28 August 2007

St. Augustine

Today our Synod remembers St. Augustine - arguably the most influential theologian of the Church since the Apostle Paul. He simply towers. And even when folks disagree with him, they still have to reckon with him. I first came to know him from reading his *Confessions* (which is the first spiritual autobiography in history - written mostly as an extended prayer!) and his *City of God* - another classic full of goodies. But I've really enjoyed lately the works available on the newadvent.org site that I'd not read before. My favorites have to be *On the Spirit and the Letter* and *On Nature and Grace*.

Here's the blurb from Synod's website about this great father:

August 28
Augustine of Hippo, Doctor of the Church
Augustine was one of the greatest of the Latin church fathers and a significant influence in the formation of Western Christianity, including Lutheranism. Born in A.D. 354 in North Africa, Augustine's early life was distinguished by exceptional advancement as a teacher of rhetoric. In his book Confessions he describes his life before his conversion to Christianity, when he was drawn into the moral laxity of the day and fathered an illegitimate son. Through the devotion of his sainted mother Monica and the preaching of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (339–97), Augustine was converted to the Christian faith. During the great Pelagian controversies of the 5th century, Augustine emphasized the unilateral grace of God in the salvation of mankind. Bishop and theologian at Hippo in North Africa from A.D. 395 until his death in 430, Augustine was a man of great intelligence, a fierce defender of the orthodox faith, and a prolific writer. In addition to the book Confessions, Augustine's book City of God had a great impact upon the church throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance.


Christine said...

One of my favorite quotes attributed to the Bishop of Hippo:

Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.

Christopher Palo said...

Fr. Weedon,

I would amend your opening statemnt to read that Augustine is "arguably the most influntial theoloian of the Western Curch since the Apostle Paul."

Though many Orthodox, erroneously, condemn Augustine, I think there is no greater preacher of repentance among the early Church Fathers. However, the East is concerned, quite correctly, that particularly his Anti-Pelagian writings, have led to great distortons in the correct understanding of grace. That is why St. John Cassian is so valuable as a corrective.

It is important for all of us to realize that the saints were not infallible but models to live the Christ-like life. And I hold St. Augustine very dear.

Just MHO.

Christopher Palo said...

One more thing. The Orthodox commemoration of St. Augustine is on June 15 (new calendar), June 28 (old calendar).

William Weedon said...


I am not sure I would amend it still, because even when the East disagrees with the great saint, they end up having to deal with him nonetheless. He's definitely a towering figure that neither East nor West has been able to ignore. Of course, in the West, you get the same phenomenon toward John Cassian, "Blessed John Cassian," that you get toward Augustine in certain quarters of the East, "Blessed Augustine." ;) Which goes a long way toward illuminating the difference between East and West on the question of Pelagianism...

Past Elder said...

Yes, he is a towering figure and one does have to deal with him.

I've never done that very well. I'd be more interested in how he treated his wife and children after conversion as an example of Christianity than theological treatises.

Anonymous said...

Too bad SVS Press will never publish anything by St. Augustine. . . .
Brian Westgate

Chris Jones said...

the difference between East and West on the question of Pelagianism

Sorry to be picky, but strictly speaking there is no difference between East and West on the question of Pelagianism. There is some question as to whether there is a difference as to semi-Pelagianism, but none whatever about Pelagianism. Pelagianism was condemned at Ephesus (431), and is regarded by the East as a heresy just as it is in the West.

St John Cassian is sometimes accused of semi-Pelagianism, and the fact that he is venerated in the East as a saint makes some suspect that the East is "soft on semi-Pelagianism". But the bishops at 2d Orange (where semi-Pelagianism was condemned) had the opportunity to condemn Cassian specifically, and declined to do so. And when the East had occasion to speak authoritatively on the relationship between grace and free will (in their condemnation of Calvinism at the council of Jerusalem, 1672), their teaching was free of semi-Pelagianism. I see no daylight between Jerusalem and 2d Orange.