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Author Topic: Blessed Augustine of Hippo  (Read 2919 times) Average Rating: 0
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anicius.boetius
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« on: January 30, 2007, 10:08:09 PM »

A friend of mine tell me that the Blessed Agostine teachs the predestination, both to good and to evil. Its true?
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« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2007, 02:12:18 AM »

Here is something I found on New Advent:

"Informed of their views by Prosper of Aquitaine, the holy Doctor [Augustine of Hippo] once more expounded, in "De Prædestinatione Sanctorum," how even these first desires for salvation are due to the grace of God, which therefore absolutely controls our predestination."
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Though I have not been able to read through much, here is his A Treatise On The Predestination of the Saints, Click Here.
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« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2007, 03:57:39 AM »

A reprehensible theory which truly tarnishes the reputation of Augustine and I suppose provides the church with a sober understanding of the abilities of even its saints...

Augustine proposed a kind of double predestination through his "Massa damnata" theory...where he suggests that all mankind is condemned to hell due to original sin and only the elect who have been saved by irresistable divine grace simply through the mercy and haphazard will of God are provided entrance into heaven...
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« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2007, 04:12:29 AM »

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how even these first desires for salvation are due to the grace of God, which therefore absolutely controls our predestination

Is this implying that Augustine's position was that because God gives people even the beginning of their desires for salvation, therefore it is totally in God's hands whether people will be saved? Or is there more to it than merely being the beginning of the desire for salvation? I ask because it is certainly an orthodox doctrine that "even these first desires for salvation are due to the grace of God," as Paul believed (Phil. 2:13), as well as Fathers who opposed Augustine's beliefs (e.g., John Cassian,  Conferences, 3, 15; 13, 3; 13, 9).
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« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2007, 04:59:28 AM »

Is this implying that Augustine's position was that because God gives people even the beginning of their desires for salvation, therefore it is totally in God's hands whether people will be saved? Or is there more to it than merely being the beginning of the desire for salvation? I ask because it is certainly an orthodox doctrine that "even these first desires for salvation are due to the grace of God," as Paul believed (Phil. 2:13), as well as Fathers who opposed Augustine's beliefs (e.g., John Cassian,  Conferences, 3, 15; 13, 3; 13, 9).

I'd say he difference here is that Bl. Augustine believed grace to be irresistible. As soon as you say that it is impossible for those who God provides those 'small beginnings' for to resist, then you are left with two conclusions that the Church (and certainly people like St. John Cassian) would be forced to reject. Firstly that grace is not poured out on everyone (because clearly not everyone will be saved, so its either resistible or applied to only a limited few) and that, as a result, those who are saved or damned are predestined to it due to nothing more than the whim of God (because they can do nothing to either come to God by themselves nor to resist God's grace when it is offered).

James
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« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2007, 06:40:38 AM »

I think efforts to portray Augustine as a proponent of Calvinistic determinism on predestination and free will are overblown. He affirmed the absolute necessity of both God's grace and free will.

Like most of the Fathers, his many, many writings have often been taken out of context and used to justify later heresies.

The first Father to be claimed by the Calvinists, of course, was the Apostle Paul. Doesn't mean he was, no matter how many times they spin his words in the epistles.
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« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2007, 06:59:09 AM »

I think efforts to portray Augustine as a proponent of Calvinistic determinism on predestination and free will are overblown. He affirmed the absolute necessity of both God's grace and free will.
I don't think anyone was saying that what he taught was Calvinism. Personally I think that he missed some of the ramifications of his belief in irresistible grace (which frankly is in diametric opposition to free will). Calvinism is a horrible, but perfectly rational, development of some of Bl. Augustine's ideas.

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Like most of the Fathers, his many, many writings have often been taken out of context and used to justify later heresies.
I don't see Calvin as taking them out of context, merely exaggerating the teachings by using his rational thought to develop them to the logical extreme.

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The first Father to be claimed by the Calvinists, of course, was the Apostle Paul. Doesn't mean he was, no matter how many times they spin his words in the epistles.
No, but St. Paul's teachings are not really friendly to the idea of predestination are they? You can't simply rationalise on them and end up at Calvinism and Calvinists are disingenuous if they suggest you can. On the other hand, I fail to see an irrational step between Augustine's view of irresistible grace and Calvin's double predestination. I don't doubt that Augustine would have corrected his heretical teachings if he could have seen where they'd lead (after all he asked for but didn't receive, correction if what he wrote was false), but that doesn't make them any less heretical and nor does it make Calvinism any less of a legitimate development of them. It just means that Bl. Augustine was an honest man who unwittingly erred rather than a heretic and, as such, we can (and do) still consider him a saint.

James
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« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2007, 08:24:39 AM »

I think efforts to portray Augustine as a proponent of Calvinistic determinism on predestination and free will are overblown. He affirmed the absolute necessity of both God's grace and free will.

Like most of the Fathers, his many, many writings have often been taken out of context and used to justify later heresies.

The first Father to be claimed by the Calvinists, of course, was the Apostle Paul. Doesn't mean he was, no matter how many times they spin his words in the epistles.

It has been well established that Augustine presented a distorted view of grace and human will...Even though he is a doctor of the Catholic Church even so there his errors are acknowledged and corrected...So also his disciples Prosper of Aquitaine and later Thomas Aquinas rejected many of Augustine's more extreme views. Below are some quotes from Augustine's works themselves:


Ad Simplicianum 1, 2, 16: "Therefore all men are . . . one condemned mass [massa damnata] of sin, that owes a debt of punishment to the divine and supreme justice. Whether it [the debt] be exacted, or whether it be condoned, there is no injustice."

Enchiridion 27: ". . . the whole condemned mass of the human race lay in evils, or even rolled about in them, and was precipitated from evils into evils. . . ."

City of God 21, 12: "Hence there is a condemned mass of the whole human race . . . so that no one would be freed from this just and due punishment except by mercy and undue grace; and so the human race is divided [into two parts] so that in some it may be shown what merciful grace can do, in others, what just vengeance can do. . . . In it [punishment] there are many more than in [mercy] so that in this way there may be shown what is due to all."

Epistle 190. 3. 12: He said that reprobates are so much more numerous than the saved that "by an incomparable number they are more numerous than those whom He deigned to predestine as sons of the promise to the glory of His kingdom; so that by the very number of those rejected, it might he shown that the number, howsoever large, of the justly damned is of no importance with a just God. . . ." Which implies that God does not will all to be saved: hence Augustine's explicit denial, several times, of the words of 1 Tim 2:4. Hence too, as we said above, God does not really love anyone: He merely uses a few to show mercy.

Enchiridion 99: "For grace alone distinguishes the redeemed from the lost, whom a common cause from [their] beginning had joined into one mass of perdition. . . ."

On correction and grace 13, 42: "Those, then, who do not belong to that most certain and most happy number [of the predestined] are judged most justly according to their merits. For they either lie under the sin which they contracted originally by generation.

I speak thus of those who are predestined to the Kingdom of God, whose number is so certain that none may be added to or subtracted therefrom ... while those who do not belong to this most certain and blessed number are most righteously judged according to their deservings. For they lie under the sin which they have inherited by original generation and so depart hence with the inherited debt [On Rebuke and Grace, XIII, 39 940, 42 942].

It is not therefore a matter of man's willing, of his running, but of God's mercy (cf. Rom. 9:16), saying not of man's willing or running, but God's mercy means precisely that the entire process is credited to God, Who prepares the will and helps the will thus prepared [Ench., 32 248.].

Thus both the twins (Jacob and Esau) were born children of wrath, not on account of any works of their own, but because they were bound in the fetters of that original condemnation which came through Adam. But He Who said, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; loved Jacob of His undeserved grace, and hated Esau of His deserved judgment [The Enchiridion, Nicene Fathers, 1st Ser., Vol. 3, Ch. 98, Predestination to Eternal Life is Wholly of God's Free Grace].

God foreknew believers; but He chose them that they might be so, not because they were already so... He did not foresee that we ourselves would be holy and blameless, but He chose and predestined us that we might be so [On the Predestination of the Saints, XVII, 34 PL 44:985].

But it seems to men that all who appear good believers ought to receive perseverance to the end. But God has judged it to be better to mingle some who would not persevere with a certain number of His saints, so that those for whom security from temptation in this life is not desirable may not be secure. For that which the apostle says, checks many from mischievous elation: “Wherefore let him who seems to stand take heed lest he fall.” 1 Cor. x. 12. But he who falls, falls by his own will, and he who stands, stands by God’s will. “For God is able to make him stand;” Rom. xiv. 4. therefore he is not able to make himself stand, but God [On the Gift of Perseverance, 19].

They Who Have Not Received Perseverance are Not Distinguished from the Mass of Those that are Lost [On Rebuke and Grace, XII, 36 938]

If you wish to be a catholic, do not venture to believe, to say, or to teach that they whom the Lord has predestinated for baptism can be snatched away from his predestination, or die before that has been accomplished in them which the Almighty has predestined [Book 3, Addressed to Vincentius Victor, Nicene, 1st Ser., Vol. V, Chapter 13 - His Seventh Error. In the Shape of a Letter Addressed to Presbyter Peter]

Moreover, no one would be saved if God had not brought aid to the infirmity of the human will, so that it might be unchangeably and invincibly motivated by divine grace... Even though the will of the elect may be weak and incapable of good, God prevents their defection [Book 3, Addressed to Vincentius Victor, Nicene, 1st Ser., Vol. V, Chapter 38 940].

only a few are saved by faith, a faith which they possess by virtue of their predestination to glory [On the Predestination of the Saints, XVII, 34 985].

They have been made vessels of wrath, and were born to the advantage of the saved... God knows what good may be made of them... Yet, He leads none of them to the salutary and spiritual repentance by which a man in Christ is reconciled to God [Contr Jul V, iv, 14 PL 44:792,793]

These are they who are predestinated and called according to the purpose, of whom not one perishes. And therefore none of them ends this life when he has changed from good to evil, because he is so ordained, and for that purpose given to Christ, that he may not perish, but may have eternal life [Treatise on Rebuke and Grace, Ch 21].

I think, too, that I have so discussed the subject that it is not so much myself as the inspired Scriptures which have spoken to you in the most vivid testimonies of truth; and if this divine record be looked into carefully, it reveals that God Himself converts the will of man from evil to good and that once it is converted, He directs him to good actions and eternal life; but also, that those who follow after the world are so at the disposal of God that He turns them wherever and whenever He wills — to bestow kindness on some and heap punishment on others, as He Himself judges rightly by a counsel most secret to Himself [On Grace and Free Will, 41]
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« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2007, 08:33:00 AM »

I never claimed Augustine didn't have his excesses, I only denied that his soteriology closely resembled Calvin's, as some claim.

I would not take all those quotes you've cut and pasted seriously except in their original language and context and balanced by his body of work. Furthermore, I am familiar with Augustine's writings; the cut-and-paste job was not necessary.
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« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2007, 08:37:49 AM »

I never claimed Augustine didn't have his excesses, I only denied that his soteriology closely resembled Calvin's, as some claim.

I would not take all those quotes you've cut and pasted seriously except in their original language and context and balanced by his body of work. Furthermore, I am familiar with Augustine's writings; the cut-and-paste job was not necessary.

In actual fact his soteriology does very closely resemble that of Calvin's. The only difference is that for Calvin God actively predestined certain individuals to damnation whereas for Augustine everyone was already condemned due to original sin and only those to whom God extended His mercy and provided with persevering or sufficient grace are saved. The distinction is really minimal...
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« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2007, 09:34:19 PM »

Like most of the Fathers, his many, many writings have often been taken out of context and used to justify later heresies.

It's different though that you disagree with St. Augustine, and yet still seek to venerate him, as many do.

What frustrates me personally is that people who established themselves very well to hate St. Augustine will look for more things to oppose him and call him a stupid heretic, and find more things out of context just as you rightly pointed out.  That to me is a despicable thing to do.

But to point out disagreements while covering the nakedness of your father, so to speak (as I believe St. Photius said) is a wise thing to do.  Perhaps, even St. John Cassian who opposed him seemed to have only disagree in a respectful manner and not to the point of anathema.

God bless.
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« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2007, 12:38:35 AM »

Indeed Calvin did derive his position from Augustine. 
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« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2007, 09:33:46 AM »

St.Augustine's copious writings can be very difficult to put in their proper context.  In large part this is actually not so much a defect of the Saint himself, but a defect in the attitude a lot of people have when approaching the Fathers of the Church (in general.)  There's a tendency for people to want each of the Fathers to be pristine characters, whose thinking and sanctity were all worked out from the moment they decided to open their mouths.

If anything, I think St.Augustine's reputation suffers because he wrote so much (so we can know much of his thinking at any given point of his "career" as a Christian teacher and man of letters), and because so much of it survives to the present day.  One has to wonder if we might feel so "rosey" about other Fathers if the same could be said of them as well.

For example, it's known that several of the pre-Nicene Fathers believed in a form of "millenialism" as a part of their eschatology, even though the consensus of the Church became one in which it was realized this opinion was not correct (and resulted from an overly/selectively literal reading of the Apocalypse of St.John.)  Likewise, there were a significant number of Christians (depending upon time and place) in the early period who held to some form of apokatastasis, or something very close to it.  Yet, it's pretty clear that the consensus of the Church has been that such views are incorrect.

Such particular errors, in the Church's mind at least, do not always amount to a "rubbishing" of this or that figure's sanctity and authority in most matters.

Another aspect of this problem people are not considering is that there are many "secondary" matters which while very important, do not get a very clear unfolding in the Scriptures.  We should be forgiving, as the Church is, of the excesses some Fathers may have accidentally gone to in trying to "systemize" the Christian faith for the sake of others, especially in the face of obviously erroneous challenges to that faith (ex. the heresy of the Pelagians.)  When the Church struggles in Her members to give a reasonable, verbal expression to the experience of the Saints, you're going to likely run into some imprecessions.

I think the case of St.Augustine is very much in line with the above qualifications, especially when you consider that his ideas (like our own) did go through a development, to the point he even saw the need to write an entire list of retractions with regard to some of his earlier works.  I'm sure many a "convert" can remember some of the silly things they'd thought and said about just what Orthodoxy is, and probably with far less excuse than the great Latin Father.

Those who would "anathematize" St.Augustine speak apart from the consensus of the ages, including that (obviously) of the Fathers who lived after him.  Usually such persons are on the crazy end of the "neo-Palamite"/"neo-Patristic" movement in the modern Orthodox Church, which while generally a positive thing, does have a tendency at times to be very revisionistic and almost "Protestant" in it's assessment of Church history - basically, chucking the synthetic-traditionalism proper to the Church, and instead pretending to be able to bypass this via some special direct connection with the ancient Greek speaking Fathers (don't even bother bringing up Western Fathers with these folks, especially if they weren't basically Easterners living within the West, like St.John Cassian.)

So I guess it could be said the fits people throw over St.Augustine nowdays (and it is a very modern phenomenon) are a species of an even larger problem.  For those familiar with the main "players" in this controversy, I willy simply end by saying Fr.Seraphim of Platina was right.

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« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2007, 12:38:04 PM »

St.Augustine's copious writings can be very difficult to put in their proper context.  In large part this is actually not so much a defect of the Saint himself, but a defect in the attitude a lot of people have when approaching the Fathers of the Church (in general.)  There's a tendency for people to want each of the Fathers to be pristine characters, whose thinking and sanctity were all worked out from the moment they decided to open their mouths.

If anything, I think St.Augustine's reputation suffers because he wrote so much (so we can know much of his thinking at any given point of his "career" as a Christian teacher and man of letters), and because so much of it survives to the present day.  One has to wonder if we might feel so "rosey" about other Fathers if the same could be said of them as well.

For example, it's known that several of the pre-Nicene Fathers believed in a form of "millenialism" as a part of their eschatology, even though the consensus of the Church became one in which it was realized this opinion was not correct (and resulted from an overly/selectively literal reading of the Apocalypse of St.John.)  Likewise, there were a significant number of Christians (depending upon time and place) in the early period who held to some form of apokatastasis, or something very close to it.  Yet, it's pretty clear that the consensus of the Church has been that such views are incorrect.

Such particular errors, in the Church's mind at least, do not always amount to a "rubbishing" of this or that figure's sanctity and authority in most matters.

Another aspect of this problem people are not considering is that there are many "secondary" matters which while very important, do not get a very clear unfolding in the Scriptures.  We should be forgiving, as the Church is, of the excesses some Fathers may have accidentally gone to in trying to "systemize" the Christian faith for the sake of others, especially in the face of obviously erroneous challenges to that faith (ex. the heresy of the Pelagians.)  When the Church struggles in Her members to give a reasonable, verbal expression to the experience of the Saints, you're going to likely run into some imprecessions.

I think the case of St.Augustine is very much in line with the above qualifications, especially when you consider that his ideas (like our own) did go through a development, to the point he even saw the need to write an entire list of retractions with regard to some of his earlier works.  I'm sure many a "convert" can remember some of the silly things they'd thought and said about just what Orthodoxy is, and probably with far less excuse than the great Latin Father.

Those who would "anathematize" St.Augustine speak apart from the consensus of the ages, including that (obviously) of the Fathers who lived after him.  Usually such persons are on the crazy end of the "neo-Palamite"/"neo-Patristic" movement in the modern Orthodox Church, which while generally a positive thing, does have a tendency at times to be very revisionistic and almost "Protestant" in it's assessment of Church history - basically, chucking the synthetic-traditionalism proper to the Church, and instead pretending to be able to bypass this via some special direct connection with the ancient Greek speaking Fathers (don't even bother bringing up Western Fathers with these folks, especially if they weren't basically Easterners living within the West, like St.John Cassian.)

So I guess it could be said the fits people throw over St.Augustine nowdays (and it is a very modern phenomenon) are a species of an even larger problem.  For those familiar with the main "players" in this controversy, I willy simply end by saying Fr.Seraphim of Platina was right.

My friend your veneration of the holy father is admirable, however, no person here has even gone so far as to question the holiness and sanctity of St Augustine or to proclaim any kind of anathema on him though it is not even in the power of any person here to do such a thing and would be quite presumptuous to do so; although I understand that there has been many an exegete who has not shied away from such spite towards St Augustine.

Also your veneration although admirable should not blind you to the doctrinal errors of the holy father which are very well known to span his entire life even up to his death and in none of his retractions does he renig on any of his hypothesis concerning his controversial soteriology which was in a large part the precursor to the Protestant Reformation...

Furthermore, your downplaying of the significance of the Latin Fathers really flies in the face of patristic history in which we find a plethora of prominent Latin Fathers such as Tertullian, St Cyprian, St Augustine, St Hilary, St Jerome, Rufinus, St Gregory the Great, St Benedict, the Venerable Bede, St Clement amongst many others...

I believe that it would be in the spirit of Orthodoxy that rather than falling in the error of defending the wrongs of our holy fathers, we would do better to acknowledge where they have erred in consensus with the fathers of the church and choose rather to turn our focus to the sanctity and holiness of such fathers...
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« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2007, 04:12:41 PM »

falafel333,

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My friend your veneration of the holy father is admirable, however, no person here has even gone so far as to question the holiness and sanctity of St Augustine or to proclaim any kind of anathema on him though it is not even in the power of any person here to do such a thing and would be quite presumptuous to do so; although I understand that there has been many an exegete who has not shied away from such spite towards St Augustine.

Mmm, while I'm sure you wouldn't be guilty of such extremes, sadly many others have been.  Some rabidly so, though generally they are sectarians who (like all too many schismatics in the past) have begun to take on weird theological views in relation to their alienation from the Church.  The HOCNA folks are pretty strong examples of this - they'll have no problem telling you St.Augustine is a "heretic" (and that any Father or Saint who spoke well of him had to have been a completely ignorant person with regard to St.Augustine's teachings.)

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Also your veneration although admirable should not blind you to the doctrinal errors of the holy father which are very well known to span his entire life even up to his death and in none of his retractions does he renig on any of his hypothesis concerning his controversial soteriology which was in a large part the precursor to the Protestant Reformation...

You're not understanding me correctly - I'm simply arguing in favour of the Saint, by giving context to the errors in his largely speculative writings.  They have a different character (as do the errors of all of those still venerated by the Church, like St.Gregory of Nyssa) than those of malicious heretics, who when confronted with the testimony of the Church, or who simply really ought to know better than this, pridefully go ahead with their error.  Also, Fathers like Sts.Gregory and Augustine (and others like St.Justin Martyr for that matter, who appears to have been a "millenialist", etc.) did not subscribe to errors which fundamentally put them into the service of a foreign "gospel" or an "alien God."  They were Orthodox Christians; in a sense, to be Orthodox is a habit of mind over and above "getting it right" 100% of the time.

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Furthermore, your downplaying of the significance of the Latin Fathers really flies in the face of patristic history in which we find a plethora of prominent Latin Fathers such as Tertullian, St Cyprian, St Augustine, St Hilary, St Jerome, Rufinus, St Gregory the Great, St Benedict, the Venerable Bede, St Clement amongst many others...

I think you misunderstood what I wrote.  I was criticizing people who thoughtlessly do this, as if the Western Fathers were utter non-entities.

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I believe that it would be in the spirit of Orthodoxy that rather than falling in the error of defending the wrongs of our holy fathers, we would do better to acknowledge where they have erred in consensus with the fathers of the church and choose rather to turn our focus to the sanctity and holiness of such fathers...

I only defend the motives of said Fathers.  I say without hesitancy, that St.Augustine was incorrect in his teaching on predestination; though, I do not think he was as wrong as many extreme anti-western polemicists would like to believe, and that his ideas are in fact more correct than some of the quasi-Pelagian over-statement I've heard come out of the mouths of such people.  St.Augustine's error here literally is one of over simplification, the kind of over simplification which (oddly enough) only highly intelligent people seem to be capable of.
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« Reply #15 on: February 02, 2007, 04:43:22 PM »

My dear Augustine,

I like you hold St. Augustine to such very high veneration, and I agree with everything you say.
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