A New Apophaticism

Augustine and the Redemption of Signs


In A New Apophaticism Susannah Ticciati draws on Augustine to develop an apophatic theology for the twenty-first century. Shifting the focus away from the potential and failure of words to say something about God, the book suggests that the purpose of God-language is to transform human beings in their relationship with God. Augustine's doctrine of predestination is read, with the help of speech-act theory and the study of indexicals, for its power to effect redemptive change; and his De doctrina christiana is drawn upon for its semiotics. Together they make way for the hypothesis that God-language transforms human beings into better signs of God.

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Susannah Ticciati is Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology at King’s College London.
"This is a brilliantly original study of why we can’t talk about God and why we can’t help trying and why our trying is bound up with our growth in holiness. It combines deep knowledge of early and mediaeval theology with a thorough familiarity with contemporary philosophy, as well as a sharp literary sensibility – which is a most unusual and refreshing mixture. It deserves a very wide readership." – Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, University of Cambridge
"In this ground-breaking study, Dr Ticciati, using tools taken from a wide range of modern philosophers, rigorously examines some of Augustine's writings on predestination in pursuit of the thesis that God-language does not point away from itself to God as something separate but, insofar as it contributes to the redemptive transformation of human beings, thereby rendering them better signs of God, itself contributes indirectly to the signification of God." – Nicholas Lash, Norris-Hulse Professor Emeritus of Divinity, University of Cambridge
"A paradigmatic example of inquiry in philosophical theology, rooted in scripture (...), this bold exploration of apophatic [‘negative’] discourse on God helps us to recognize how any attempt to articulate a non-competitive relation between creator and creature can only succeed when it assists both speakers and hearers themselves to become signs of that God’s action at work in us." – David Burrell, Hesburgh Professor Emeritus, University of Notre Dame

Acknowledgments ... vii
Abbreviations ... ix
Note on Translations and Conventions ... xi
Key Texts from De dono perseuerantiae ... xiii

Introduction ... 1

1 Contemporary Apophaticism ... 23


2 Augustine’s Doctrine of Predestination: The Contours ... 55

3 Augustine’s Doctrine of Predestination: A Performative Analysis ... 73

4 Augustine’s Doctrine of Predestination: An Indexical Analysis ... 105


5 Creatures as Signs of God ... 137

6 The Transformation of Semiosis ... 175


7 Augustine’s Doctrine of Predestination: A Semiotic Analysis ... 199

8 God-Language ... 217

Bibliography ... 247
Index ... 253
Specialists and non-specialists interested in God-language, apophatic theology, Augustinian studies, and semiotics; postgraduate and third year undergraduate theologians.