- Series: Moral Traditions
- Paperback: 372 pages
- Publisher: Georgetown University Press; 1st edition (1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0878406271
- ISBN-13: 978-0878406272
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,708,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Love, Human and Divine: The Heart of Christian Ethics (Moral Traditions) 1st Edition
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"Nothing in Christian ethics is more important than love. This book based on broad and critical research, should be a standard reference for years to come."
"Nothing in Christian ethics is more important than love. Edward Vacek reviews in masterly but readable fashion the many dimensions of this absolutely central notion. This book, based on broad and critical research, should be a standard reference for years to come."―Richard A. McCormick, SJ, formerly of the University of Notre Dame
"Vacek breaks through the polemics that have too often dominated twentieth-century discussions to a view of Christian love that is simultaneously humanistic and God-centered. Deeply informed both by reflection on the experience of love and by the vast literature about it, this book makes a creative contribution to a Christian ethic that achieves its fulfillment in friendship with God. An important achievement."―David Hollenbach, SJ, Margaret O'Brien Flatley Professor of Catholic Theology, Boston College
"Vacek has brought a breadth of experience and a depth of knowledge, theological and ethical, historical and contemporary, to this systematic new interpretation of Christian love. . . . scholarly, perceptive, clear and well-written."―Charles E. Curran, Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values, Southern Methodist University
"Vacek surmounts today's debates in Catholic ethics. He overcomes the gap in Catholic tradition between human morality (natural law) and Christian morality by grounding Christian ethics in a spirituality. Vacek argues that the perfection of love is neither self-denial nor self-fulfillment, but personal friendship. He applies a sensitive, nuanced, and probing intelligence to the human experience of love."―Lisa Sowle Cahill, professor of theology, Boston College
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Top Customer Reviews
Vacek's main contention is that the love of God must be the center of Christian life and theology. To offer such a theology of love, Vacek undertakes a phenomenological orientation, which pays close attention to human experience. In particular, the author admits that Christian experience is privileged.
Vacek argues that Christians are mistaken to claim that agape is the Christian love. Rather, contends the author, philia represents the most complete Christian love; philia "holds pride of place among Christian loves" (xvi). In fact, Vacek claims that "the central thesis of [my] book . . . is that communion or philia is the foundation and goal of Christian life" (280).
Chapter one argues that a love relation with God implies a distinctively Christian moral life. This moral life entails certain emotions and values or what Vacek calls "orthokardia": "The ordered affections that unite us with God, ourselves, other people, and the world" (5). It is the Christian's relation with God that makes the Christian life distinctive.
The second chapter addresses the nature of love, and he notes that "most philosophical and theological writing, when it speaks of `love,' does not analyze what love is, but rather assumes it has an evident meaning" (34). Avoiding this mistake, Vacek defines love as "an affective, affirming participation in the goodness of a being (or Being). Woven into this description are two strands. Any theory of love has to account for our experience of wanting to be with or have those we love, and delighting when we do so. Love unites. A theory of love also must account for our experiences of wanting for the beloved" (34 [italics in the original]). He further defines love as an emotional, affirming participation in the dynamic tendency of an object to realize its fullness.
The doctrine of God that Vacek envisions includes a God who is truly related to creation. The author describes the God-world relation as "love-as-participation" (95). This means that while God is free to create; God is also bound to that which is created.
God's identity is united, but not wholly so, with history. Humans have autonomy vis-à-vis God, but their freedom depends upon deity. Vacek suggests that creaturely cooperation with the activity of God is required for the full expression of love in the world.
When addressing the extent and duration of love that should be expressed by lovers, Vacek argues that "love tries to enhance the well-being of the beloved, and it does so not only in the short term and for this or that person but in the long run for as many persons" (182). However, "because God loves not only us but others and also all of creation, we cannot . . . conclude that what God is doing in the world will always be entirely for our good. Some loss to our own well-being will be necessary" (188).
In chapters five through nine, Vacek addresses issues typically subsumed under an exploration of three kinds of love: agape, eros, and philia. He claims that we may love the beloved for the sake of the beloved, for our own sake, or for the sake of the relationship we have with the beloved. He calls these love relations "agape, eros, and philia," which means that he distinguishes each by his phrase "for the sake of." In his chapter, "Agape," Vacek gives insightful critiques of the work of both Anders Nygren and Gene Outka. He argues that agape "is centered on the beloved's value and is directed toward the enhancement of that value. It is a faithful love that is spontaneous, generous, and willing to sacrifice" (191). In later chapters, Vacek also argues for a positive theological case for self-love.
In the final two chapters, Vacek addresses issues related to friendship love. Although his approach to Christian love is a pluralist one in that he affirms the value of both eros and agape, Vacek notes in these chapters his central thesis that "communion or philia is the foundation and goal of the Christian life" (280). By philia, he "means affectively affirming members of a community for the sake of the communally shared life" (287-88). It is this friendship love that constitutes a mutual relationship with God. "Philia creates, expresses, and enhances a mutual relationship. philia fulfills us, but that fulfillment is not its primary consideration" (311). Vacek argues that theological focus on agape or eros without philia tends to promote individualism.
While duties to strangers are important for the Christian, they are not the paradigm for Christian living. Instead, Christians begin with the special relationships that they have with those who are near and dear, especially with God. "This book arises the convictions that God relates to us in special relationships, that human selfhood begins in such relations, particularly in the family, and that the fullness of human personhood is possible only through deep philia relationships" (312).
Also I find the way the author classifies love to be very odd. He defines Eros as the love for the sake of Lover; Agape as the love for the sake of Beloved and Philia as the love for the sake of relationship.
He gives no hint that many other authors do not understand various loves by this criteria.