Barrett’s Book Notes: Augustine
Augustine is truly one of the greatest theologians of all time. It is strange, therefore, to see little interaction with him by contemporary pastors and theologians. Typically Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and C. S. Lewis get the spotlight. While I highly value each of these historical figures, I wonder if we have neglected Augustine. Right now I am working on a project that I hope will bring some attention to Augustine again (more on that in the years to come, Lord willing). In the meantime, I have noticed a few new works on Augustine. They are all academic books, which makes me think we could use more books on Augustine at the pastoral and lay level too. That said, here they are.
Matthew Levering. Theology of Augustine, The: An Introductory Guide to His Most Important Works. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.
This is a book to start with if you want to receive an overview of Augustine’s most important works. Levering covers:
On Christian Doctrine
Answer to Faustus, A Manichean
Homilies on the First Epistle of John
On the Predestination of the Saints
City of God
On the Trinity
As you can see, Levering does not cover all of Augustine’s works (not even close), but the works he does cover are representative and are Augustine’s most famous contributions. Carl Trueman recently praised Levering’s work and you can read his review here.
C. C. Pecknold and Tarmo Toom, eds. The T&T Clark Companion to Augustine and Modern Theology (Continuum Companions). London: Bloomsbury: T&T Clark, 2013.
T&T Clark has been releasing a number of “companion” volumes and one of their latest is on Augustine. Part 1 is an overview of Augustine’s theology, from the Triune God to Last Things. Part 2 compares Augustine to those who came after, including Aquinas, Bonaventure, Luther, Calvin, Henri de Lubac, and John Zizioulas. I am especially interested in Anthony N. S. Lane’s chapter on Calvin because Augustine had so much influence on Calvin, as evident in Calvin’s polemic against Pighius. This companion volume is not an encyclopedia but a handbook, as each chapter is an essay that provides a succinct introduction.
Here are two commendations for this
This impressive volume bears the fruits of the Augustine renewal of the past fifteen years. The editors have gathered together major essays of a uniformly high level. With this book, Augustinian theology as a constructive and ecumenical venture moves to the forefront of the theological scene. -Matthew Levering, University of Dayton, USA
The time is right for this book. The renewed interest in the study of theology and in the thought of the early Church that followed the Second Vatican Council has reached a certain maturity. It is, therefore, a good moment to expand the reach of each discipline by deepening the conversation between them. This Companion to Augustine and Modern Theology claims that it will be “useful in the hands of students seeking to bring the wisdom of Augustine to their own theological labors.” (p. 17) It is, I think, more than that. It will also challenge theologians to examine their agreements and differences with Augustine and learn to exploit the tensions they find there in productive ways. It will challenge those who study Augustine to show how the pastoral quality of his thought keeps his theology firmly engaged with the times and situations he faced. The collection of articles found in this book are a good beginning. They deal with central themes and significant historical figures in a way that ought to stimulate both further engagement and more publications. -Allan Fitzgerald, O.S.A., Villanova University, USA
Michael Cameron. Christ Meets Me Everywhere: Augustine’s Early Figurative Exegesis (Oxford Studies in Historical Theology). Oxford Studies in Historical Theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
In this recent scholarly contribution, Cameron makes a fascinating argument, one that will no doubt be debated, namely, that when Augustine read certain stories or texts in Scripture he saw himself in those texts. In other words, he transposed himself into those texts. So he saw himself in the story of the prodigal’s son or in Paul’s conflict in Romans 7 with the law of God, etc. Cameron calls this way of reading Scripture “figuration.” I have not read this book by Cameron so I cannot speak to the book’s accuracy and credibility, but no doubt Cameron’s thesis will generate discussion. Here is what Lewis Ayres had to say:
“Augustine specialists have long known Michael Cameron’s articles and his original dissertation as a vein of gold running through a huge scholarly mountain. That gold has now been mined, purified and shaped into the most important work on scripture in Augustine’s thought to be published in a generation. At the heart of this book Cameron shows us Augustine shaping an account of Scripture as he develops a theology of Christ’s salvific work. At the same time, Cameron offers us a magisterial vision of the ways in which Augustine adapts ancient rhetorical and analytical tools for his Christian ends. In an era when early Christian exegesis has caught the attention of historians and theologians of all types, Cameron’s exposition of Augustine should be on the reading lists of all devoted to the theological enterprise.”
Matthew Barrett (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University, as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. He is the author and editor of several books, including Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration. You can read about Barrett’s other publications at matthewmbarrett.com.