Augustine’s Concept of God and His Trinitarian Thought

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Theologies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 September 2024 | Viewed by 7690

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Faculty of Protestant Theology, University of Tuebingen, 72076 Tuebingen, Germany
Interests: Early Church History; Patristics; Critical Text Editions; Augustine; Cappadocian Fathers; Plato-nism; Christianity

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Guest Editor
Divinity School of Chung Chi College, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, N.T., Hong Kong
Interests: Trinitarian Theology; Natural Science in Late Antiquity; Augustine; Cappadocian Fathers; Exegesis of the Church Fathers; Neoplatonism; Gnosticism; Manichaeism

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues, 

The importance of Augustine’s thought for the Latin West and Western philosophy and theology can hardly be overestimated. This Special Issue focuses on his concept of God and explores how this concept acts as the metaphysical foundation of his theology. Influenced by various traditions and challenges of his time, Augustine developed a concept of God that was fruitful due to four dimensions:

- He developed an ontology that replaced the classical approach based on substance. From this new approach, Augustine drew far-reaching conclusions about the description of God’s Being, about the world as creation, and about God’s operations in the world.

- He also developed his concept of God in his Trinitarian thought in a specific manner. He regarded the human mind as made in the image of God and, therefore, made use of the mind’s activities and relations to demonstrate the relations within the Triune God. The relationship between God and the human soul (or at least its rational part) is crucial for his interpretation of the world, history, sciences, and nature.

- He drew conclusions from his concept of God regarding the question of how humans can reach perfection, blessedness, and peace. His interpretation of free will, reason, passions, and the body are dependent upon his description of how God acts in the world. This led him to a concept of redemption caused exclusively by God, namely, his doctrine of grace and predestination.

- His reflections on Trinitarian thought produced a specific pneumatology, which plays an essential role not only within the Trinity but also in the explication of God’s operations towards mankind. The connection between the divine Spirit as a gift and Christ as mediator is crucial for his description of redemption.

These four dimensions can be analysed through very different approaches, as can be seen from the following (not exhaustive) list of exemplary topics:

  • Augustine at the court of Milan: between Neo-Nicenism and Homoianism.
  • Reception of Marius Victorinus and/or Ambrose.
  • The Divine and the Soul: Is there an influence of Plotinus and/or Porphyry?
  • Manichaean Trinitarian theology and its importance for Augustine.
  • Biblical foundation of Trinitarian theology in De trinitate.
  • De trinitate 15 in comparison with De trinitate 9-11.
  • Trinitarian theology in the Pelagian controversy.
  • Trinitarian thought and the concept of heresy.
  • Trinitarian thought and Christology, esp. in the debate with porphyry.
  • The Holy Spirit as vinculum caritatis and Its proceeding.
  • Augustinian Trinitarian thought in the formation of the Trinitarian thought in the Latin West (5th-7th century).
  • The development and reception of Augustinian theology of God and the Trinity in different cultures.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Prof. Dr. Volker Henning Drecoll
Prof. Dr. Colten Cheuk-Yin Yam
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Augustine
  • Metaphysical foundation of His Thought
  • Trinitarian Theology
  • Concept of God
  • Christology
  • Pneumatology
  • Neoplatonism
  • Manichaeism
  • Pelagianism
  • Doctrine of Grace
  • Neo-Nicenism

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

18 pages, 331 KiB  
Article
A Trinitarian Ascent: How Augustine’s Sermons on the Psalms of Ascent Transform the Ascent Tradition
by Mark J. Boone
Religions 2024, 15(5), 586; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050586 - 10 May 2024
Viewed by 448
Abstract
Augustine’s sermons on the Psalms of Ascent, part of the Enarrationes in Psalmos, are a unique entry in the venerable tradition of those writings that aim to help us ascend to a higher reality. These sermons transform the ascent genre by giving, [...] Read more.
Augustine’s sermons on the Psalms of Ascent, part of the Enarrationes in Psalmos, are a unique entry in the venerable tradition of those writings that aim to help us ascend to a higher reality. These sermons transform the ascent genre by giving, in the place of the Platonic account of ascent, a Christian ascent narrative with a Trinitarian structure. Not just the individual ascends, but the community that is the church, the body of Christ, also ascends. The ascent is up to God, the Idipsum or the Selfsame, the ultimate reality, confessed by the church as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Through the grace of the Incarnation, God the Son enables us to ascend, making himself the way of ascent from the humility we must imitate at the beginning of the ascent all the way up to Heaven, where he retains his identity as Idipsum. Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit works in the ascending church to convert our hearts to the love of God and neighbor. I review the Platonic ascent tradition in Plato’s Republic and Plotinus’ Enneads; overview ascent in some of Augustine’s earlier writings; introduce the narrative setting of the sermons on the Psalms of Ascent; and analyze the Trinitarian structure of their ascent narrative. I close with some reflections on the difference between a preached Trinitarianism that encourages ascent and a more academic effort to understand God such as we find in Augustine’s de Trinitate. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Augustine’s Concept of God and His Trinitarian Thought)
20 pages, 939 KiB  
Article
Two Approaches to Augustine’s Theory of the Trinitarian Image in Ming and Qing China
by Weichi Zhou and Yingying Zhang
Religions 2023, 14(11), 1364; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14111364 - 29 Oct 2023
Viewed by 1028
Abstract
In some of the earliest Chinese works written by Catholic missionaries in the late Ming Dynasty, St. Augustine became associated with the mystery of the Trinity. When explaining the Trinity to Chinese believers, missionaries would often use an analogy of the mens (mind) [...] Read more.
In some of the earliest Chinese works written by Catholic missionaries in the late Ming Dynasty, St. Augustine became associated with the mystery of the Trinity. When explaining the Trinity to Chinese believers, missionaries would often use an analogy of the mens (mind) and its activities in Augustine’s theory of Imago Dei, drawing parallels between “the One” and “the Three”. In the Ming and Qing periods, Augustine’s mental analogy gave rise to two approaches: the “Augustinian-Ignatian” and the “Augustinian-Thomistic”. The former, which was the mainstream interpretation, linked “Mind: memory-understanding-love” to “God: the Father-the Son-the Holy Spirit”, using “the word generated by memory” to represent “the Son begotten by the Father” and “love proceeded from memory and understanding” as an analogy to “the Holy Spirit proceeded from both the Father and the Son”. The latter, more of a minority interpretation, correlated “mind-understanding-love” to “the Father-the Son-the Holy Spirit”, using “word generated by mind” to represent “the Son generated by the Father”, and “love proceeded from mind and word” as an analogy to “the Holy Spirit proceeded from both the Father and the Son”. The former was mainly adhered to by the Jesuits and the Augustinians, while the latter was favored by the Dominicans. This article examines both approaches and critiques of Augustine’s theory of the Trinitarian image in Ming and Qing China. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Augustine’s Concept of God and His Trinitarian Thought)
21 pages, 377 KiB  
Article
The Relationship between Augustine’s Anthropological Duality and His Doctrine of the Two Cities
by Anthony Dupont, Bernard Bruning and Kristiaan Venken
Religions 2023, 14(6), 791; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060791 - 14 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1269
Abstract
Augustine of Hippo’s early works distinguish between the earthly human person, driven by worldly desires, and the reborn person, oriented towards heaven. Later, in his monumental De ciuitate Dei (On the City of God), Augustine expands on this distinction, proposing the [...] Read more.
Augustine of Hippo’s early works distinguish between the earthly human person, driven by worldly desires, and the reborn person, oriented towards heaven. Later, in his monumental De ciuitate Dei (On the City of God), Augustine expands on this distinction, proposing the existence of two cities: the earthly city, characterized by the love of self; and the city of God, characterized by the love of God. This tension between the two loves shapes human understanding of and place in the world. This article explores how the said tension reflects a duality in human nature, tracing the development of the relationship between Augustine’s doctrine of the two cities and his reflections on the dual human nature from his early works to De ciuitate Dei. The article studies whether the duality of human nature mirrors the dichotomy between the ciuitas Dei (city of God) and the ciuitas terrena (earthly city), examining how the conflict between good and evil within individuals and society serves as a model for the conflict between the two cities in Augustine’s doctrine, with a focus on how these concepts are expounded in his earlier writings and articulated in his De ciuitate Dei. It examines how the interaction between these loves manifests in human actions and desires, and shapes our understanding of the good and desirable. Ultimately, this article seeks to address the question of whether the tension between the love of God and the love of self, both in society and in human nature, is capable of harmonious resolution in Augustine’s mindset. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Augustine’s Concept of God and His Trinitarian Thought)
18 pages, 370 KiB  
Article
Augustine’s Enchiridion: An Anti-Pelagian Interpretation of the Creed
by David Burkhart Janssen
Religions 2023, 14(3), 408; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14030408 - 17 Mar 2023
Viewed by 1653
Abstract
At first glance, Augustine did not combine his soteriology and his Trinitarian doctrine in his anti-Pelagian oeuvre. Therefore, this article pursues the more hidden and implicit connections between these topics. The starting point of this endeavour is an analysis of the Enchiridion, [...] Read more.
At first glance, Augustine did not combine his soteriology and his Trinitarian doctrine in his anti-Pelagian oeuvre. Therefore, this article pursues the more hidden and implicit connections between these topics. The starting point of this endeavour is an analysis of the Enchiridion, a catechetical work in which Augustine interpreted the Roman—later so-called Apostle’s—Creed. Simultaneously, Augustine directed his attention in the Enchiridion to questions and arguments which originate from the Pelagian controversy such as original sin, grace, baptism, remission of sin(s) and the theory of predestination. Thus, this article ponders the question of how Augustine reflected his Trinitarian doctrine within this anti-Pelagian soteriology. While Augustine seldom referred to his Trinitarian doctrine explicitly in the Enchiridion (and his anti-Pelagian oeuvre), he presented in these works a conception of how the triune God operates as creator and saviour. This anti-Pelagian concept of God seizes several aspects which also appear in Augustine’s De trinitate. Moreover, by emphasising the unity of God’s operation as creator and saviour against the Pelagians, Augustine argued in favour of a specific Trinitarian doctrine: opera trinitatis ad extra inseparabilia. Thus, this article finally tries to analyse how Augustine amalgamated his anti-Pelagian Christocentric soteriology with his Trinitarian doctrine. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Augustine’s Concept of God and His Trinitarian Thought)
13 pages, 421 KiB  
Article
The Emergence and Implication of the Role of Angels in Augustine’s Understanding of Creation: The Extension and Mirroring of Christ
by Donald Ho-Lun Wong
Religions 2023, 14(3), 322; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14030322 - 28 Feb 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1624
Abstract
Angels take on a unique role in Augustine’s understanding of creation. Traditionally, researchers have focused on De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim, Confessiones, and De Civitate Dei contra paganos to generate a descriptive account of the angelic role in creation. As such, [...] Read more.
Angels take on a unique role in Augustine’s understanding of creation. Traditionally, researchers have focused on De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim, Confessiones, and De Civitate Dei contra paganos to generate a descriptive account of the angelic role in creation. As such, not much attention has been paid to the emergence of his understanding of angels in his earlier texts. The largely descriptive accounts have also left the theological implication, specifically the linkage between Augustine’s angelology and Christology, unaddressed. This paper offers a two-fold contribution. First, this paper argues that the often-overlooked text De Genesi ad litteram imperfectus liber represents the pivotal moment in the development of Augustine’s germinating thoughts on angels and creation. Augustine’s mature notions of angels as created light and created wisdom, as well as angelic noetic movement, find their roots in De Genesi ad litteram imperfectus liber. Second, this paper argues that, from De Genesi ad litteram imperfectus liber to his more mature works, angels extend Christ’s work in creation. Augustine solves the problem of fashioning the corporeal from the spiritual by locating the production of intellectual prototypes within angels. Together with the designation of angels as “knowledge”, “light”, and “wisdom”, angels mirror Christ’s activity as creator. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Augustine’s Concept of God and His Trinitarian Thought)
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