Articles

The Teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church

by Dr. Michael Azkoul

Excerpts from Appendix: Augustine of Hippo

If we give special attention to this 5th century North African Orthodox bishop, it is not because, as most post-Orthodox Western historians...think, Augustine was "the father of fathers" and "the greatest genius the church has ever produced." He was neither...

We agree that Augustine might well be distressed by Western theological developments of the last millenium, yet it is important to keep in mind that there would have been NO such developments without him. His writings lie at the basis of every heresy which now afflicts the religion of the West. Every major religious writer and movement in Europe has claimed indebtedness to him: Thomas Aquinas, Joachim of Flores, the Spiritual Franciscans, the Protestant Reformers...describe themselves as "Augustinian".

We should be aware too, that Augustine achieved a certain reputation in Russia...(especially since the time of Peter the Great)...[many] have quoted him with favor...[However], had all of his works been known to our Russian saints and Fathers [it] would have been evident to them, as it is becoming increasingly clear to many now, that Augustine had departed significantly from the Apostolic Tradition. Anyone armed with the writings of the holy fathers will discover that, from the beginning, his opinions were challenged, with good reason, in both the East and West:

a) His theory of original sin evoked consternation everywhere in the West, but especially among the monks of southern Gaul (France). [Their] leader, St. John Cassian, who had been ordained to the diaconate by St. John Chrysostom, took exception to Augustine's views on God, Man and grace... [along with] St. Vincent of Lerins, St. Gennadius of Marseilles, as well as the churches of Ireland and Britain. They all declined to accept Augustine's teaching that every person is guilty of and is being punished for - or saved in spite of - Adam's sin. The Bishop of Hippo had proclaimed that in Adam "was constituted the form of condemnation to his future progeny, who would spring from him by natural descent"...

Driven, as it were, by the force of his own logic, Augustine insisted that Man is sufficiently evil...that God alone can save him. Since not all men are saved, it is obvious that God has mysteriously chosen to reward some and punish others. [He writes]:

"...owing to one man all passed into condemnation who are born to Adam, unless they are reborn in Christ, even as God has appointed to regenerate them before they die in the body. For He has predestinated some to everlasting life...while to those whom He predestinated to eternal death. He is the most righteous Awarder of punishment. They are punished not on account of the sins which they add?of their own will, but on account of the original sin, even if, as in the case of infants, they had added nothing to that original sin..."

Augustine theorized in the treatise [On Rebuke and Grace, chap. 34] that seemed to have caused the greatest stir among the monks of Gaul: "I speak thus of those who are predestinated to the Kingdom of God, whose number is so certain that none may be added to or subtracted from it...while [those not saved] are most righteously judged according to their deservings. For they lie under the sin WHICH THEY HAVE INHERITED BY ORIGINAL [SIN] and so depart hence with the inherited debt..." [Ed: Calvinism is based on this]

b) Augustine had a deep-rooted contempt for sex - possibly the result of his early Manichaeism...an erroneous conception of evil and matter [flesh] which he seems never to have been able to discard?In Marriage and Concupiscence, he taught that sex was the means by which original sin was transferred from parents to offspring...His ideas are necessarily founded on a flawed theology and cosmogenty, for God forms, each in its own way, the human body and soul of the individual at the same time, as St. John of Damascus tells us, "not first one and then the other."

c) The errors of Augustine [extend to] the filioque, the theory which would negate the monarchy of the Father and unbalance the Trinity: "But the Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Father into the Son...and then proceed from the Son for our Sanctification [as our Orthodox fathers teach from the Lord's own words in John's Gospel]; but He proceeds from BOTH AT THE SAME TIME, although the Father has given this to the Son, that just as the Holy Spirit proceeds from Himself, so He also PROCEEDS FROM THE SON [filioque in Latin]."

f) [As to heretical Baptisms]: Augustine held, contrary to the Apostolic Tradition, that heretical baptism is true ("valid") baptism: "But we do not remove baptism from heretics," he exclaimed. "Why? Because they possess baptism as a MARK in the same way as a deserter from the army possesses a mark. So, too, do heretics have baptism." If a heretic were simply a fallen-away Christian, his argument would have some value. But it is not relevant to heretics who set up a "church" against the [True] Church...[T]hey have formed another army.

g) We must not ignore the fact that, after his death, the universal Church did not everywhere begin to compose hagiographies for him. We have no knowledge of any miracles connected with his grave, no odor of sanctity emanating from his body [as is usual]...He was not represented on icons, except in Southern Gaul (6th Century) where his disciples...promoted his doctrine and the case for his sanctity. Their efforts were not to bear...fruit until the 9th century, when during the Carolingian Renaissance (Charlemagne), Augustinianism became the "philosophy and theology" of Charlemagne's realm. [Ed: caps and underlines added]