Munro, Marjory K.
'Confessions of a justified sinner': Augustine's appeal to the Donatists. A study of a bishop's conciliatory approach, which identifies key elements of his pastoral method.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This thesis proposes that Augustine introduces into the title – word Confessions a new dimension that has implication for the Donatists; the right of the pastoral bishop to speak and to be heard. It argues the claim that the Confessions is an innovative didactic document, intentionally constructed by a pastoral bishop, the guardian of souls. The Confessions is examined from the standpoint that Augustine is addressing a contemporary pastoral problem which has particular application to the Donatist controversy. That Augustine relates the Donatist inspired division in the Church to human presumption is a key concern.
Through a process of close reading the thesis explores the themes that reflect and area relevant to the issues raised by the dispute. It draws on the literary devices of analogy, exemplar, allusion, inference, the pointed metaphor and biblical imagery. It takes into account the rhetorical skill and art of Augustine, and that central to Augustine’s dealings with the Donatists is the Word of Scripture, Christian humility and charity. A definite literary structure is found in the Confessions.
Themes outlined in Book one are developed in the course of the Confessions and culminate in the pastoral concerns of Book thirteen. The themes illuminate the pastoral problems directory related in Augustine’s mind and heart to the unity of the Church. The thesis argues that the distinctive literary form of the Confessions, with its focus on the ambiguity of human speech, the significance of human silence, and the dispositions of the human ‘heart’ as the locus of both good an sinful thoughts, enables the pastoral bishop to communicate with is Donatist audience.
This thesis is intended to contribute to the scholarly debate on the literary unity and purpose of the Confessions. It reasons that the bishop’s plea for the Church unity is made manifest in the unrest that permeates the Confessions and in his striving to be at one with God and in the peace of communion with others.
Through a process of self-examination Augustine is able to draw an analogy between the turmoil in his own heart and the turmoil at the heart of the Church, notably reflected in the ecclesial disruption fuelled by Donatist opposition.
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