Friday, 17 May 2019

Robert Grant: Inclusive or Exclusive? The Moral dimensions of Ambrose's Misericordia

Ambrose's misericordia is the grace of God offered to humanity through Christ, then offred by Christians to others.  This too tidy summation begs two significant questions.  First, is one's response to misericordia a free act of the will or is one simply overwhelmed by that grace?  Ambrose's seemingly inchoate thinking about grace and free will makes any answer defensible.  Secondly, to whom is misericordia extended?  Does it apply only to other Nicaean Christians?  Ambrose's complicated relationship with Traditionalist and Orientalist Romans (so-called 'pagans'), with Judaism, with heterodox Christians, and with barbarians makes this a difficult question to answer.  It is the thesis of this presentation to argue that, first, Ambrose subscribes to a theology of cooperation between his merciful God and the Christian recipient, understanding misericordia both as a grace and a virtue.  Secondly, it must be admitted that Ambrose often failed to be fully aware of and responsive to the all-inclusive demands of misericordia as a virtue.  Such moral blindspots stain Christianity's long history (slavery, for example).  The ethical ramifications of the grace of misericordia were not fully expressed in the way Ambrose responded to non-Nicaeans.

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