Christian grace and pagan virtue : the theological by J. Warren Smith

By J. Warren Smith

Ambrose of Milan (340-397) was once the 1st Christian bishop to jot down a scientific account of Christian ethics, within the treatise De Officiis, variously translated as "on tasks" or "on responsibilities." yet Ambrose additionally handled the ethical existence in different works, significantly his sermons at the patriarchs and his addresses to catechumens and newly baptized. there's a immense glossy literature on Ambrose, yet merely in contemporary a long time has he all started to be taken heavily as a philosopher, not only as a operating bishop and ecclesiastical flesh presser. simply because Ambrose used to be one of many few Latin Christian writers in antiquity who knew Greek, one other significant sector of Ambrose scholarship has been the examine of his assets, significantly the Jewish thinker Philo, and Christian writers equivalent to Origen of Alexandria.
In this publication, Warren Smith examines the ignored biblical, liturgical and theological foundations of Ambrose's suggestion on ethics. previous reviews have discovered little that used to be distinctively Christian in Ambrose's photograph of the virtuous individual. Smith exhibits that even though, just like the pagans, Ambrose emphasised moderation, braveness, justice, and prudence, for him those features have been formed through the church's ideals approximately God's salvific financial system. The braveness of a Christian dealing with persecution, for instance, used to be an expression of religion in Christ's resurrection and the church's eschatological wish. Eschatology, for Ambrose, used to be no longer pagan knowledge clothed in pious language, however the very good judgment upon which advantage rests.

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Additional info for Christian grace and pagan virtue : the theological foundation of Ambrose's ethics

Sample text

Therefore, the soul is the form or actualizing principle of the body. Aristotle illustrates the idea using the analogy of the eye and vision. Even as vision is the activity of the eye, so is soul the activity of the body. 1 Every natural body is a compound of form and matter: matter (hylē) that possesses only potentiality until it is given specific shape (morphē) or form (eidos). Within this hylomorphic view of the person, the soul as first principle is not only the formal cause (the cause of one’s existence) and the efficient cause (the cause of mental and physical movement), but also the final cause.

He finds further support for this view in Jesus’ admonition (Matt. 32 This second part of Jesus’ warning is problematic for Ambrose since Jesus speaks of the soul’s destruction. Ambrose’s view that the soul is immortal seems to contradict Jesus’ words on this point. 33 By contrast, the soul of the righteous remains “always” in God’s hands (Ps. 119:109). ”34 In On Abraham, the first of his catechetical treatises, Ambrose explains God’s call to Abraham to “go out of the land of your kin” to mean that the rational and immortal soul should flee the mortal body: [W]hen a man dies, his flesh is corrupted, his senses perish, his voice is lost: the mind remains immortal, receiving eternal life.

79 The critique of the body in Isaac and On the Good of Death should not be read as a dualistic opposition of soul and material embodiment, that union that God created in the beginning. Rather his complaint about the body is a critique of the body of death that is inscribed with weakness and corruption resulting from sin. 80 Consequently, when Ambrose tells the catechumens that “the [soul] is what we are; the [body] is what belongs to us,” he imitates what he understands Paul to say in Romans 7.

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