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Studia Patristica

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A Paper presented at the Sixteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2011.


In light of the growing consensus that the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo is foundational for Augustine’s thought, it would be fruitful to consider more fully its role in the Confessions, especially its role in how Augustine understands his conversion in Book Eight. In this short communication, I will argue that Augustine situates his conversion narrative within the context of the Trinity’s creative act. His understanding of the ontological distinction between God and the world as well as the creational notion of imitation are the keys to understanding this in Book Eight. They make up the deep grammar of his conversion story. For Augustine, the Word is the Image of the Father, the perfect Imitation, through whom all things are made from nothing in a trinitarian act of creatio, conversio, formatio. All things, then, imitate, in varying degrees, the perfect Imitation because they bear the mark of this creative act in their ontological make up. In Book Eight, God puts before Augustine a series of exempla to imitate – Victorinus, Anthony, the two agentes in rebus, the children of Lady Chastity – who are presented as men and women converted through and con-formed to the Incarnate Word, that is, they are presented as those who have been re-created in Christ by imitating the Imitation. Through these re-created imitators, Augustine sees what he was created to be and is led by the Word into imitation of the Word, who effects his conversion and formation, thereby re-creating him after the pattern of his original creation.