He towers over church history like a great mountain over a valley.
His name is Augustine and he is (at least for the West) the most important theologian in church history.
His theology both strengthened Roman Catholicism and started the Reformation.
There is not nearly enough space on a blog to attempt to deal with his legacy…skimming the high points is all we can hope to do.
First, in debates with Pelagius, he hammered out the doctrines of original sin, the bondage of the will, and the results of the Fall. Pelagius maintained that the Fall damaged, (but did not destroy) the image of God in man and man was able to use his free will to obey the commands of Christ. Augustine interpreted Paul to say that since the Fall man was now in Adam, his will in bondage to sin, and without the grace of God unable to seek God at all. The doctrines of the necessity of grace in salvation, election, predestination, and the perseverance of the saints that flowered under the Reformers first found their root in Augustine.
This is his four fold view of man:
(1) Before the Fall, man was able to sin or not sin. (2) Fallen, unregenerate man is not able not to sin. (3) Fallen, but regenerated man is able to sin or not sin. (4) Glorified man is not able to sin.
The doctrine of the divine inspiration of Scripture was most fully developed by Augustine.
While he handed all these nascent doctrines to the Reformers, he also gave the Roman Catholic church it’s most developed doctrines of papal and church authority, the perpetual virginity of Mary, intercession of the saints, purgatory, penance, celibacy of clergy, and sacramentalism…in other words, the basis of medieval Roman Catholicism.
In his spare time, he thought up the “just war” theory.
From this point until the Reformation all theologians in the West considered themselves “Augustinians”.
The Reformation itself was started by an Augustinian monk named Luther and Calvin quoted him over 400 times in the ‘Institutes”.
In an odd turn of history, both Protestants and Roman Catholics trace many of their most important doctrines back to Augustine, the greatest of all theologians.
The Council of Ephesus: Condemned the Nestorian heresy and affirmed the two natures of Christ.
The Council of Chalcedon: Further affirmed and clarified the doctrine of the nature of Christ and it’s confession has been the churches since. The Chalcedon creed describes Jesus Christ as fully human and fully divine, with the two natures existing together without confusion. This council also decided to put Constantinople in a position secondary to Rome…and the gap between East and West widened.
Secondary doctrines: The cult of Mary begins to flourish as well as the reverence of relics. The place of the pope, monastic orders, and tradition as defined by the church all grow exponentially in this century.
Rome is sacked twice, in 415 and 455.
Jerome’s Vulgate is completed and becomes the Bible in use until the 1500’s.
Names you should know…