I wrote in the defense of Christianity recently, however not in the defense of radical apocalyptic pamphlets, and wanted to emphasize the importance of love in Christianity and was questioned why it could not be left simply at loving, or preaching love, without all the dogma?
It is of utmost importance to show that the greatest attribute of a Christian and of Christendom is love, as embodied in the classical passage read at weddings, 1 Corinthians 13. While it mentions faith, hope, and love, it underlines love as the greatest and says that all will pass away, and essentially any seemingly good thing done apart from a motivation of love, is worthless. While this would seem to support a message of simple love without obnoxious dogma I want to show why it is necessary to include it.
To summarize the Jewish Law Christ was asked which were the greatest commandments, to which He responded:
37And He said to him, " '(A)YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' 38"This is the great and foremost commandment.I know this sounds a bit preachy, but please bear with me. Because one of the primary assumptions of Christianity is that humanity is imperfect, and therefore in need of a solution for the predicament in which it has necessarily found itself, we find that loving others is not a given. I'm not going to say how dirty humanity is, or how we love murder or anything, I mean simply that there are traces of good, and quite a bit of good in others, but it is not our nature to love others and prefer them to ourselves. We might find good examples of this sacrificial love in parents but even they are very much imperfect, as we can all attest to!
39"The second is like it, '(B)YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'
40"(C)On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
In short, we just don't have what it takes to love others like we love ourselves all the time and to prefer them to ourselves. We can try, and we should, and we do but it is a losing battle every day. Does that mean we should give up? Absolutely not. This proves the point.
The necessity of dogma does not mean we need to hammer down in people's throats the ten commandments or yell at them about the end of times or make them worship saints, etc. I think we need to remember that the first step is to love God and then we'll learn how to love others. If we try to love others first we will not succeed because there is more to it.
I just want to say that the message the Bible preaches at its core is that if you don't have God you'll find that loving is difficult, if not impossible, and that no matter how hard you try you will be left wanting. I don't mean that it's easy after finding God; it's easier. Preaching love to everyone without pointing them to the source of love and our example of sacrificial love then we have no one to imitate and no strength to love. Even Christ underlined the simplicity of the Law and showed that loving God was first, and then others, and if you can do that then all of it will be good.
Love should be the primary characteristic displayed and our motivation for doing everything but we are going to need a lot of help, this is where the dogma is supposed to simplify things but it is also where people ironically complicate them. Preaching the importance of nutrition to Africans and North Koreans in the absence of food is not very sensible. Giving food makes a lot more sense. Preaching love requires demonstrating love in the first place but also requires that people be empowered, in a sense, to love others. We need not over complicate the doctrine, but the first part was loving God, then the rest comes from that.
Please, tell me if I've misrepresented any details or have been unclear about something.