In a sermon preached sometime between 397 and 405 (Sermon 162C in Harmless 2010:438), Augustine admonished his people to place higher value on the Scripture and its authority than on the authority of a theologian or theological position. He remarks:
Do not treat as canonical Scripture some theological debate or a book of some such debate. In the sacred writings of Scripture we learn to judge; in terms of our own writings; we are not above being judged. Certainly, what we’d choose, of the two options, is that we’d much rather speak accurately, whether in writing or in giving talks, and never make a mistake. But since this is hard to do, it is for that reason there is the firm foundation of the canon of the Scriptures . . . Let us treat the Scriptures as Scriptures, as God speaking. Let us not seek out an error-prone human being.
Ultimately, all theology (reflections on Scripture for our context) are subject to Scripture itself. Scripture judges and renews theology.
While elsewhere warning the Donatists against overvaluing a theologian, preacher, or church council, Augustine, aware of his own theological fan base, issued the same warning for those who may have been dazzled by his theological writings. He continues in the same sermon:
If someone, therefore, reads a book of mine, he may criticize me. If I speak in a reasonable way, let him follow not me, but reason itself. If I prove something by citing some clear and divine testimony, let him follow not me, but the sacred Scripture. If, however, someone wants to criticize what I have rightly said, then he is not acting rightly; but I get more irritated with those lavishers of praise who treat my books as though a canonical text than with those who criticize my books for what’s not criticize-able.
Relevant words from a late 4th/early 5th century sermon.
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