A House Divided: St. Augustine's Dualistic Ecclesiology Revisited in Light of the Doctrine of the totus Christus

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Theological Studies


Department of Religious Studies


Advisor: Jennifer Speed


This thesis examines St. Augustine's (354-430) ecclesiology as he derived it from his interpretation of the Psalms. To accomplish this task, this thesis contextualizes the scholarship that has interpreted his ecclesiology as a dualistic contradiction based on Augustine's distinction between the visible and invisible Church. This scholarship asserts that Augustine struggled to render any validity to the visible Church as a result of using a Neoplatonic framework that disconnected the two sides of this ecclesiological dialectic. However, this scholarship tends to neglect Augustine's Enarrationes in Psalmos that provides insight into how his ecclesiology developed into what would become his doctrine of the totus Christus. For Augustine, this doctrine signified Christ as head over his body, the Church, converging into one whole Christ. As the totus Christus, the head speaks on behalf of the body to God, and the body speaks on behalf of Christ to the world. Therefore, the doctrine of the totus Christus reveals Augustine's emphasis on the sacramental, performative, and visible dimensions of the Church, and it discloses the logical, but not contradictory, distinction between the visible and invisible Church in his overall ecclesiology.


Theology, Augustine, Ecclesiology, totus Christus, Psalms, Christology

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