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love, Christian


Subject Religion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631198963.2005.x


The virtue of love—while defined in various ways—has regularly been understood as integral to the Christian life. Jesus summarizes the law in terms of the twofold command to love God and the neighbour (Mark 12: 28–31). St Paul's statement, ‘he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law’ (Rom. 13: 8) is more compressed still. St Augustine, in chapter 15 of his On the Morals of the Catholic Church , defines the cardinal virtues (temperance, fortitude, justice and prudence) as forms of love. Nevertheless, only as ‘Christian ethics’ came to be understood as a separate discipline, to be distinguished from theology more generally, has it been thought necessary to find and systematically develop a central principle of the Christian life. In the search for such a principle, love has much to recommend it. At the very least, we can say that sustained attention to the meaning of love has compelled Christians in the last several centuries to consider some of the most fundamental problems for their way of life. Perhaps the most important and sustained body of reflection on the meaning of Christian love was initiated with the publication in 1930 (with a portion translated into English in 1932) of Anders Nygren's Agape and Eros. Nygren depicts a sharp contrast between the Platonic (and Augustinian) conception of eros and the Christian conception of agape , seeing them as distinct religious ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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