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The Betrayal of Charity

The Sins that Sabotage Divine Love

Matthew Levering

Publication Year: 2011

Love was at one time a powerfully unifying force among Christians. In his letters, Paul consistently evokes charity as the avenue to both human and divine communion. If the magnitude of charity was of the upmost importance to early Christians, so were those sins that aimed to distract Christians from acting based on love. Taking seriously the efforts of Paul, and later Thomas Aquinas, to expose and root out the sins against charity, Matthew Levering reclaims the centrality of love for moral, and in fact all, theology.

As Levering argues, the practice of charity leads to inner joy and peace as well as outward mercy, good will, and unity with God and neighbor. The sins against charity—hatred, sloth, envy, discord and contention, schism, war and strife, and sedition and scandal—threaten love’s concrete effects by rebelling against dependence on God and undermining interdependence on others. The Betrayal of Charity seriously considers the consequences of each of the sins against love, compelling individuals and communities to recognize their own loss of charity. In doing so, Levering fosters a spirit of restoration and reminds readers that love—not the sins against it—will have the last word.

Published by: Baylor University Press


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Title page

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p. iii


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

This book focuses on the sins against charity, but it arose from the generosity and kindness of many wonderful friends. Michael Root, whom I have been privileged to call my friend since we enjoyed a good Italian dinner together in Naples (Florida) some years ago, and Jim Buckley, a friend from the Evangelicals and Catholics Together group in...

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pp. 1-14

In chapter 13 of his First Letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul famously praises charity as never-ending and as greater even than faith and hope. As the biblical scholar Richard Hays observes, however, Paul actually devotes most of his attention to charity’s opposites. Hays shows that “the weight of Paul’s interest falls upon closely to the behavior of the Corinthians as described elsewhere ...

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1--Is Charity Violent?

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pp. 15-27

For a growing number of contemporary scholars, charity itself—at least as it has been understood by most Christians over the centuries—is a sin against love. This chapter sets forth these concerns as found in the works of Regina Schwartz and Laurel Schneider, who argue that Trinitarian monotheism imbeds a violent principle of exclusion within human communities....

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2--Hatred and the God of Israel

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pp. 29-40

The first sin against charity treated by Thomas Aquinas is hatred. Hatred of God would not be possible if we knew God in himself, because he is infinite goodness. We can hate God because in this life we know God only through his effects. Our experience of these effects can be unpleasant, and this experience can lead us to hatred...

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3--Sloth and the Joy of the Resurrection

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pp. 41-62

Rebecca DeYoung identifies biblical examples of the vice of sloth “in the Israelites’ resistance to embracing their new home in the promised land, and in Lot’s wife turning back to the familiarity of Sodom while angels attempted to rescue her.”1 In both cases, she connects sloth with a failure to trust in God’s redemption. This chapter extends...

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4--Envy and God-Reliance

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pp. 63-78

Remarking upon the presence of ambition in each human being, Ralph Waldo Emerson states, “We honor the rich because they have externally the freedom, power, and grace, which we feel to be proper to man, proper to us. So all that is said of the wise man by Stoic or Oriental or modern...

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5--Discord, Contention, and Ecclesial Peace

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pp. 79-91

Discussing discord as a sin against charity, Thomas Aquinas grants that discord need not always be sinful. When Paul and Barnabas disagree with each other in Acts 15:39, for example, their conflict does not rise to the level of discord because they continue to share the same aim. Similarly, when Paul provokes the Pharisees and Sadducees in Acts 23:6, he...

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6--Schism and Liturgical Mediation

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pp. 93-105

In Numbers 16 Moses and Aaron defend their leadership of the people of God against a schism led by Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. In seeking to understand schism and its healing, this chapter first explores the role of (hierarchical) liturgical action in uniting the people of God. Since my sympathetic reading of Numbers 15–18 cuts against the...

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7--War and the Interpretation of Scripture

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pp. 107-126

Among the sins against charity, Thomas Aquinas includes war, strife, and sedition. He distinguishes strife from legitimate self-defense and argues that “strife is always sinful” because it is “inspired by vengeance and hatred.”1 A favorite source for Aquinas’ theology of strife is the book...

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8--Scandal, Scapegoats, and Spiritual Downfall

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pp. 127-142

According to Thomas Aquinas, scandal contradicts charity’s outward act of beneficence. The beneficent person does good to his or her friends; charity extends this friendship to all humans. In this regard, Aquinas cites the words of Paul: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to...

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pp. 143-147

Quoting Étienne Gilson’s remark that “the most marvelous of all things a being can do is to be,” Josef Pieper attempts to describe the basis of love: “For what the lover gazing upon his beloved says and means is...


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pp. 149-191

Works Cited

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pp. 193-208

Scripture Index

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pp. 209-211

General Index

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pp. 212-219

E-ISBN-13: 9781602583559
E-ISBN-10: 1602583552
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602583566
Print-ISBN-10: 1602583560

Page Count: 229
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1st

OCLC Number: 769189748
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Betrayal of Charity

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Subject Headings

  • Thomas, Aquinas, Saint, 1225?-1274.
  • Charity.
  • Love -- Religious aspects -- Catholic Church.
  • Sin -- Christianity.
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