This book is an attempt to eliminate a serious deficiency in Augustinian studies. Augustine's conflict with the Gothic, or Ulfilan, Arians has received little scholarly attention. Detailed discussion and careful analysis of the historical background and the theology of Augustine's Gothic Arian opponents have been readily available in French but exceedingly rare in English.
Augustine and the Arians provides the English-speaking world with an introduction to Ulfilan Arianism and places it within both theological and historical contexts. The study also outlines the general context and the role of Gothic Arianism in the declining empire. It shows how seriously the Catholic church took the threat of an Arianism defended by barbarian swords and tolerated by Roman generals.
Subsequent generations viewed the Catholic victory as inevitable, but for Augustine's contemporaries the Ulfilan Arians were a serious menace.
In his attempts to put the bishop of Hippo's contacts with Arians into a workable chronology, William A. Sumruld has raised some interesting questions about the dating of Augustine's De Trinitate. Recent scholarship has assumed that Augustine's most famous work on the Christian Trinity was completed very late in his career. The major reason usually cited for this conclusion has been the anti-Arian material included in the great work.
Since Augustine's controversies with the Ulfilan Arians came so late in his life, then - it was assumed - so did the De Trinitate. Sumruld challenges this assumption because careful analysis of the text reveals that the type of Arianism discussed in De Trinitate is not Ulfilan, but a philosophically based anhomoian Eunomianism. After 418, the Arianism encountered in almost all Augustine's works is that homoian Arianism sponsored by Ulfila, the famous missionary to the Goths. This raises concerns about one of the key pieces of internal evidence used in the dating of the famous De Trinitate.
In the course of the study, Sumruld also provides a compelling argument for the authorship and origins of the Sermo Arianorum.
Augustine's encounter with this biblically fundamentalist form of Arianism led to an intensification of his tendency toward the total identification of the persons in the Trinity. He was also forced to work out Trinitarian arguments based more thoroughly in the exegesis of Scripture. In his earlier anti-Arian works, his arguments are of a philosophical nature.
In the anti-Ulfilan works, they are based in a discussion of sound exegesis and include many interesting insights into the hermeneutical approach taken by the bishop of Hippo. Another feature of profound interest is the discussion of the rhetorical methods used by both Augustine and his great Ulfilan opponent, Maximinus, in the Collatio cum Maximino. This meeting with Maximinus - described in blow-by-blow detail by Sumruld - was probably the last public debate of Augustine's life.