Doyley’s critique – first impressions

Posted: January 30, 2012 by J in Church history, Theology

Thanks Robert for taking the time to share your understanding with us here at The Grit. It is refreshing to hear your opinion of the original book review stated so forthrightly.

Perhaps I should clarify at this point that the strong opinions about Augustine in that review were largely those of Colin Gunton, not mine. I don’t really have many opinions about Augustine, except that he seems to have trouble writing a clear sentence. But the review did attempt to describe Gunton’s views and in particular his critique of St A. The statement ‘He accepted it [the Trinity], though not very warmly’ – that’s me paraphrasing Gunton. I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear. I was probably just over-relying on the genre of ‘book review’ to provide that sort of context.

It’s also the task of a book review to assess the effectiveness of the writing. So when I described Gunton’s article as ‘persuasive’ I wouldn’t want anyone to hear anything more than a provisional response. It’s just an opinion about the writing, not an opinion about Augustine, of whom I have read little. I did hint that we would like to hear other points of view…

Hope that clarifies.

And now onto your response:

Having heard your views about Gunton given without explanation back at college,  I think it’s great that now you’re making them vulnerable to public consideration in this way.

Here at The Grit we think free and open discussion and debate is a good thing. We try to give everyone a voice. Holding up someone’s work for consideration, contrasting it with other opinions, inviting and provoking response and comment, this is the stuff of every day for The Grit. We are aware that The Grit in the Oyster can cause irritation at times. But it’s worth it for the pearls. I’m confident that, despite any impression given to the contrary, you would really want to encourage this practice.

Having read very little Augustine, I will confine my comments to the process. I like that that you take the time to examine Gunton’s critique in your first point. That quote from Augustine is seriously disturbing. You make the problem seem worse than Gunton suggested.

It would help us here if we could get some explanation of the difference between ‘logical’ and ‘ontological’ relations. Ontology is about being, about the real godness of God as he exists. But how does ‘logic’ come into a discussion about the persons and relations of the Trinity? What does it mean to say their relation is logical?

I notice, Robert, that you begin your response with a personal, generalised criticism of Gunton’s character: impatient etc. But this does not encourage readers to assess the argument without bias. At The Grit we prefer to play the ball, not the man – even if he’s a dead man!

(Grit readers are invited to comment on this Augustine debate without fear or favour…)

  1. I reckon Roberts comments about Gunton are fair game. It was more a scholarly assesment than a personal one.
    If, for example, one of our lecturers at college, consistently lacked generosity in their reading and just pushed their agendas, after a while you’d tend not to pay much attention to their assessment of others, even if you listen closely to their ideas.
    Seems some think Gunton was a bit rash in his academic assesments. Fair enough

    • Jonathan says:

      I have no problem with discounting people’s views if they’ve been found untrustworthy. Expressing that in public, however, is another matter.

      I agree that there is a place for such assessment and such comments. At the beginning of an analysis is not it however.

      But it does raise the question, whether scholarship or personhood is more basic to Gunton’s being…

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