Note on Terminology
My use of the term "Nicene" may at first seem out of place to those for whom it invokes primarily the Trinitarian controversy, which indeed plays practically no role in this study. Similarly, my use of "Catholic" may at first be jarring to those who regard this term primarily as a label of the fully developed Catholicism of a later period. Despite the danger of such possible misconstruals, I consider these terms both appropriate and necessary to my subject. My strategy here, as in the first volume of this study, is to employ "Nicene" to refer to the ideology of the community Augustine had joined, and "Catholic" to refer to the community itself and its institutions.
The community in question was formally and legally defined by an edict of Theodosius in 380 (Cod. Theod. 16.1.2) that expressly bestowed upon it the designation "Catholic" as an identifying name, not just an adjectival description. Augustine himself always referred to this community as "Catholic." In North Africa in particular, "Catholic" served to link the identity of the community to the larger imperially sanctioned Church, in distinction from the regional "Donatist" association of churches. It has become fashionable to prefer lower-case "catholic" to refer in this early period to a kind of mainstream residuum that is left over once one has distinguished all of the distinctive sectarian factions within early Christianity, without implying all of the formal institutional forms and normative authority of the later Catholic Church. But with reference to the situation in North Africa, such a usage would obscure the degree to which Augustine's "Catholic" community was itself a sectarian faction, competing not only with other sectarian groups such as the Manichaeans, but also with "Donatists" who, of all the parties, probably had the best claim to represent the Christian mainstream in the region. Overall, then, I find that using parallel capitalized descriptors strikes the right tone of parity among these rival claimants to the Christian tradition, broadly defined. At the same time, throughout the book, I am manipulating the term (Catholic, catholic, "Catholic," "catholic") in order to bring out facets of the story, including the tendentiousness of the intended implication of "catholic" against the alternative claims of other Christianities, as well as Augustine's own interest in making the "Catholic" church catholic by bringing under its wings all those with a commitment to the authority of Christ, through whatever powers of persuasion or polemic he could muster.
Yet problems would arise, I think, if I used "Catholic" to refer to the ideology of Augustine and his community, since as a system of ideas, or an -ism, it might too easily invoke "(Roman) Catholicism." I have chosen, therefore, to use "Nicene" to avoid that implication and as a convenient designation for the minimal creedal ideology to which members of this particular community were (in theory) committed. Even though a notorious problem exists regarding the various creeds in use within the "Catholic" Church of Augustine's time, they were imagined by their users to accord with "Nicene" positions, not only on the Trinity, but on God as omnipotent creator, on Christ's physical incarnation, death, and resurrection, and on the authority of the Church. Augustine was catechized in reference to one such creed (Conf 8.2.5), and Augustine himself treated this creed as the foundational statement of the ideology of the "Catholic" Church (De fide et symbolo; Sermones 212-14). Any number of more precise designations one might use for this ideology would be either awkward or novel or both. "Nicene" provides the appropriate parity with terms for competing Christian ideologies, such as "Manichaean."