Thursday, 7 February 2019
Ty Monroe: Family Matters in Augustine's Early Response to Donatism
Overviews of Augustine's response to Donatism often simply focus on his mature (and trademark) teachings on sacramental efficacy and ecclesial catholicity. Yet those who study Augustine's writings from the 390s know well how that response was shaped over a considerable span of time (ca. 391–400). Not only time, but also many other factors—from the explicitly theological to the plainly personal—played important roles in the maturation of Augustine's anti-Donatist rhetoric. This paper examines a narrow but perhaps important subset of those factors—namely, familial concerns that were for Augustine inextricable from the broader controversy. The paper shows that, in fact, the issue of family spans the aforementioned spectrum, insofar as it sits at the intersection of Augustine's personal, practical, and theological-conceptual concerns. This the paper does by considering at least three issues bound up with Augustine's response to Donatism as it developed throughout the 390s: 1) his own familial connections to Donatism; 2) his urgent need, expressed in various letters, to address the quotidian family matters which the schism forced upon those under his care; and 3) his growing understanding of the Church as Mother.