"Augustinianism"

Gregg Singer

Baker's Dictionary of Theology, ed. Everett F Harrison (Baker, 1960)


A term applied to both the philosophy and the theology of Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo.

Augustinianism as a philosophy has been regarded by some as a Christianized Platonism, an attempt to bring Plato into the stream of Christian thought by making certain necessary changes and by using Christianity as the means of answering the questions raised by classical philosophy against a Platonic background. By others the Augustinianism philosophy has been regarded as the greatest attempt in the history of the church to offer a Christian world and life view, a biblical philosophy which would clearly show the futility of all philosophic application apart from Christian doctrine. Augustinianism as a philosophy frequently used Platonic terms to set forth Christian concepts, and for this reason Augustine has been suspected of Platonic leanings. Its distinguishing characteristics were its emphasis upon the will rather than upon the intellect, and its doctrine of the divine enlightenment of the soul as the source of human knowledge. In his De Civitate Dei he brought forth the first Christian philosophy of history.

As a theology, Augustinianism represents the supreme achievement of the early church in the realm of theological advance. Augustine brought to completion the doctrinal achievements and aspirations of the first four centuries of Christian scholarship. He gave to the Western church, in his De Trinitate, a masterful exposition of the doctrine of the Trinity. In other writings he set forth, with clarity and a faithfulness to the Scriptures, the doctrines of the sovereignty of God, the total depravity of man, and election and predestination. In his emphasis on man's inability to achieve righteousness and the truth that man is saved by sovereign grace alone, Augustine made his greatest contribution to the church through the ages, and directly influenced Calvin, Luther, and the other Reformers, but his doctrine of the church and baptismal regeneration was a contributing factor, in the hands of late theologians, to the growth of the Roman Catholic conception of the church and its sacraments. However, in a very real sense, the Reformation was essentially the result of the revival of Augustinianism within the Roman Catholic Church of the later Middle Ages and the ensuing conflict with the decaying Scholasticism.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
(1) Charles Norris Cochrane, Christianity and Classical Culture;
(2) B. B. Warfield, "Augustine" in Hastings' Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics;
(3) Warfield, Studies in Tertullian and Augustine.


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