The Disconsolation of Theology: Irony, Cruelty, and Putting Charity First

Journal of Religious Ethics 20 (1):1 - 35 (1992)
Abstract
In this essay I reply to Richard Rorty's and Judith Shklar's influential accounts of liberalism, preferring what I call "strong agapism" to Rorty's ironism and Shklar's emphasis on avoidance of cruelty. Strong agapism treats love as a "metavalue," an indispensable source of moral insight and power, yet it admits the genuineness and fragility of goods other than love (for example, health, happiness). The detaching of charity from moral self-sufficiency-as well as from certainty about personal immortality-amounts to a disconsoling doctrine in many respects. I conclude, however, that accent on agape betokens a profound philosophical and theological optimism. This optimism stems from the conviction that putting charity first is its own reward, a joyful affirmation of life (and its Creator) that is the basis of all other virtues.
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