Thursday, September 5, 2013

4 Lessons From the Most Influential Theologian Ever

One of the best introductions to the greatest theologians of Church history is without a doubt Gerald R. McDermott's book The Great Theologians: A Brief Guide. The author offers both great survey's of the biographies of these eleven men and insight into their theology and why they matter. McDermott refers to Augustine as the most influential theologian ever and in the conclusion of his chapter on Augustine, the author offers four lessons we learn from him.
1. It is unrealistic and un-Christian to imagine that human nature after the Fall is basically good. It is a shallow conception of humanity to jump from the observation of the many good things people do, to the conclusion that human nature is naturally altruistic. Any deeper look into the human condition will follow lines traced by Augustine to the realization that while God has made us in his image and we have many noble ideals, we do not have the ability to carry them out. Instead we seem to be handicapped b inherent self-obsession. If it were indeed true that we have the ability to perfect ourselves and become righteous, then there was no need for Christ to die for us. The Passion would have been superfluous.

2. Augustine reminds us that the kingdom of God is for the sick not the healthy, for the sinners not the perfected. This is good news for those of us who realize how sinful we are. If the kingdom were only for the righteous, the discerning among us would be in despair.

3.Augustine is often blamed for introducing an unhealthy self-hatred to the Christian church because of his pessimistic view of human nature, especially its moral inability to choose the good apart from God's supporting grace. He is also said to have made God into a cruel Being who created people who were sinful from the get-go and so never had a chance. But Augustine actually provides a way for us to see that God is good and created only good things. He created Adam (and us in Adam) as wholly good. It was Adam, and we in him, who turned what was good into something bad. this means that we can hold to the Christian doctrine of original sin and God's goodness at the same time. God not only created us good, but he also took infinite pains to rescue us from our self-inflicted badness.

4. Augustine also helps us to see that we should not look for the kingdom of God on earth, or for a pure church. Any political program that promises the end of evil and suffering should stimulate some healthy skepticism in us. We should also not be surprised or disillusioned if we encounter sin and evil in the church. it is then nature of the church to be a mixed company of wheat and tares. What's more, the devil is real and will attack inside the church more than outside it, for he knows who his real enemies are. This realization will protect us from being seduced by both utopianism and fanaticism.

For more:
"The Great Theologians" by Gerald McDermott: A Review 
The Great Theologians: An Interview with Gerald McDermott
Some Things Never Change: Origen on the Frustration of Preaching
The Greatest Theologians

Theologians I Have Been Influenced By - The Dead
Theologians I Have Been Influenced By - The Living
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