One dictionary defines machine as “an apparatus consisting of interrelated parts with separate functions, used in the performance of some kind of work.” I have been asserting that God designed the human being to be an agape-producing machine.
A good definition of agape is seeking the benefit of others. The term “seeking” connotes the existence of a human will.
The will necessarily includes several components. First, it must be self-conscious. Pursuing a certain type of choice, in this case agape, requires that the person has conscious awareness of options available. The will also must possess the capacity to choose between those options.
A mechanism possessing a will falls within the definition of “machine” offered above. Therefore, human beings can rightfully be categorized as machines. However, we comprises the only machine with a will.
A computer can make choices but only in a mechanical sort of sense, that is, it merely reflects its programming. It actually does not make decisions but merely responds to input as it has been programmed to do.
In earlier days, psychologists such as John Watson and BF Skinner popularized the branch of psychology called behaviorism, which viewed the human being in this light. People merely make choices based on how they are programmed by society. This perspective results in numerous problems such as the eradication of morality. If Hitler was programmed to exterminate 6 million Jewish people, we have no basis for saying that he was a bad person. Rather, society merely had done a bad job of programming him.
This position is comfortable in that it alleviates individuals of responsibility, but its ultimate problem is that it robs human beings of their humanity, reducing them to robots. As such, it strips people of their capability to display agape. From the perspective of behaviorism no one is ever actually kind or courageous or responsible. People may behave in ways that give that appearance and produce that outcome, but those behaviors were not born out of an intent to be kind or courageous or responsible.
Genuine agape requires an individual capable of making conscious choices.
Agape also demands the exercise of our will because apart from volitional choice people tend to opt for immediate gratification, which in almost all cases tends to be selfish rather than loving.
The hippie mantra, “If it feels good, do it,” in essence constituted a call to selfishness. The history of that movement as its adherents embraced this foundational principle reveals that when human beings follow their feelings selfishness is the primary outcome. Whatever the designation “love generation” meant, it could not have been a reference to agape, since seeking the benefits of others is antithetical to its orientation and outcomes.
At times emotions orient us in loving directions, but those times tend to be temporary and sometimes those emotions are misguided. A history of Haight-Ashbury at the height of the hippie era reveals that initial altruistic motivations soon deteriorated into raw selfishness. For example, in the early stages males were willing to share living space with females just because everybody was one loving family. However, before long males began to demand sexual favors as the rental fee. Doing what comes naturally, doing what feels good, in the long run usually turns out to be selfish.
The previous post describes the essential role of the mind in identifying the most loving course. The will is needed to implement the agape course of action identified by the mind. In other words, the will working in conjunction with the mind provides human beings with the unique capacity to produce agape. God provided human beings with this equipment so that we might function as agape producing machines.
Of course, using this equipment for its intended purpose is our decision—one we make on a moment by moment basis. Let’s all of us focus on fulfilling God’s purpose today by choosing agape in every situation in which we find ourselves.