Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Gravity of Sin: Augustine, Luther and Barth on Homo Incurvatus in Se

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Gravity of Sin: Augustine, Luther and Barth on Homo Incurvatus in Se

Article excerpt

The Gravity of Sin: Augustine, Luther and Barth on Homo Incurvatus in Se. By Matt Jenson. London and New York: T & T Clark, Ltd., 2007. 224 pp. $39.95 (paper); $130.00 (cloth).

Currently, there is a broad consensus in theological anthropology for construing human personhood in terms of relationships. Matt Jenson in The Gravity of Sin garnishes insights from this consensus to present a harmartiology (the doctrine of sin) based on a relational model, and he builds upon Eberhard Jüngel's comment that a sinner is "a person without relations" (p. 2). Jenson persuasively argues that the metaphor of "a person curved in on oneself (homo incurvatus in se) provides a comprehensive paradigm for understanding sin. Thus, sin involves turning towards oneself and away from God and others. "This incurvature is one in which sinful humanity asserts a sort of gravitational pull, seeking to suck all others into its orbit" (p. 4). Jenson examines this metaphor in light of the works of Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, Daphne Hampson, and Karl Barth.

Jenson begins by identifying Augustine as the Christian source of this metaphor with his relational understanding of humanity and sin and also through his various references to humanity's sinful turn toward itself. (Even so, Jenson is careful to note that Augustine sees sin as essentially pride and does not actually use the metaphor homo incurvatus in se.) Next, he notes how Luther draws together and radicalizes Augustine's relational account of sin with his description of homo incurvatus in se as applying to the "whole person" (totus homo) and its appearance in the "religious person" {homo religiosus). Then, insights from Hampson's gendered understanding of sin, where pride is chiefly a male sin and sloth is chiefly a female sin, are cautiously used to critique and expand Augustine's and Luther's focus on pride. (Jenson rightly agrees with Hampson that sin entails more than pride but disagrees with her gendered categories and anthropocentric solutions for overcoming sin. …

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