ANDERS NYGREN EROS AND AGAPE PDF

Argument[ edit ] The book analyses the connotations of two ancient Greek words for love , eros and agape unconditional love. Nygren argues that eros is an egocentric and acquisitive kind of love, needs-based and desire-based. When we love out of eros - whether we love a god or another human being -, we love out of self-interest and in order to acquire and possess the object of our love. This form of love received its classic expression in the philosophy of Plato , particularly in his dialogue The Symposium. Agape, by contrast, is a self-giving and self-sacrificial kind of love.

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This is not only true of those whose affiliation with Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions, or whose general affinity for the thought of Augustine, might have predisposed them to vindicate some kind of caritas synthesis. Reinhold Niebuhr offers but one example. Particularly in a deontological system of ethics, agape may even function for Christians as a kind of categorical imperative. To motivate actual human beings to acts of self-denying love, in other words, agape may need to move them toward self-denial from a foundation in right self-love.

In any case, for most of these thinkers the implication that agape and eros have no organic relation to one another in actual human life seems at best counterintuitive. Whether the question is quite so secondary and derivative need not detain us here. The hypothesis we have tested is that self-denial is only coherent, only possible, within a larger account of that good for which one finds it meaningful to deny self. If that is the case, and the duties of agape themselves are only coherent within a larger teleology, then the question of priority and derivation is moot.

That agape and eros should have no organic relation to one another in actual human life seems at best counterintuitive, and shifting our focus from the problem of self-love to the problem of self-denial helps us clarify why. In fairness, this derives in part from the way Nygren understood his tasks; both his method of motif research and his notion of critical ethics distinguish themselves sharply from normative ethics. Both must refrain from all casuistry in order to discern the fundamental principles behind, and tests of validity for, any specific morality.

What should I do? How can the matter be otherwise? Secondly, after all, Nygren has virtually equated Christian love itself with self-denial. Perhaps he did not or could not state this in so many words. Yet the polarity of agape with eros forces this conclusion.

Wherever Nygren discerned the eros motif, he ferreted it out by pointing to tell-tale evidence of acquisitive love, self-interest, and self-love. Third, then, we can hardly even begin to ask the question of what sustains right Christian self-denial.

And Nygren may have needed no other answer. After all, Nygren was quite prepared to admit that agape has nothing to do with human love at all. Even when it is attributed to God, eros is patterned on human love. He has nothing of his own to give. Divine agape itself creates spontaneously and without motive — Nygren would remind us yet again — for it does not presuppose any good in its object.

An Augustinian must agree that ultimately the source of all love is God. And it is not hard to see why. If agape always creates ex nihilo without presupposing any value in its object, it must always be starting over. So although Nygren may not then be vulnerable concerning the ultimate source of agape, at least on his own terms, he is vulnerable, even on his own terms, as to its effects.

The point is crucial because what agape effects in human history may well become nonultimate, mediating sources for sustaining agape in history. Human acts of self-sacrificial love for others are possible because God the ultimate source of agape creates communities of mutual Christian love. This love is no less Christian because each of its members, in their neediness, love with an eros for the common good, even while they learn over time not spontaneously the virtues that predispose them to love even at great cost to themselves.

Leaving aside the divine agape that God expressed in the creation of the universe, then, the preeminent coming of agape in Jesus Christ itself has not left human beings unchanged. Nygren never allowed agape to leave any traces — never allowed it to transform but only to create out of nothing — never allowed it to leave some human material with which to pick up its creative work later.

Here is where his position becomes untenable. It is most telling that both critics and allies of Nygren have converged in raising much this same objection or in seeking to correct it. It attempted to analyze any religion, viewed as a historical phenomenon, in order to ascertain and expose its most fundamental presuppositions. A given religion coheres around a given set of presuppositions, and that complex in turn becomes its fundamental and characteristic motif, its grundmotiv. The rejection of all metaphysics, he insisted, allowed religion to be religious, and faith to be faith.

It also left morality to be morality — something as distinct from religion and philosophy as each of them were from one another. The totality of that reliance relieves Nygren from the need to explain how agape flows through the human beings that are its conduits and on into history.

The conduit metaphor is so apt because the metaphysic it reflects is entirely formal and empty of content, except as God supplies. Yet an empty metaphysic is a metaphysic nonetheless. Notes 1. Reinhold Niebuhr, Human Destiny, vol. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture Clark, In God as the Mystery of the World trans. Darrell L. Guder, [Grand Rapids, Mich. Ramsey, Basic Christian Ethics ; sic.

Ramsey, Basic Christian Ethics Charles W. It is simply not there. Nygren, Agape and Eros Burnaby, Amor Dei Christian ethics should doubtless include all things human, but not necessarily on the ground floor [sic] of its understanding of morality.

This, which is undoubtedly the primary and fundamental factor, apprehends, draws in, and interweaves our psychological ego as well. It would, indeed, be a serious misunderstanding to think, whenever Luther speaks of faith, immediately of our empirical psychical ego. But it would be just as perverse to ignore the empirical ego completely in thinking of this transcendental subject in the matter of faith, and to think of the former as entirely unaffected by the latter.

They are of such a fundamental nature that without them experience itself would not exist. They are basic to all thinking and speaking, determinative of the meaning we experience in experience.

They are categorical in the sense of logical necessity, for they are implicit in every assertion we make, already affirmed in the utterance of any proposition. Also see Hall, Anders Nygren

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