Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Errors of Augustine (and all Western Christianity since)

Given the conversations we've had here previously about Blessed Augustine of Hippo's introduction of Gnosticism/Neo-Platonism into mainstream Christianity and his errors concerning "divine simplicity," I thought this video might be very interesting to everyone, especially Jacob and Rhology. The speaker is Dr. David Bradshaw, a professor of philosophy and philosophy of religion at the University of Kentucky.


  1. Yeah, it's a good video. I think it is taken from his talk with Kevin on Ancient Faith Radio. I am currently reading Bradshaw's *Aristotle East and West,* where he goes into greater detail.

    Essence/energies is a slam dunk for the East. It solves the problem of ontology, soteriology, relics, icons, the question of God, prayer.

    Problem is, unless you actually understand and care about Augustinianism, this won't matter.

    Good stuff, though. I don't know if I would say that all of Western tradition dovetailed after Augustine. While they remained Augustinian in some sense, the Council of Orange DID reject his soteriology. And I would like to think many of the British and Northern European missionaries had an "eastern" flavor to them.

  2. I think it is Letter 234 of St Basil.

    Basically he runs a reductio against Western theology.

    Dr Joseph Farrell said the East (and most of pre-schism Church) reasoned thusly: Persons, Operations (energeia), and from those two, deduced things accordingly about the essence of God.

    The West does it backwards.

  3. Jacob/Legion:

    That's because they were eastern -- if not geographically at least culturally. I just finished reading a book (can't recall the official title right now -- I'll find it if you like) on the Oriental Orthodox and Nestorian Churches by Aziz Attiya. One of the most interesting things, to me, that he discussed in there was the influence of the Coptic Church on especially the ancient Church of Ireland. The focus on monasticism, especially in cave-dwelling communities, the liturgy, the mysticism -- a lot of similarities. Also interesting that he mentioned was the discovery of a manuscript with the words of an ancient Irish liturgy which invoked several unnamed (I can't remember the number) "saints of Egypt," presumably missionaries from the Coptic Church to the Irish. Very interesting stuff.

  4. The West does it backwards

    I just found my new bumpersticker. :)

  5. St. Augustine is a favorite whipping boy of some, but this is not how the Orthodox Church speaks about saints who made some errors in their writings. We have many saints who said things that were in correct. I would also say that most of St. Augustine's alleged errors are exaggerated, and are based on projecting later western errors back on to him.

    See: http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/bless_aug.aspx

  6. Father, bless

    Thank you for the link to that article. I will have to track down Father Seraphim's book on St. Augustine; it looks like a very interesting read. I appreciate the correction as well; I did, I think, overstate myself in the title to this post. And I definitely agree that it's very easy to blow Augustine's personal opinions and relatively minor quarks out of proportion in the light of 1500 years of distortion. Thank you, father.

  7. Hi David,
    I have mixed thoughts on St Augustine. For the most part, I enjoyed City of God and Confessions. Fr Matthew Raphael Johnson has some good stuff on St Augustine. esp on how to appropriate his epistemology.

    Also, I am troubled by some Orthodox (not you) who draw such a maniacal "East vs West" line that they end up rejecting much that is good from the pre-schism West: St Hilary of Poitiers, St Ambrose, Leo I, Gregory I, St Patrick et al.

    I do not think it wise to write off these great men as "future Roman Catholics already infected by the air of Westernism."

  8. The West does it backwards

    I just found my new bumpersticker. :)

    LOL! You're bad, man. Hahahahaa...


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