Sunday, 3 May 2015

Joshua Bruce: The Necessities of Judgment: Augustine’s Juridical Response to the Donatists

“Deliver me from my necessities.”  Such is the desperate prayer uttered by the judge described in Augustine’s masterful excursus on the complexities of juristic judgment in Book XIX, Chapter VI of De Civitate Dei.  Incipient in Augustine’s remarks in De Civitate Dei is a profound respect for the magistrate who sees the vagrancies inherent in the exercise of his office but still performs his duties.   This paper will argue that Augustine’s response to the Donatists is one enlightening case study into his own careful exercise of juridical judgment.
One of Augustine’s foremost biographers has noted that Augustine’s response to the Donatist controversy was that of a trained jurist in a courtroom. This paper proposes to examine Augustine’s support for imperial coercion of the Donatists, exemplified in his sermon on Christ’s parable of the wedding banquet and the tarnished phrase, “Compelle eos intrare” (Luke 14:16-24; Sermo, 112).  It will be contended that, when seen through juristic lenses provided by Book XIX of De Civitate Dei, Augustine’s response to the Donatists stands firmly within the purview of his broader perspective on judgment.  This investigation will also raise some very interesting questions regarding criticisms of Augustine as ‘le prince et patriarche des persecutors.’

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