Rereading Historical Theology: Before, During, and After Augustine

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Augustine of Hippo is arguably the most influential author in the history of Christian thought and institutions. Yet he has been revered by some reviewers and vilified by others. Contemporary critical approaches to historical authors can illuminate features of Augustine's thought and activities that are not noticed when reviewers' attention is either exclusively sympathetic or intransigently critical. Anyone who seeks to present an Augustine who has relevance for ...
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Overview

Description:
Augustine of Hippo is arguably the most influential author in the history of Christian thought and institutions. Yet he has been revered by some reviewers and vilified by others. Contemporary critical approaches to historical authors can illuminate features of Augustine's thought and activities that are not noticed when reviewers' attention is either exclusively sympathetic or intransigently critical. Anyone who seeks to present an Augustine who has relevance for the twenty-first century must somehow hold together delight in the beauty of his prose and the profundity of his thought with dismay over some of the intentions and effects of his teachings. The essays in this book endeavor to read Augustine simultaneously critically and appreciatively. Miles places his thought in the context of his classical heritage and notices how pervasive in later Christian authors are the themes that informed Augustine's thought. Understanding his writings as a passionate effort to describe a metaphysical universe that accounts for the endlessly fascinating mystery of embodied life makes many of Augustine's proposals accessible, useful, and delightful in the context of contemporary quandaries and issues. His conclusions are less important than his method: In Augustine, knowledge and life mutually illuminate, energize, and critique each other, exemplifying the practice of a fully human life. Exploring some of his most persistent themes, these essays seek to show how Augustine's theology works.

Endorsements:
""For years Margaret Miles has been patiently honoring the question of the body in historical theology. In this collection of sixteen of her best essays, she tracks the ambivalences in Augustine's love of the flesh, finds a Platonism with an earthly pull, sustains her sense of an antique social location, and finishes with a flourish of mystics and reformers--all successors to an Augustinian passion. An historian of great cultural sensitivity, Miles is not afraid to meet the past under the skin of contemporary life (where it, in fact, has always been). In the art of critical sympathy, she has no peer.""
--James Wetzel, Villanova University

""Margaret Miles has long been one of the most imaginative and suggestive readers of Augustine and his thought. Combining the highest standards of critical historical scholarship with an extraordinary ability to penetrate to the heart of Augustine's thought, Miles is always worth reading and reading over. These essays should be required reading for all interested in Augustine and--equally importantly--in his legacy in the Christian tradition.""
--Lewis Ayres, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

""This bookdoeswhat few academic books attempt--a real engagement and conversation with an ancient author, letting ourthoughts and viewsinteract with his. As Miles touches on diverse topics of interest to any modern person, others are also brought into the conversation--not just Augustine, but also Plato, Aristotle, Calvin, and Luther. Whether one wishes to discredit or to appropriate Augustine's views, one will find here much material that challenges and leads to further discussion.""
--KimPaffenroth, Iona College

""Reading Miles reading Augustine is a delight and a window on the development of modern critical theory applied to historical theology. Miles is simply brilliant and her Augustine shines with a brilliance borne of Miles's careful and close reading, important new theories, and her love of Augustine that brings the ancient theologian to life. This is a significant collection of essays that no serious historian of theology should miss.""
--Richard Valantasis, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

""In these sixteen essays, Miles claims--against an 'escapist transcendence'--that bodies are central to theological knowledge. She explores themes of desire, beauty, and happiness in their relation to the body in the writings of Augustine's philosophical predecessors,

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556352164
  • Publisher: Wipf & Stock Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/2008
  • Pages: 326
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret R. Miles is Emerita Professor of Historical Theology at The Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. She was Bussey Professor of Theology at the Harvard University Divinity School until 1996 when she became Dean of the Graduate Theological Union until her retirement in 2002. Her books include A Complex Delight: The Secularization of the Breast, 1350-1750; The Word Made Flesh: A History of Christian Thought; Plotinus on Body and Beauty; and Seeing and Believing: Religion and Values in the Movies.

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