Augustine of Hippo was one of the most accomplished early church theologians and much of what he wrote has been preserved for over fifteen-hundred years. Regardless of sect or denomination, he is revered by all who study his life and read his works.
He lived during the time of the Council of Nicaea and became a Bishop and teacher within the church during the years between Nicaea and Chalcedon, and he championed faith based upon reason and thought.
While Augustine provided excellent, lasting understanding for many facets of Christian theology, he defined justification by faith most famously.“Martin Luther would have been unable to start the reclamation of the orthodox church and conduct proper biblical exegesis without the works of Augustine.”
Moreover, St. Augustine, long after he passed away, influenced another well-known theologian, Martin Luther.
One thousand years after Augustine lived, Luther, who was an Augustinian monk, carefully studied the works of Augustine and concluded that the Roman Catholic church had perverted the Gospel by making it into a faith of works; something they were capable of doing because they kept the holy text out of the common vernacular.
Additionally, people depended upon the pope and priests for theology and forgiveness.
Luther revealed his concerns to the church and was quickly labeled as a dangerous thinker by the pope. These events started what is now known as the Protestant Reformation.
Martin Luther would have been unable to start the reclamation of the orthodox church and conduct proper biblical exegesis without the works of Augustine.
While justification by faith is where most scholars center their research, orthodox Christology is what was at stake during the life of both men.“Augustine’s Christological convictions were upheld by Martin Luther due to his accomplished life, extensive biblical exegesis, and criticism of Manichaeism.”
Much of Augustine’s work was written to refute the heretical Manicheans, a cult he belonged to as a young man, who taught Jesus had no ability to atone for sin because He lacked divinity in the sense the New Testament recorded.
During Augustine’s life, this cult was popular and could not be ignored. Likewise, Luther faced the entire Roman Catholic church in his assertion that Jesus, as God the Son incarnate and fully human, paid our ransom on the cross once and for all.
Nothing more was required for salvation than our faith by which we were justified. The church heaped many sacraments, conditions, and penances upon the simple Gospel of the Bible; a reality Luther could not ignore.
In Luther’s view, the church had rendered Jesus an insufficient Savior. However, Luther could not have come to this conclusion without his entrance into the monastery and deep study of Scripture and Augustine of Hippo.
Augustine’s Christological convictions were upheld by Martin Luther due to his accomplished life, extensive biblical exegesis, and criticism of Manichaeism.
To demonstrate this further, this article series will show the link between Augustine’s Christology and Luther’s, by looking at four main points.“In Luther’s view, the church had rendered Jesus an insufficient Savior. However, Luther could not have come to this conclusion without his entrance into the monastery and deep study of Scripture and Augustine of Hippo.”
First, the formative years of Augustine will be examined to demonstrate his intellectual and spiritual growth which without he would not have made the literary contributions to the field Christology imbedded within his varied works.
Second, four of Augustine’s seminal works will be examined for Christological thought both for proper understanding and refutation of heresy.
Third, Martin Luther’s formative years will be examined to demonstrate his intellectual growth and relation to Augustine in his life and literary work.
Fourth, and lastly, Luther’s literary works will show the connection and agreement between his and Augustine’s Christology.
So sit back, relax and get ready for the next installment in this series where we will continue to look at St. Augustine’s influence on Martin Luther’s understanding of Jesus.
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Portret van Martin Luther, Cornelis Koning (?-1671), c. 1608 – c. 1671. RP-P-1908-1644. Heilige Augustinus met brandend hart doorboord met pijl, Schelte Adamsz. Bolswert, after Peter Paul Rubens, 1596 – 1678. RP-P-1886-A-11212. The Rijksmuseum.