published on May 9, 2019
Sean P. Robertson
From Glory to Glory
A Christology of Ascent in Augustine’s De Trinitate
This article argues that, in De Trinitate, Augustine’s ascent to God via a search for the Trinity is successful precisely because of the emphasis he places on the role of Christ in such an ascent. Unlike scholarship which reads this ascent as an exercise in Neoplatonism—whether as a success or as an intentional failure—this article asserts that Augustine successfully discovers an imago trinitatis in human beings by identifying the essential mediation of the temporal and eternal in the person of the Incarnate Word. Of the work’s fifteen books, Books 4 and 13 focus extensively on the soteriological and epistemological role of Christ, who, in his humility, conquered the pride of the devil and reopened humanity’s way to eternity. The Christology in these books plays an important role in Augustine’s argument by allowing his ascent to move from self-knowledge to contemplation of God. Indeed, it is his understanding of the Christological perfection of the imago dei which allows Augustine to discover a genuine imago trinitatis in human beings. For Augustine, the imago is observable in humanity to the extent that an individual is conformed to Christ, the perfect image of the invisible God. Thus, it is only through Christ that a human being can successfully contemplate the Trinity in this imago.