The theology of ordained ministry in the letters of Augustine of Hippo
The thesis of this dissertation is that in his letters Augustine of Hippo presents the ordained ministry as one characterized by and exercised in humility. The theological basis for this stress on humility is found in Augustine's Christology. The dissertation also argues that there are social roots and applications underlying Augustine's stress on humility in the practice of the ordained ministry.
The ordained minister demonstrates humility ontologically by always remembering that he is a fellow disciple along with the other Christian faithful. Epistemologically, the ordained minister exercises humility by turning to Scripture, the decisions of Church councils, and Church teaching for guidance and direction in the practice of his ministry.
Augustine's Christology, in which Christ is presented as the model, pattern, and doctor of all humility, is then put forth as the context for arguing the theological basis for Augustine's understanding of the ordained ministry, since the ordained ministry is centered on the ministry of Christ's Word and sacraments within the Church.
The social roots of Augustine's stress on humility in the practice of the ordained ministry are found in the economic, social, and legal privileges of the clergy in the fourth and fifth centuries. These privileges could become sources of sinful pride which would distract the cleric from his ministry of Word and sacrament within the Church.
The social applications of Augustine's stress on humility in the ordained ministry stem from the social influence that clergy, especially bishops, exerted in Late Antiquity. Humility would be needed to prevent the ordained minister from manipulating situations and people to his own advantage. The social contexts in which he exercised his ministry required the ordained minister to be a model of Christ, the model, pattern, and doctor of all humility.