Doyley’s final point – impressions

Posted: February 1, 2012 by J in Church history, Theology

Having read point 3 a number of times, I think I get what RD’s saying.

As usual I will mainly confine myself to commenting on the process.

It’s helpful to get a sense of what’s at stake in talking about essence: the issue is unity. The modern dudes like Volf who define unity in personal terms not essence terms, seem to be on to something, esp. since RD seems to approve of Augustine doing that a few paragraphs later. So maybe that’s the way forward?

Throwing in that stuff about equality complicates the discussion considerably, since equality has not been the issue in view up until now. It really needs its own treatment. I’m treating it as a red herring here and passing it over.

Gunton’s critique needs an answer, says, RD, but in the place where that answer is expected, we get this stuff about how the scholars don’t read latin etc. Once again playing the man not the ball.

Then we’re told that Ayres and Barney have overturned Gunton’s critique. But here would have been the place to explain how, and supply some evidence. But RD leaves us high and dry. As he would say, ‘Disappointed to see strong opinion advanced without evidence.’ 🙂 Mentioning Ayres is not evidence.

In the place we we’re thinking he might unpack a little of Ayres and Barney’s best points, RD veers off to discuss Aquinas. Nice comments, but a strange place for this side discussion to be introduced, a bit of a distraction really. We’re still waiting for the evidence against Gunton, hoping to be ‘shown otherwise’.

This really is a strange way to construct an argument!

Then we do get some evidence. This is mostly based on one of St A’s letters. It’s a 4 paragraph letter. That’s it: Gunton’s trouble is he rushes into claiming too much based on reading too little, because he’s working from Augy’s whole treatise on The Trinity. Doyley’s remedy is to rebut his conclusions from a one-page letter.

Give us a break!

Also, the argument is based on the assumption that St A when he wrote that letter held the same view he did when he wrote On The Trinity. This may be true, but this is neither claimed nor demonstrated, the argument remains inadequate. Augustine may have changed his view in the meantime. It would then be invalid to use Letter 11 as context for Augustine’s meaning in On The Trinity.

(It’s probably better practice to assess a work like On The Trinity (indeed any theology work) on its own terms, as a stand alone piece of theology. Which is what Gunton does. A book gives you enough material to provide adequate context. Rather than demonstrating impatience and rashness in forming conclusions, this practice shows a proper caution about letting co-texts control the reading. Try using early Luther as a guide to Luther’s late thought!)

That’s it for the evidence. It’s not much…

Then after all that, Doyley gives us this conclusion:

his repeated insistence on seeing the relations only relatively to the three persons and not ontologically to the one substance is unsatisfactory.  It can leave God’s essence as something inherently impersonal.

– crikey! that’s the whole burden of Gunton’s article, and the heart of his critique of Augustine.

It’s a bit confusing isn’t it. Is RD playing with us?

I challenge Grit readers to determine –  is Doyley with Gunton or against him?

I’ve done my best. Anyone else want to have a crack at figuring it out?

(Tomorrow I might try to engage with a bit of content rather than process – check out that bit of evidence from letter 11)

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