|North African bishop and theologian, an architect
of western Christian tradition.
medieval artist's vision of the City of God
Born to a pagan father
and a Christian mother, Augustine was in his youth a devotee of Manichean
teachings. After a period as a teacher of rhetoric, he came under the
influence of Ambrose
and was drawn to Christianity. Augustine’s Confessions recount
his protracted struggle with the Christian faith and dramatic conversion,
in which his Christian mother Monica played a crucial role. After
living for a short time in a semi-monastic community, he became a priest
and soon thereafter bishop of Hippo. He continued in this office until
as a theologian and architect of the western Christian tradition as definitively
shaped by his tasks as a bishop. Among the most influential of his theological
writings was his summary work, On Christian Doctrine. In controversy
with the Donatists
of North Africa, Augustine developed lastingly influential notions of
catholicity in relation to the larger themes of his ecclesiology, an account
of the relation of church and state, and a distinctive theology of ministry
in relation to the administration of the sacraments. Augustine joined
Jerome and others in controversy with Pelagius.
In this context Augustine worked out durable conceptions of sin and grace.
of the city of Rome
to barbarian invaders in 410 prompted him to write The City of God,
a massive account of the work of God in human history. Augustine continued
until his death to produce a prodigious volume of sermons, commentaries,
and other works. Augustine was especially influential in the later development
of ecclesiology, sacramental theology, and the understanding of the relation
of sin to grace.