give us the impression that a character really is choosing from among options, that he may do something unexpected according to our understanding, that he is in some sense untamed. But God truly gives it, and from our minds and hearts spews all the good and evil that threaten the world in a suffocating tumult. Chesterton has rightly said: We are always at war, and sometimes peace breaks out.
The love of an author is thus limited, because she cannot bestow on her characters the ability to love her back, much less to love each other.
But God – with God, there are no villains. Even he who appears to be a villain may change his mind. The purpose of a soul is that exaltation of his being, and evil does not provide it. Evil is a regression, a descent to a lower state of being.
God is pure actuality, and we retain some measure of potency within us. Our betters on earth may help us on the path to self-actualization: I testify that a good woman can do this for her husband (and he hopes he does likewise for her). A good teacher, a holy man or woman – even a child can be the better of an adult in certain ways.
But to achieve full actualization – whatever that “looks” like – requires one who is fully actualized. In other words, only God can love us so perfectly, so completely, so fruitfully. Only that which draws us near to God can be thought of as an act of love, because there we find our true fulfillment.
*Indeed, it is not false modesty to say this is a shabby platform. It is, even according to its builder. I would like to build a better one, eventually, if my thoughts could be clear and constructive enough. Still, with the reader’s charity, we can at least have a look at things.