The term “philanthropy” is not only the ancient description of the exploits of a Greek god. It is also how the Bible itself explicitly chooses to name the Christian God’s relationship to humanity, in Titus 3:4 (KJV): “But after that the kindness and philanthropy of God our Savior toward man appeared.”
Regrettably, the term “philanthropy” is quite literally lost in translation, as it is typically rendered only as “love” in most versions.
That is unfortunate because it prevents us from understanding the specific kind of love, which has been extended—namely, “phil-anthropy”, or friendship love toward human beings—a comprehensive attitude and pattern of direct contact, warm relationship, and unfailing and unwarranted beneficence on the part of the divine toward human beings. “Love” simply struggles to be able to carry that freight.
A new word had to be created to do so—“phil-anthropy”–and Paul, the apostle and first great Christian theologian, pressed it into service in his letter to Titus to convey news he considered extraordinary about the divine.
(Excerpted from my forthcoming book, The Whole Life Offering: Christianity as Philanthropy, scheduled for release in January 2011.)