Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 280

Agape and Eros is a 1930 nonfictional, theological treatise written by Andres Nygren. Its main focus or thematic representation is the comparison between the Christian idea of love or pure Christian love called agape and the Hellenistic, Platonic idea of love called eros. While agape showcases God’s love for all human beings and humanity, eros represents the love of humans for other humans and for all that is divine.

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The book is at the same time theological and philosophical. Its key themes are religion (mainly Christianity), the love for and from God, and love itself. Nygren explains that his motive for writing Agape and Eros is the investigation of the true meaning and understanding of Christian love. He describes agape as the only true Christian love and how it loves and values all. Eros is the opposite. It loves only those it deems worthy of loving. He argues that these two distinctive types of love do not go together and coexist in different metaphysical worlds entirely.

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While agape is the authentic Christian love, unconditional and unmotivated, eros is the sensual expression, the longing for a world of dreams and ideals, the intimate and the passionate kind of love we feel for others in order to fulfill our needs and desires. According to the author, the main historical individuals that demonstrate this differentiation are Augustine and Luther. Augustine believes that eros and agape belong together and creates a fusion of the two calling it caritas, while Luther distinctively separates agape as the true form of Christian love. This might be used as an argument in the Catholic-Protestant debate, which makes Catholicism and Protestantism two of the sub-themes in Agape and Eros.

Christian Themes

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 309

The most fundamental theme of Nygren’s work treats one of the central questions of the Christian tradition: How much of this tradition is uniquely Christian and how much of it is a product of the classical culture in which Christianity developed and out of which the intellectual heritage of Western civilization emerged? A related question is whether the values of Christianity are essentially the same as those held by pagans such as Plato and Aristotle or whether Christianity introduced a radically new set of values. Nygren answers that from the very earliest years Christianity has absorbed non-Christian ideas. Moreover, as the values associated with the Christian and non-Christian are utterly different, the values and views of Greco-Roman antiquity have introduced alien elements into Christianity.

In addition, Nygren identifies the concept of love as a fundamental motif, the distinguishing idea of Christianity. He recognizes that it is not always clear just what love means, though, and that dissimilar kinds of forces are identified by the use of the single English word. His contribution is to carefully consider the nature of Christian love and to distinguish it from other views of love.

The attempt to identify the uniquely Christian idea of love and to trace the intellectual history of this idea involves Nygren in a central confessional dispute. One of the Protestant objections to Catholicism was that the Catholic intellectual tradition had absorbed non-Christian influences and had therefore moved away from true Christianity. The Catholic hierarchy, similarly, was seen as a human effort to create a link to God through the Church structure, in place of the immediate descent of God’s love and grace to each individual. While Nygren does not explicitly criticize Catholicism, the ultimate characterization of Luther’s teachings as the return to agape makes Nygren a sophisticated advocate for the Protestant side of the Catholic-Protestant debate.

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