Luther's Rejection Of Augustine's Inward Platonic Turn

Excerpt taken from:
Phillip Cary, The Meaning of Protestant Theology: Luther, Augustine, and the Gospel That Gives Us Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019), 272-279.

Luther's outward turn gives a deeply un-Augustinian answer to the key problem of Augustinian spirituality: How are we to find God when God is invisible to us precisely in his spiritual being?  . . . Luther's outward turn is about where to turn our attention to find God: not upward to an intelligible realm beyond space and time, nor inward to a dimension inside ourselves, our souls, our consciousness, or our experiences, but outward to bodily things such as the bread of the sacrament. . . . 

[On the other hand, Augustine contends] that we need to turn our attention away from external things [to conceive of God.  And this] requires a kind of purity of mind that detaches our soul from its interest in bodily things extended in space.  For in Augustine's thinking the human soul by itself, in its own spirituality apart from bodily things, is the great clue to the spiritual and nonspatial being of God. . . . [That is to say;] Augustine's inward turn involves finding God by a distinctive movement of the soul: in then up.  It is not a literal movement in space but a turning of the heart's attention.  First, he turns his attention inward, examining the various powers of his soul, rising up from the senses to the superior power of the intellect, and then uses the intellect to look upward, to what is above his soul and all its powers. The first step of the journey is to enter the inner space of his own soul to awaken the intellectual vision that the eye of the body is not capable of . . . The inner vision he wants is intellectual vision, the eye of the mind catching a glimpse of the spiritual being of God, seeing him as the inner Light of Truth shining above his soul. . . . [In summary,] turning inward is Augustine's way of finding God, the Creator of all things who cannot be seen in any external thing but must be perceived by an inward intellectual vision. 

By turning our attention away from external things, we embark on a journey that is "not for the feet," as Plotinus says. . . Nor is it by chariots or ships. . .  In the Confessions, Augustine uses this imagery to describe the journey of his soul, comparing it to the prodigal son coming back to his father after he went into a far country, which is itself an image for our wandering far from God and turning to him.  So Augustine combines biblical and Platonist imagery as he lays his life before God in prayer.  

Augustinian spirituality is Platonist, in that Platonist concepts define both the goal, which is the vision of God as intelligible Truth, and the nature of the movement toward it: the journey "not by feet". . .  Augustine believes therefore that Christ incarnate, the external teacher, does not want us clinging to external things . . . 

Luther [though] explicitly rejects this Platonist notion and Augustine's attempts to combine it with biblical teaching.  . . . Luther rejects all human, Platonic, and philosophical thinking which leads us out of Christ into ourselves.  . . . Luther is not willing to be carried along with Augustine in this respect.  He is not looking for the immutable Light of Truth within, available to be consulted by every rational soul who learns from the inner teacher.  The truth of God is not something we see in an inner light but something we hear in an external word, for that is where we find the God who is true, precisely because he is true to his word and keeps his promise when he gives himself to us in Christ incarnate.  

[Indeed,] Luther does not accept the inward turn that is central to Augustine's spirituality, because he has a very different solution to the problem of how to find an omnipresent God we cannot see anywhere. We must believe that we have found God where God has promised to be present for us.  As Luther explains: 
It is one thing if God is present, and another if he is present for you. He is there fore you when he adds his Word and binds himself, saying, 'Here you are to find me.'  Now when you have the Word, you can grasp and have him with certainty and say, 'Here I have thee, according to thy Word.'" (LW 37:68)
To read more on the differences between Augustine and Luther:
Beware, There Exists A Deep Gulf Between The Teachings of Augustine And Luther On Justification 

Augustinian Influenced Sanctification Versus Lutheran Sanctification 

Think Twice, Martin Luther Never Reverted Back To Augustine's Theology Of Justification 

The Differences Between Augustine And Luther On 'Simul Justus Et Peccator'

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