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Christian Love and Biological Altruism

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The first part of my investigation of the Christian love command and biological research on altruism is organized around three key themes whose different forms both in the theological and in the sociobiological context are investigated: The awareness of expanding inclusiveness concerns the issue of extending love or altruistic behavior beyond the most immediate neighbor, even to enemies. The awareness of excessive demand concerns the question of the ability of the human being, to fulfill an excessive demand placed by the command of love or by altruistic admonitions. Threshold awareness finally concerns the question whether love or altruism constitutes a step on the way to a “new human” and a “new world.”

In the second part I introduce two models for the relationship between Christian religion or theology and sociobiology. The model by Ralph Wendell Burhoe is characterized by a functional approach toward religion, which is the crucial factor within culture for motivating human beings to act altruistically toward nonrelated individuals. This functional analysis of religion is a constructive contribution to a scientific description of the world. The other model, by Philip Hefner, is theologically oriented and emphasizes the intrinsic character of altruistic love, which has its origin in God and whose anthropological preconditions are elucidated in sociobiological research.

The goal of this investigation is to show that a better mutual understanding is preferable to a total incorporation of the investigated domains into each other.
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Keywords: Christian love; New Testament; Philip Hefner; Ralph W. Burhoe; altruism; created co-creator; creatio continua; interdisciplinarity; mutual understanding; religion; scientific theology; sociobiology

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-12-01

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