Contemporary Readings of Augustine

Jamie Smith of Calvin College gave an excellent talk on contemporary readings of Augustine, focusing on the Augustine of Derrida, Caputo, and Ward. According to Smith, Derrida and Caputo have some “formal” or “structural” affinities with Augustine (eg, love is the driving force of religion), but lack any criteria for discerning the difference between true religion and false. For Augustine, the criterion is Christological. Smith was essentially saying that Derrida and Caputo can do what they want, but unless they are willing to talk about Jesus, they should stop calling themselves Augustinians. An obvious point, but one that needs to be argued these days, and Smith argued it forcefully and convincingly. As to Ward, Smith noted that his recent book is called True Religion , indicating that for Ward religion must be determinately theological. But Ward leaves us, in Smith’s reading, without criteria for determining the difference between true and false theology. His religion must be theological, but the particular theology remains undeterminate. All in all, a very satisfying Calvinistic critique of pomo uses of Augustine.

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