Such, indeed, was also the opinion of his contemporaries, judging from their expressions of enthusiasm gathered by the Bollandists.The popes attributed such exceptional authority to the Doctor of Hippo that, even of late years, it has given rise to lively theological controversies.It is first of all a remarkable fact that the great critics, Protestant as well as Catholic, are almost unanimous in placing St.Augustine in the foremost rank of Doctors and proclaiming him to be the greatest of the Fathers.
These fantasies do not survive the reading of the texts, and Harnack himself shows in Augustine the heir to the tradition that preceded him.Nor does his influence end with the decline of medievalism: we shall see presently how closely his language was akin to that of Descartes, who gave the first impulse to and defined the special character of modern philosophy." And after having established that the doctrine of St.Augustine was at the bottom of all the struggles between Jansenists and Catholics in the Church of France, between Arminians and Calvinists on the side of the Reformers, he adds: "And once more in our own land when a reaction arose against rationalism and Erastinianism it was to the African Doctor that men turned with enthusiasm: Dr.Compared with the great philosophers of past centuries and modern times, he is the equal of them all; among theologians he is undeniably the first, and such has been his influence that none of the Fathers, Scholastics, or Reformers has surpassed it." (Philip Schaff, When the critics endeavour to determine Augustine's place in the history of the Church and of civilization, there can be no question of exterior or political influence, such as was exercised by St. It is now universally conceded that, in the intellectual field, this influence is unrivalled even by that of Thomas Aquinas, and Augustine's teaching marks a distinct epoch in the history of Christian thought.The better to emphasize this important fact we shall try to determine: (1) the rank and degree of influence that must be ascribed to Augustine; (2) the nature, or the elements, of his doctrinal influence; (3) the general qualities of his doctrine; and (4) the character of his genius.
Augustine's dogmatic mission (in a lower sphere and apart from inspiration) recalls that of Paul in the preaching of the Gospel.