ALTRUISM AND
CHRISTIAN ETHICS

Separated from its anchorage in religion, ethics has followed the social sciences in seeing human beings as fundamentally characterized 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 leveling that loses the depths that theology makes intelligible and religion makes possible.

The Christian affirmation is that God is characterized by self-giving love (agape), then expected of Christians. Lacking this theological background, the focus on selfinterest 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.

colin grant is Professor of Religious Studies at Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick. Author of A Salvation Audit (1994) and Myths We Live By (1998), he has also published journal articles in Britain, America, and Canada. He is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion, and the Canadian Theological Society.

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Altruism and Christian Ethics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • New Studies in Christian Ethics *
  • Title Page *
  • Content *
  • General Editor's Preface xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Part One - Alien Altruism 1
  • Chapter 1 - Explanations for Altruism 3
  • Chapter 2 - Evidence of Altruism 34
  • Chapter 3 - The Elusiveness of Altruism 57
  • Part Two - Ideal Altruism 89
  • Chapter 4 - Contract Altruism 91
  • Chapter 5 - Constructed Altruism 110
  • Chapter 6 - Collegial Altruism 135
  • Part Three - Real Altruism 165
  • Chapter 7 - Acute Altruism: Agape 167
  • Chapter 8 - Absolute Altruism 190
  • Chapter 9 - Actual Altruism 218
  • Select Bibliography 251
  • Index 263
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