A Study in Theological Ethics

Gilbert C. Meilaender


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Certain relationships are of profound importance for the moral life. Gilbert C. Meilaender explores some of the tensions which Christian experience discovers in one such relationship, the bond of friendship. These tensions help to explain why friendship was a more important topic in the life and thought of the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome than it has unusually been within Christendom. The bond of friendship (philia) involves special preference; Christian love (agape) is thought to be like the love of the heavenly Father who makes his sun rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust. Philia requires that love be returned; agape is to be shown even the enemy, who does not love in return. Friendships sometimes fade away; Christians are enjoined to be faithful in love. These tensions have permeated our lives and helped to shape our world. We think politics a more important sphere than the private friendship bond. We seek fulfillment in and identify ourselves with our vocations — by which we now mean, work for pay — not our friendships. And in a world where politics and vocation are all-important, lasting friendships become more difficult to sustain. Friendship examines the tension between philia and agape and probes its significance for Christian thought and experience.


Gilbert C. Meilaender:

Gilbert Meilaender  holds the Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg Chair in Christian Ethics at Valparaiso University, Indiana. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Society of Christian Ethics, as an Associate Editor of Religious Studies Review, and as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Religious Ethics. He is also a Fellow of the Hastings Center and was a member of the President's Council on Bioethics from 2002 to 2009.  He is a Distinguished Fellow with The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity.  He is the author of Friendship: A Study in Theological Ethics  (Notre Dame Press, 1981), The Theory and Practice of Virtue (Notre Dame Press, 1984), and Faith and Faithfulness: Basic Themes in Christian Ethics  (Notre Dame Press, 1991). Meilaender has been a member of the President's Council on Bioethics since its inception in January 2002.