Amor Dei in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries


Amor Dei, “love of God” raises three questions: How do we know God is love? How do we experience love of God? How free are we to love God? This book presents three kinds of love, worldly, spiritual, and divine to understand God’s love. The work begins with Augustine’s Confessions highlighting his Manichean and Neoplatonic periods before his conversion to Christianity. Augustine’s confrontation with Pelagius anticipates the unresolved disputes concerning God’s love and free will. In the sixteenth-century the Italian humanist, Gasparo Contarini introduces the notion of “divine amplitude” to demonstrate how God’s goodness is manifested in the human agent. Pierre de Bérulle, Guillaume Gibieuf, and Nicolas Malebranche show connections with Contarini in the seventeenth-century controversies relating free will and divine love. In response to the free will dispute, the Scottish philosopher, William Chalmers, offers his solution. Cornelius Jansen relentlessly asserts his anti-Pelagian interpretation of Augustine stirring up more controversy. John Norris, Malebranche’s English disciple, exchanges his views with Mary Astell and Damaris Masham. In the tradition of Cambridge Platonism, Ralph Cudworth conveys a God who “sweetly governs.” The organization of sections represents the love of God in ascending-descending movements demonstrating that, “human love is inseparable from divine love.”

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“A carefully nuanced overview of the way in which the Augustinian notion of the “Love of God” came to be developed within later Counter-Reformation … a useful introduction to a raging debate that undergirded the tumultuous Reformations of the early modern period. … opens a door for students of theology as well as of early modern philosophy. …. Social and cultural historians will also benefit from reading this work as a way to better understand some of the grand intellectual themes which served to frame both social and cultural currents of this period”
Sixteenth Century Journal – XLV /2 (2014)
Kenneth A. Bryson: Editorial Foreword
Augustine: The Experience of Love
Interpreting Love in Augustine
Nature and Knowledge
Problems with Love in Augustine
Truth, Conversion, and Conflict
Augustine’s Intellectual Journey
Manichean Conversion
Plotinian Influences
From “Darkness” to the Free Will
Augustine and Pelagianism
Augustine on Grace
Augustinianism: Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
Early Modern Philosophy
Gasparo Contarini
L’École Française and Pierre de Bérulle
Guillaume Gibieuf
William Chalmers
Jansen of Ypres
Scotus Eriugena and Dionysius the Areopagite
Divine Amplitude: The Agency of Love
Malebranche and the Love of God
Malebranche, Lamy, and Norris
“Vision in God”
John Norris: Malebranche’s Disciple
God’s Knowledge
Three Letters to Bernard Lamy
Vision in God and Divine Love
Sweetness of God
Ralph Cudworth and the Divine
Free Will
Cudworth’s God of Love
Human Response to Divine Love
Cudworth and Augustine
Works Cited
About the Author