It’s time to re-think St Paul and St Augustine

2015_45_st_augustineRowan Williams at The New Statesman:

Paul of Tarsus and Augustine of Hippo are usually regarded as pantomime villains by right-thinking moderns. Any number of historical outrages and injustices have been laid at their door, jointly and severally; patriarchal oppression, collusion in slavery, the Inquisition, the collective Christian neurosis about sexuality – almost everything except the common cold. What is most interesting about these two books is that two seasoned and scholarly authors without any religious axes to grind are arguing that this profound suspicion warrants significant qualification. Neither Karen Armstrong nor Robin Lane Fox would want to absolve the two great theologians from every reproach: Paul and Augustine are men of their age, using the familiar rhetorical forms of their cultures, marked by the patterns of power they live in, uncritical of much that we would indignantly repudiate. But what both these books do is to show how, although neither Paul nor Augustine existed in a timeless world of liberal virtue, they still offer an intellectually and imaginatively serious perspective on our humanity as well as theirs and that of their contemporaries.

Both are of course frequently cited as examples of lives that have changed course dramatically in midstream. Paul describes himself as originally a passionate enemy of the incipient Christian movement; but just a few years after the crucifixion of Jesus, a traumatic visionary encounter with Jesus sets his life on a profoundly risky course as a traveling advocate for the new faith, for which, according to tradition, he eventually died a martyr under Nero.

more here.