Augustine of Hippo and Martin Luther on Original Sin and Justification of the Sinner

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http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-10-8445-4
Title: Augustine of Hippo and Martin Luther on Original Sin and Justification of the Sinner
Author: Lopes Pereira , Jairzinho
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Theology, Systematic Theology
Date: 2012-12-20
Language: en
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-10-8445-4
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/37844
Thesis level: Doctoral dissertation (monograph)
Abstract: This study analyses the relationship between Augustine and Luther in their understandings of the doctrine of Original Sin and the justification of sinners, taking as its main source Augustine's writings addressed against Julian of Aeclanum as well as Luther's Lectures on Romans. I argue that the radical anthropological and soteriological insights with which Augustine opposed the theologians associated with fifth century Pelagianism are the key for understanding the early stages of Luther's call for Reformation of the doctrine of the Catholic Church regarding Original Sin and justification. The study commences with a preliminary discussion on the terminology linked with Augustine's definition of sin. I claim that the Augustinian concept of sin was defined in intimate connection with a concept he inherited from his contact with neo-Platonism the concept of order. Sin is disorder. Original Sin was an expression of disorder which implanted disorder in the very core of human nature. This was a line of thought that Luther fully endorsed. The young Luther's doctrine of Original Sin, I point out, is essentially Augustinian. Although Augustine did not invent the doctrine of Original Sin, he certainly brought a new way of understanding the implications of the Adamic Fall in the human-divine relationship and in the salvation of human beings. I explain that whether Augustine first outlined his radical approach to salvation through the gracious mercy of God and only then developed his theological formulation of Original Sin (or came to it in the reverse order) may be open to dispute. What is certain is that the way Augustine approached the gravity of Original Sin is in harmony with the way he approached the issue of justification of the sinner and the salvation process as a whole. One of the main theses maintained in this study is that the way Augustine approached human beings and their salvation put him on a collision course with the very tradition of the Church Fathers he so eagerly claims to defend. Augustine's understanding of human salvation, I explain, constitutes a break with the patristic tradition precisely because he took the notion of a general condemnation in Adam to radical consequences. After some hesitations in the initial years of his literary career, Augustine broke with the line of thought according to which humans start their salvation by turning to God and God then accomplish their salvation. This turning point was crystallized in two major works authored by the Church Father, Ad Simplicianum and Confessiones. In these two works Augustine unequivocally claims that the very first step one takes towards God is itself a divine gift. The very will to believe is God's grace. This assessment constituted a break with the traditional view of the Fathers on the issue of salvation. It is precisely this crucial detail that explains Luther's reliance upon Augustine. Luther's doctrine of justification by faith alone was essentially a deliberate attempt to recover the old Augustinian claim according to which both the beginnings and the accomplishment of the salvation process belong to God and only to God. This is a crucial point because in this assessment lies the main reason why Luther preferred Augustine to any other Church Father. It was based on this Augustinian defense of the radical gratuity of the salvation process that Luther relied to oppose the Nominalist axiom of facere quod in se est Deus non denegat gratiam. The teaching of the Fathers according to which human beings start and God accomplishes the process of salvation may have seemed to Luther dangerously close to the teaching of the recentiores doctores he so vehemently opposed. I show my opposition towards the trend within modern Lutheran scholarship to argue that the young Luther's doctrine of justification found its inspiration elsewhere, not in Augustine's anti-Pelagian writings. Against the common argument that while Augustine taught justification by grace and by love, Luther taught justification by faith alone, I argue that such a claim is not consistent with the evidence in the sources by showing significant affinities between Augustine and Luther's positions. Augustine, some scholars argue, never conceived justification as fides Christi, but rather as a transformation of the human will or disposition for God's commands. A closer look into the two theologians' understandings of justification would suggest otherwise. Augustine taught justification by grace as well as justification as fides Christi. Luther taught justification by faith, justification as a declaration of righteousness on account of the fides Christi, but his doctrine of justification went beyond a mere declaration of righteousness. For both Augustine and Luther, justification starts with the bestowal of the grace of faith and keeps manifesting itself through moral progress throughout the entire earthly life of the justified sinner. I also try to shed some light upon the old discussion regarding Augustine's reading of Gal. 5:6. I argue that this passage was used by Augustine with no other purpose than to characterise the genuine Christian faith, the justifying faith. Augustine's reading of Gal. 5:6 does not collide with Luther's doctrine of justification by faith. The essence of Augustine's doctrine of justification states that humans are justified through or by the grace of faith (gratia fidei). Faith is not acquired by any merit, so it is a grace, that is, freely given. Justification is entirely God's doing since it begins once one is bestowed with the grace of faith and proceeds, impelled by the grace of perseverance (which is deep down what Augustine called gratia cooperativa, a reality not absent in Luther's understanding of the justification process). The Augustinian notion of grace is a very comprehensive one. Grace assumes many forms. Among its main expressions, according to Augustine, are the gifts of faith, hope and love. Luther did not deviate from this path. Perhaps there is only a slight difference in emphasis. Augustine elected love as the great distinctive characteristic of justifying faith, while Luther selected humility. For both theologians, however, faith is the only source of justification. This faith would obviously be useless without love, hope and humility. After all, without these ingredients it would not be the justifying faith.Not available
Subject: ecumenics
Rights: This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for Your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.


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