Paul's Passing Thoughts

A Postworthy Email on Easter Day

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on April 16, 2017

A friend of PPT sent me the following redacted email last night and the content pretty much speaks for itself. Enjoy. However, do remember that BOTH Catholics and Protestants claim Augustine as their doctrinal father.

Begin correspondence:

Good Evening Paul,
The reason I’m writing you is that I have recently purchased a reprint of a book written in 1887 by Alexander V. G. Allen a professor at Cambridge University. Professor Allen was no fan of Augustine (and therefore no fan of Calvin) and he writes a most interesting analysis of Augustine’s work. I have reproduced a couple pages of it below for you thinking you will find it of interest. A link is provided at the bottom of the quote in case you ever want to purchase the book for yourself.
Merry Easter (or Resurrection Day if you prefer)!
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To this church it was that Augustine had been converted, although the full significance of his conversion was not at once apparent, and for years his thought was in confusion in consequence of the lingering influence of a higher theology. But from the time when he became Bishop of Hippo, the ecclesiastical leaven began to work most powerfully, and truth, as such, was no longer the object of his life. Before the Pelagian controversy began, he was seeking for some dogmatic basis by which to justify the claims of the church as a mediator between God and man, without whose intervention salvation was impossible. In so doing he was laying the cornerstone of Latin theology. When the Pelagian controversy was over, the Latin church was for the first time in possession of a theology of its own, differing at every point from the earlier Greek theology, starting from different premises and actuated throughout by another motive.[i]
 
The foundation of that theology was the Augustinian dogma of original sin. That doctrine was alone adequate to explain the existence and mediatorship of the church, or to justify its claim to teach and to rule with supreme authority. The dogma of original sin was unknown to Greek theology as well as an innovation also in Latin thought, though it had vaguely broached by Tertullian and Cyprian, and intimations looking toward it are to be found in the writings of Ambrose. According to this dogma, humanity is absolutely separated from God in consequence of Adam’s sin. In the guilt of that sin the whole human race is implicated, and has therefore fallen under the wrath and condemnation of God, — a condemnation which dooms the race, as a whole and as individuals, to everlasting woe. So deeply is Augustine interested in establishing this position, that the redemption of the world by Christ inevitably assumes a subordinate place, and is practically denied. Adam and not Christ becomes the normal man, the type and representative, the federal head of the race. There is a solidarity of mankind in sin and guilt, but not in redemption, — a solidarity in Adam, not in Christ. There stands, as it were, at the opening of the drama of human history a quasi-supernatural being, whose rebellion involves the whole human family in destruction. Endowed with a supernatural gift, — the image of God in his constitution which united him closely with his maker, — he lost it for himself and his descendants by one sinful act, and thus cut off humanity from any relationship with God. In this catastrophe, the reason, the conscience, the will of man suffered alike; the traces of the divine image in human nature were destroyed.
 
How then is the sundered relationship to be restored? What is redemption, and how is it to be applied? The place of Christ in Augustine’s scheme is not a prominent one, for humanity has not been redeemed. Augustine continues to speak of Christ, it is true, in the conventional way, but he no longer finds in His work any bond which unites God with humanity. The incarnation has become a mystery, — God chose to accomplish human salvation in this way, but as far as we can see He might have adopted some other method. It almost seems as though, if Christ were left out altogether, the scheme of Augustine would still maintain its consistency as a whole and retain its value as a working system. The reasons which led Augustine to deny the universality of redemption were the same as had influenced Gnostics and Manicheans, — he was oppressed by the sense of sin in himself, the knowledge of it in others, the appalling extent and depth of human wickedness; these things to the mind of a practical Roman made it meaningless to think or act as if humanity were redeemed to God. But when the Christian principle of redemption had been abandoned, there was only one other alternative, and that was to follow still further in Gnostic and Manichean footsteps, — to adopt the principle of an individual election by which some souls were saved out of the great mass doomed to destruction. The bond of union between this world and God is the divine will, — a will not grounded in righteousness or love, into whose mysterious ways it is vain for man to inquire, the justice of which it is presumptuous for him to discuss. That will whose arbitrary determinations constitute right, chooses some to salvation and leaves the rest to follow out the way to endless misery. In one respect the Augustinian idea of predestination diverged from the Gnostic and approximated the later Mohammedan conception, — it is a predestination which acts here and there in an arbitrary way without reference to human efforts or attainments. The clearest manifestation of the divine will in the world, which is open to the gaze of all, is the Catholic church, the one divinely appointed channel through which God has decreed that the elect are to be saved. Predestination is to a process within the church. For although Augustine believed that outside of the church none could be saved, he by no means held that all within the church would escape damnation. Although all are to be compelled to enter the church, this is only in order that the elect among them who are known only to God may obtain the grace to be found alone in the church, by which they make their election sure.
 
by Alexander V.G. Allen
pp. 156-159

 

 

 

 

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4 Responses

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  1. Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on April 16, 2017 at 9:25 AM

    “It almost seems as though, if Christ were left out altogether, the scheme of Augustine would still maintain its consistency as a whole and retain its value as a working system.”

    Wow! That’s the most powerful statement in the whole excerpt right there!!!
    He said it most succinctly. When it comes right down to it, Christ and His death is irrelevant if God simply elects some and damns others according to His “divine will”!

    Like

  2. lydia00 said, on April 17, 2017 at 2:09 PM

    Wow! I need to read this book. He is speaking my language. While Catholic doctrine has evolved a bit there is still the idea that salvation is through the church. And he mentioned Islam and predestination! I feel a kindred soul!

    Like

  3. John said, on April 18, 2017 at 5:12 PM

    And to think there are people out there who think Augustine was some kind of hero, a spiritual giant, a great man of “god.” He was a devil, and his low view of Jesus is still prevalent in the cults of Calvinism and Reformed nonsense.

    Talk to a Calvinist and use the name “Jesus,” and they’ll get uncomfortable and start scratching their necks; talk of the “Holy Spirit,” and they’ll break out into a full-blown, itchy herpes attack.

    This redaction was indeed read- and post worthy.

    I’ll say it again: the entire reformation nonsense, starting with this devil Augustine 500 years before the devils Luther and Calvin (peace be upon him), had nothing to do with the God of the Bible. It’s like comparing cow droppings to Swiss chocolate. It is a slap in the face of the creator, not the cow droppings, the “reformation.”

    Like

    • Lydia said, on April 20, 2017 at 7:46 AM

      John, Ask a Calvinist where the Holy Spirit was and what the HS was doing during the cross and before resurrection. It’s a real problem for them if they ever decide to actually think about it in light of their doctrinal stances.

      Like


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