Brad Green is a first-rate theologian and church historian whose recent book challenging Colin Gunton’s misunderstandings of Augustine helpfully defended and vindicated the latter from the charge of fundamental error. This book on the gospel and the mind comes with four pages of commendations from people such as Graeme Goldsworthy and Peter Leithart as well as several professors of philosophy (and has a picture of Augustine on the cover!). In it, Green makes the perceptive point that wherever the gospel goes it seems to generate intellectual deliberation. “Why has the Christian faith always seemed to spur on the intellectual life?” he asks. In answering this provocative question, he ranges widely over the history of Christian thought itself, from Augustine (predictably) to Aquinas, from Athanasius to Bonaventure to Calvin.
The author is familiar with contemporary secular thought but comes at his subject from a firmly Reformed viewpoint. Some of the material may be familiar to readers of Churchman since Prof. Green wrote an article for the journal back in 2009 which has been woven into the argument of this book. Yet here is an even greater feast, as he meditates on the thought that Christ died to redeem every part of us, including not just body and soul, as it were, but also the life of the mind. Much of modern thought is adrift without direction or purpose, and knowledge is often seen as morally neutral, while theory is separated from practice. Dr. Green seeks to reintegrate these (and us) in this stimulating and serious tome. The Christian understanding of reality provides a coherent account of the possibility of intellectual life, in a way that no other system of thought can possibly rival: there is no understanding without the cross. This is a powerful apologetic for use amongst secular intellectuals, but also a much-needed call for the church to abandon its own (too prevalent) anti-intellectualism.
This review was first published in Churchman 127/1 (2013).