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By J. Warren Smith

Ambrose of Milan (340-397) was once the 1st Christian bishop to jot down a scientific account of Christian ethics, within the treatise De Officiis, variously translated as "on tasks" or "on responsibilities." yet Ambrose additionally handled the ethical existence in different works, particularly his sermons at the patriarchs and his addresses to catechumens and newly baptized. there's a big sleek literature on Ambrose, yet simply in contemporary a long time has he all started to be taken heavily as a philosopher, not only as a operating bishop and ecclesiastical flesh presser. simply because Ambrose was once one of many few Latin Christian writers in antiquity who knew Greek, one other significant sector of Ambrose scholarship has been the learn of his resources, significantly the Jewish thinker Philo, and Christian writers comparable to Origen of Alexandria.
In this publication, Warren Smith examines the missed biblical, liturgical and theological foundations of Ambrose's suggestion on ethics. prior stories have came upon little that used to be distinctively Christian in Ambrose's photo of the virtuous individual. Smith exhibits that notwithstanding, just like the pagans, Ambrose emphasised moderation, braveness, justice, and prudence, for him those features have been formed by means of the church's ideals approximately God's salvific economic system. The braveness of a Christian dealing with persecution, for instance, was once an expression of religion in Christ's resurrection and the church's eschatological desire. Eschatology, for Ambrose, was once now not pagan knowledge clothed in pious language, however the very common sense upon which advantage rests.

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Extra info for Christian grace and pagan virtue : the theological foundation of Ambrose's ethics

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Moreover, he insists that those who are attracted to the comeliness of our outward appearance love us only for the superficial and fleeting beauty of our body and so do not, rightly speaking, love us. Ambrose’s assumption is that what is real is that which endures. To be sure, as creatures who by definition are not eternal, our soul does not possess a beauty like God’s, eternal and perfect. Nonetheless, the beauty of the soul outlasts the radiance of youthful beauty, the pursuit of which is vain. 83 Ambrose’s point is that the catechumen should seek that beauty in herself and in others that is not subject to decay with the mere passage of time.

Take for example the gift of light, for the light is poured out upon the earth and yet is not confounded with it. ”15 Thus the natural and appropriate union of soul and body is likened to the sunlight that permeates the atmosphere, illuminating and giving life to the earth, but which is not “attached” to the world in such a way that the nature of the light is changed. So, too, the soul should permeate the body, filling it with life but without being trapped in the body by its desire for bodily things.

First, the soul is distinct from the body in that the soul possesses the capacity to mirror the divine virtues. “Attend, rather, to your soul and mind, whence all our deliberations emanate and to which the profit of your works is referred. ”53 The soul is the source of the deliberations and calculations upon which our actions are based. In order for our actions to be virtuous, the soul must possess justice, wisdom, and piety. Only by the soul’s contemplation of God are we able to participate in the divine and so reflect the virtues of God.

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