Thursday, May 19, 2016

On Augustine by Rowan Williams, Augustine by Robin Lane Fox review – the theologian, with and without sex

From The Guardian-

These two new books on Augustine of Hippo, the towering figure of late-antique Latin theology, could not be more different, but that will hardly come as a surprise. Robin Lane Fox is an ancient historian who once wrote a book (The Unauthorised Version, 1991) announcing his own atheism and his intention to expose the historical contradictions underlying the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Rowan Williams retired as archbishop of Canterbury in 2012 – while in the role he repeatedly defended the rights of the religious to resist secularism. Lane Fox writes with a historian’s gift for exposing the strangeness of a different culture; Williams immerses himself in the theological subtleties of one of antiquity’s most ambitious thinkers.

Williams’s book, a collection of revised articles (and one sermon) written for different audiences, has all the trappings of academia: sophisticated, challenging prose, German titles in the footnotes, sometimes even untranslated Latin (not all of it, I am bound to say as a classicist, reproduced perfectly). But for all that, it is less a critical study than an attempt to enlist the ancient writer as an ally for the modern theologian. For Williams, Augustine matters as the thinker who elevated doubt, questioning and self-consciousness – gathered up in the idea of “confessions”, which became the title of his most famous work – to a spiritual state. The underlying message is that if we, in our secular world, feel paralysed by the moral complexity around us, that should lead us not to postmodern relativism and ennui, but to acknowledging that our own limitations and weaknesses are what make us human, and – more importantly – that true knowledge and wisdom are dependent on our philosophical acceptance of God within the community of Christian believers.

More here-

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