faith, hope…and love?

I had a great time taking part in the Theological Anthropologies panel at last week’s AAS conference.

As you would expect, we spent considerable time talking about faith (or belief). There was also an interesting focus on what Philip Fountain called an ‘hermeneutics of hope’. That is, a practice of hopeful interpretation. An attempt, perhaps, to give anthropology some of the clout Joel Robbins identifies as a characteristic of theology — the ability to identify a better way of living and produce a powerful call for change.

In this context of thinking about the nexus between Theology and Anthropology, and with the focus on faith and hope I couldn’t help but think of 1 Corinthians 13

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

When I went and looked it up, I was surprised to be reminded that this statement directly follows what seems to be a reflection on knowledge itself,

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Corinthians 13: 8-12

And it made me wonder, if we’re spending time talking about faithful anthropology and hopeful anthropology, what would a loving anthropology look like? Why is it easier for us to talk about faith and hope in the secular academy than it is to talk of love?

Thanks to Philip Fountain and Sin Wen Lau for co-ordinating it all, and to Matt Tomlinson for an engaging discussion as we wrapped it all up.


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