Augustine on election: the birth of an article of faith
De Boer, Erik A.
MetadataShow full item record
The doctrine of divine election is part of the heritage of Western Christianity. Discussions in the reformed tradition point to the older Augustine as the one who developed the doctrine of double predestination in the controversy with the semi-Pelagians. The thesis of this study is that the birth of this doctrine can be found in the writings of the young Augustine in the early years of his episcopacy. Personal explorations into St. Paul’s letter to the Romans and written questions from Simplician of Milan prompted him to write on Chapter 9. Augustine’s reading of Romans 9 is compared with the preceding works of Marius Victorinus and Ambrosiaster. The account of Augustine’s conversion in his Confessiones document indicates his involvement in Romans. Especially his Ad Simplicianum documents “a veritable revolution in his theology” towards a fully developed doctrine of grace. The concept of God’s foreknowledge of human acts no longer sufficed to understand the diverse fates of the twins Esau and Jacob. There is a book titled Augustine the Algerian. The place where he was born in 354, Thagaste, is now called Souk Ahras and is part of modern Algeria. The fact that Aurelius Augustine, the famous church father, was born an Africa and worked in North Africa all his life appeals to me. The more recent book title, Augustine the African, is less anachronistic but still somewhat romantic. Augustine never went so far south that he crossed the Sahara on a camel, let alone rounding the Cape of Good Hope on a ship. It speaks to the heart of the present author, a Dutchman who is honoured to be invited to teach patristics in South Africa, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ reached the north of this beautiful and terrible continent as early as the second century A.D. I hope to share with my students and colleagues my encounters with Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine, Arnobius and Lactantius – to name but the Latin “big five”. Currently, in the Netherlands, many people take an interest in the church fathers. The steady stream of new translations of their works suggests that there is a market. The Center for Patristic Studies (CPO), a joint venture of the Amsterdam Free University and the Tilburg Catholic University, draws quite a number of scholars together and is training a new generation. Where does this renewed focus on the fathers come from? First, the realisation that the Christian church is a minority in society directs our attention to the early centuries when Christianity had to find its way in a non-friendly environment. Second, the fragmentation of the Church into many denominations, factions and groups fosters a longing for catholicity when the Christian church could rightfully be called one. The chair for patristic studies at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein has been inspired by a more academic motive: Theology should be grounded in the knowledge of its source texts. When theology is true to its vocation, it can help the academic community to react to the vivid interest in the early Church.