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Love, Human and Divine: The Heart of Christian Ethics (Moral Traditions) [Paperback]

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Item description for Love, Human and Divine: The Heart of Christian Ethics (Moral Traditions) by Edward Collins Vacek & S. J. Edward Collins Vacek...

Although the two great commandments to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves are central to Christianity, few theologians or spiritual writers have undertaken an extensive account of the meaning and forms of these loves. Most accounts, in fact, make love of God and love of self either impossible or immoral. Integrating these two commandments, Edward Vacek, SJ, develops an original account of love as the theological foundation for Christian ethics.

Vacek criticizes common understandings of "agape, eros, " and "philia, " examining the arguments of Aquinas, Nygren, Outka, Rahner, Scheler, and other theologians and philosophers. He defines love as an emotional, affirmative participation in the beloved's real and ideal goodness, and he extends this definition to the love between God and self. Vacek proposes that the heart of Christian moral life is loving cooperation with God in a mutually perfecting friendship.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Georgetown University Press
Pages   376
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.99" Width: 5.99" Height: 0.96"
Weight:   1.15 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2004
Publisher   Georgetown University Press
Age  22
Edition  Revised  
Series  Moral Traditions  
ISBN  0878406271  
ISBN13  9780878406272  

Availability  145 units.
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More About Edward Collins Vacek & S. J. Edward Collins Vacek

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Edward Collins Vacek, SJ, is professor of moral theology at the Weston School of Theology.

Edward Collins Vacek has published or released items in the following series...

  1. Moral Traditions

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Ethics & Morality
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about Love, Human and Divine: The Heart of Christian Ethics (Moral Traditions)?

A Contemporary Love Classic  Jan 7, 2003
Although this text was written fairly recently, it is fast becoming a classic work on love, one which those who wrestle with theologies of love must take seriously. Vacek is a Roman Catholic, but his hypotheses and conclusions are not characteristic of most Catholic thought. The author is well-read and the topics covered are vast. "The central idea of this book is quite simple: (1) God loves us; (2) we love God; (3) we and God form a community; (4) we and God cooperate" (xv).

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).


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