Augustine: A Pilgrimage Of Grace -- By: Duane W. H. Arnold

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 20:0 (NA 1988)
Article: Augustine: A Pilgrimage Of Grace
Author: Duane W. H. Arnold

Augustine: A Pilgrimage Of Grace

Duane W. H. Arnold

C. George Fry

Duane W. H. Arnold, an adjunct faculty member at ATS, is the Episcopal Chaplain to Wayne State University, Detroit. C. George Fry is Protestant Chaplain, St. Francis College, Fort Wayne.

In 1987, amidst our Easter celebrations, some of us paused to remember an event which took place 1600 years ago. It was an event which changed the course of western thought and influenced the shape of Christian theology to the present day. On Easter Eve, April 24, 387, in the dusk of a Milanese church in the north of Italy, candles flickered and cast a pallid glow as a man, already in his thirties, accompanied by his illegitimate son, stepped into the waters of the baptistry. Three times the young man would pass beneath the waters, then, dressed in a robe of white linen he would take his place in the congregation and with all the faithful proclaim, “Christ is Risen!”, “He is Risen Indeed!”. A prodigal had returned home. A restless intellect had found its calling. A discontented and troubled man had found peace.

His name was Augustine. Adolf van Harnack would call him the greatest man “between Paul the Apostle and Luther the Reformer which the Christian Church has possessed”.1 Benjamin B. Warfield wrote that “he took up and then transfigured the Christian faith for those who would follow”.2 Frederick Copleston wrote that, “Augustine stands out as… the greatest of the Fathers both from a literary and from a theological standpoint”.3 Augustine may be described, with equal fervor, as both the architect of the Christian Middle Ages, or as the first truly modern man. Indeed, there is something universal about the thought of this man. William James would write of Augustine’s reflections that they constituted an expression of “psychological genius… which has never been surpassed”.4 His theological works would be read by countless millions through the centuries. His devoted disciples would include Anselm and Aquinas, Luther and Calvin, Pascal and Newman, Tillich and Barth. For them, and for the Church through the ages, Augustine was the Doctor of Grace.

The life of Aurelius Augustinus began on November 13, 354 and came to a close on August 28, 430. For seventy-five years his was a “pilgrim’s progress”. In the course of his journey he would encounter detours and delays, failures and setbacks, but before his eyes loomed his destination. Although initially unknown, and for many years unarticulated, the City of God was to be the focus of his...

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