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Deus est caritas: The Theological Voice of Gabriele Biondo as a Programme of Personal and Social Reformation

Citation: Guida, Vito (2021) Deus est caritas: The Theological Voice of Gabriele Biondo as a Programme of Personal and Social Reformation. Doctoral thesis, School of Advanced Study.

Vito Guida PhD Final Thesis.pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

‘God is love’ is a fundamental axiom of the Christian faith, for it defines God and every divine action, it establishes the parameters of the relationship between God and human beings, and it gives purpose to human existence. At the same time, though, it is also believed that at the end time there will be a final judgement by God that will forever divide human beings into the saved and the damned. Starting by what is perceived as the unreconcilable dichotomy between love and justice, my dissertation explores how the secular priest Gabriele Biondo, who lived between the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries, confronted this problematic antinomy both theologically and practically, that is, how he elaborated on it in his writings and how, as a charismatic leader, his thoughts influenced his close followers. In the first part of my dissertation, I outline the main philosophical, theological, and anthropological categories on which my argument is built. I then continue with an analysis of how unsettling the relationship between God and human beings can be. I begin by examining the case of Lucifer as the model for human rebellion against God’s orderly universe from two different angles. Lucifer was not perceived as an abstract idea, but was deemed to have actual catastrophic effects on the lives of human beings. Part 3 studies Biondo’s views regarding how God’s grace could mend the relationship between God and human beings. I will show that, by studying the notion of grace in connection with the concepts of mediatorship and communication, grace can be defined both as a gift and as a divine Thou, who speaks personally to human beings. Biondo believed that the reformation brought about by grace within each individual took place as a form of self-annihilation. Along these theological lines, I will explore Biondo’s ideas of poverty and kenosis (self-emptying) in existential terms. The requests and commitments that Biondo imposed on his followers were highly demanding: the model to embrace was that of the cross. The reward, however, was a temporary vision of divine glory. While in the first two parts the tension of love and justice seems to disappear – sinning is justly punished, and the elect is justly rewarded – in the ecclesial dimension, investigated in Part 4, Biondo’s understanding of love and justice becomes problematic. I begin with an analysis of the way in which Biondo criticises the religious orders. Once the shortcomings of the ecclesiastical institutions are established, it becomes necessary to identify the principles that defined Biondo’s understanding of the church. I start with the positive elements: reciprocity and universal adoption in God through Christ. I then examine the challenging aspects of Biondo’s ecclesiology: the notion of rest, predestination, and the abrogation of gratuitous grace. These elements had profound consequences on Biondo’s definition of the church, for God seems to move from honesty to deception, from truth to falsehood, from unitive love to separation.

Creators: Guida, Vito and
Subjects: History
Keywords: soteriology, religious anxiety, election, reform, theologia poetica, predestination, religious tolerance, philosophy of religion
Divisions: Warburg Institute
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 27 September 2021 (accepted)


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