Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)
Edited By Frederick Van Fleteren
Augustine is both a man of his times and an universal genius. He is a self-acknowledged Roman and prominent African of the fourth and fifth century, but a man for all epochs and seasons. His works are occasional, but his themes far-reaching. He is responsible for halting the expansion of Manicheanism in the West, the spread of Donatism in the North Africa, and the proliferation of Pelagianism in the Church universal. In fact, and contrary to popular opinion, he is more responsible for halting the spread of Platonism, at least in its more extreme forms, in the West than diffusing it.
At the risk of over-simplification and for the sake of convenience, Augustine’s literary career may be divided, with some overlap, into three periods: anti-Manicheanism (386–400); anti–Donatism (400–411); anti-Pelagianism (411–430). In the first phase, his fundamental themes are the relation between faith and reason, the problem of free will and evil, and the relation between the Old and New Testaments. These themes bring him far beyond his own age into the ultimate character of Christian thinking, notions of being, and the nature of scriptural hermeneutics. During this period, seminal semiotics are to be found in his works. In the second phase, his principal themes are the nature, unity, and universality of the Church, the efficacy of the sacraments, and the relation of Church and state. Again these themes reach far beyond his own age to the very essence of the Church, the...