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Augustine and the Mystery of the Church

Author: 
James K. Lee (Author)
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Description

Over the course of the past two centuries, Augustine's ecclesiology has been subject to interpretations that overdraw the distinction between the visible and invisible dimensions of the church, sometimes reducing the church to a purely spiritual, invisible reality, over against the visible church celebrating the sacraments; the empirical community is incidental, at best, and can be discarded. By contrast, this book argues that the church is a mystery that is visible and invisible. Far from discarding the visible, Augustine places greater emphasis on the empirical church as his thought develops.

This study traces Augustine’s ecclesiology from early writings to later works in order to demonstrate this thesis. His early thought is heavily influenced by Platonism and tends to focus on the ascent of the individual soul. After his study of Scripture in the 390s, Augustine gives priority to participation in the visible, sacramental community. In his mature thought, the church is one mystery (mysterium, sacramentum) revealed by Scripture, with visible and invisible aspects. This book explores Augustine’s exegesis of biblical images of the church, such as body of Christ, bride of Christ, city of God, and sacrifice, in order to show how the visible community is intrinsic to the mystery of the church. 

ISBN: 
9781506432632
Price: 
$79.00
ISBN: 
9781506420523
Price: 
$79.00
Release date: 
September 1, 2017
Pages: 
220
Width: 
6
Height: 
9

Endorsements

Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox theologians—and especially those who care about ecumenical unity—will need this seminal study on their bookshelves.

"No theologian is more important than Augustine. James Lee here provides an authoritative account of the main lines of Augustine's theology of the Church, rightly emphasizing the unity of visible and invisible in Augustine's ecclesiology. This contribution would already be important enough, but Lee does it with equally admirable brevity and clarity. Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox theologians—and especially those who care about ecumenical unity—will need this seminal study on their bookshelves."

Matthew Levering | Mundelein Seminary

At once theological, ecclesial, and ecumenical in appeal. Highly recommended.

"Augustine's theology of the Church is notoriously elusive because it is characteristically subtle. James Lee has made an outstanding contribution in providing an introduction that is not elusive but preserves and communicates Augustine's subtlety, and in an admirably brief compass. The book will serve equally well as a teaching resource and as a contribution to Augustinian scholarship. It is at once theological, ecclesial, and ecumenical in appeal. Highly recommended."

John C. Cavadini | Institute for Church Life, University of Notre Dame

A lucid and penetrating study of Augustine’s ecclesiology

"In this lucid and penetrating study of Augustine’s ecclesiology, James Lee offers what students and teachers of Augustine have wanted for a very long time: an accessible synthesis of Augustine’s mature teaching on the Church. Augustine’s thinking about the Church is deeply influential, but spread across the whole body of his writings, and a convincing account of it has to sift and draw together an enormous amount of material in an illuminating way. That is just what Professor Lee has done, and all who care about Augustine, and about the Church, are in his debt."

Bruce D. Marshall | Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University