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Gerber, Chad Tyler, The Spirit of Augustine's Early Theology: Contextualizing Augustine's Pneumatology.

Gerber, Chad Tyler, The Spirit of Augustine's Early Theology: Contextualizing Augustine's Pneumatology (Ashgate Studies in Philosophy & Theology in Late Antiquity), Farnham, Ashgate, 2012; hardback; pp. 234; R.R.P 50.00 [pounds sterling]; ISBN 9781409424376.

Augustine's theology prior to his becoming Bishop of Hippo has a much more optimistic, philosophical character than his later writings which were directed against various heresies. He tends to be remembered more for his teaching about original sin and grace mediated through Christ than for what he has to say about the Holy Spirit. Chad Gerber has produced an excellent corrective to such assumptions by focusing on his earlier writings, with particular attention to the neglected topic of his pneumatology.

Gerber does well to situate Augustine's Trinitarian thought within the context not just of Nicene doctrine, but also the philosophical context of Neo-Platonism. Just as he understands the emanation of the Son from the Father to be as that of Intellectus from Principium, so he understands the Holy Spirit as akin to the Psyche or Soul of Plotinus, emerging from these two principles, informing and giving life to the created world. This is an excellent study of how Augustine's Trinitarian theology (prior to his famous discussion in the De trinitate) was shaped by Neo-Platonist philosophy. By examining various early writings, notably the De quantitate animae and the De moribus ecclesiae catholicae (contrasted with the way of life of the Manichaeans), Gerber considers how central the Holy Spirit is to Augustine's understanding of the world, understood both as the reason and the love by which creation is underpinned. In this early phase, Augustine was not concerned with issues of the will and its corruption through original sin, as he was in his writings directed against followers of Pelagius, or even in the Confessions; reason (ratio) was both human and divine, offering a degree of optimism to his perspective not found in later years.

In a final chapter, Gerber reflects on the writings from Thagaste (389-91) in which Augustine is principally concerned to refute the Manichaeans, exploring in depth themes of the goodness of creation, governed by reason and love. The Spirit emanates from the Father and the Son, but is that through which all things exist.

This monograph does not explore in detail how Augustine's early thought differed from that of Ambrose, by whom he was much influenced. Nonetheless, it reminds us of core themes in Augustine's theology, prior to the focus on human weakness and need for grace by which he is often remembered.

CONSTANT J. MEWS, Monash University

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Author:Mews, Constant J.
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2014
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