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= ROOT|Philosophy|400-499|augustine-confessions-276.txt =

page 1 of 177


Digitized by Harry Plantinga <>

Originally: confessions+enchiridion1.0.txt

Scanned from an uncopyrighted 1955 Westminster Press
edition, Vol. VII of the Library of Christian Classics,
printed in the United States.

This text is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN, posted to Wiretap 7/94.


                 Newly translated and edited



                ALBERT C. OUTLER, Ph.D., D.D.

                    Professor of Theology

                 Perkins School of Theology 

                Southern Methodist University 

                        Dallas, Texas

                    First published MCMLV 

       Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 55-5021


last patristic and the first medieval father of Western 
Christianity.  He gathered together and conserved all the main 
motifs of Latin Christianity from Tertullian to Ambrose; he 
appropriated the heritage of Nicene orthodoxy; he was a 
Chalcedonian before Chalcedon -- and he drew all this into an 
unsystematic synthesis which is still our best mirror of the heart 
and mind of the Christian community in the Roman Empire.  More 
than this, he freely received and deliberately reconsecrated the 
religious philosophy of the Greco-Roman world to a new apologetic 
use in maintaining the intelligibility of the Christian 
proclamation.  Yet, even in his role as summator of tradition, he 
was no mere eclectic.  The center of his "system" is in the Holy 
Scriptures, as they ordered and moved his heart and mind.  It was 
in Scripture that, first and last, Augustine found the focus of 
his religious authority.

     At the same time, it was this essentially conservative genius 
who recast the patristic tradition into the new pattern by which 
European Christianity would be largely shaped and who, with 
relatively little interest in historical detail, wrought out the 
first comprehensive "philosophy of history." Augustine regarded 
himself as much less an innovator than a summator.  He was less a 
reformer of the Church than the defender of the Church's faith.  
His own self-chosen project was to save Christianity from the 
disruption of heresy and the calumnies of the pagans, and, above 
everything else, to renew and exalt the faithful hearing of the 
gospel of man's utter need and God's abundant grace.  But the 
unforeseen result of this enterprise was to furnish the motifs of 
the Church's piety and doctrine for the next thousand years and 
more.  Wherever one touches the Middle Ages, he finds the marks of 
Augustine's influence, powerful and pervasive -- even Aquinas is 
more of an Augustinian at heart than a "proper" Aristotelian.  In 
the Protestant Reformation, the evangelical elements in 
Augustine's thought were appealed to in condemnation of the 
corruptions of popular Catholicism -- yet even those corruptions 
had a certain right of appeal to some of the non-evangelical 
aspects of Augustine's thought and life.  And, still today, in the 
important theological revival of our own time, the influence of 
Augustine is obviously one of the most potent and productive 
impulses at work.

     A succinct characterization of Augustine is impossible, not 
only because his thought is so extraordinarily complex and his 
expository method so incurably digressive, but also because 
throughout his entire career there were lively tensions and 
massive prejudices in his heart and head.  His doctrine of God 
holds the Plotinian notions of divine unity and remotion in 
tension with the Biblical emphasis upon the sovereign God's active 
involvement in creation and redemption.  For all his devotion to 
Jesus Christ, this theology was never adequately Christocentric, 
and this reflects itself in many ways in his practical conception 
of the Christian life.  He did not invent the doctrines of 
original sin and seminal transmission of guilt but he did set them 
as cornerstones in his "system," matching them with a doctrine of 
infant baptism which cancels, ex opere operato, birth sin and 
hereditary guilt.  He never wearied of celebrating God's abundant 
mercy and grace -- but he was also fully persuaded that the vast 
majority of mankind are condemned to a wholly just and appalling 
damnation.  He never denied the reality of human freedom and never 
allowed the excuse of human irresponsibility before God -- but 
against all detractors of the primacy of God's grace, he 

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