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Showing posts with label Original Sin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Original Sin. Show all posts

Friday, August 28, 2020

Saint Augustine of Hippo, Angelic Doctor of the Church


Augustine of Hippo is arguably the most influential Christian writer of all time, with the possible exception of Saint Paul whose epistles are the earliest Christian writings, and which delineated for the nascent church its primary creeds and basic beliefs concerning who Jesus was and why his life and death were meaningful to us.

It is possible that Augustine is more influential than Paul because Augustine’s interpretation of Paul’s letters have dominated Christian thought since his time.

Augustine’s life spanned the mid-fourth century to the mid-fifth century CE. He entered the Church just at the Christianity was completing its transformation into the official religion of the Empire, and the indispensable administrative apparatus of the same. Saint Augustine’s fixed that transformative process into the structures that we recognize today.

Augustine was midway through his career as a public servant before he converted to Christianity, entered the priesthood and was made a bishop.

All of which happened in rapid succession. It only took him four years to go from priest to bishop.

His mother was a Christian, but his father was not, and his father had wanted him to have a regular career in the traditional Roman mode of life. Augustine adhered to his father’s wishes for a time, but at the beginning of the fifth Century the Empire was in a process of conversion and all of the good jobs were going to Christians. Eventually he converted, only after becoming convinced that he would have a good career in the Church, and would only encounter dead ends outside of it.

His gambit paid off, they put him on the fast track to Bishop.

Augustine was a prolific writer, in the modern day he is most famous for his Confessions, and his magnum opus, The City of God.

He worked tirelessly against heretical groups like the Manicheans, the Pelagians and the Donatists.

He penned the controversial doctrine of creation ex nihillo, as apart of his seminal teaching on original sin. In addition to this, he gave the Church its teaching on sacramental theology, and he argued for the authority of the Church in all matters private and public.

His theology would dominate Christian thinking up until the scholastic period, but Saint Thomas Aquinas, the most influential of the scholastic theologians leans heavily on Augustine for nearly all of his views, which is to say that Augustine continued to exercise an indirect influence on the church as the preeminent standard of orthodoxy.

Scholastic theologians often deviated from the logic of Augustine, but on the occasion that they might draw a different conclusion from Augustine, they often ran afoul of the hierarchy.

By the time of the protestant reformation, both Martin Luther and John Calvin believed that their work represented a realignment of the church with Saint Augustine, and Saint Augustine’s theology continued to dominate protestant thinking.

In my own work, Saint Augustine stands as my principle opponent.

His doctrine of original sin, his doctrine of double predestination, his teaching that torture can be considered a form of charity if it brings someone to the point of conversion are anathema to the way, and represent a stark contradistinction to the life and ministry of Jesus.     

Saint Augustine of Hippo has the title of Angelic Doctor of the Church, but he was a villain, he was brutal and cruel, and a hypocrite of the highest order. He should be read in that light.



Given 2020.08.28

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Feast of Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons


Irenaeus served as the bishop of Lugdum (now Lyons), in France. He was born c. 130 CE and died c. 202 CE, serving during the Apostolic era, and he is listed in the ranks of the martyrs of the Church, though the details of martyrdom are unknown.

Irenaeus was a prolific writer. He was connected to the Bishop Polycarp who was himself connected to the Apostle John, making him only three steps removed from the ministry of Jesus.

Irenaeus’ surviving works show how he was deeply committed to the unity of Christian doctrine. He ardently opposed the heretical sects of groups like the loosely affiliated Gnostics, as well as the Montanists, and he was among the first to argue for the doctrine of apostolic succession, positing that a bishop of the church should stand in an unbroken line of succession that goes back to the first apostles.

What is most important about Irenaeus’ work is something referred to as the Irenaean theodicy, this is why I lift him up and write about him.

Theodicy is the specific field of theological work devoted to understanding the problem of evil, and its ultimate resolution by God.

The Irenaean theodicy was the leading doctrine in the church up until the time that it was supplanted by Augustine’s teaching on original sin, three centuries later, after which Saint Augustine’s teaching became normative throughout the Christian world.

St. Augustine suggests that creation was made perfect and without blemish, and then there was a fall into sin, which came from nowhere and nothing resulting in a degree of chaos and disorder which completely separates creation from God. Whereas Irenaeus posited that the though the world is fallen it is not wholly fallen, making it so that the breach is not irreparable, putting forward that God’s plan for the resolution of evil is to slowly draw all things to the divine.

For saint Irenaeus the perfection of the created order happens as a process of assimilation, which he calls recapitulation, imagining that each individual-being is on a journey, coming ever closer to God; as we draw near our imperfections fall away.

Irenaeus’ theology, which was never condemned, provides a strong theological grounding for the theology of universal salvation which has persisted as a teaching among Christians from the very beginning of the Church, though only among a stark minority.