Sunday, 3 May 2015

Thomas Clemmons: The Christological lens of the Cassiciacum Dialogues

Much attention in recent scholarship has been given to Augustine's earliest works. This scholarship, on the whole, seeks to address and alter the position prevailing throughout the 20th century, which held that Augustine was converted to Platonism and only when ordained in 391/2 did his theology significantly evolve. However, scholars such as C. Harrison, B. Dobell, and J. BeDuhn have complicated our understanding of the development, constitutive factors, and significance of Augustine's early thought. While engaging this scholarship, I present a different interpretive lens for understanding Augustine's early thought. I focus on two aspects of Augustine's thought that have, I believe, received insufficient attention: Augustine's diagnosis of Manichaeism and the Christological hermeneutic employed by Augustine in these early dialogues.
In this paper, I assess the literary structure of the Cassiciacum Dialogues including the Soliloquys and book I of De libero arbitrio. I argue that these works, using the similar dialogue form, present Augustine’s criticism of Manichaeism and Academic skepticism, and, more importantly, Augustine’s positive theology concerning Christ. Often, scholars emphasize one aspect of these works; however, detailing how both motives inform Augustine’s project leads us to a more complex but more complete understanding of these works.

Lastly, I focus particularly on the place given to the Incarnation of Christ. It is this aspect, the Word becoming Incarnate, that is Augustine’s guiding lens through which these early dialogues should be read. From this vantage, the complementarity of these seemingly disparate works becomes more evident, as does the development of Augustine’s thought.

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