Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Friendship: Interpreting Christian Love

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Friendship: Interpreting Christian Love

Article excerpt

Friendship: Interpreting Christian Love. By E. D. H. (Liz) Carmichael. London: T&T Clark International, 2004. vi + 250 pp. $140.00 (cloth); $31.95 (paper).

This is a scholarly study of the meaning and significance of the love of friendship in Christian tradition. Taking a historical narrative approach, Carmichael brings together various perspectives that see Christian love as the love characteristic of friendship (p. 199). The sources include an impressive array of writings, both ancient and contemporary. This book is a valuable resource for scholars, students, and others for deeper reflection on the place of friendship-love in Christian theology and spirituality.

In the mid-twentieth century, Anders Nygren s work promoted an opposition between agape and eros, an influential view that understood Christian agape as absolute altruism. Countering this, Carmichael demonstrates convincingly that Christian love can be interpreted not only as inclusive of such elements as affection and delight, but also as extending friendship-love to the universal scope, as seen in some saints who are able to find everyone they meet attractive. Such universal friendship will be fully realized in the future life which, in Augustine's words, is an eternal "enjoyment of God, and of each other in God" (p. 201).

Such universal love of friendship is made possible only by grace, by first becoming a friend of God revealed in the friend Jesus (John 15:15). Then, as James Houston says, "No one can be the friend of Jesus without having many other friends" (p. 156). As a "friend of sinners," Christ's friendship does not require goodness in the other, hut rather focuses "on the person and who they may become" (p. 198). Carmichael therefore suggests that friendshiplove places its emphasis "on the formation of character, and on the practice of prayer so that character can come to its graced perfection" (p. …

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