02 March 2007

Something Lost in Transmission

Some strange remarks in a review this morning of a collection of essays on Augustine's Confessions --"cutting edge research into Augustinian studies", mind you--which it perhaps falls to a blogger to point out.

About Augustine's reflections on his theft of the pears in book II:

[Scott] MacDonald re-examines the theft and ultimately finds two
reasons for the theft and why it was included. The theft made it seem
like Augustine had 'limitless freedom and power' (p. 65), but in fact
he did not because only God has these qualities. The second reason was
Augustine's clear desire 'to love and be loved' (p. 65).
Okay, if you sit down and read the passage, you find that Augustine gives (roughly) these two reasons. Is that all that MacDonald said? I fear that something's been lost in transmission.

Elsewhere we are told:
Wolterstorff then examines the idea of a nonsuffering, apathetic God
(p. 122) and how this relates to Augustine's idea of emotions. He
spends some time examining Aquinas and his ideas that God cannot
experience emotions as humans do and in fact has no emotions (p. 128).
Augustine, therefore, thought it was a sin to grieve over the physical
death of his mother because 'in God there is no sorrow or suffering'
(p. 108 and p.120).
On that line of thought, of course, to feel any emotion would be a sin! --But I suspect the difficulty here isn't with Augustine or Wolterstorff.

Then again:
In another article by MacDonald ("The Divine Nature") the complex issue
of the divine nature is examined. The idea that God was truly
immaterial was a relatively new one in the fourth century.
Huh? Did Aristotle think that God was enmattered? Or is God bodily in Hebrew and Christian scripture? I suppose in the big scheme of things, maybe on the time scale of a Great Sequoia Tree, 700 or 1500 years can seem like only yesterday.


Anonymous said...

I guess what I don't get is what is meant by "cutting edge" research. The reviewer clearly acknowledges that this anthology is a collection consisting primarily of reprints (one over twenty years old). And then, almost in the next paragraph, the reviewer claims this is cutting edge. I hardly have the pulse of Augustinian studies, but it must be beating mightly slow if the reviewer is right.

Anonymous said...

Yahweh seems to be embodied in some OT episodes, notably when Moses has to hide in the cleft of a rock while He passes by, and sees his "nether parts." Somewhere in Exodus, I think.

Obviously this doesn't affect your main point.