I am continuing to enjoy my studies in the early church this Fall in my course with Carl Trueman. Today I have been reading, and reading about, St Augustine. Augustine has been called the “doctor of grace.” Grace was the common thread that was found to fill and inform all of his writing, and he did a lot of writing. Albert C. Outler summarizes this theme in the following way:
“The central theme in all Augustine’s writings is the sovereign God of grace and the sovereign grace of God. Grace, for Augustine, is God’s freedom to act without any external necessity whatsoever–to act in love beyond human understanding or control; to act in creation, judgment, and redemption; to give his Son freely as Mediator and Redeemer; to endue the Church with the indwelling power and guidance of the Holy Spirit; to shape the destinies of all creatures and the ends of the two human societies, the ‘city of earth’ and the ‘city of God.’ Grace is God’s unmerited love and favor, prevenient and occurent. It touches man’s inmost heart and will. It guides and impels the pilgrimage of those called to be faithful. It draws and raises the soul to repentance, faith, and praise. It transforms the human will so that it is capable of doing good. It relieves man’s religious anxiety by forgiveness and the gift of hope. It establishes the groud of Christian humility by abolishing the ground of human pride. God’s grace became incarnate in Jesus Christ, and it remains immanent in the Holy Spirit in the Church.” Quoted in Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600), p. 294.
Much of Augustine’s thought was shaped as he interacted with the Pelagian heresy that emerged in his day. If you would like some help thinking about how the Pelagian heresy is still around and affecting the church and its understanding of grace today, I would recommend you read this article By R. C. Sproul, The Pelagian Captivity of the Church
Although Augustine is one of the most significant figures in the history of the church, many Christians know very little about him. If you are interested in learning more, check out Peter Brown’s recent bio: Augustine of Hippo: A Biography.