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by Kenneth Samples
A number of Christians have found my attachment to St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354–430) peculiar. Some probably think St. Augustine belongs exclusively to the Roman Catholic Church, and perhaps they mistakenly assume that no Protestant can genuinely appreciate a Catholic saint. But what these Christians fail to realize is that Augustine is as historically and theologically important to Protestants as he is to Catholics (agreeing with Westminster Seminary theologian Carl Trueman’s assessment). In other words, Augustine is a universal Christian voice within Western Christendom. Reformed theologians John Owen and Benjamin Warfield shared a respectful attachment to St. Augustine. Interestingly, Augustine is not especially well liked or appreciated in Eastern Christendom among the Eastern Orthodox. For example, Eastern Christendom views him as far too pessimistic concerning original sin.
Others probably think that since Augustine was not an inspired biblical author like Paul, John, or Peter, then studying his life and writings reveals a failure to appreciate the uniqueness of Scripture or its final authority. Yet a significant part of my respect for Augustine lies in his deep dedication to the truth and authority of Scripture. The second half of Augustine’s extraordinary life is spent seeking to understand, explain, and defend Scripture and the great doctrinal truths of historic Christianity.
I’m attracted to St. Augustine for many reasons. First, as a Christian philosopher I think a person needs to hitch their wagon to a broad philosophical-theological tradition within Christendom (to agree with contemporary Christian philosopher David Naugle). For Christians, philosophy can either serve theology as a handmaid or become a challenge to it. In navigating the topics of faith and reason, a person needs a reliable guide. In my opinion, Augustine’s approach to faith and reason…
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