I received Christopher West’s latest book The Love That Satisfies: Reflections on Eros and Agape for review and I found this to be a wonderful book. I have never read any of Christopher West’s books before, but was aware of his work as one of the foremost teachers and populizer of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. His latest book takes Pope Benedict XVI first encyclical Deus Caritas Est for use as a guiding template on the topics of Eros and Agape. He selected 63 key quotes from the first part of Deus Caritas Est which mainly deals with the relationship of Eros and Agape and unpacks them in easily understandable language.
Reading Deus Caritas Est before I never realized how it matches up so closely to John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Though this is not surprising and any way and Pope John Paul II’s understanding is quite useful in understanding and getting the most out of Pope Benedict’s first encyclical. While Deus Caritas Est is not that difficult to read, it is nice to take a more leisurely stroll through some of the key ideas in the first part and to explore them more closely in the context of our society today. The book’s nine chapters prominently deal with Eros and Agape, what they are, their proper relationship, and their common misunderstandings. Like just about everything in the Catholic faith once again it is a case of both/and and not the divisive separation the so-called sexual revolution has give them. It is not Eros that was poisoned by Christians, but Agape that was poisoned and a wedge driven between Agape and Eros by our culture.
Throughout the book Christopher West looks at the fruits of the “sexual revolution” which he says should be called the “pornographic revolution.” Like many revolutions they often end up with a dictator in control, and this case it was the dictatorship of libido. He uses the examples of people like St. Augustine, Hugh Hefner, Bono, Truman Burbank (from the movie The Truman Show), and others to illustrate his points. The book though does not take a confrontational view in the culture wars, but gives us a proper understanding and the hope that goes with it. He also describes the tendencies to either Angelism (spirit against the body) or animalism (body to the neglect of the spirit) and the damage these unbalanced views cause. As with all heresies and errors it is the exaggeration of one truth and the diminishing of another that provides the most potent damage. It is only when we start to realize God’s love for us that we can learn to respond in a fully human manner where Eros and Agape our properly balanced.
Christopher West as produced a quite magnificent book that takes serious theological ideas down to a level easily absorbed. I truly got a lot out of this book and it has given me much to think about and makes me want to read the Pope’s encyclical once again to get even more out of it.