Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy, VI

The next 2 chapters of Ayres are offered as case studies, as he tries to bring out the elements of his 3 strategies in reading Gregory of Nyssa (Ad Ablabium) and Augustine. As I have integrated my understanding of his arguments into the treatment of those two authors already in the PTT series, I will not summarise the same here.

Chapter 16 is perhaps one of the most provocative and controversial contributions to the modern debate. Entitled “In spite of Hegel , Fire, and Sword”, Ayres conducts a broad brush-stroke appraisal of the history of theological reading of historical theology and the 4th century, laying much blame at the feet of Hegel and the Enlightenment for constructing the paradigms of modern systematics. At the heart of Ayres' criticism is the idea that the very structure of modern systematics is a way of doing theology that makes real engagement with pro-Nicene theology impossible. It is not only that modern systematicians have failed to engage 4th century authors fairly and deeply, but they have not done so at all and their very categories may not even allow them. In the end, Ayres offers up some kind of neo-pro-Nicene theological culture as one to seek after. I confess, I did not have the analytical tools and background to grasp all of this chapter.

All in all, Ayres' book is a bombshell, but a welcome one. It's impossible to read the 4th century in the modern debate without engaging with this book. It's changed my whole reading of patristic trinitarian thought, and I give it 5 stars.

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