Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Matthias Smalbrugge: Deification in Augustine, outside of a Christological approach

Research on the theme of deification in Augustine, is not very frequent.  After the study of Gerald Bonner (1986), his conclusions apparently were generally accepted. Namely that deification was a notion that allowed Augustine to describe a certain adoption of man by God in a merely Christological way. In that sense, it could even equate the notion of justification, though both of these soteriological effects were only to be bestowed on the elected. Secondly, that it couldn't be seen as an element  in a watershed between Eastern and Western traditions. The most recent study on deification, by David Vincent Meconi, doesn't change this view and so it seems that the notion of deification had been wholly Christianised, Augustine  following closely the scheme already developed by Irenaeus and Athanasius: Christ became man in order that men could become gods.
But the neoplatonic background of this concept remains a uneasy one. If the notion is ‘only' one of the many ways Augustine speaks about grace, election and adoption, wouldn't it be, once again, a philosophical approach that is completely Christianised? In this paper however, I would like to show that the theme of deification allows him to work in a new way on the  (neo-) platonic theme of unity and diversity. What he did, was not using a philosophical framework on behalf of his belief, he used Trinitarian belief in order to clarify a philosophical problem.

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