Saturday, 4 November 2017

Book Review: Bradley Green, Colin Gunton and the Failure of Augustine

Bradley G. Green, Colin Gunton and the Failure of Augustine: The Theology of Colin Gunton in Light of Augustine (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 2012)

It is no secret that the late Colin Gunton held St. Augustine responsible for many of the problems besetting Western thought and culture. However, recently, a number of commentators have intimated that Gunton’s interpretation of Augustine’s theology is not as fair as it should be. Brad Green is one such commentator.

Green’s volume, most likely the first book-length treatment of Gunton and Augustine, is divided into seven chapters. The opening chapter summarises Gunton’s critique of Augustine (Gunton’s evaluation effectively centres on perceived deficiencies in Augustine’s doctrine of the Trinity) and outlines other responses – negative and positive – to Augustine’s views. Chapters 2–5 deal with Gunton’s theology and Augustine’s theology in turn: chapters 2 and 4 consider creation and redemption (first in Gunton’s thought, secondly in Augustine’s); chapters 3 and 5 analyse being and ontology. In Chapter 6, Green offers his own assessment of Gunton’s reading of Augustine’s theology, concluding that had he engaged more fully with Augustine’s doctrine of the Trinity, especially as expressed in the latter’s De Trinitate, Gunton would have found support for his own (commendable) theological project. As Green notes in the concluding chapter, the differences between Augustine and Gunton and their motivations are not major.

Not all of Green’s arguments will convince (Gunton would have defended himself quite effectively against some of the comments); the overall presentation suffers stylistically from some repetition through restatement (to be fair, this is undoubtedly necessitated by the close reading required for such a thesis); and more than a few typographical errors have escaped elimination. These relatively minor points aside, Colin Gunton and the Failure of Augustine is a welcome contribution to the body of literature on both theologians. It should not be ignored.

This review was originally published in Theological Book Review 24:1 (2012), p. 42

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