The Perils of Augustine

Augustine, born 354 in what is now Algeria, was a theologian who could be called the father of the Western Church. At least I will call him that. For many in the west, he is held in high regard, in fact known as a Saint in the Roman Catholic Church. To the rest of the church (yes, there is a rest of the church), he is largely ignored, and for good reason. I blame Augustine for most of the heresy of the West, and go into some detail in my upcoming book.

Augustine was a Roman citizen and rather privileged. His early years were spent drinking, womanizing, and philosophizing, not unlike many other young men throughout history. Fairly early on he joined the Manicheists, which believed that we were caught in an eternal battle between good and evil, a concept known as dualism. They also believed that the Sun and the Moon had souls, among other things. Augustine seemed to be personally caught up in this battle between good and evil, which continued through his life.

Sometime later, he became impressed with neo-Platonism, another dualistic philosophy, without the astrological nonsense. The battle between good and evil continued, and Augustine struggled to come to terms with the origins of evil. Along the way, his dualistic thinking translated into a dualism of spirit and body, in which the spirit was good and the body was evil.

I’m oversimplifying here, which means that there’s a resultant loss of accuracy, but you get the drift. Finally, Augustine decides to become a Christian (influenced by his mother), and eventually rises to the position of the Bishop of Hippo and writes a lot of theology.

in the 5th Century, there was still only one Christian Church, most of which spoke Greek. However, Augustine spoke (and wrote) in Latin, which created an interesting situation. Because of the languge barrier, much of the church leadership was not aware of Augustine’s writings and teachings, and it was not until much later they realized what he was teaching. As a result, Augustine is not considered a saint in the Eastern church. He’s respected as being a bishop, but ignored as far as being a theologian.

Next: Augustine’s heresies

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