Altruism and Christian Ethics
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Separated from its anchorage in religion, ethics has followed the social sciences in seeing human beings as fundamentally characterised by self-interest, so that altruism is either naively idealistic or arrogantly self-sufficient. Colin Grant contends that, as a modern secular concept, altruism is a parody on the self-giving love of Christianity, so that its dismissal represents a social levelling that loses the depths that theology makes intelligible and religion makes possible. The Christian affirmation is that God is characterised by self-giving love (agape), then expected of Christians. Lacking this theological background, the focus on self-interest in sociobiology and economics, and on human realism in the political focus of John Rawls or the feminist sociability of Carol Gilligan, finds altruism naive or a dangerous distraction from real possibilities of mutual support. This book argues that to dispense with altruism is to dispense with God and with the divine transformation of human possibilities.
"...the book is an engaging and valuable addition to the literature on altruism." Journal of Religion "Grant offers a careful analysis of recent secular literature on altruism...he provides a compelling critique of sociobiology's interpretation of altruism...Grant book is a highly nuanced examination of much of the literature on altruism and agape...It is readable and interesting...most informative" Theology Today "It provides a useful introduction to features of and debates surrounding altruism and makes clear the role Christian ethics can play in defending and promoting it." Religious Studies Review