Category Archives: Augustine

Augustine on Schism

Saint Augustin et Sainte Monique
Saint Augustin et Sainte Monique (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I tell you of a truth, my Beloved, even in these high seats there is both wheat, and tares, and among the laity there is wheat, and tares. Let the good tolerate the bad; let the bad change themselves, and imitate the good. Let us all, if it may be so, attain to God; let us all through His mercy escape the evil of this world. Let us seek after good days, for we are now in evil days; but in the evil days let us not blaspheme, that so we may be able to arrive at the good days.

via CHURCH FATHERS: Sermon 23 on the New Testament (Augustine).

S.P.O.O.F. The Five Points of Augustinianism

The Five Points of Augustinianism

03-01-2014, 11:33 PM
(this article was published in the Predestinarian Web Site by my dear brother and personal
friend Robert Higby in March 1, 2014. It is only part of an extensive five part study on Augustine – WARNING: This is not for the faint of heart die hard fan of Gus)
Point One of SPOOF: Augustine’s Doctrine of ’Subjective JustificationTo begin this study, it is essential to rehearse the Pauline doctrine of God’s Grace in Justification:

St. Augustine
Well, I think I am right…

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:2-14, ESV

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26, ESV

NOTE: The very use of the English word ‘rightEOUSness’ for translating δικαιοσύνη tenses, including the above passage from Romans, betrays a Latin bias (the etymology EOUS suggesting a ‘permeating quality’). It should be translated ‘justification’, ‘justness’, or ‘rightness’ to convey the original meaning.

The position of this study assumes the apostolic message of grace and justification as re-affirmed in the original 16th century Reformation and continuing reformers since that time, in line with those who stand in the predestinarian tradition against Arminius and Wesley and all synthetic positions in-between. The basic sovereign grace perspective of the five points of the synod of Dordrecht is confessed, along with additional long-ignored gospel truths known to readers that have been expounded by the current writer for over 20 years. There will be no attempt to newly defend these doctrines in the present article. The doctrine of an objective grace and justification residing solely in Christ’s divine-human person and saving work, assured solely and unwavering for all eternity by the Holy Spirit’s gift of assenting faith, affirmed in the passages above and the entire New Testament kerygma, this is our gospel.

Definition of the Augustinian Dogma

Justification (a just status from God resulting in eternal salvation) is achieved solely through divine grace, which is the equivalent of God’s transforming power communicated initially in water baptism. Acceptance with God is based on gradual transformation of the sinner and can be lost at any time through free-will neglect of good works. Final justification cannot be assured in the present life, since no one can be certain of enough acquired merit in almsgiving before death. Yet salvation is owed to God’s grace alone, since only He gives unworthy sinners the power and free-will to acquire merits throughout life.

Before continuing the discussion of Augustine’s doctrine of justification by grace, I strongly recommend reading the above Lutheran paper that gives a succinct and accurate summary of the question under consideration. Typical of current-day Lutherans and unlike Luther at his best, the author is horribly confused on how God’spredestination relates to grace (compare with Paul in Ephesians 1 above), claiming essentially that belief in this causes NON assurance of grace! The truth is this: Augustine’s “On the Predestination of the Saints,” which he wrote near the end of his life, is the only teaching where he actually ever demonstrated a rudimentary knowledge of Pauline teaching on grace (though not fully embracing it). Grace and individual election cannot be separated without destroying the New Testament kerygma, yet Lutheran teachers constantly affirm they are antithetical. And there are other false teachings in the article, like traditional Lutheran and Patristic views on grace communicated through the medium of physical things (sacraments). But the exposition of Augustine’s heretical and false view of grace and justification is masterfully presented. You will not find truthful honesty like this from historic Reformed Calvinistic churchmen, with regard to the heresies of Gus on the grace of God:

Such is the great scheme of doctrine known in history as the Pauline, Augustinian, or Calvinistic, taught, as we believe, in the Scriptures, developed by Augustine, formally sanctioned by the Latin Church, adhered to by the witnesses of the truth during the Middle Ages, repudiated by the Church of Rome in the Council of Trent, revived in that Church by the Jansenists, adopted by all of the Reformers . . . It is a historical fact that this scheme of doctrine has been the moving power in the Church . . . This is the first great argument in support of the Pauline or Augustinian scheme of doctrine. . . It can hardly be doubted that if these simple principles be granted, the truth of the Augustinian scheme must be admitted.
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Part III, Ch. 1, Section 8 “The Augustinian Scheme”.

Although C.H. equates the doctrine of Augustine with that of Paul and Calvin, he decided to name this section of his work The Augustinian scheme! Not the Calvinistic scheme, the Pauline scheme, or the apostolic or biblical scheme. This perhaps betrays to us who his most admired teacher was. The worst lie pushed onto us by Reformed teachers is the dogma of the soteriological orthodoxy of Augustine and his patristic predecessors. It has never been repented of. The lie has led to hopeless paradoxical confusion in understanding God’s grace, ended the progress of the Reformation in its tracks, and opened the door to every possible heretical movement taking over Reformed and Protestant churches permanently. The doctrines of Arminius, Wesley, Menno Simons, and others very much agree with Augustine’s view of ‘initial’ and ‘final’ justification—a grace that can be lost in the final judgment through free-will neglect. The apostasy of the early ‘fathers’ into Neo-Nomianism was the starting point of this heresy. Now the same doctrine is sweeping the ‘Calvinistic’ churches as a wildfire. Does anyone honestly believe that such false union of Paul and Augustine as teaching identical doctrine, proposing that Gus taught the exact same gospel revealed to Paul directly by Christ, hasnothing to do with the end of the Reformation and a potential return to a thousand years of darkness?

Introduction of Augustine’s Soteriology

No one can mistake the popular Catholic features of this (Augustine’s) system of religion. It is based on the ancient Symbol. The doctrines of the Trinity and Two Natures are faithfully avowed. The importance of the Catholic Church is strictly guarded, and its relation to the heavenly Church, which is the proper object of faith, is left as indefinite as the current view required. Baptism is set in the foreground as “the grand mystery of renovation,” and is derived from Christ’s death, in which the devil has obtained his due. Faith is only regarded as a preliminary condition; eternal life is only imparted to merits which are products of grace and freedom. They consist of works of love, which are summed up in almsgiving. Almsgiving is freely treated; it constitutes penance. Within the Church forgiveness is to be had for all sins after baptism, if only a fitting satisfaction is furnished . . . 
Adolf von Harnack, Analysis and historical appraisal of the Enchridion, Gateway Edition of St. Augustine, The Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and Love

Contrast the above evaluation with Warfield:

The problem which Augustine bequeathed to the Church for solution, the Church required a thousand years to solve. But even so, it is Augustine who gave us the Reformation. For the Reformation, inwardly considered, was just the ultimate triumph of Augustine’s doctrine of grace over Augustine’s doctrine of the church. This doctrine of grace came from Augustine’s hands in its positive outline completely formulated: sinful man depends, for his recovery to good and to God, entirely on the free grace of God . . . 
Benjamin B. Warfield, Tertullian and Augustine, 1991 Baker Book House reprint, p. 130

The Protestant claim to Augustinian heritage for its understanding of the gospel is one equally affirmed by the Roman Catholic church for its own dogma, in its vast theological confessions and doctrinal works on the nature of God’s grace. This article from a Catholic Encyclopedia reflects the typical RCC position:

The Council of Trent, with its emphasis on meritorious and progressive ‘internal grace,’ only re-states the doctrine of Augustine in his major works. Similarly, the denial of assurance of personal election and final perseverance only mimics the teaching of Gus and earlier ‘fathers’. In spite of this, Protestant authors like Hodge (see quote from last section) allege that Gus is the nemesis of Trent. But the issue is not fine point differences with the Council of Orange regarding anti-Pelagianism. What sense are we to make of all this contradiction and paradox? The answer is not hard to find. It lies within the teachings of Augustine himself. Within the same breath he constantly oscillates between a theology of grace residing wholly in God and one of human merit as the ground of salvation. It is no easy task to make sense of his high-minded double-talk.

The following quotes are from the Enchiridion, which is a manual on the ‘Christian life’ written by Gus and intended for the common ‘man in the pew’. Let there be no misunderstanding, it teaches the exact same doctrine as “The City of God”, “On Grace and Free Will”, and other works. Quotations evidencing the same views time and again could easily be supplied from these or many other works from his massive writings (which the present author has read). But the Enchiridion was composed in the latter days of Gus while still finishing The City of God, 7-8 years before his death, and represents a fairly mature perspective on Augustine’s doctrine.

Why should there be such great glory to a human nature–and this undoubtedly an act of grace, no merit preceding unless it be that those who consider such a question faithfully and soberly might have here a clear manifestation of God’s great and sole grace, and this in order that they might understand how they themselves are justified from their sins by the selfsame grace which made it so that the man Christ had no power to sin? Thus indeed the angel hailed his mother when announcing to her the future birth: “Hail,” he said, “full of grace.” And shortly thereafter, “You have found favor with God.” And this was said of her, that she was full of grace, since she was to be mother of her Lord, indeed the Lord of all. Yet, concerning Christ himself, when the Evangelist John said, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” he added, “and we beheld his glory, a glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” When he said, “The Word was made flesh,” this means, “Full of grace.” When he also said, “The glory of the only begotten of the Father,” this means, “Full of truth.” Indeed it was Truth himself, God’s only begotten Son–and, again, this not by grace but by nature–who, by grace, assumed human nature into such a personal unity that he himself became the Son of Man as well.
Enchiridion, Chapter 36

Wherefore, since a thing may be “born” of something else, yet not in the fashion of a “son,” and conversely, since not everyone who is called son is born of him whose son he is called–this is the very mode in which Christ was “born” of the Holy Spirit (yet not as a son), and of the Virgin Mary as a son–this suggests to us the grace of God by which a certain human person, no merit whatever preceding, at the very outset of his existence, was joined to the Word of God in such a unity of person that the selfsame one who is Son of Man should be Son of God, and the one who is Son of God should be Son of Man. Thus, in his assumption of human nature, grace came to be natural to that nature, allowing no power to sin. This is why grace is signified by the Holy Spirit, because he himself is so perfectly God that he is also called God’s Gift.
Enchiridion, Chapter 40

He himself is therefore sin as we ourselves are righteousness–not our own but God’s, not in ourselves but in him. Just as he was sin–not his own but ours, rooted not in himself but in us–so he showed forth through the likeness of sinful flesh, in which he was crucified, that since sin was not in him he could then, so to say, die to sin by dying in the flesh, which was “the likeness of sin.” And since he had never lived in the old manner of sinning, he might, in his resurrection, signify the new life which is ours, which is springing to life anew from the old death in which we had been dead to sin.

This is the meaning of the great sacrament of baptism, which is celebrated among us. All who attain to this grace die thereby to sin–as he himself is said to have died to sin because he died in the flesh, that is, “in the likeness of sin”–and they are thereby alive by being reborn in the baptismal font, just as he rose again from the sepulcher. This is the case no matter what the age of the body.

For whether it be a newborn infant or a decrepit old man–since no one should be barred from baptism–just so, there is no one who does not die to sin in baptism. Infants die to original sin only; adults, to all those sins which they have added, through their evil living, to the burden they brought with them at birth.
Enchiridion, Chapters 41-43

The first man brought sin into the world, whereas this One took away not only that one sin but also all the others which he found added to it. Hence, the apostle says, “And the gift of grace is not like the effect of the one that sinned: for the judgment on that one trespass was condemnation; but the gift of grace is for many offenses, and brings justification.” Now it is clear that the one sin originally inherited, even if it were the only one involved, makes men liable to condemnation. Yet grace justifies a man for many offenses, both the sin which he originally inherited in common with all the others and also the multitude of sins which he has committed on his own.

However, when he the apostle says, shortly after, “Therefore, as the offense of one man led all men to condemnation, so also the righteousness of one man leads all men to the life of justification,” he indicates sufficiently that everyone born of Adam is subject to damnation, and no one, unless reborn of Christ, is free from such a damnation.

And after this discussion of punishment through one man and grace through the Other, as he deemed sufficient for that part of the epistle, the apostle passes on to speak of the great mystery of holy baptism in the cross of Christ, and to do this so that we may understand nothing other in the baptism of Christ than the likeness of the death of Christ. The death of Christ crucified is nothing other than the likeness of the forgiveness of sins–so that in the very same sense in which the death is real, so also is the forgiveness of our sins real, and in the same sense in which his resurrection is real, so also in us is there authentic justification.
Enchiridion, Chapters 50-52

It may be discovered or remain hidden whether some of the faithful are sooner or later to be saved by a sort of purgatorial fire, in proportion as they have loved the goods that perish, and in proportion to their attachment to them. However, this does not apply to those of whom it was said, “They shall not possess the Kingdom of God,” unless their crimes are remitted through due repentance. I say “due repentance” to signify that they must not be barren of almsgiving, on which divine Scripture lays so much stress that our Lord tells us in advance that, on the bare basis of fruitfulness in alms, he will impute merit to those on his right hand; and, on the same basis of unfruitfulness, demerit to those on his left–when he shall say to the former, “Come, blessed of my Father, receive the Kingdom,” but to the latter, “Depart into everlasting fire.”

We must beware, however, lest anyone suppose that unspeakable crimes such as they commit who “will not possess the Kingdom of God” can be perpetrated daily and then daily redeemed by almsgiving. Of course, life must be changed for the better, and alms should be offered as propitiation to God for our past sins. But he is not somehow to be bought off, as if we always had a license to commit crimes with impunity. For, “he has given no man a license to sin”–although, in his mercy, he does blot out sins already committed, if due satisfaction for them is not neglected.

For the passing and trivial sins of every day, from which no life is free, the everyday prayer of the faithful makes satisfaction. For they can say, “Our Father who art in heaven,” who have already been reborn to such a Father “by water and the Spirit.” This prayer completely blots out our minor and everyday sins. It also blots out those sins which once made the life of the faithful wicked, but from which, now that they have changed for the better by repentance, they have departed. The condition of this is that just as they truly say, “Forgive us our debts” (since there is no lack of debts to be forgiven), so also they truly say, “As we forgive our debtors”; that is, if what is said is also done. For to forgive a man who seeks forgiveness is indeed to give alms.
Enchiridion, Chapters 69-71

“On the Predestination of the Saints” and “The Gift of Perseverance”, the very last works of Gus, were written in his final days. Those writings and their contradictory paradoxes, evidencing no clear remorse for earlier teachings but revealing a confused and frustrated man, will be evaluated in the next study on Augustine’s “Partial Determinism”. It is clear that when Gus finally confronted the reality of what Paul actually taught regarding the grace of God, he did not know where to go from there.

It would be a mistake to consider these things without contemplating the enormous dependence on Augustine on philosophy and psychology for his views. Many critics have labeled him the theologian of the Western introspective conscience, noting the absence of a ‘conscience obsession’ in Paul and the biblical authors (notably Krister Stendahl, “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West”, The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 56 No. 3, Jul. 1963, pp. 199-215). Generally speaking, however, Neo-Paulinist scholars are unreliable as theologians in the estimation of the present writer and cannot be recommended. The ‘covenant community’ ethic (whether named Jewish, Christian, or anything else) of Neo-Paulinism, with its ‘Don’t be selfish and worry about individual salvation’ emphasis, does nothing whatsoever to appease guilt! Nonetheless, it is true that obsession with a guilty conscience and the deeds that might kill it is entirely foreign to the message of the Bible. The gospel is a message of deliverance from all guilt once for all time through confidence in the finished work of Christ, in community (Heb. 10:35-39)!

It was in the spheres of psychology and metaphysics that the dominion of Augustine was most complete. He aspired to know nothing, he tells us, but God and the soul; but these he strove with all his might to know altogether. His characteristic mark as a thinker was the inward gaze; the realities of consciousness were theprimary objects of his contemplation; and from them he took his starting point for reflection on the world. Antiquity supplies no second to him in the breadth and acuteness of his psychological observation. And in his establishment of “immediate certainty of inner experience,” as Windelband calls it (A History of Philosophy, pp. 264, 270, 276), in “the controlling central position of philosophic thought” he transcended his times and became “one of the founders of modern thought.” If he may truly be said to have derived from Plato and Plotinus, in a far truer sense he stood above his Neo-Platonic teachers, and of his lineage have come Descartes and Malebranche and all that has proceeded from the movements of thought inagurated by them. 
Warfield, Tertullian and Augustine, pp. 125,126

By what evidence does Gus rise above his Neo-Platonic teachers in this regard? I would propose that this question remains unanswered by Warfield. Do Reformed teachers honestly believe that Augustine perpetuated no false teachings as a result of his excessive schooling in philosophy and admiration of Plotinus, ones that now have been perpetuated for over 1½ millennia? But the uncovering of these errors for posterity is the purpose of this and the studies to follow!

Robert R. Higby

Augustine’s use of Romans 1.25

St Augustine of Hippo
St Augustine of Hippo (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

But I set not my mind on the idols of Egypt, whom they served with Thy gold, who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator.[1. Saint Augustine Bishop of Hippo and E. B. Pusey, The Confessions of St. Augustine 7.9 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).]

Augustine pulls this directly from Romans 1.25:

They have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and have offered reverence and worship to created things instead of to the Creator. Blessed is he for ever, Amen. (REB)

I have not researched all of Augustine’s use of this singular verse, but it is interesting he uses it at least here, correctly, to refer to idol worshiping rather than the notion of homosexuality.

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Christmas with Augustine

Brooklyn Museum - The Birth of Our Lord Jesus ...
Image via Wikipedia

This is and excerpt from a sermon by St. Augustine (Sermo 185: PL 38, 997-999) on the mystery of the incarnation which is used by some on Christmas:

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened ‘to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory”, but of God’s glory: for justice has not come out of us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to men of good will.

For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head. For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

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Augustine and Breaking Bad

When, therefore, we inquire why a crime was committed, we do not believe it, unless it appear that there might have been the wish to obtain some of those which we designated meaner things, or else a fear of losing them. For truly they are beautiful and comely, although in comparison with those higher and celestial goods they be abject and contemptible. A man has murdered another; what was his motive? He desired his wife or his estate; or would steal to support himself; or he was afraid of losing something of the kind by him; or, being injured, he was burning to be revenged. (Book II, Chapter 5)

I’ve started watching Breaking Bad, now that it is over and all. The miracle of modern technology.

32px|alt=W3C|link=✓ Th...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was talking about it one night online and found out Skyler, the wife of the main character (Walt), was not well received online. There are communities devoted to disliking her character, to the chagrin of Anna Gunn, the actress who plays Skyler. On the same token, people are really attached to the Walt character.

Walt, and stop reading here if you don’t want spoilers, is a meth manufacturer. Meth, as you know, if a highly addictive drug popular right now among dealers and users alike because of the ease in making it and, again, the addictive qualities. Walt, after he learns he has cancer, decides he must provide for his family and pursues meth as a financially sound method of doing so. In the first few episodes, Walt has killed two people, become an intensely angry man, and a drug kingpin. He is changed by the startling realization he is going to die. We know that and we are made to feel that.

Skyler is also changed. She wants Walt to live – Walt has become fatalistic. There is no need for treatment because treatment is only to make him suffer. She increases her antagonistic behavior but if we step back, what this really is is a care and concern for Walt. She loves him and wants him to live. He just wants to provide for his family. His erratic behavior increases as does her worry, manifesting itself as ‘nagging.’ With Skyler’s increased nagging, the fans turned against her. They love Walt. We love Walt. We feel compassion for Jesse, Walt’s sidekick. Yet, we hate Skyler.

We excuse Walt’s behavior — his making and selling of drugs, his murders, he anger — because his motivation is pure. He simply wants to provide for his family. Skyler has no motivation for her behavior, it seems. Of course, we get to see both sides. We know what Walk is hiding and how this is causing his behavior. But, this doesn’t matter. We judge Skyler on our knowledge and not on her.

We sit as God and condemn Skyler because she doesn’t know any better. We sit as God and praise Walt because the sins he commits are not sin, but self-defense for himself and his family. Her motivation is made from darkness (the ignorance of knowledge). His motivation to kill either by his own hands or with the drugs he is making is seen somehow at righteous.

Maybe this has nothing to do with Augustine, but the post title made you read it. I think Augustine’s shaping of motivation and desire has given us a way to accept the anti-hero. In an ideal world, Skyler is the one we should emulate, however, in reality we emulate Walt (and in some degree Jesse) because we judge their motivations as pure. Why? We can see the end goal. Walt is not simply stealing pears to feed to the hogs, a selfish desire. Rather, he is stealing pears to feed his family. Skyler, on the other hand, is acting out of pure selfishness. She wants the pears (namely Walt alive) so he can take care of her, regardless of the amount of suffering he may have to endure to live.

If you don’t know about the pears, go read Confessions.

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Help in Reading Augustine’s Confessions

I’m posting this primarily for myself, for later use, but feel free to use them.

More on Science and Theology – Augustine

English: augustine at the school of tagaste
English: augustine at the school of tagaste (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In matters that are obscure and far beyond our vision, even in such as we may find treated in Holy Scripture, different Interpretations are sometimes possible without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such a case, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours to conform to that of Sacred Scripture.

I’m sure I’ve posted this before, but Augustine’s words here matter to us today because he secures for us a place for science (or, if you rather, the pursuit of truth) in examining our theology. Science can change, he admits, our interpretations and our theology. He also goes on to admonish the Christian who would  profess to be wise and look rather stupid — you know, Ken Ham, Little Honey Tee Tee, T. Breeden — because he seeks to counter the settled science of the world. Augustine viewed the light of reason in this work as we must science — the great corrector or our idiocracy.

I, as a believer, see this as the goal of the Spirit who guides us into all Truth, re: John 14–16.

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Friday with the Fathers: Augustine on “Inerrancy”

Simple exercise…. how do you read Augustine here?

Augustine (354-430): For it cannot be remotely possible that the authority of the Scriptures should be fallacious at any point. FC, Vol. 20, Saint Augustine Letters, 147. Augustine to the noble lady Paulina, greeting, Chapter 14 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1953), p. 181.

Augustine (354-430): I have thought it my duty to quote all these passages from the writings of both Latin and Greek authors who, being in the Catholic Church before our time, have written commentaries on the divine oracles, in order that our brother, if he hold any different opinion from theirs, may know that it becomes him, laying aside all bitterness of controversy, and preserving or reviving fully the gentleness of brotherly love, to investigate with diligent and calm consideration either what he must learn from others, or what others must learn from him. For the reasonings of any men whatsoever, even though they be Catholics, and of high reputation, are not to be treated by us in the same way as the canonical Scriptures are treated. We are at liberty, without doing any violence to the respect which these men deserve, to condemn and reject anything in their writings, if perchance we shall find that they have entertained opinions differing from that which others or we ourselves have, by the divine help, discovered to be the truth. I deal thus with the writings of others, and I wish my intelligent readers to deal thus with mine. NPNF1: Vol. I, Letters of St. Augustine, Letter 148, §15.

Augustine (354-430): For we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7); but faith will start tottering if the authority of Scripture is undermined; then with faith tottering, charity itself also begins to sicken. See John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part I, Vol. 11, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., De Doctrina Christiana, Book I, §37. (New York: New City Press, 1996), p. 124.

Augustine (354-430): Your design clearly is to deprive Scripture of all authority, and to make every man’s mind the judge what passage of Scripture he is to approve of, and what to disapprove of. This is not to be subject to Scripture in matters of faith, but to make Scripture subject to you. Instead of making the high authority of Scripture the reason of approval, every man makes his approval the reason for thinking a passage correct. NPNF1: Vol. IV, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, Book XXXII, §19.

Augustine (354-430): What sort of a man this Nathanael was, we prove by the words which follow. Hear what sort of a man he was; the Lord Himself bears testimony. Great is the Lord, known by the testimony of John; blessed Nathanael, known by the testimony of the truth. Because the Lord, although He had not been commended by the testimony of John, Himself to Himself bore testimony, because the truth is sufficient for its own testimony. NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate VII, §16, John 1:34-51.

Augustine (354-430): What is this word, which is thus called a light and a lantern at the same time, save we understand the word which was sent unto the Prophets, or which was preached through the Apostles; not Christ the Word, but the word of Christ, of which it is written, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”? For the Apostle Peter also, comparing the prophetical word to a lantern, saith, “whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lantern, that shineth in a dark place.” What, therefore, he here saith, “Thy word” is the word which is contained in all the holy Scriptures. NPNF1: Vol. VIII, St. Augustin on the Psalms, Psalm 119:105.

Augustine (354-430): Everything we have heard in the scriptures, brothers, is the voice of God saying “Watch out!” . . . Repent at the voice of scripture, for at the voice of the judge when he is here you will repent in vain. John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine Part 3, Vol. 2, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., Sermons, Sermon 22.3 (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1990), p. 43. (400 AD.)

Augustine (354-430): Let us treat scripture like scripture, like God speaking; don’t let’s look there for man going wrong. It is not for nothing, you see, that the canon has been established for the Church. This is the function of the Holy Spirit. So if anybody reads my book, let him pass judgment on me. If I have said something reasonable, let him follow, not me, but reason itself; if I’ve proved it by the clearest divine testimony, let him follow, not me, but the divine scripture. John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, Vol. 11, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., Newly Discovered Sermons, Sermon 162C.15 (New York: New City Press, 1997), p. 176.

Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas – The Good Life

So this is a classwork assignment. Rough draft. Blah blah blah. I didn’t want to put in what I really thought about Augustine, so, you know, I called him a book end


Augustine and Thomas Aquinas serve as bookends to the period in Western history known as the Dark Ages, but they share something in common before their Christian faith; they both discovered the use of Aristotle in forming the Christian mind. All saw in humanity a purpose, albeit differently. Beginning with Aristotle, we find that the ancient Greek master believed that humans had a purpose, and that that purpose was for the good. While Augustine and Aquinas may have called it heaven or the blessed life[1], for Aristotle, this good life was eudaimonia. To this goal, all human actions must aim beginning with his intellect, reason and rationality. It is little wonder why this appealed so strongly later to Christian theologians, as for Aristotle, the logos was Reason, the mind of the human.

Aristotle writes, “[T]he good for man is an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue, or if there are more kinds of virtue than one, in accordance with the best and most perfect kind (Ethics, 1.7).” This energeia, or activity, would have encompassed the complete person, including the mind, so that the virtue which leads to the good life is not just an activity, or an action, of the body, but the very cognitive processes which directed that action. Thus, the good life is almost teleological in that it sees the result against the action, but continues to focus on the individual, in that virtue may be cultivated to produce the desired result, the good life. This virtue, then, is the complete human, and it was unique to our species. Of course, even within the uniqueness of humanity, Aristotle divided out women, slaves and others who could not by their own inclination choose to do virtue. By the negative, the good life is that much more accomplished when one chooses virtue, something only those who were free to do so could do. One accomplished the good life when they used the logos, or rationality, which is the purpose of humanity.

Augustine, writing during a time of social change, and writing through a time of intense personal change, begins to use Aristotle and his notion of happiness (eudaimonia) to help shape the Christian mind in ethics. Like Aristotle, contemplation of the rational was involved in pursuing the good life. For Augustine, the intellect was the pursuit of God, and turning our will back towards him and in the direction of our love. Wogaman, in his article The Moral Vision of Saint Augustine, writes that Augustine saw that God was the source of all being and that everything in Creation was an expression of God’s will. Evil and sin, then, is the moving away from the full expression of humanity, which was corrupted in the Fall. Evil, then, is moving away from God through a misdirected love of something that isn’t God. This produces sin which is “based on a mistaken conception of what is good for us.”

Augustine writes, “Man indeed desires happiness even when he does so live as to make happiness impossible… Why this paradox, except that the happiness of man can come not from himself but only from God, and that to live according to oneself is to sin, and to sin is to lose God.” To prevent this, Augustine develops the four cardinal virtues, Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude. Like Aristotle before him, these virtues are dependent upon the soul ruling the body (XIX.25, City of God). Both agree that virtue can be an exercise, as I suspect Augustine had tried throughout his Christian life. He would allow, however, that the good life could not be completely achieved in life, “For this reason there is no perfect peace so long as command is exercised over the vicious propensities, because the battle is fraught with peril while those vices that resist are being reduced to submission.” I suspect, then, that this is why the virtues were ordered in the way that they were by Augustine, especially in preventing “bodily delights.”

Aquinas arrived at a time of scholastic renewal. As Wogaman notes, “the intellectual quickening of the late Middle Ages may have reflected more the felt need to reach beyond a complacency that had become tinged with corruption.” Thus, the thinkers of this time began to turn to the ancient Greeks, via the Arabic scholarship of the time, and reexamine theological principles. Aquinas, like Augustine before him, found Aristotle, but did so with an Augustinian tint. From Aristotle, he received the notion of the human teleos, or goal. Everything was to be considered within this light, but the end of humanity is God. For Aquinas, the good life is not happiness in activity, but in the actual realization of the event. Or rather, the desired goodness of Aristotle is Aquinas’ desired contemplation of God in the eschaton much like Augustine before him. Counter Augustine, Aquinas sees evil, then, as imperfection of the teleos, not just turning away from God. Unlike Aristotle’s view, nature and things contained therein[2] also had a teleos for Aquinas which according to Wogaman, pushed together the notion of natural and super-natural.

Aquinas saw virtue against the human agency in that our rationality may be tempered through exercise which would create good morals. Unlike Aristotle, however, God acted on the rational mind to bring about good habits, affording us a divine teleos. If God is acting upon our rational mind, then we are being pushed to the ultimate end. To this, Aquinas adopted Augustine’s four virtues, albeit with a different understanding and emphasis. Prudence is first because it is the virtue most comporting with Reason. From Prudence springs Justice, Temperance and Fortitude. Adding to this are the three theological virtues of faith, hope and love. The former are “developed through human action” (Wogaman) while the latter comes from God, pushing us to our perfect, and thus non-evil, teleos in God.

Augustine and Aquinas found in Aristotle a way to combat the irrationality of the depraved human experience, and sought to use him as a means to order the Christian ethical existence to achieve more fully the good life. Each of them saw Reason and Rationality as central to achieving the good life and happiness, but they also realized that perfection (sinlessness or non-evil) was impossible in this life. For Augustine and Aquinas, the Reason sanctified by God would be the key to make it possible, albeit only after this life. Ordering a life to these principles requires one to start first with the Reason sanctified by God. Augustine was right, that it was a certain lowliness of mind which will bring the mind up, as an exalted mind doesn’t leave room for God. One must be prepared not to be perfect, to exercise the Reason to morality, and finally, to exercise the mind.

[1] Augustine, City of God XIX.11: “It follows that we could say of peace, as we have said of eternal life, that it is the final fulfillment of all our goods.”

[2] For Aquinas, “human beings are both biological and spiritual” which allowed for a varity of teleosi to develop which accorded themselves to the empirical world.

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Thoughts on Augustine’s Ethics

Louis Comfort Tiffany, Window of St. Augustine...
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For ethics class – we are given assignments to read, and I write freely – free thought, or whatever you call it:

First thoughts? Ahhh… patriarchy, superstition and hope. But, naivety as well.  Here is a man who condemns as unpeaceful the appointment of kings, with no man given dominion over another, ideally. He knows that the Heavenly City is ‘sojourning’ in the world. And yet, he still has the father as king over the household. I note his use of demons wherein we may use other words. And, to count peace as such a thing? Naivety. I’m not sure peace is the ideal state to attain to. Of course, his naivety may be a subjective response between his present state and his former life of hedonism. Or it may be that I am too cynical to believe that peace comes from anything by certainty, and certainty has produced nothing by trouble for some. Also, I don’t like his suggested end of the wicked, but I am sure that that is more theological rather than personal. I do, however, like his notion that only in the “consummation of history” will the City of God reign freely; however, as stated above, I’m not sure we wait until it happens, passively allowing what is not-right to go on in the name of “not yet.” For hope, I think that Augustine sees an end to the warfare of this life, when we are reunited with God.

I note that he writes “the peace of the good life” when speaking about the blessedness which comes from doing God’s will. He writes that “our peace shall be so perfect and so great as to admit of neither improvement nor increase.” I tend to think that he sees the world in too much black and white. Is peace absolute perfection? But, he uses the term “eternal life” instead of “peace” when I would use “life everlasting”. I agree that it is about a certain quality “over there”. Maybe peace is not such a bad term.

He is correct, in his estimation of humanity – that we all seek some sort of peace, even if that peace is different from the “natural order”. I am not sure, though, that peace is “an ordered obedience” to God (13) as it was Christ who brought us peace with the Father, and calls us to obedience in Faith. I think that he sees Peace as the end of all conflict, but I’m not sure that this is the biblical view of peace. If Christ has brought peace, and we sin, do we undo what Christ has done? Of course, Augustine may be speaking only of the eschatological peace, but wasn’t Paul as well? I have to wonder if Augustine did not have a tortured mind, in which on some days, he came to one pole and on other, another pole, in so much to say that Augustine’s mental state is one which we might see differently today.

I really like and may even agree with his four cardinal virtues and his description of their offices, albeit with restrictions on such things as temperance. I agree that the “restraining and quieting of passions” is necessary in serving God and seeking the good life but to go as far as “scorn all bodily delights” is going beyond the mean. However, given Augustine’s background, perhaps this was his way, but hardly helpful for everyone. This is obviously something that matters to him, as he gives it a great deal of time; however, I think that temperance should be tempered by prudence instead of what appears to be an outright rejection of the good of temporal things. I have to wonder if his rejection of “theological or metaphysical dualism” contributed to this black and white view. But to this, I look at 19 which allows that only the teachings of the false teachers must change if they convert. Augustine, then, must have look at orthodoxy as a saving work unto itself.

Interesting is his view on the Devil, again perhaps influenced by this lack of dualism, and of course, a more plain sense reading of developed Christian theology. He notes that the devil is not at peace, although he was created good. “Hence not even the nature of the Devil himself is evil” and attributes the evil of the Devil to perversion. And of course, the sinner is punished for evil acts, something God didn’t create. To me, this is Augustine’s way of applying punishment, especially of the eternal sort, to the person, without affording that God may be using evil, or sin, to effect his overall plan. This idea of misdirection, as well, seems to me to be Augustine’s rationalization of evil, giving God all power, except in directing our wills. Further, there is the “falling away” aspect of the human soul which leads to sin. How is it, then, that God could allow this to happen? This, I think, leads him to obligation and God’s foreknowledge. How much of a broken heart would Augustine’s God have to be able to see a swath of humanity fall into hell and be powerless to stop it?

I detest Augustine’s advocacy of coercion on heretics, being such a one myself. I like his Just War theories, although I feel that the best use of Just War is akin to Sun Tzu. His view on wealth is not surprising and should be tempered only slightly, else we alleviate poverty as a work. I like this understanding of ‘People,’ but it leads me to question the idea of patriotism, among other unifying things. Of course, if I were to examine this understanding next to, say, the phrase “people of God,” I find that Augustine’s definition seemingly putting the unification, or the calling out there of, of persons into People on the people, removing it from God’s creation of the group. Of course, I think he is speaking more about the false notion of the Roman Commonwealth. But, if not, his last few lines in chapter 24 are sufficient to understand that God does not rule where he is not loved, and where God is not loved, injustice and a host of sins prevail.

I am afraid of tackling Augustine, because I feel that I do not fully know his influences. There is the reaction against his former life, both secular and religious, as well as the reactions to his present state, the sack of Rome. But, in that, I still find in Augustine great value and merit, and perhaps, later, I’ll come to appreciate him much more than I do now.

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Augustine dismisses the concept of the United States as a Christian Nation

From chapter 24, of the City of God:

For God is not the ruler of the city of the impious, because it disobeys his commandment that sacrifice should be offered to himself alone. The purpose of this law was that in that city the soul should rule over the body and reason over the vicious elements, in righteousness and faith. And because does not rule there, the general characteristic of that city is that it is devoid of true justice.