Augustine of Hippo

(354–430)
   Saint, Bishop and Theologian.
   Augustine was born in Tagaste, North Africa, to a Christian mother (monica) and a pagan father. Educated at the University of Carthage, as a young man he abandoned his faith, took a mistress and fathered a son. In c. 374 he became a Manichaean, but after coming under the influence of Bishop ambrose in Milan, he was baptised in 387. On his return to North Africa, he was ordained and in 395 he was consecrated Bishop of Hippo. Augustine described his life before he became a Christian in his Confessions and this has become a classic of Christian spirituality. (His prayer ‘O God make me chaste – but don’t do it just yet’ is known even outside Church circles.) However, Augustine is primarily remembered as a theologian. He defended Christian doctrine against the Manichaeans who believed in a fundamental conflict between darkness and light. In contrast, Augustine taught that God’s creation was all good and that evil was merely the absence of good. Against the Donatists, he insisted that the unworthiness of God’s ministers in no way affected the validity of the Sacraments, since Jesus Christ was the true minister. Against pelagius and his followers, he defined original sin as the inherited guilt of the first man, Adam, and he taught that human beings could only be obedient to God through divine grace. His best-known work, the Civitas Dei (City of God), was written as a reply to pagans who were arguing that the fall of Rome to the Goths in 410 was the result of the abolition of idolatrous worship. The book became a theology of history, describing the fortunes of the two cities created by worldly and heavenly love. Augustine’s writings have been immensely influential and he is a major figure in the history of Christian thought. In particular his teachings were much used by the Protestant Reformers against the Aristotelianism of thomas aquinas and the Schoolmen. Within the Roman Catholic world, the theologies of Augustine and Aquinas have been held together in a state of creative tension.
   St Augustine, Confessions, edited and translated by H. Chadwick (1991);
   The City of God, edited and translated by G.E. McCracken, 7 Vols (1957–72);
   H. Chadwick, Augustine (1986);
   P. Brown, Augustine of Hippo (1967).

Who’s Who in Christianity . 2014.

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