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Nature Dis-Graced and Grace De-Natured: The Problematic of the Augustinian Doctrine of Grace for Contemporary Theology

Author(s): D. Lyle Dabney.

Journal: Journal for Christian Theological Research
ISSN 1087-1624

Volume: 5;
Issue: 3;
Date: 2000;
Original page

Contemporary theologians have turned from a theology of the Word to a theology of the world. After a period during the first half of the twentieth century in which theologians concerned themselves primarily with questions of their discipline's identity and character, they have in recent years turned to address as a matter of first principle the physical, the social, and the political issues in the world about them. A number of fundamental issues have been raised which have yet to be fully examined. Perhaps the most urgent of these is the problematic of the western doctrine of grace. If contemporary theologians wish to develop a theology of the world, it is imperative that they come to grips with the fact that the soteriological categories of our western traditions offer precious little help in doing so. For the western doctrine of grace has concerned itself almost exclusively with the 'innerness' or the 'soul' of the individual, and has but rarely addressed itself to human being or human society or the material world as a whole. In point of fact, basic to the western doctrine has been the distinction between the world as a whole and salvation, i.e., between "nature" and "grace" a distinction which has had "disastrous results", in that it has led to "God and world' and "creation and redemption" being torn asunder. If a "theology of the world" is ever to be developed, this virtual contradiction between 'God and world' and between "creation and redemption" in our thinking and doing must be addressed anew. This article examines the theology of Augustine, the source of this western doctrine with its axiomatic separation of grace from nature; explores how that separation has characterized the western theological tradition, and suggests that Augustine himself points to a possible way beyond that separation through a theology of the Holy Spirit.
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