Augustine of Hippo
Catholic priest then bishop - 354-430+AD

    Augustine was a Christian Platonist. Augustine's doctrines flourish in Catholic, Calvinist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Branham circles unto present day.
     Born to a Christian mother and pagan father at Tagaste in North Africa, Augustine was a confirmed Manichaean during his early years as a student and teacher of rhetoric at Carthage and Rome. But in Milan, during his early thirties, he began to study Neoplatonic philosophy under the guidance of Ambrose and eventually converted to Christianity. An account of his early life and conversion, together with a reasoned defense of his Neoplatonic principles, may be found in the Confessions (401). He was named the Christian bishop of Hippo (Annaba, Algeria) in 396, and devoted the remaining decades of his life to the formation of an ascetic religious community. His explanation of human nature and agency combined stoic (a form of oriental thought) and Christian elements. But it was by reference to the abstract philosophy of
Plato that Augustine sought to prove the existence of god. Acknowledging the difficulties of divine control and foreknowledge, he used an analysis of the nature of time to defend human freedom in On Grace and Free Will. Interestingly, Plato ademently believed in Fate and Destiny as well. Interesting? Augustine also believed in Separation of Church and State.
    Augustine believed it possible to employ human faculties of sense and reason effectively in the pursuit of substantive knowledge of the world.
    Although Augustine was significantly influenced by the moral philosophy of Cicero, he generally argued that the Stoics were excessively optimistic in their assessment of human nature. One of Augustine's central contributions to the development of Christian theology was his heavy emphasis on the reality of human evil. Each one of us, he believed, is sinful by nature, and the account of his own life provided in the early portions of the Confessions makes it clear that he did not suppose himself to be an exception.
     If, as Augustine certainly believed, the world and everything in it is the creation of a perfectly good god, then how can the human beings who constitute so prominent a part of that creation be inherently evil? Like Plato and Plotinus, but unlike the Manichaeans, Augustine now argued that evil is not anything real, but rather is merely the absence of good. Creation of human beings who have the freedom to decide how to act on their own, he maintained, is so vital a part of the divine plan for the cosmos that it outweighs the obvious consequence that we nearly always choose badly.
     But if human beings begin with original sin and are therefore inherently evil, what is the point of morality? Augustine held that the classical attempts to achieve virtue by discipline, training, and reason are all bound to fail. Thus, the redemptive action of god's grace alone offers hope. Again using his own life as an example, Augustine maintained that we can do nothing but wait for god to work with us in the production of a worthwhile life. (Our happiness never enters into the picture.)
     That there is indeed a god, Augustine proved in fine Platonic fashion: Begin with the fact that we are capable of achieving mathematical knowledge, and remember that, as Plato demonstrated, this awareness transcends the sensory realm of appearances entirely. Our knowledge of eternal mathematical truths thus establishes the immateriality and immortality of our own rational souls. (So far, the argument is straight out of Plato's Phaedo.) Augustine endorses a Plotinian concept of god as the central core from which all of reality emanates.
      But notice that if the truths of mathematics depend for their reality upon the creative activity of the deity, it follows that god could change them merely by willing them to be different. This is an extreme version of a belief known as voluntarism, according to which 2 + 3 = 5 remains true only so long as god wills it to be so. We can still balance our checkbooks with confidence because, of course, god invariably wills eternally. But in principle, Augustine held that even necessary truths are actually contingent upon the exercise of the divine will.
     This emphasis on the infinite power of god's will raises a significant question about our own capacity to will and to act freely. If, as Augustine supposed, god has infinite power and knowledge of every sort, then god can cause me to act in particular ways simply by willing that I do so, and in every case god knows in advance in what way I will act, long before I even contemplate doing so. From this, it would seem naturally to follow that I have no will of my own, cannot act of my own volition, and therefore should not be held morally responsible for what I do. Surely marionettes are not to be held accountable for the deeds they perform with so many strings attached.
     Augustine's answer to this predicament lies in his analysis of time. A god who is eternal must stand wholly outside the realm of time as we know it, and since god is infinitely more real than we are, it follows that time itself does not exist at the level of the infinitely real. The passage of time, the directionality of knowledge, and all temporal relations are therefore nothing more than features of our limited minds. And it is within these limitations, Augustine supposed, that we feel free, act on our volitions, and are responsible for what we do. God's foreknowledge, grounded outside the temporal order, has no bearing on the temporal nature of our moral responsibility. Once again, a true understanding of the divine plan behind creation resolves every apparent conflict. In the end, what Augustine accomplished was nothing less than a synthesis of Christianity and classical humanism.
     Augustine also believed someone was not saved unless they were baptized in water. He also believed that infants should be baptized. He in turn believed that infant baptism saved the infants.

Augustine believed in Purgatory:
"That there should be some fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired into and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater or lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish, through a certain purgatorial fire" (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Charity 18:69 [A.D. 421]).
"We read in the books of the Maccabees [2 Macc. 12:43] that sacrifice was offered for the dead. But even if it were found nowhere in the Old Testament writings, the authority of the Catholic Church which is clear on this point is of no small weight, where in the prayers of the priest poured forth to the Lord God at his altar the commendation of the dead has its place" (The Care to be Had for the Dead 1:3 [A.D. 421]).

Augustine believed in praying to the dead and that the dead interceded from Heaven for us:
"A Christian people celebrates together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers" (Against Faustus the Manichean [A.D. 400]).
"At the Lord's table we do not commemorate martyrs in the same way that we do others who rest in peace so as to pray for them, but rather that they may pray for us that we may follow in their footsteps" (Homilies on John 84 [A.D. 416]).
"For even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ, whether by his sacraments or by the prayers or relics of his saints . . . The miracle which was wrought at Milan when I was there. . . [and when people] had gathered to the bodies of the martyrs Protasius and Gervasius, which had long lain concealed and unknown but where now made known to the bishop Ambrose in a dream and discovered by him" (City of God 22:8 [A.D. 419]).

Augustine believed water baptism and Holy Communion saved the soul:

"[According to] Apostolic Tradition . . . the Churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal. This is the witness of Scripture too" (Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 1:24:34 [A.D. 412]).
"In the sacrament he is immolated for the people not only on every Easter Solemnity but on every day; and a man would not be lying if, when asked, he were to reply that Christ is being immolated. For if sacraments had not a likeness to those things of which they are sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all; and they generally take the names of those same things by reason of this likeness" (Letters 98:9 [A.D. 412]).
"For when he says in another book, which is called Ecclesiastes, 'There is no good for a man except that he should eat and drink' [Eccl. 2:24], what can he be more credibly understood to say [prophetically] than what belongs to the participation of this table which the Mediator of the New Testament himself, the priest after the order of Melchizedek, furnishes with his own body and blood? For that sacrifice has succeeded all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, which were slain as a shadow of what was to come. . . . Because, instead of all these sacrifices and oblations, his body is offered and is served up to the partakers of it" (The City of God 17:20 [A.D. 419]).
"It is this one Spirit who makes it possible for an infant to be regenerated . . . when that infant is brought to baptism; and it is through this one Spirit that the infant so presented is reborn. For it is not written, `Unless a man be born again by the will of his parents' or `by the faith of those presenting him or ministering to him,' but, `Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit.' The water, therefore, manifesting exteriorly the sacrament of grace, and the Spirit effecting interiorly the benefit of grace, both regenerate in one Christ that man who was generated in Adam" (Letters 98:2 [A.D. 412]).
"Baptism washes away all, absolutely all, our sins, whether of deed, word, or thought, whether sins original or added, whether knowingly or unknowingly contracted" (Against Two Letters of the Pelagians 3:3:5 [A.D. 420]).

Unbaptized infants are eternally damned?
"It may therefore be correctly affirmed, that such infants as quit the body without being baptized will be involved in the mildest condemnation of all."
(Augustine On Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism of Infants book 1 chapter 21).
He Refutes Those Who Allege that Infants are Baptized Not for the Remission of Sins, But for the Obtaining of the Kingdom of Heaven; Infants Saved as Sinners; Unless Infants are Baptized, They Remain in Darkness:
(Augustine On Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism of Infants book 1 chapter 23, 24, 35).

Augustine believed in Transubstantiation?

"Christ was carried in his own hands when, referring to his own Body, he said, 'This is my Body' [Matt. 26:26]. For he carried that body in his hands" (Explanations of the Psalms 33:1:10 [A.D. 405]).
"I promised you [new Christians], who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the sacrament of the Lord's Table, which you now look upon and of which you last night were made participants. You ought to know that you have received, what you are going to receive, and what you ought to receive daily. That bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ" (Sermons 227 [A.D. 411]).
"What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the Body of Christ and the chalice is the Blood of Christ. This has been said very briefly, which may perhaps be sufficient for faith; yet faith does not desire instruction" (ibid., 272).

Augustine was not Sola Scriptura!
"[T]he custom [of not rebaptizing converts] . . . may be supposed to have had its origin in Apostolic Tradition, just as there are many things which are observed by the whole Church, and therefore are fairly held to have been enjoined by the Apostles, which yet are not mentioned in their writings" (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 5:23[31] [A.D. 400]).
"But the admonition that he [Cyprian] gives us, 'that we should go back to the fountain, that is, to Apostolic Tradition, and thence turn the channel of truth to our times,' is most excellent, and should be followed without hesitation" (ibid., 5:26[37]).
"But in regard to those observances which we carefully attend and which the whole world keeps, and which derive not from Scripture but from Tradition, we are given to understand that they are recommended and ordained to be kept, either by the Apostles themselves or by plenary [ecumenical] councils, the authority of which is quite vital in the Church" (Letter to Januarius [A.D. 400]).

Augustine embraced nonCanon scripture!

"The whole canon of the Scriptures, however, in which we say that consideration is to be applied, is contained in these books: the five of Moses . . . and one book of Joshua [Son of] Nave, one of Judges; one little book which is called Ruth . . . then the four of Kingdoms, and the two of Paralipomenon . . . . [T]here are also others too, of a different order . . . such as Job and Tobit and Esther and Judith and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Esdras . . . . Then there are the Prophets, in which there is one book of the Psalms of David, and three of Solomon. . . . But as to those two books, one of which is entitled Wisdom and the other of which is entitled Ecclesiasticus and which are called `of Solomon' because of a certain similarity to his books, it is held most certainly that they were written by Jesus Sirach. They must, however, be accounted among the prophetic books, because of the authority which is deservedly accredited to them" (Christian Instruction 2:8:13 [A.D. 397]).

Augustine believed Mary the mother of Jesus was born without sin, never sinned, and did not receive sins from Adam:

"The Blessed Virgin Mary May Have Lived Without Sin.  None of the Saints Besides Her Without Sin." (Augustine's On Nature and Grace chapter 42 [415AD]).

Works Cited:
Funk & Wagnall's Encyclopedia
Encarta Online
Christian Classics Ethereal Library

- Jeremy Brown 2004

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