Colin Gunton and the Failure of Augustine
The Theology of Colin Gunton in Light of Augustine
Distinguished Dissertations in Christian Theology
Imprint: Pickwick Publications
240 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.50 in
- Published: June 2011
- Published: June 2011
- Published: June 2011
Colin Gunton argued that Augustine bequeathed to the West a theological tradition with serious deficiencies. According to Gunton, Augustine's particular construal of the doctrine of God led to fundamental errors and problems in grasping the relationship between creation and redemption, and in rightfully construing a truly Christian ontology. Bradley G. Green's close reading of Augustine challenges Gunton's understanding. Gunton argued that Augustine's supposed emphasis of the one over the many severed any meaningful link between creation and redemption (contra the theological insights of Irenaeus); and that because of Augustine's supposed emphasis on the timeless essence of God at the expense of the three real persons, Augustine failed to forge a truly Christian ontology (effectively losing the insights of the Cappadocian Fathers). For all of Gunton's insights (and there are many), Green argues that Augustine did not sever the link between creation and redemption, but rather affirmed that the created order is a means of genuine knowledge of God, the created order is indeed the only means by which redemption is accomplished, the cross of Christ is the only means by which we can see God, and the created order is fundamentally oriented toward a telos-- redemption. Concerning ontology, Augustine's teaching on the imago Dei, and the prominent role that relationship plays in Augustine's doctrines of man and God, provides the kind of relational Christian ontology that Gunton sought. In short, Green argues, Augustine could have provided Gunton key theological resources in countering the modernity he so rightfully challenged.
"The late Colin Gunton was an ardent and influential critic of Augustine's Trinitarian theology. His work was influential on many in the English speaking theological community. Brad Green's book offers the most sustained critique currently available of Gunton's work and should be read by anyone who has been swayed by Gunton's presentation. But more than this, Green's work also makes available a very different Augustine. Building on the work of a growing body of scholarship, Green reveals to the theological community a vision of Augustine that will help us to think again about this most important of the Church Fathers in the west."
Candler School of Theology
"Brad Green offers a persuasive reading of Augustine that corrects misapprehensions found, not just in the work of Colin Gunton, but much more widely across contemporary theology. He also shows us how Augustine, rightly understood, can be recovered as a positive resource for contemporary theology. The book is not merely corrective, however: the reader will discover a perceptive and sympathetic reading of Gunton's own thought that gives us insight into a significant contemporary figure. This book will open up ancient and modern theology, and how they should be related. These are important matters, and I hope it will be widely read."
University of St. Andrews
"Over the past few decades, Trinitarian theology has risen from the post-Enlightenment deluge in which it seemed to have sunk, and few have played as crucial a role in that development as the late Colin Gunton. Theologians and church leaders alike found in Gunton's work not only a rich theology of God but also the framework for a Trinitarian ontology, aesthetics, science, and cultural analysis--a Trinitarian theology useful in ways that Kant would never have dreamed. At the foundation of Gunton's work was the claim that Augustine early on steered Western theology into a reef, leaving contemporary theologians to gather the wreckage and rebuild. Through an appreciative yet critical examination of Gunton's project, and an equally cogent treatment of Augustine, Brad Green has gently corrected Gunton's reading of Augustine, showing that the Bishop of Hippo left Western theology far more seaworthy than Gunton believed. In the process, Green strengthens Gunton's case against modernity by providing some Augustinian equipment. This is theology of a high caliber--judicious, clear, convincing, and, above all, serviceable to the church as it navigates the roiling seas of modernity and postmodernity."
New Saint Andrews College
"Brad Green set out to vindicate Colin Gunton's revolutionary critique of Augustine-namely, that he is a proto-Unitarian who imports the ancient Greek emphasis on the One into his own doctrine of the Trinity. Instead Green came to see, in ways that others have not, that Gunton is quite wrongheaded in tracing our modern and post-modern ills to an alleged monergism in Augustine. Far from failing to emphasize the communal character of the Trinity--allegedly denying the insights of the Cappadocians in this matter--Augustine has a robust doctrine of the three Persons as dwelling in utterly self-offering community. In his carefully argued and lucidly written dissertation, Green shows that Augustine's Trinitarian communalism--especially as it engaged ancient pagan culture--offers the real antidote to the perilous individualism that is the chief legacy of the Enlightenment."
"Dr. Green is an accomplished scholar with a deep knowledge of Augustine and other church fathers. His proposed reply to the line recently taken by Colin Gunton and others is necessary and timely. Professor Gunton overplayed his hand and distorted Augustine's perspectives in various ways, which Dr. Green aims to elucidate. There is a growing body of secondary literature that takes Gunton at face value on this subject, and it is essential to refute it before it becomes a new orthodoxy. Dr. Green's proposal is therefore most welcome."
Beeson Divinity School