The counsel against despair : a study in John Chrysostom's ethics
Christian ethics are ecclesial. The aim of this study is to sustain this conviction in the case of St John Chrysostom. The pastoral concern "The Counsel against Despair" provides the interpretative key to his ethics. The full spectrum of his works, most of which are homilies, are examined in this study. The thesis begins with an account of the wider theological issues involved. This is particularly necessary because pastoral ministry has generally been regarded as peripheral to theology proper, and homiletical material has usually been dismissed as an improper source for understanding patristic ethics. In the main body of the thesis, the problem of despair is situated in Chrysostom's overall theological vision. The intrinsic connection of ethics to ecclesiology is explored through an analysis of the pivotal role which a community in mutual consolation and exhortation plays in the overcoming of moral impotence and moral confusion. The implications for the moral commitments of an individual are also examined. Attention is given throughout the analysis to the crucial points of departure between Chrysostom and those among his predecessors and contemporaries who maintain a more rational and volitional interpretation of ethics. A concluding chapter reflects on Chrysostom's contribution to the understanding of the nature of pastoral ministry in the modern age. An Augustinian and a post-Vatican II Roman Catholic approach to the problem of ecclesiastical discipline are analysed and found unsatisfactory. Chrysostom's line of reasoning offers a way to situate pastoral ministry in a wider moral framework. The thesis aims to show that homiletical material and the place of the affections in theological ethics should receive more attention from patrologists and systematic theologians.