Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ben Myers on Augustine and Romans 5

Last week at Princeton Theological Seminary’s Roman’s Conference Ben Myers offered a resourceful presentation on the Adam/Christ typology of Romans 5, Augustine, and the Confessions. While I will only give a cursory overview of Myers’ message, a full text (including an additional section on Augustine and the Psalms) is forthcoming.

The gist of Myers’ presentation is a response to Krister Stendahl’s claim that the introspective turn in theology to self-consciousness (e.g., Luther’s ‘Where can I find a gracious God?’) can be traced as far back as Augustine. Wherever one looks for this turn, notes Myers, Augustine is not the culprit. To make this point Myers looks to the Adam/Christ typology embedded within the Confessions, particularly in two unforgettable moments: the ‘pears’ account and Augustine’s conversion. In the first account Augustine mirrors the Genesis 3 narrative when he and his friends steal the coveted fruit from the garden:
"[I] tasted nothing in them but my own sin."
In the second account, lying prostrate in another garden after reading the words of Paul, Augustine’s struggle and eventual conversion of will mirrors the beginning of the passion account at Gethsemane. The juxtaposition is a vying of separate and yet linked narratives for Augustine’s identity. What is more, the latter account in Book VIII is preceded by miniature conversion retellings in which Augustine connects his story to the church past in figures like Paul, Victorinus, and Antony.

What does Myers want to say? Far from laying the basis for an exclusively introspective take on salvation, Augustine’s story is not his own. It is a story that is rooted in and engages an overarching typology. Augustine incorporates his own story into that of the biblical narrative, into the plight of Adam and thus humanity, into the struggle of Paul and others and thus the church, and ultimately, following the logic of the typology, into Christ who precedes all other narratives. Myers offers an excellent rendering of how Augustine sees his own salvation in light of the larger (and nonetheless personal) redemption of Christ.

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1 comment:

Ben Myers said...

Thanks, Scott!