Thursday, 15 February 2018

Augustine and Pelagianism


I’ve finished reading the original 1967 part of Augustine of Hippo by Peter Brown. The 1990 epilogue on the sermons discovered since ‘67 is interesting. For the general reader like myself the main body of the book with the story of his tussles with Donatists and Pelagians makes clear that setting the Imperial dogs on heretics is a self-defeating strategy. As we know the particular misstep that is involved in a recurrent heresy, like a too long bottom riser on a stairs, keeps catching one out.

"Idle and a fool in God's wisdom, I was misled by an unorthodox error at the time when I was pursuing philosophical studies. Sometimes I went to listen to the theologians discussing this matter [of grace and free will], and the school of Pelagius seemed to me nearest the truth. In the philosophical faculty I seldom heard a reference to grace, except for some ambiguous remarks. What I heard day in and day out was that we are masters of our own free acts, that ours is the choice to act well or badly, to have virtues or sins and much more along this line." Therefore, "Every time I listened to the Epistle reading in church and heard how Paul magnified grace and belittled free will-as is the case in Romans 9, 'It is obviously not a question of human will and effort, but of divine mercy,' and its many parallels-grace displeased me, ungrateful as I was." But later, things changed:

"However, even before I transferred to the faculty of theology, the text mentioned came to me as a beam of grace and, captured by a vision of the truth, it seemed I saw from afar how the grace of God precedes all good works with a temporal priority, God as Savior through predestination, and natural precedence. That is why I express my gratitude to Him who has given me this grace as a free gift."
(Thomas Bradwardine 14C. Archbishop of Canterbury)

Even today theological chatter about Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism is rife and libertarianism is a common assumption in matters of faith. We choose to believe and decide for Christ. What I have been considering is whether Augustine’s teachings would have been different if during his gap year before University he had gone to India. There he discovers Advaita and receives shaktipat initiation by a sat guru. Later on he renounces these affliations but they remain a force in his thinking when he becomes an internet Cardinal, a dedicated post created by Pope Aloysius. His net casts go out at 1:53 C.E.T.

More to come if you can stand it.

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