Bishop and Doctor of the Church, b. Thagaste in Numidia, North Africa, Nov. 13, 354; d. Hippo, Aug. 28,
430. By the power of his language and the depth of his thought Augustine became the dominant figure and force in Western Christianity and continues to be a very powerful influence up to the present. Even in his own lifetime Augustine was described by Saint Jerome, a man hardly given to flattery, as "the second founder of the faith" (Ep. 149). In an apostolic letter commemorating the 1600th anniversary of Augustine's conversion Pope John Paul II described him as "an incomparable man" and added that "almost all in the Church and in the West think of themselves as" his "disciples and children."
Augustine was born to Patricius, a pagan, and monica, a Christian. He had at least one brother and one sister. Monica delayed Augustine's baptism, as was customary at the time. His parents sacrificed to provide him with a classical Roman education in Thagaste and in neighboring Madaura. Patricius died in 370, having been baptized on his deathbed. With financial help from his wealthy patron and fellow townsman, Romanianus, Augustine was able to go to Carthage in 371 to continue his education. There he studied rhetoric, lived a somewhat wild student life, and took a companion, whose name he never mentions, but with whom he lived faithfully for 15 years and fathered a son, Adeodatus, who died in 390.
In 372–3 he read Cicero's Hortensius, an exhortation to the life of philosophy, which is no longer extant; it kindled in him a burning love for wisdom, from which he was held back only by the fact that he did not find there Christ's name (Conf. iii, 4, 8). Augustine turned to the Christian Scriptures, but found that the style of the Old Latin Bible was crude, especially in comparison with the Roman classics, and he was repelled by the anthropomorphism of the Scriptures and the immoral conduct of the patriarchs (Conf. iii, 4, 7–5, 9). Hence, he turned to the Manichees who always had the name of Christ on their lips and who promised him a wisdom without the yoke of an authority that demanded a blind faith. In 375 he returned from Carthage to Thagaste to teach, only to return again to Carthage in 376 in search of better students. In 380 he wrote a work on aesthetics, The Beautiful and the Fitting (De pulchro et apto ), which was lost even during his lifetime.
Augustine's conversion to manicheism was largely the result of a strong anti-intellectualism on the part of the African Church, which seems to have demanded a blind faith that Augustine looked upon as a yoke and a terror. The Church of North Africa lacked a well-educated clergy able to provide intelligent answers to the questions of the young man who was to become the greatest doctor of the Western church. He explains that he fell in with the Manichees "for no other reason than that they said that they would set aside the terror of authority and would bring to God by pure reason those who were willing to listen to them and thus set them free from all error" (Util. cred. 1, 2). Hence, he spurned the religion of his childhood like old wives' tales and thirsted to drink in the pure truth from the Manichees.
The Manichean account of the cosmic battle in the beginning, in which particles of the good principle wound up captive in the power of the evil principle, provided the young Augustine with an answer to the question of the origin of evil and the comforting doctrine that it was not he himself who committed sin, but the evil principle within him. He said, "I still thought that it is not we who sin, but that some other nature sins in us, and it pleased my pride to be above all guilt" (Conf. v, 10, 18). For nine years Augustine remained as a hearer in their sect (a second-class member, who unlike the "elect" did not have to observe all the rules of abstinence, in terms of food and sex, that were imposed on the latter), awaiting the enlightenment he had been promised, especially from the Manichean bishop, Faustus, whom he finally met in Carthage in 383 and whom he found to be a charming man of letters, but without the answers he had hoped for (Conf. v, 6, 10–7, 13). Faustus proved to be a disappointment, but the decisive argument against Manicheism was provided by Augustine's friend, Nebridius, when he and
Augustine were still in Carthage. Nebridius asked what the nation of darkness, the Manichean evil principle, would have done to God, the good principle, if God had in the beginning times refused to do battle with it. If the Manichees claimed that the evil principle would injure the good, then God would be violable and corruptible, something Augustine clearly saw to be impossible. If, however, the evil principle could not injure the good, then God had no reason to do battle with it, a battle in which, according to the Manichean myth, particles of the good were captured by the nation of darkness. Hence, Nebridius argued, if the Manichees contend that God is incorruptible, their whole myth is false; if, however, they say God is corruptible, this too is seen to be false (Conf. vii, 2, 3).
In 383 Augustine left Carthage for Rome where he hoped to find better students, leaving Monica behind and lying to her about his departure. After a year in Rome where he stayed with influential Manichean friends, he was appointed professor of rhetoric in Milan. There he encountered Bishop ambrose, whose eloquent preaching introduced him to a spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures that allowed him to think that the faith of the Church might be maintained against the Manichees without having to be ashamed of it, though at this point both positions seemed to him equal in their defenses (Conf. v, 14, 24–25). Hence, he found himself attracted to the skeptical view that truth could not be found (Conf. v, 10, 19). In 385 Monica arrived in Milan and set about arranging a marriage for her son. The mother of Adeodatus was sent back to Africa, since Augustine could not by Roman law marry her. Monica's candidate for her son's wife was, however, two years under the legal age; Augustine, not yet a model of chastity, therefore took a mistress to tide him over until he, a man in his thirties, could marry the eight-year-old bride Monica had chosen for him (Conf. vi, 13, 23–15, 25).
Before reading in the summer of 386 "certain books of the Platonists" (Conf. vii, 9, 13) or "a very few books of Plotinus" (B. vita 1, 4), Augustine had no concept of God or the soul as incorporeal beings. In retrospect he recognized that his inability to think of anything that was not a body was "the greatest and almost the sole cause of his unavoidable error" (Conf. v, 10, 20), since it forced him to think that evil was such a substance and to hold that it was a mass opposed to the good God, who, of course, could not have created it. With regard to the Manichean arguments he says, "If I were only able to conceive a spiritual substance, then all their stratagems would be destroyed and driven from my mind, but this I could not do" (Conf. v, 14, 25).
To his astonishment he found that, when Ambrose and others in the Milanese circle of Platonists spoke about God and the soul, they were not thinking of anything bodily (B. vita 1, 4). Through hearing Ambrose preach, he at last discovered that the spiritual men in the Church did not interpret man's being made in the image of God (Gn 1.26) in the sense that God was limited by the shape of the human body. He was pleased to find out that he had for years argued, "not against the Catholic faith, but against the fantasies of his carnal imagination"(Conf. vi, 3, 4). In the central seventh book of The Confessions, he spells out the fruit of his encounter with Plotinian thought. He found that the books of the Platonists contained the truth about God and his Word, but knew nothing about the Word becoming flesh. He sums up in book seven his appropriation of Platonism as he grasped it, not in the days prior to his baptism, but from the perspective of the time of the composition of the work, when he had some ten years to read more extensively in the Enneads and to absorb their metaphysical ideas.
In the summer of 386, Augustine, still hesitant about committing himself to the Catholic faith, visited Simplicianus, Ambrose's father in the faith, who would in 397 succeed Ambrose as bishop of Milan. Simplicianus congratulated Augustine on his discovery of the writings of the Platonists because of their emphasis upon God and his Word and recounted the story of the conversion of Marius Victorinus, the translator into Latin of the Enneads of plotinus, in order to exhort Augustine to accept the humility of Christ (Conf. viii, 2, 9). Also in that summer Ponticianus, a high official at the imperial court, a fellow African, and a Christian, visited Augustine and found him with a copy of the writings of Paul. He, too, congratulated Augustine and told him of the life of St. anthony, who sold all his possessions and became a monk, and of the conversion of two special agents of the emperor who likewise became monks. The stories served to thrust Augustine before his own eyes and make him realize to his shame how long he had dallied after being first set afire with the love of wisdom and that he still held back from giving himself fully to its search (Conf. viii, 6, 13–7, 19). Shortly thereafter, he heard in the garden of the house the words, "Take up and read." He picked St. paul where he read from the Letter to the Romans a passage that served as the decisive admonition that led to his finally becoming a Christian and a servant of God (Conf. viii, 12, 29).
In September he resigned his teaching position and withdrew to the villa of his friend, Verecundus, which was situated outside of Milan at Cassiciacum. There along with Alypius, his friend from boyhood and the future bishop of Thagaste, he tutored some youngsters, including his own son, Adeodatus, and Licentius, the son of Romanianus. At Cassiciacum he composed four works in dialogue form, Answer to the Academics, The Happy Life, Order, and The Soliloquies, the last a dialogue between Augustine and reason. At the beginning of Lent in 387 he returned from Cassiciacum to Milan to become a candidate for baptism; he was baptized along with his son, Adeodatus, and his friend, Alypius, during the Easter vigil on April 24 at the hands of Ambrose. In Milan he wrote The Immortality of the Soul and began Music. Soon he arranged to return to Africa with his mother and son, but was forced by the outbreak of war to spend a year in Rome, where he wrote The Greatness of the Soul, the first two books of Free Choice, and The Morals of the Catholic Church and the Morals of the Manichees. As they were waiting for a ship to Africa at the port of Ostia, Monica died and was buried there (Conf. ix, 11, 27–12, 32). Shortly before Monica's death Augustine and his mother shared a mystical vision of the life to come, which Augustine describes in language that is both Plotinian and Pauline (Conf. ix, 10, 23–26).
Back in Africa Augustine established a monastic community of sorts at Thagaste where he aimed at "growing godlike in leisure" (Ep. 10, 2), continued his correspondence with his friend Nebridius, who was soon to die in Carthage, and wrote his first commentary on Genesis, Genesis against the Manichees, as well as Diverse Questions, The Teacher, and True Religion. During these years Adeodatus also died. Though Augustine carefully avoided cities where the episcopal see was vacant for fear that he would be made bishop and lose his life of prayerful leisure, he came to Hippo in the spring of 391 to found a monastery. He was present at a sermon of Bishop Valerius who was speaking of the need of a priest for the city. The congregation saw Augustine and chose him by acclamation (S. 355, 2); Valerius ordained him, provided him with a place for a monastery, and insisted contrary to the custom of the time that as a mere priest Augustine should preach to the people. In fact, at the Council of Hippo in 391, Valerius had him explain the Creed in simple terms to the assembled bishops, men who apparently needed rudimentary instruction in the basics of their faith.
Once ordained, Augustine pleaded with Valerius for time off in order that he might study the Scripture, not for his personal needs and his own salvation, but in order to be able to minister effectively to the people (Ep. 21). As a priest at Hippo Augustine wrote The Usefulness of Believing and Two Souls against the Manichees. In August 392 he debated the Manichean priest Fortunatus, of which Answer to Fortunatus is a record; in the same year he began Homilies on the Psalms. In 393 he undertook a literal commentary on Genesis, which he left unfinished, and in 394 he lectured on and discussed Romans at Carthage and began commentaries on Romans and Galatians as well as a treatise on lying and a commentary on the Lord's Prayer. In 395 Valerius shrewdly connived with Aurelius, the recently consecrated bishop of Carthage and primate of Africa, to have Augustine ordained as his coadjutor in order to assure that Augustine would remain in Hippo after Valerius's death, though neither of them knew at the time that it technically violated the canons of the Council of Nicaea to have two bishops in one city (Ep. 213, 4).
During the early years of the 35 that Augustine spent as bishop of Hippo, his pen was directed principally against the heretical sect of which he had himself been a member and to which he had converted a number of his friends, such as Romanianus, his wealthy patron. From the African coastal city of Hippo Augustine's literary reputation spread to the Italian mainland, and by 394 Paulinus, a priest and the future bishop of Nola in Campagnia, had received from Alypius five books written by Augustine against the Manichees, which Paulinus labeled Augustine's "Pentateuch against the Manichees" (Ep. 25, 2). Since the Manichees rejected the Old Testament and especially the creation narratives in Genesis, Augustine had to show that Genesis could be interpreted without the problems that the Manichees found in it and that the world God created was good. He also had to defend the holiness of the morality preached by the Catholic Church against Manichaean attacks and uphold Catholicism as the true religion. His fight with the Manichees continued well into the years of his episcopacy and is a dominant theme in most of his writings prior to 400.
Already as a priest, Augustine began the struggle to bring the Donatists (see donatism) back into the Catholic unity, writing an abecedarian piece of doggerel, Psalm against the Sect of Donatus, and appealing by letter to the Donatist bishop of Siniti in Numidia (Ep. 23). After his consecration as bishop, however, the conflict with the Donatists became, along with the Manichean heresy, a principal focus of his pastoral work and writing until well after the Conference of Carthage in 411, where the schism was officially ended. Valerius died in 396 leaving Augustine as bishop of Hippo. In that year, while responding to a set of questions on Paul's Letter to the Romans sent to him by Simplicianus, who had by that time succeeded Ambrose as bishop of Milan, Augustine underwent his third conversion (the first being to Manicheism and the second to Catholic Christianity). He tells us that God revealed to him as he was replying to Simplicianus that, contrary to what he had earlier claimed in his commentaries on Romans, faith, even the beginning of faith, is a gift of God. Though he "fought hard in defense of the free choice of the will, the grace of God conquered" (Praed. sanct. 4, 8) so that all human pride was banished and the grace of God was seen to have the absolute initiative in our salvation.
The Struggle with Donatism. The Donatist schism arose in Africa after the persecution of diocletian early in the 4th century; it centered around the validity of sacraments conferred by clergy who were allegedly guilty of the sin of surrendering the sacred books or vessels (traditio ). In 313 a rigorist group of Christians charged that Caecilian, the newly elected bishop of Carthage, had been ordained by a bishop guilty of traditio, and they ordained Majorinus as a rival bishop. Majorinus died shortly thereafter and was succeeded by Donatus, from whom the sect took its name. By the time of Augustine's return to Africa the schism had been established for over 75 years and grown in size and strength to the point that there were in Africa and Numidia as many Donatist as Catholic churches. When Augustine became bishop of Hippo, the Donatists probably outnumbered the Catholics there. Over the years the coexistence of the two churches in Africa and Numidia was anything but peaceful; roving bands of Donatists, the Circumcellions, wandered between shrines of the martyrs, often wreaking havoc on Catholic property as they injured, maimed, and even killed Catholic clergy and laity.
In 313 Donatus himself appealed to the emperor, Constantine, against his Catholic rival, Caecilian, though his case repeatedly met with defeat before episcopal courts in Rome and in Arles and before the emperor himself. Augustine first wanted to use only persuasion in trying to bring the schismatics back to the Catholic unity for fear that, if force were used, Donatists would be reconciled only as a pretense and the Church would be filled with people who were Catholics only in name. But the Donatists proved themselves singularly resistant to reasoned appeals. Despite his initial opposition to the use of force, Augustine allowed himself to be convinced by the arguments of his fellow bishops and by the results of the implementation of the imperial laws of February 405 that the use of force was not merely justified, but successful. Many Donatists returned to the Catholic unity, some willingly and gladly; others did so against their will, but were soon won over (Ep. 93, 16–19).
Among his many anti-Donatist writings Augustine produced four that rank as great works of theology: Answer to the Letter of Parmenian, Baptism in Answer to the Donatists, Answer to the Letters of Petilian, and Answer to Gaudentius. He insists against the Donatists that the Catholic Church is spread throughout the whole world, as Scripture had promised, not just in Africa, where the sect of Donatist is found; that it is Christ who baptizes, not the human minister, so that the validity of a sacrament does not depend upon the holiness of the minister; that the repetition of the rite of baptism subjects the standard of Christ the King to the insult of exorcism and exsufflation; and, that the Donatist schism has torn members from the very body of Christ, the Church. Under pressure from the imperial authorities, the Donatists finally agreed to hold a conference with their Catholic counterparts at Carthage in 411; the conference was attended by over 280 bishops from each side and terminated in a decision against the Donatists. On Jan. 30, 412, the emperor Honorius issued an edict that proscribed Donatism and imposed penalties of fines, exile, and the confiscation of church property. In the wake of the Conference of Carthage, which was a personal triumph for Augustine and his friend Marcellinus, the imperial commissioner, Augustine wrote two follow-up works, Summary of the Conference and Appeal to the Donatists after the Conference.
During the years between his consecration as bishop and the Conference of Carthage Augustine began Teaching Christianity, continued to write against the Manichees and on aspects of Christian life, and began two of his great works: The Trinity, whose composition stretched over twenty years and was complicated by the theft and premature publication of the first twelve books, and The Literal Meaning of Genesis, whose composition lasted until 414. Beginning in 396, he also wrote his most popular work, The Confessions, the first ten books of which recount, from the perspective of a Catholic bishop some ten years later, his life up to his conversion to Catholic Christianity and the death of Monica. In books 11 to 13 he turns to a commentary on the six days of creation and the Sabbath of God's rest, in which he presents his understanding, highly influenced by the thought of Plotinus, of the Christian faith concerning the origin, life, and destiny of human beings.
In August of 410 Alaric's vandals sacked the city of Rome, an event that shook the ancient world. Subsequent to Rome's fall there arrived in Africa a stream of the Roman nobility and their entourages, among whom were found the British ascetic pelagius and his disciple Caelestius, who spread about ideas on the purpose of baptism, especially the baptism of children. Their teaching came to the attention of Marcellinus, who in turn reported it to Augustine so that the bishop of Hippo became involved in the long struggle in defense of the grace of God, the struggle that was to earn for him the title "Teacher of Grace." At the same time many of the pagans declared that Rome's fall was due to the abandonment of the old gods of Rome and the acceptance of the Christian religion. Again at Marcellinus' instigation Augustine undertook to write another work, the 22 books of The City of God, the composition of which was completed only in 427. In the first ten he argued that the gods of Rome were not to be worshiped either for happiness in this life or for happiness in the life to come; in the last 12 books he described the origin, course, and destiny of the city of God and the city of man, the one founded upon love of God to the point of contempt for oneself, the other founded upon love of oneself to the contempt of God.
The Pelagian Controversy. From the Conference of Carthage in 411 until the end of his life in 430 Augustine was involved in a controversy on grace, first with Pelagius and Caelestius, and after 418 with Julian, bishop of Eclanum in Italy. Pelagius and Caelestius were condemned in the summer of 418 by Pope zosimus in his letter "Tractoria," which has been lost, as well as by the Council of carthage, and sent into exile by the emperor Honorius. Along with 18 other bishops, Julian refused to accept the condemnation of Pelagius's teaching, and he subsequently wrote extensively against Augustine's teaching on original sin and the need for grace.
Pelagius and Caelestius had for a number of years been teaching in Rome a rigorous Christian asceticism that emphasized the need for willpower and belittled excuses based on human frailty. As early as 405 Pelagius heard in Rome the passage from The Confessions in which Augustine prayed to God, "Give what you command, and command what you will" (Conf. x, 29, 40). These words so upset Pelagius that he nearly came to blows with the bishop who was reading them, for in his eyes they typified the spiritual passivity and laxity that excused sin as the result of human weakness. Though Pelagius and Augustine never met, they exchanged greetings by letter before Pelagius left Africa for the East (Ep. 146).
Caelestius, however, remained in Africa. He was condemned at the Council of Carthage in 411 after he had sought to be ordained a priest and was charged with heresy. Soon afterwards Caelestius too left Africa for the East. Augustine wrote his first work against the Pelagian heresy in the fall of 411 or early in 412, The Punishment and Forgiveness of Sins and the Baptism of Little Ones. His friend Marcellinus had asked him to answer those who held "that, even if he had not sinned, Adam would have died, that nothing passed to his descendants as the result of his sin by the process of generation," and "that in this life there are and have been and will be human beings who have absolutely no sin" (Pecc. merit. iii, 1, 1). Late in 412 or early in 413 Augustine wrote The Spirit and the Letter, again at the request of Marcellinus, to explain how it can be possible that there be human beings without sin in this life, though no one has ever lived a life of such righteousness. In 414 or 415 two disciples of Pelagius gave Augustine a copy of Pelagius' Nature, a work probably written in Rome between 406 and 410, after Augustine convinced them of the errors of Pelagius and won them over to his side. Through it Augustine for the first time realized the full danger of Pelagius's teaching and wrote in response Nature and Grace, in which he mentions Pelagius and Caelestius by name for the first time. In 415 Augustine also wrote The Perfection of Human Righteousness in order to refute a work of Caelestius, entitled Definitions, in which Caelestius tried to show that it is both possible and obligatory for people to live sinless lives.
In the winter of 415 an episcopal council held in Diospolis in Palestine acquitted Pelagius of heresy. Augustine was astounded to hear reports of this outcome and eventually managed to obtain a record of the trial. In The Deeds of Pelagius he commented point by point on the record of the trial, showing that the Eastern bishops who acquitted Pelagius did not have sufficient evidence to find him guilty and that Pelagius would have been condemned if he had not condemned points of his own and of Caelestius's teaching. In the summer of 418 Augustine wrote The Grace of Christ and Original Sin for three Roman aristocrats who, after fleeing from Rome to Africa, left Africa in 417 for the East where they met and befriended Pelagius. They had written to Augustine that Pelagius had, they believed, embraced the full Catholic teaching on the necessity of grace. Augustine, however, warned them to pay careful attention to what Pelagius meant by grace. Pelagius had no problem in acknowledging the importance of grace, provided that grace meant no more than the human nature that God gave us in creating us, the teaching of Scripture, the example of Christ, or the forgiveness of sins.
The second phase of the Pelagian controversy began when Julian, bishop of Eclanum in Apulia, and 18 other bishops refused to accept Pope Zosimus's encyclical letter "Tractoria," with its condemnation of Pelagius and Caelestius. After Julian was in turn condemned by the pope, he appealed to Count Valerius at the imperial court in Ravenna for competent judges to hear his case and complained that Augustine was condemning marriage as the work of the devil. Warned by Valerius, Augustine wrote the first book of Marriage and Desire ; later he received various excerpts from Julian's To Turbantius, a work written for one of the 18 other bishops who rejected "Tractoria." In reply to these excepts, Augustine wrote the second book of Marriage and Desire. When he finally received, probably in 421, the full text of To Turbantius, Augustine wrote in reply to it the four books of his Answer to Julian, which Julian most probably never saw, exiled as he was in the East. Meanwhile, Julian wrote a letter to Pope Boniface and wrote along with his fellow dissidents another letter to Bishop Rufus of Thessalonica; when Augustine received copies of these letters, he wrote and dedicated to Pope Boniface Answer to Two Letters of the Pelagians. Finally, Julian wrote To Florus, an attack on the second book of Marriage and Desire, to which Augustine replied with six books of his Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian, in which he so meticulously quotes Julian's work that the first six books of To Florus are fully preserved, though the last two have been lost. Augustine died in 430 before he was able to complete his answer.
The controversy on grace took another turn in 426 or 427 when some Catholic monks of Hadrumetum in Africa and of southern France near Marseilles objected to aspects of Augustine's teaching on grace. Post-Reformation theologians have anachronistically called them heretics and misleadingly labeled them Semi-Pelagians. The Catholic monks at Hadrumetum exploited Augustine's theory of grace to their advantage and claimed that superiors ought not to rebuke monks who misbehave, but should simply pray that God may give the monks the grace to act correctly. After all, the monks claimed, according to Augustine, no one can do good actions without God's grace; hence, it was not their fault if they sinned. In Rebuke and Grace Augustine explained to them how his teaching on grace did not remove the meaningfulness of rebukes, but he needed another work, Grace and Free Choice, to show how Scripture teaches the necessity of both grace and of free choice.
The monks of Provence, under the influence of John cassian, also resisted Augustine's teaching that the very beginning of faith (initium fidei ) is a gift of God and pointed out that Augustine himself had earlier agreed with them, as he in fact had prior to his third conversion in 396. They also resisted Augustine's teaching on the grace of perseverance and on predestination. In opposition to their teaching, which was reported to Augustine by letters from two layman, a certain Hilary and Prosper of Aquitaine, Augustine wrote The Gift of Perseverance and The Predestination of the Saints, in which he explained the necessity of God's grace for the very beginning of faith and for perseverance up to the end of one's life and defended the grace of predestination without which no one can be saved and with which one cannot fail to be saved.
At the age of 72, in 426, Augustine had the clergy and people of Hippo approve Heraclius as his successor. Augustine transferred much of the work of the diocese to him, though he was not consecrated bishop until Augustine's death. Meanwhile, Augustine continued to write, undertaking the Revisions, a work in which he reexamined, corrected at times, and at times defended his books. He wrote for Quodvultdeus, a deacon of Carthage, Heresies, a work in which he listed and briefly described all the 88 heresies that had arisen from the time of Christ to the present. Moreover, in 428 Maximinus, an Homoian Arian bishop, arrived in Hippo in the company of the army of the Goth, Segisvult. Maximinus challenged the Catholics to a debate and, though Maximinus began the debate with Heraclius, Augustine was quickly summoned to take over; a verbatim record is given in the Debate with Maximinus. After the Arian bishop departed from Hippo, Augustine wrote the two books of his Answer to Maximinus to refute what Maximinus said in his long final intervention that kept Augustine from answering him on the date of the debate. Along with his earlier Answer to an Arian Sermon the works confronting Maximinus's teaching provide valuable insight into Homoian Arian theology and its vigorous survival, well into the fifth century, as well as into Augustine's christology.
An account of Augustine's life that mentions his theological controversies and principal works is bound to give the picture of a scholar who spent most of his time in writing, but the days of a Catholic bishop in North Africa at Augustine's time were filled with other work and problems. For example, as bishop, Augustine heard court cases between Christian as well as non-Christian parties; he traveled on over 50 journeys about his diocese, to Carthage, and even to Mauretania on a mission from the pope; preached countless sermons, of which we have almost 500; and wrote letters, of which we have close to three hundred and by which he carried on an extensive correspondence that reached Palestine in the East, Rome and Milan to the north, and Spain to the West.
At the end of his long life, as the Vandals plundered Africa and besieged Hippo Augustine, as Possidius, his first biographer reports, consoled himself with the words of Plotinus, "He is not a great man who thinks it something great that sticks and stones fall and that mortals die" (Vita Augustine 28, 11). During his final days, after being stricken with a fever, Augustine had the penitential Psalms written out on parchment and hung on the wall near his bed. On Aug. 28, 430, he died at the age of 76, almost 40 years after his ordination.
There are modern critical editions of nearly all of Augustine's work in either Corpus Christianorum, Series latina (CCL) or Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum (CSEL), though for a few works scholars must still rely on Patrologia Latina (PL). In some cases the text in the Bibliothèque Augustinienne volumes is an improvement over the critical edition, for example, for De Genesi ad litteram and for the letters recently discovered by J. Divjak, but the Bibliothèque Augustinienne volumes are always worth consulting for their rich annotation. The list contained within this essay puts Augustine's works in chronological order, though in many cases the dating is only an approximation. The translation of the Works of Saint Augustine (WSA) being published by the Augustinian Fathers in the United States will be the first complete English translation of Augustine's works; volumes in the series that have already been published or are in press are indicated. Translations in other series, Ancient Christian Writers, Fathers of the Church, and Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers (NPNF) are also listed as well as works translated in the Library of Christian Classics (LCC) and in the series Patristic Studies (PS). The electronic version of PL published by Chadwick-Healey and the CETEDOC CD-ROM disks allow electronic searches of the works of the Fathers. The Corpus Augustinianum Gissense on CD-ROM contains not merely the text of Augustine's works, but a very valuable bibliography of secondary sources. The discoveries in 1976 by Johannes Divjak of 29 new letters in Marseilles and in 1990 by François Dolbeau of 26 new sermons in Mainz have opened up important new perspectives on Augustine's extensive collections of letters and sermons.
AUGUSTINE's PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY
Augustine's thought underwent dramatic development in the 50 years of his writing career from 380, when he penned a work on aesthetics, which is now lost, until his death as an old man with hundreds of books, sermons, and letters to his credit. He himself admits that he made progress as he wrote (Retr. prol.); hence, in attempting to present an overview of his philosophy and theology, one is not merely faced with the vast sweep of his thought, but must try to situate his ideas within their context, paying attention to the development of his thought, not merely from before his conversion to Catholic Christianity until afterwards, but also during the whole of his life as a priest and bishop.
Philosophy. Augustine was not a philosopher in the modern sense in which philosophy is viewed as a discipline independent of faith or theology. He did, however, describe himself as a philosopher in the sense of a lover of wisdom (Sol. i, 11, 22) and used the term "theology" only to refer to the accounts of the gods of the pagan religions (Civ. Dei vi, 5). Augustine's encounter with the books of the Platonists during his stay in Milan played a decisive role in his conversion. From the books of Plotinus Augustine learned to think of God and the soul as non-bodily and to think of God as non-temporal. As a result, he was able effectively to answer the Manichean objections that the God in whose image human beings were made according to Genesis must have hair, teeth, and organs like us and that evil, if real, must be a body. He learned that evil was a privation of good and, hence, did not need an evil cause (Conf. iii, 7, 12). So too, his ability to conceive of God as eternal, having neither past nor future, but only a present, permitted him to answer the further Manichean or Gnostic question about what God was doing before he created heaven and earth (Conf. xi, 10, 12).
In the Platonists, whom he read at Cassiciacum and whose thought he pondered during the years ahead and used to come to an understanding of the Christian faith, Augustine found philosophers who, he said, "agree with us about the one God who is the author of this universe, who is not only above all bodies insofar as he is incorporeal, but is also above all souls insofar as he is incorruptible, who is our principle, our light, our good" (Civ. Dei viii, 10). In the eyes of Augustine the Platonists had brought philosophy to its perfection, dividing it into three parts: moral, natural, and rational, and each of these parts dealt with God "the end of all actions, the cause of all natures, and the light of every reason" (Civ. Dei viii, 5). And yet, though the Platonists saw God and even saw that God had an only-begotten Son, they refused to accept that the Word became flesh (Conf. vii, 21, 27). Soon after his conversion, he said that, if the Platonists of the past could live again, they would "with the change of a few ideas and thoughts, have become Christians, as many Platonists of recent times have done" (Vera rel. 4, 7). But his enthusiasm for the truth he found in the books of the Platonists began to wane somewhat, as he came to realize how their pride kept them from accepting the humble Christ. "Many," he says, "saw where to go, but did not see the way. They loved the fatherland with its height, but did not know the way with its humility" (S. 140, 4). The Platonists "were able to see that which is, but they saw it from a distance; they refused to hold onto the humility of Christ, the ship by which they would have reached that which they were able to see from afar" (Joh. ev. tr. 2, 4).
When Augustine spoke of "our philosophy" (C. Iul. iv, 14, 72), he meant Christian wisdom, whose sole task, he said, "is nothing else than to teach what is the principle without principle of all things and what a great intellect abides in it and what flows from it for our salvation without any deterioration. This principle is the one, almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as our venerable mysteries teach" (Ord. ii, 5, 16). Hence, even in his early dialogues he had a grasp of the Christian Trinity as one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, without any subordination of the Son and Spirit to the Father.
Faith and Reason. Though Augustine was lured into the Manichean sect by their promises of the pure truth and was repelled from the Catholic Church by the demand for a blind faith, he came to see the need to believe the word of God prior to understanding it and adopted as his motto the words of Isaiah, "Unless you believe, you will not understand" (Is 7.9 LXX). Soon after his conversion he saw two parallel paths to the truth: reason and authority. "Authority is prior in time, but reason is prior in reality" (Ord. ii, 9, 26). "Philosophy promises reason and scarcely sets free a very few" (Ord. ii, 5, 16), but the few whom it does set free attain a knowledge in this life beyond which one cannot go even hereafter (Ord. ii, 9, 26), and those few whom reason sets free need to follow the path of faith and authority only to avoid setting a bad example for those who cannot fly (Util. cred. 10, 24). In his early view reason was for the few an independent way to the truth, while believing was useful for those unable to follow the path of reason.
Later he held that, with a mystery of faith or a difficult passage of Scripture, one should first believe in order to understand. "Understanding is the reward for believing. Do not, therefore, seek to understand in order that you may believe, but believe in order that you may understand" (Joh Ev. tr. 29, 6). The faith that must come before understanding is not, however, an utterly blind faith, since Augustine insists that one must understand the words in some way if one is to believe them. As he puts it, "Understand in order that you may believe my words; believe in order that you may understand the word of God" (S. 43, 7, 9). Later, when a young Spaniard, Consentius, wrote him, claiming that one ought to seek the truth from faith rather than from reason, since otherwise only philosophers would attain happiness, Augustine wrote back, "God forbid that we should believe in such a way that we do not accept or seek a reason…. In cer tain matters, then, pertaining to the doctrine of salvation that we cannot as yet perceive by reason, but that we will at some point see, faith precedes reason…. If, then, it is reasonable that faith precedes reason for certain important ideas that cannot yet be grasped, a slight reason that persuades us of this undoubtedly precedes faith" (Ep. 120, 1, 3). In fact, Augustine urges Consentius, "Love understanding very much," and explains that even the holy Scriptures are useless if one does not understand them (Ep. 120, 3, 13).
God, One and Triune. The movement to God is in Augustine's thought always from the external world through the inner self and up to God: "from the exterior to the interior and from the inferior to the superior" (En. Ps. 145, 5). God, he says, is "more inward than my inmost self and higher than my highest being" (Conf. iii, 6, 11). Though he presents what many have taken to be a demonstration of God's existence, his concern in his ascent to God aims at least as much to show the incorporeal and eternal being of God as to establish his existence (Lib. arb. ii, 3, 7–15, 39). The God to whom Augustine comes is Being itself, the Truth, absolutely immutable, eternal, and omnipresent, and yet a personal God, whose name is not only "I am," but "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." God told Moses that his name was "He Who Is," and Augustine interprets this name, putting words in God's mouth: "I am called 'Is.' What does it mean that I am called 'Is.' That I remain for eternity, that I cannot change" (S. 6, 3, 4). But because "He Is" was perhaps too much for Moses to understand, as it is too much for us, God immediately went on to say to Moses, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. This you can grasp. For what mind can grasp, 'I am who am'?" (Joh. Ev. tr. 36, 8).
God is the source of everything other than himself, originally making heaven and earth out of nothing, not out of his own substance, freely, not from any necessity, by his eternal Word, not by any external instrument. Even if God made something from something else, "he did not make it from something that he himself had not made" (F. et symb. 2, 2). Hence, if he created heaven and earth out of unformed matter, he, of course, made the matter out of which he formed the world (Conf. xii, 8, 8). Since time is a creature, there was no time before God created heaven and earth (Conf. xi, 13, 15–16). God made everything with measure, number, and order (Gen Man. i, 16, 26). He made each thing good, and all things together are not merely good, but very good (Conf. vii, 12, 18). By their changing creatures cry out that they have been made; by their beauty, goodness, and wisdom they testify to the beauty, goodness, and wisdom of their creator (Conf. xi, 4, 6). God not only creates all things in accord with what Plato called "ideas" (Div. qu. 46, 1–2), but has foreknowledge or rather knowledge of all that happens in the world (Simpl. ii, 2, 2).
In the Cassiciacum dialogues Augustine already articulated his faith in the Trinity, avoiding any subordinationism (Ord. ii, 5, 16). In his great work, The Trinity, Augustine advanced the speculative understanding of the Trinity by distinguishing absolute and relative predication of God, setting forth rules for speaking of the one God and the three persons. He held that whatever is said of God non-relatively is said of God according to substance, that is, to signify the substance of God common to the three (Trin. v, 6, 7). Nothing, however, is said of God according to accident, that is, to signify anything mutable in God. But things are said of God according to relation, for the Father is said to be in relation to the Son and the Son is said to be in relation to the Father, just as the Holy Spirit is said to be in relation to the Father and the Son (Trin. v, 5, 6). Hence, whatever is said properly of the individual persons in the Trinity is not said absolutely, but relatively to one another (Trin. vii, 9, 2). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are consubstantial or of one substance, and "the force of 'the same substance' in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is so great that whatever is said of them non-relatively, is not said in the plural, but in the singular" (Trin. vii, 8, 9). Augustine prefers to speak of one essence and three persons rather than to follow the Greek usage of three "hypostases," which to Latin ears implies three substances (Trin. vii, 5, 10), though he admits that we say, "persons," only to have something to call the three (Trin. viii, prooem. 1). Even in his early correspondence with Nebridius Augustine maintained that the external operations of the three were common to all, though he struggled to explain to his friend how only the Son assumed a human nature (Ep. 11, 2).
In his Confessions Augustine had offered a single faltering example of trinity in unity, namely, the being, knowing, and willing of one mind, in order to understand somehow "that immutable being that is above all these, which is immutably, knows immutably, and wills immutably" (Conf. xiii, 11, 12). But in The Trinity he developed more than 20 examples of trinities, each attempting to illustrate in some way the Trinity that is God. With the trinity of memory, understanding, and will in one mind, he was able to offer an illustration of the generation of the Son from the Father and of the procession the Spirit from the Father and the Son (Trin. xv, 21, 40–41). In his account of our the inner word, Augustine developed an image of the generation of the eternal Word from the Father (Trin. xv, 10, 17–19), and in the expression of our mental word in a spoken word he found a likeness of the eternal Word's becoming flesh.
Christology and Redemption. In his earliest reference to Christ Augustine says in highly Plotinian language that "out of a certain compassion for the masses God most high bent down and subjected the authority of the divine intellect even to the human body itself" in order to recall "to the intelligible world souls blinded by the darkness of error and befouled by the slime of the body" (C. Acad. iii, 19, 42). In another Cassiciacum dialogue he clearly maintains that Christ is the Son of God sent to us by the Father (Ord. i, 10, 29); he again speaks of Christ as the great intellect that abides in the Father and emphasizes the great mercy and humility involved in the fact that "so great a God has on our account deigned to assume and move about a body of our kind" (Ord. ii, 5, 16). In retrospect, he says in his Confessions that, at the time when he read the books of the Platonists, he considered "Christ as only a man of excellent wisdom whom no one could equal, especially because he was miraculously born of a virgin" (Conf. vii, 19, 25). He later admitted that at that point he had no idea of the mystery involved in the Word's becoming flesh, but insisted that he had learned that the Word was not joined to the flesh without a human soul. His friend, Alypius, on the other hand, had thought that Catholics held the Apollinarian view, one also shared by the Homoian Arians who were present in Milan, that Christ lacked a human soul and mind, though only later did Augustine learn of these heresies or of his own Photinianism, which may have actually been derived from Porphyry. During his Manichean years, of course, Augustine thought of the Savior as "something extruded from" God's "bright substance" and did not believe that he was born of Mary in the flesh for fear that he would have to believe that he was defiled by the flesh (Conf. v, 10, 20). Hence, as a Manichee he did not believe that either his death or his resurrection was real.
Clearly by 391 Augustine held a fully orthodox view of Christ. He preached on Easter that the whole of the Word and man "is the Son of God the Father in terms of the Word and Son of Man in terms of the man…. not only man, but Son of God … and not only the Word but the Son of Man" (S. 214, 6). The following year he preached on the two births of Christ, his eternal birth from the Father and his temporal birth in our human nature, and taught that "the Word of God assumed" this man "so that God and he are one" (En. Ps. ii, 7 and iii, 3).
Because in Adam our nature was wounded by sin and left in ignorance and weakness, Augustine often describes the redemptive work of Christ as deliverance from the power of sin or of the devil and a healing of our wounded nature. Christ is a physician who came to heal those who are ill. "The human race lies ill, not with diseases of the body, but with sin…. To heal this huge patient the omnipotent physician descended from heaven. He lowered himself to mortal flesh, as if to the bedside of ailing humanity" (S. 87, 9, 13). Christ is himself the good Samaritan, and we are all the man left half dead on the road. "The passing Samaritan did not scorn us; he cared for us, put us on his animal, and on his own flesh brought us to the inn, that is, the Church" (En. Ps. 125, 15). In other texts Christ's work is seen as mediating between the righteousness of God and our sinfulness. "Temporal sinfulness separated us from eternal righteousness; there was need of an intervening temporal righteousness, a midpoint that would be temporal from below and righteous from above and thus, in breaking away from the highest and conforming to the lowest, he might restore the lowest to the highest" (Cons. ev. i, 35, 53). But there are also passages in which he stresses Christ's work as making us divine. He says, "In order to make us gods, he who was God became man" (S. 192, 1), and, "God wants to make you god, not by nature, as the Son is whom he begot, but by his gift and adoption" (S. 166, 4, 4). Similarly, he speaks of the Word's mission as liberating us from time, "He was God before all time and man in time in order to set us free from time" (S. Guel. 32, 5). Again, he describes Christ as "calling us who are temporal and making us eternal" (En. Ps. 101, s. ii, 11). Christ is also the counter type to Adam. Augustine says that the Christian faith consists in the influence of these two men. "By one of them we are sold under the power of sin; by the other we are redeemed from sin. By the one we were cast down to death; by the other we are set free for life" (Gr. et pecc. or. ii, 24, 28).
Scripture. When Augustine first seriously turned to the Scriptures after reading Hortensius he found them repulsive (Conf. iii, 5, 9 and 7, 12–13). As a Manichee, he certainly had some familiarity with the Old and New Testaments, for, even though the Manichees rejected the former entirely and the latter in parts, they used as objections against the Catholics passages that they themselves rejected as the word of God. The creation narratives of Genesis were especially the target of Manichean attack since these passages taught the goodness of all of creation. A literal interpretation of the text all too often led to baffling conundrums, such as the passing of day and night before the creation of the sun or the making of man to God's image and likeness with its implication of gross anthropomorphism. The preaching of Ambrose allowed Augustine to see that "the spiritual people" in the Church did not always understand the text of Scripture in a literal fashion, but often understood the text spiritually (Conf. v, 14, 24 and vi, 3, 4). Twice Augustine lists four senses of Scripture: historical, aetiological, analogical, and allegorical. The historical sense tells us what was said or done; the aetiological sense gives the cause of its being said or done; the analogical sense shows the harmony of the two testaments; the allegorical sense shows that some passages must be interpreted figuratively, not literally (Util. cred. 3, 5 and Gen. imp. 2, 5). Elsewhere he says that "in all the holy books we must look at the eternal truths that we are taught in them, the deeds that are reported, the future events that are foretold, and what we are commanded or admonished to do" (Gen. litt. i, 1, 1).
Augustine has at least two criteria for resorting to a non-literal interpretation of a passage. A literal reading that leads to blasphemy or absurdity requires a figurative interpretation (Gen. Man. ii, 2, 3). But besides this more moderate criterion he also claimed, "Whatever in the word of God cannot in the proper sense be referred to the goodness of morals or the truth of the faith is figurative" (Doc. chr. iii, 10, 14). In accord with the latter criterion, for example, the precise number of fishes caught according to Jn 21.11 must have a figurative meaning, since it clearly does not refer to faith or morals (Joh. ev. tr. 122, 9).
What the Scriptures state is true because what they say God himself says (Conf. xiii, 29, 44). Augustine sharply reprimanded Jerome of Bethlehem for his interpretation of Gal 2.14 in the sense that Paul was telling a useful lie when he said that he saw that Peter was not acting correctly in relation to the truth of the Gospel. "For, if so-called useful lies are admitted into the holy scriptures, what authority will be left in them?" (Ep. 40, 3, 3). The authority of the Scriptures "is confirmed by the agreement of so many nations through the succession of apostles, bishops, and councils" (C. Faust. 13, 5) and must be believed without hesitation, though such immediate assent is only due to the canonical books (Nat. et grat. 61, 71). The whole text of the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, speak of Christ (Ep. Joh, 2, 1). "The Old Testament is revealed in the New; the New is veiled in the Old" (En. Ps. 105, 36). And the key to the unveiling of the Old Testament is the cross of Christ (En. Ps. 45, 1).
Despite all the authority of the canonical Scriptures, they are only needed by fallen human beings as part of our dependence upon signs for communication, signs that were not needed in paradise (Gen. Man. ii, 4, 5) and will not, of course, be needed in heaven (Conf. xiii, 15, 16). Furthermore, the whole purpose of the Scriptures is development in faith, hope, and charity, and persons who have acquired these virtues no longer need the Scriptures for themselves, though they may still need them for the instruction of others (Doct. chr. i, 34, 43). Augustine held that many true senses could be found in a passage of Scripture; even if the human author did not intend all of them, the divine author might very well have intended them and put them there for our mental exercise and discovery (Conf. xii, 31, 42–32, 43).
Souls: Origin and Destiny. From early on Augustine claimed that he wanted to know only God and the soul (Sol. 2, 7). From the Platonists he learned to conceive of the soul as incorporeal, and in the early years after his conversion he struggled to prove the immortality of the rational soul in his Soliloquies and The Immortality of the Soul. Though very early he speaks of the soul as divine (C. Acad. i, 1, 1 and 4, 11), he was soon convinced that the soul is mutable and, therefore, not divine (Ep. 166. 2, 3), though he continued to hold that, "though the human soul is not what God is, … there is nothing closer to God" (Quant. 34, 77). The human soul is equal to an angel in nature, but not in its function (Lib. arb. iii, 11, 32). He defines the human soul in Platonic language as "a certain substance partaking in reason and suited to rule the body" (Quant. 13, 22) and elsewhere speaks of a human being as "a rational soul using a mortal and earthly body" (Mor. i, 27, 52). Augustine compares the union of soul to the body in one person to the union of the Word with the man in the one person of Christ and finds the latter easier to believe (Ep. 137, 3, 11).
The question of the origin of human souls subsequent to those of Adam and Eve troubled Augustine throughout his life, and he insisted, when reviewing his books, that he did not know at Cassiciacum and that he did not know in his old age whether souls come by generation from Adam's soul or are created individually for each person who is born (Retr. i, 1, 3). He did, however, present four hypotheses regarding the origin of souls: that they come by propagation from Adam's soul (traducianism), that individual souls are created for each infant born (creationism), that souls are created outside their bodies and sent by God to rule bodies, and that souls are created elsewhere and fall into bodies of their own accord (Lib. arb. iii, 20, 56–58). When he formulated these hypotheses, his principal concern was to defend the justice of God, no matter which one of them might be true, but it seems clear that in his early writings he held that souls existed before their embodiment and fell into these mortal bodies by sin (Ep. 7, 1, 2). He clearly held that a soul brought with it into this life all the arts and that "what is called learning is nothing other than remembering and recalling" (Quant. 20, 34). It seems likely that as late as the time of The Confessions he held the view that the soul fell into the body, but at least by 411 he came to realize that Rom 9.11 excluded any prenatal sin (Pecc. mer. ii, 36, 59). While traducianism seemed more compatible with the transmission of original sin, the generation of souls seemed to implied that they were bodily, and while creationism was certainly compatible with the spirituality of souls, it both left the transmission of original sin puzzling and had no clear support in the Scriptures.
Though Augustine early was concerned with proving the soul's immortality, he later drops any concern with such proofs and focuses his attention almost entirely upon the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the body, something that he was slow to mention in his early writings (Quant. 33, 76), perhaps due to his fondness for Platonism. But soon he saw the resurrection as central to the Christian faith and says that the body will enjoy full health without any need or weariness after the resurrection of the flesh (Vera rel. 53, 103).
Knowledge. Augustine, of course, recognized the five bodily senses as well as an interior sense by which we become aware of our sensing and by which we picture to ourselves what we have previously sensed or imagine other things by combining, separating, enlarging, or reducing images of things we have previously sensed (Lib. arb. ii, 3, 8). He defined sensation in Plotinian language as "a modification of the body that of itself does not escape the soul's awareness" (Quant. 25, 48), thus making sensing an act of the soul and excluding any action of the body upon the soul (Mus vi, 5, 10). He thought of intellectual knowing on the model of seeing with the eyes. "To understand is to the mind what to see is to the sense" (Ord. ii, 3, 10) Hence, just as in order to see, we need such eyes that are open, healthy, and clean that turned toward something made visible by the light, so we need a mind that is healthy and whose gaze, reason (Quant. 27, 53), is turned toward something intelligible that has been illumined by God, who is "the light of minds" (Sol. i, 13, 23), "the intelligible light in whom and from whom and through whom all things are intelligibly bright that anywhere are intelligibly bright" (Sol. i, 1, 3). The theory of divine illumination clearly makes human intellectual knowing dependent upon God in some way, but it is not clear precisely what divine illumination contributes to human knowing.
Nature, Freedom, and Grace. In his opposition to Manicheism Augustine defended the goodness of every nature. He wrote to Celestine, the future pope, that there is a nature mutable in place and time such as a body, and a nature mutable only in time, such as a soul, and a nature wholly immutable whether in time or in place, namely, God (Ep. 18, 2). The absolutely immutable nature of God is obviously a great good since it is incorruptible, that is, cannot lose any goodness. Bodies and souls, though corruptible, are still good since, unless they had some goodness to lose, they would be incorruptible and, hence, very good (Conf. vii, 12, 18). So too, when his focus was directed to the refutation of the Manichees, Augustine emphasized the freedom of the will, claiming that nothing is so in the power of the will as the will itself and that, in order to have a good will, one only needs to will it (Lib. arb. i, 12, 26). In his early commentary on Romans Augustine claimed that God did not choose the works of anyone, but chose in his foreknowledge those whom he foreknew were going to believe. He explicitly stated, "That we believe, then, comes from us, but that we do good comes from him who gives the Holy Spirit to those who believe" (Ex. prop. Rm. 52). In that way he left the initiative in the salvation of human beings with human beings. But by the time he wrote to Simplicianus in order to answer his questions on Romans, Augustine claimed that God made it clear to him that we have nothing of our own over which we might boast, not even faith (Praed. sanct. 4, 8). He also came to see that the human nature with which each of us is born suffers under ignorance of what we ought to do and difficulty in doing the good, even when we know it (Lib. arb. iii, 20, 55). Our present nature is, therefore, damaged or vitiated in comparison with the nature with which human beings were originally created (Lib. arb. iii, 19, 54). Hence, though our will remains free, our present free choice without the help of grace is capable only of sin (Sp. et litt. 3, 5). Our will, which is free to sin, is not free for good actions unless it has been set free by the grace of God (C. ep. Pel. 3, 7). And God grants his grace gratuitously to those he chooses without any preceding merits on our part (C. ep. Pel. 6, 11); even the very beginning of faith is a gift of God, not due to any merit on our part (Praed. sanct. 41, 43).
Church. The Donatists claimed that the Church of Christ survived only in Africa and in their sect because of the invalidity of the sacraments administered by sinful ministers in the Church who had surrendered the sacred books during the persecution under Diocletian. Against their position Augustine emphasized the unity and peace of Christ from which the Donatists had torn themselves away (Ep. 61, 1). He also stressed the catholicity of the Church that had spread throughout the whole world, as the Scriptures had foretold, while the sect of Donatus was confined to Africa and only to a part of it (S. 19, 7). He pointed out that the Catholic Church in Africa was in communion with all those churches founded by the apostles, and in the bishops of Rome he traced the apostolic succession step by step from St. Peter to the current bishop (Ep. 53, 1, 2). Though the Donatists insisted that all they wanted was holiness (Ep. 93, 10, 43), Augustine argued that without being united to the body of Christ, the Church, they were also separated from Christ, its head, and claimed that, though they had the sacraments of Christ, they were not useful or salutary for them as long as they remained in their schism (C. Cresc. 29, 35).
The Church is the body of Christ and Christ himself is the head of the Church so that together Christ and the Church form the whole Christ (totus Christus ). "For without him we are nothing, but in him we too are Christ. Why? Because the whole Christ is the head and the body. The head is the body's savior who has already ascended into heaven, but the body is the Church that labors on earth" (En. Ps. 30, ii, 1, 3). Augustine appeals to Christ's words, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me" (Acts 9.4), as evidence of the unity of Christ as head with his body, the Church (En. Ps. 30, ii, 1, 3). The Church is, nonetheless, a Church of sinners. All in the Church have to pray daily both for the forgiveness of their own sins and for help to avoid sins in the future (Nat. et gr. 67, 80). Against the Donatist insistence upon holiness Augustine repeatedly appeals to the gospel parables of the wheat and the weeds in the field, the grain and the chaff on the threshing floor, and the good and bad fishes in the net, insisting that we cannot separate the saints from the sinners until we come to the harvest, the final winnowing, or the shore (Ep. 105, 5, 16). After all, we do not know who will be saved and who will not be saved, for that must be left to the judgment of God (Corrept. 8, 17).
Sacraments. Augustine uses the term "sacrament" in a wide sense as a sacred sign. He speaks of the sacraments of the Old Testament (Ep. 82, 3, 28) and sees sacraments as constitutive of a people (C. Faust. 19, 11). But he also uses the term in a narrower liturgical sense to refer to Baptism, especially in the controversies with the Donatists and with the Pelagians, and to the Eucharist, "the sacrament of the Lord's table" (S. 227). Though he does speak of the "the Holy Spirit, whose sacrament is found in a visible anointing" (In ep. Joh. 3, 5), it is not clear whether he is referring to the anointing administered in Baptism or perhaps in Orders. In contrast with the many sacraments of the Jewish people, the Christian people have only a few most salutary sacraments (Vera rel. 17, 33). For the celebration of the sacraments Christians uses only a few creatures, such as bread, wine, water, and oil (Ep. 55, 7, 13). Baptism and the Eucharist alone receive extensive theological discussion, though there is also some treatment of anointing, penance, orders, and marriage as sacraments.
Last Things. Augustine firmly rejected the Platonic or Pythagorean theory of a repeated reincarnation of the soul in human or other bodies (S. 241, 5). He saw death as the end of our being able to sin (Civ. Dei xxii, 30, 3) or to repent of our sins (S. 18, 5, 5), though he thought that prayers for the dead were beneficial to them (Ench. 29, 110) and prayed for his mother who on her deathbed had asked to be remembered at the altar (Conf. ix, 11, 27 and 12, 32). Between death and the last judgment the soul "enjoys rest or suffers affliction in accord with its merits in its life in the body"(Enchr. 29, 109). But the final reward and condemnation will occur only after the resurrection of the body (Civ. Dei xxi, 26, 4). Though infants who die without baptism will have the mildest condemnation of all (Pecc. merit. i, 16, 21), Augustine saw no possibility for some third place for them between reward and punishment (C. Jul. imp. i, 50, 1). The punishment of the damned will be eternal along with the devil (C. Prisc. 5, 5–6, 7), and the reward of the blessed with Christ will be life that is truly eternal, where they will be at rest, see, love, and praise God "in the end without end" (Civ. Dei xxii, 10).
Influence. In philosophy and theology Augustine had no rival in the Western world at least until Thomas Aquinas. His thought and writings literally formed the mind of the Christian West. He has been credited with much that is good in the Western world and Church and blamed, unjustly, for many of their evils. His language has molded the way people speak of themselves, their destiny, and of their God and will very likely continue to do so. The Church has not accepted all of his teachings, even on grace, but his language and thought have so influenced ours over the past 1600 years that it is hard to imagine what the West would have been like without him. Almost all parties at the time of the Reformation claimed him as their own, and he continues to be read and to be a source of inspiration for Christians of every denomination, at least in the West.
Feast: Aug. 28
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[r. j. teske]