Saturday, 7 February 2015

Anthony Dupont: Paper: An African Theology of Grace and Original Sin?Workshop: 'Out of Africa': The Quest for North African Theological Identity(/-ies) in the Patristic Era

In what way was the theology of grace and original sin constitutive for the identity of North African Christianity in general, and how did Augustine of Hippo - one of the most important African theologians, especially because of his ideas in this regard - play a role in the development of this doctrine in Africa? Was there a tradition regarding original sin and grace that was typical of (only) North African Christianity, and which Augustine systematized? Favouring the postponement of baptism until a more ‘mature' age is reached, Tertullian accepts the existing practice of infant baptism in articulo mortis [De baptismo 18] and speaks of "uitium originis" in De anima 41, 1. Supported by an episcopal council, Cyprian argues that infants should be baptised since they are born from a guilty race/because of the Adamic sin in Epistula 64, 5.  Regarding grace, V. Buchheit [1989] has suggested, for instance, that Cyprian's auto-description of his conversion in Ad Donatum 3-4 contains elements of a doctrine of grace in the context of baptism (as liberation from sin which human beings are not able to effect), inspired, among other things, by African baptismal creeds and Tertullian. This description actually exhibits important similarities with Augustine's conversion account and ideas on grace. We will thus, in other words, by evaluating whether Augustine's appeal to Tertullian and Cyprian is legitimate, or an anachronistic manipulation, explore the possible specificity of the African theology of sin and grace.

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