Jeffrey MacDonald, as you will recall is a graduate of Wheaton College, an Orthodox Priest, and a seminary professor specializing in church history. In the following lecture St. Augustine of Hippo (385-430AD) he provides an Orthodox perspective on his theology and John Calvin’s use of it in the Reformation. His insights into Calvin’s errors, as he sees it, makes for a lively, stimulating presentation. Click here for the audio player at OrthodoxChurchHistory.com, now part of the Community Audio. Please note the listing of lectures on the right side of the page. Click on the Augustine lecture, #4.
The History of Christian Thought from Paul Tillich
Paul Tillich, Professor of Philosophical Theology, Union Theological Seminary, New York City
(ENTIRE LECTURE SERIES) From Religion-Online.com: “In the Spring of 1953, Professor Tillich offered a course at Union Theological Seminary, entitled ‘The History of Christian Thought: Lectures in Church History (108).’ This was the last time Dr. Tillich offered the course. [Tillich moved on to become University Professor at Harvard.] Students took stenographic notes and distributed copies to the class. What follows are the verbatim notes from that class. There were thirty-eight sessions, but Lecture 11 is missing.”
“Paul Johannes Tillich (August 20, 1886 – October 22, 1965) was a German–American theologian and Christian existentialist philosopher. Tillich was – along with his contemporaries Rudolf Bultmann (Germany), Karl Barth (Switzerland), and Reinhold Niebuhr (United States) – one of the four most influential Protestant theologians of the 20th century.Among the general populace, he is best known for his works The Courage to Be (1952) and Dynamics of Faith (1957), which introduced issues of theology and modern culture to a general readership. Theologically, he is best known for his major three-volume work Systematic Theology (1951–63), in which he developed his “method of correlation”: an approach of exploring the symbols of Christian revelation as answers to the problems of human existence raised by contemporary existential philosophical analysis.“
This documents below are in the public domain.
There are THREE lectures below on Augustine!
Lecture 16: Tertullian. Cyprian. Augustine.
We finished the discussion of the Eastern development of Christian theology and we are now looking at the West, with the intention to remain there until the end of these lectures – which is perhaps not absolutely fair to the East, because there were developments there which one must certainly study if one wants to understand the situation in present-day Russia, for example, but our limitations are so great that I cannot go into this.
The two men who lead us from the East to the West, and with whom we must deal first, are Tertullian and Cyprian. We already discussed Tertullian to some extent in connection with the Montanistic movement of radical spiritualism and radical eschatology. He was its greatest theological representative. We also spoke about him in connection with his ability to create those formulas which finally survived, in a very early stage, those formulas about Trinity and Christology which, under the pressure of Rome, finally conquered all the other suggestions made by the East. Further, we have seen that he was a Stoic philosopher and as such he was fully aware of the importance of reason and carries through his rational system in a very radical way. But the same Tertullian is also aware of the fact that on the basis of his philosophical attitude there is something else, namely the Christian paradox, He who said that the human soul is naturally Christian (anima naturaliter christiana,) a phrase you should remember, and is the same who is said to have said, at the same time – though he did not actually say it – that “I believe what is absurd,” (credo quia absurdum est). What he really said was: “The Son of God is crucified; it is not a shame because it is a matter of shame. And the Son of God had died; it is credible because it is inadequate And the buried (was) resurrected; it is certain because it is impossible.”
Now what you find in such paradox is a mixture of an understanding of the surprising, unexpected – and that means, in Greek, “paradoxical” – -reality of the appearance of God, or God-man unity, under the conditions of existence; and at the same time it is a rhetorical expression of this idea, in the way in which the Roman educated orators used the Latin language. So you must not take it as a literal expression but as a pointing – by means of paradox – to the incredible reality of the appearance of Christ. Now people have added to this, credo quia absurdum est, “1 believe because it is absurd,” but this of course is not Tertullian. He never would have been able to give very clear dogmatic formulas and (be) a Stoic, believing in the ruling power of the Logos.
In Tertullian also appears something which is important later in the West, namely the emphasis on sin. He speaks of the vicium originis, the original vice, and identifies it with sexuality. In this way he anticipates a long development of Roman Christianity, the depreciation of sex and the doctrine of the universality of sinfulness.
Another thing can be derived from him and partly from his Stoic background: for him the Spirit is a kind of fine substance, as it was in Stoic philosophy. This fine substance is called grace or Spirit – which is the same thing in all Catholic theology; usually the third concept is love: (grace, spirit and love are actually the same in Catholic theology.) Therefore Roman Catholicism can speak of, infused grace, infused like a liquid, like a very fine substance, into the soul of man and transforming it. This is the non-personalistic element in all Roman Catholic sacramental thinking, and in the way in which the fine substance of the Spirit, or of love or grace, can be infused into the soul,. . into the oil of extreme unction, into the water of baptism, into the bread of the Lord’s Supper. Here you have one of the sources of this kind of “spiritual materialism,” if you want to call it like this, which played such a great role in the Roman church.
Finally he represents the idea that asceticism, the self-denial of the vital reality of oneself, is the way to receive this substantial grace of God. He uses the juristic term “compensation” for sin; asceticism, compensation for the negative side of sin. Or he uses “satisfaction”: by good works we can satisfy God. Or he uses “self-punishment” and says that to the degree in which we will punish ourselves, God will not punish us. All this is legalistic thinking. And although he himself was not a lawyer, every Roman orator and philosopher was potentially a lawyer, as every American is a philosopher! . . . This use of legal categories was another fundamental characteristic of the West and it became decisive, for the later development of the Roman church in the movement in which the second and great important element was put into the foreground, namely the Church, and this was Cyprian.
The North African bishop Cyprian’s greatest influence was on the doctrine of the Church. The problem which he discussed was also a very existential one – as in all Church history very few people were mere scholars; most of them had very fundamental existential affairs and concerns, and out of that arose their doctrines. In the moment in which a theology says something which you cannot existentially realize any more, either the theology is bad or you have not yet had a special experience – both things are possible. But usually, I would say, the theology then is bad, or these parts of a theology are bad. And I believe – this is self-criticism – that in every theological system there are, besides those elements which are creations of existential concern and therefore full of blood and power and speaking to others, sections which are like lines drawn out in order to fill the system up, but not created on the basis of existential concern. And I believe that most of you are very sensitive to this; that is the reason why for a teacher every lecture should be a matter of fear and trembling – at least it is for this teacher! And just for this reason, because I never know, with absolute exactitude, (whether) something I tell you in systematics – and my whole “history of Christian thought” is very much systematic, as you know – is existential or not. That is the meaning of the word “existential.” Nietzsche called it “spirit”, and then he has said: Spirit is the life which cuts into its own life; out of its own suffering it produces its own creativity… He doesn’t use the word existential, but that’s what it means.
For the people like Cyprian, the problems of the Church were existential problems. There were the persecutions; there were those called the lapsi those who were fallen either by recanting Christianity or at least by surrendering books to the searching servants of the pagan authorities, or who denounced others in a trial such as those we see now in this country. All this was a matter of great concern for the Church, and of course each of them who did this was so to speak under Divine judgment. And these people wanted to return to t he Church and overcome the weakness which got hold of them. No one can judge them who is human. But not everybody could be returned into the Church; in cases where there was not human weakness but malignancy or lack of depth, it was not possible for the Church to re-accept. Now the question was: Who decides, in this situation. The ordinary doctrine was: those who are “spirituals,” i. e. , those who had become martyrs or had in any other way proved that they were fully responsible Christians.
But against this, which was a kind of remnant from the period of Christianity in which spirit was still fighting with office and office was not yet prevailing, now the office didn’t want this remnant of the past and wanted to take over this decision too. The episcopalian point of view said that the bishop, who is the Church, must decide about it. And he must decide in a very liberal way. He must take those who fell even more than once. In the same way, other mortal sinners must be received. The Church had become a country Church, a territorial, a universal Church, the Church of the Empire, and so no one could be easily excluded. The decision was now in the hands of the bishop.
But on the other hand the doctrine was still powerful that the Spirit must decide whether or not someone can belong to the Church. So Cyprian said that the bishops are the Spirituals, those who have the Spirit, namely the Spirit of succession from the early Apostles, apostolic succession. In this way the Spirit became the qualification of the office This was the greatest triumph of the office, that now the Spirit is bound to the office and the Spirit is called the Spirit of succession. This was a transition, and shortly after it became clear that the clergy has the graces which belong to it by ordination, and that the highest clergy, finally the Pope, embodies the Divine grace on earth. But this was the transition to it.
A similar very existential problem was the problem: What to do with people who are baptized by heretics and schismatics. You know the difference, I hope. Heretics are people who have a different faith, who have deviated from the order of the Christian congregation. Schismatics are people who follow a special line of church-political development, those who split from the church, perhaps because two bishops fight with each other, or some groups don’t want to accept the Roman bishop. So the separation of the Eastern and Western churches is always called schisma. The Eastern church is considered by Rome not as a heretic church but as a schismatic church. Protestantism is considered by Rome not as a schismatic church but as a heretic church, because their foundations of faith are at stake and not only the non-acknowledgment of the Roman bishop.
Now the question was: How was it possible to receive into one’s own congregation people who are baptised by one of these groups. The answer was, again: It is the objective character of baptism which is decisive, and not the person who has performed it. We will see how Augustine carried this through.
Now behind all this stands Cyprian’s idea of the Church:
1) He who has not the Church as Mother, cannot have God as Father. “There is no salvation outside the Church” – extra ecclesia nulla salus. The Church is the institution in which salvation is reached. This again is a change from the early Christian period where the Church was a community of the saints and not an institution for salvation. Of course salvation was going on within it and those who could be saved, and were saved, from paganism and from the demons were gathered in the Church. But the Church itself was not considered to be an institution of salvation but a community of the saints. This is the first emphasis of Cyprian. It is very consistent with the legal thinking of the West.
2) The Church is built on the episcopate. He says the Church is built over the bishops. This is done by Divine law and therefore it is an object of faith. “Therefore you must know that the bishop is in the Church and the Church is in the bishop, and that if somebody is not with the bishop, he is not in the Church.” Now this is purest episcopalianism – though somehow different from what is called today by this word.
3) The unity of the Church is correspondingly rooted in the unity of the episcopate. All bishops represent this unity. But in spite of the equality of all of them, there is one representative of this unity: this is Peter and his See. The See of Peter is the principle Church, “from which the priestly unity has arisen, the womb and the root of the Catholic Church.” Now this is before Augustine. The consequence of this, although not yet in Cyprian’s mind, was unavoidably the principate of Rome in a much more radical way than he expressed it.
4) The bishop is sacerdotes (the Latin word for “priest”). The priest’s main function is the sacrificial function. The priest sacrifices the elements in the Lord’s Supper and repeats the sacrifice on Golgotha by doing so. He imitates what Christ did; he offers a true and perfect sacrifice to God the Father within the Church. Here again it was not yet the later Catholic Mass, but it unavoidably would lead to it – (the more so in the primitive nations, with their realistic thinking and tendency to take as real what is symbolic. . . .).Many of the fundamentals of the Roman church existed as early as about 250, Cyprian’s time. And whatever we say against the Roman church, we should not forget that the early developments of Christianity led this way, as early as the year 250, let us say, as an example. And when today one speaks of the agreement of the first 500 years, this is entirely misleading. Of course everybody agrees in the big synodal decisions – Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox – but this agreement is only seemingly an agreement, because the living meaning of all these things was absolutely different from what the Reformers built up as the Protestant doctrine. And if you take a man like Cyprian, then you can see the difference. No Protestant could accept any of these points.
Let me sum up some of the points characteristic of the Occidental tradition:
1) One could first mention the general practical activistic tendency in the West, the legal relations between God and man, the much stronger ethical impulses for the average Christian, not with respect to himself but with respect to the world; and include in this point the eschatological interest, without mystagogical and mystical emphasis. We can say: More law, less participation: that characterizes the West from the very beginning.
2) The idea of sin, even original sin, is almost exclusively occidental. The main problem of the East, as we have seen, was death – therefore immortality; and error – therefore , truth. The main problem of the West is sin, and salvation. In a man like St. Ambrose, the estimation of Paul – who is the main teacher on sin and salvation – is accepted. He has been called by St. Ambrose the doctor gentium , the teacher of the nations. Paul has the keys of knowledge; Peter has the keys of power. And there was going on through the whole history of the Middle Ages a struggle between Peter and Paul – between the keys of knowledge, which finally prevailed in the Reformation, and the keys of power, which always prevailed in the Roman church. Grace, therefore, is, according to St. Ambrose, first of all the forgiveness of sins and not, as in the Platonic attitude of the East, deification.
3) This has the following consequences: Western Christianity emphasizes the historical humanity of Christ, his humility, and not his glory. e. g., on the door of St. Sabina in Rome, before which I stood with great awe, I must say, there you find in wood-cut relief the first picture or sculpture of the crucifixion. The door is world-famous, coming from the fourth century. Here the West shows that it deviates, or can deviate, from the Christ in glory which you find in all mosaics but you never find the Christ crucified. This is more symptomatic for the difference of East and West than many theological formulas. But it is of course also expressed in the theological formulas: If I now return to this most difficult lecture I gave on Chalcedon, I now can illustrate it with the two doors, or with a mosaic in, let us say, Ravina, which was under Byzantine influence at that time; and on the other hand the door in Santa Sabina…. There you find the two Christologies clearly expressed in picture. .In one you have always the tremendously powerful Lord of the universe, in all glory as the Judge of the world or of the resurrected, in His majesty surrounded by angels, man, animals, and inorganic parts of nature, which all participate in His glory. And then you have this very wonderful, in some way poor, (presentation) of the suffering Christ on the door at Santa Sabina. The one is Antiochean, Roman theology, which emphasizes the humanity more than anything else, including the suffering humanity of the Christ; the other is Alexandrian Christology which makes Christ a walking God. . . – the bodily existence is swallowed up by the Divine form. Now this can give you an example of the difference in feeling. And so we have in the whole history of painting in the West, since that time, the most wonderful ,the most cruel, and the most destructive representations of the Crucifixion. The early Gothic crucifixes, of which there are many, are such that perhaps a modern church trustee wouldn’t allow them to be hung in his church, because they are so ugly – supposing that the crucifixion was a beautiful thing. It was ugly. And that is what the West accepted, and could understand.
4) The last point I want to make is the Church. The idea of the Church is much more emphasized than in the East. The Church is built somehow according to the legal structure of the Roman state, with the principle of authority, with the double law – the canonic law and the civil law. All this is characteristic of the West. One element I want to add is the hierarchical centralization of power in the Pope, and the personal participation of everybody, including the monks, in the sacrament of penance.
Now this gives you some ideas about the difference. Now I come to the man who is the representative of the West more than anyone else ever since, even the Reformers, and who is so to speak the foundation of everything the West had to say, in an ultimate formula, Augustine.
Augustine lived from 354-430 after Christ. His influence overshadows not only the next thousand years but all periods ever since. In the Middle Ages his influence was such that even those who were struggling against him in theological terminology and method – the Dominicans, with the help of Aristotle – quoted him often; as a Catholic theologian in Germany has counted, 80% of all the quotations of Thomas are from Augustine, and Thomas is the great opponent of Augustinianism in the Middle Ages. Now if you quote your enemies in the amount of 80% of all your quotations – affirmatively, of course – then this enemy is not simply an enemy, but you live on his basis, and the difference is one in emphasis and a change in method, but it is not a substantial difference. The whole Middle Ages are full of this.
In Augustine we have also the man to whom all the Reformers referred in their fight with the Roman church. We have in him the man who influenced deeply the modern philosophical movement insofar as it was Platonistic – i. e., Descartes and his whole school, and including Spinoza. He influenced deeply our modern discussion, and I would say, almost unambiguously, that I myself, and everything you get theologically from me, is much more in the line of the
Augustinian than in the Thomistic tradition.
So we have a line of thought from Augustine over the Franciscans in the Middle Ages, over the Reformers, over the philosophers of the 17th and early 18th centuries, over the German classical philosophers including Hegel, to the present-day philosophy of religion, insofar as it is not empirical philosophy of religion – which I think is a contradiction in terms – but a philosophy of religion which is based on the immediacy of the truth in every human being.
Now this is the greatness of Augustine, and this we have to understand. Now I am sorry that we are so late now, because that lecture has to be given as one. But I must start and will dwell on one special problem and will continue next Tuesday.
In order to understand Augustine, we must look at his development, his development in seven different steps, and then an eighth step which is negative, with respect to content.
1) The first of these seven steps, which may help us to understand the immense influence of this greatest of all Church Fathers, is his dependence on the piety of his mother. This means, at that time, something extremely important. It means that he is dependent on the Christian tradition. This reminds us of Plato’s situation. When Plato wrote, he also wrote out of a tradition – the aristocratic tradition of the Athenian gentry, to which he belonged. But this tradition had come to an end in the self-destructive Pelopponesian war, the masses had taken over, and then the tyrants came – as always, following the masses. The aristocracy was killed, as a principle and partly also as human beings. So what Plato saw in his mind was an ideal form of political and philosophical existence, both identical with each other, but a vision which had no reality any more. Therefore I warn you about a mistake! – The name of Plato overshadows everything else in Greek thinking, even Aristotle. But don’t believe that Plato was the most influential man in the later ancient world. He had always some influence and his book “The Timaeus” was almost the bible of the later ancient world. But he could not exercise real influence because everything he developed was in the realm of pure essences, and had no historical foundation any more. Here I think in terms of pure economic materialism: if the social and economic conditions do not exist any more; if a civilization has reached a special status; then you cannot influence it and even less transform it with the ideal form of ideas which come from the past. This is very concrete for us today, namely the longing for the Middle Ages, and the daily – or I must say hourly – increasing power of the Roman church has something to do with this situation. But it cannot be done. We cannot go back to the Middle Ages, although this is the hope of every Catholic. So when Plato wrote his “Republic” and later on his “Laws,” and implied in all this all elements of his philosophical thought – which was at the same time his social, psychological and religious thought – then he was in some way reactionary – (if you don’t misunderstand this word, from agein, driving towards something which was a matter of the past, and could not be reestablished any more in the period of the Roman Empire. This produced again a kind of emptiness in which the Cynics and Skeptics and Stoics were much more important than Plato because they were adequate to their situation. Stoicism, not Platonism, governed the later ancient world. But Plato returned in the Middle Ages. We will speak of this later.
Augustine was just in the opposite situation. While in Plato a great aristocratic tradition came to an end, in Augustine a new tradition started. It was, so to speak, a new archaism into which he came, and was brought into it. So immediately he had something which made it possible for him to participate in the new tradition. He had a pagan father and a Christian mother. The pagan father gave him the possibility to participate in paganism – of course, in what was greatest in paganism at that time; what was lowest in it, for him personally, we don’t know – and his Christian mother made it possible for him to enter into another tradition, a new archaism. Thus the simple empirical fact of a man with a pagan father and a Christian mother means almost everything for our understanding of him.
2) He discovered the problem of truth. This was the second step, connected with the fact that he read Cicero’s book “Hortensius”. Here Cicero deals with the question of truth. But this question in Cicero means choosing between the existing ways of truth, between the different philosophies. And Cicero, though a great Roman statesman, answers in terms of a kind of eclectic philosophy, (as I believe every American statesman, if he wrote a book on truth, would answer, showing those elements in philosophy which are most adequate to the political situation in which he finds himself.) So it was truth from a practical point of view. Cicero is not an original philosopher. This was impossible after the catastrophe of Greek philosophy. Therefore he used, from a pragmatic point of view, the Roman Empire – what enhances good citizenship in the Roman Empire is of philosophical value. And the ideas which enhance are: providence, God, freedom, immortality, rewards, and things like that.
Augustine was in exactly the same situation. But for him it was not the civitas terrenae but the Christian city of God; it was the Christian tradition. So he developed a pragmatic philosophy, with Platonic and other elements, on the basis of the need of the Christian life and not on: the basis of Roman citizenship. But the basic form was very similar – it was pragmatic-eclectic. Augustine is not an original philosopher in the sense in which Plato or the Stoics were. But he is a philosopher in whom the great synthesis between the Old Testament idea of Yahweh and the Parmenidean idea of being, was combined. He is responsible for the communion of Jerusalem and Athens, more than anybody else in the history of the Church.
Lecture 17: Augustine (continued)
I wanted to give you a survey of the basic elements in the development of Augustine. I started last time and gave you two of these elements, the first being the piety of his mother Monica, in contrast to the paganism of his father; the importance of tradition, which now again has started after it had come to an end in Greece, for instance, in the period of Plato. We can say Plato represents the end of a tradition (the Aristocratic tradition in Athens), while Augustine represents the beginning of a new tradition, the Christian. The second point I made was the reading of Cicero’s “Hortensius,” where the problem of truth is discussed. This gave him the first question. Hortensius, Cicero himself, answers this question in terms of eclectic philosophy, philosophy which chooses and doesn’t construct, chooses out of the given systems according to a practical or pragmatic principle of what is good for a special situation. In Cicero it is the Roman Empire, what is good for a Roman citizen. For Augustine the point of view is the Christian Church, which gives the basis for his philosophical eclecticism.
The third point was his Manichaeism. The Persian religion was dualistic and produced, in the Hellenistic period, a movement called Manichaeism, from its leader Mani. It was a Hellenized Parsism, dualistic in character. So we can consider it a mixture between the prophecy of Zoroaster, the prophet of the Persian religion, and Platonism in the form of the Gnostic thinking of his time, the late ancient world.
These Manichaeans were for a long time the main competitors with Christianity. They asserted that they represent the truly scientific theology of their time. Augustine was attracted for this reason and also because the dualism of the Manichaeans gave them the possibility of explaining sin rationally. This is the reason why the Manichaeans always had some influence through the whole history of Christianity. There were in the Middle Ages always sects influenced by Manichaean ideas, and there are Manichaean elements in many of you, without your knowledge of it. Whenever you hear an explanation of sin in terms of human freedom, then ask the question: “But if God is almighty, it must come from Him, or a principle against Him” – then you are Manichaean in your thinking: you have two principles in order to explain sin. This is something which is a past problem, but an actual problem, especially actual if you talk with people who are outside Christian: thought but have this popular nonsense with which they confront God’s almightiness and the evil of the world, and tell you either God is not almighty or He is not all-loving. Then you are tempted to retire into a kind of half-Manichaean principle that there is an ultimate principle of evil in the world against the ultimate principle of good. You hear this also unfortunately in very serious lectures, and when you hear that the Neoplatonists or Augustine called sin.”non-being,” then they have taken away the seriousness of sin. But in the moment in which you (regard) sin as a part of being, then you are Manichaean. .. Augustine was attracted ,by this because he could now have two ultimate principles – evil is as positive as good.
This choice, which kept him for ten years as a member of the Manichaean development, shows his interest in thinking. Not everybody had a merely logical interest in it. Most philosophers had other interests, too. There is first, that truth for this group, as for Augustine, is not a theoretical philosophical, it is not logical analysis, but is at the same time religious practice – practical truth, existential truth: that is his interest.
Secondly, truth is saving truth, and Manichaeism is a system of salvation. The elements of the good, which are captivated by the evil principle, are saved from it. This makes it attractive for Augustine because salvation is his main question.
Thirdly, truth is in the struggle between good and bad, ,which gives him a possibility of interpreting history.
Now he remained always, somehow, under the at least coloring influence of Manichaeism. He was not a Manichaean any more, after he left the group; he fought against it. But something in his thinking and even more, in his feeling, was colored by the profound pessimism about reality… His doctrine of sin is probably not understandable without his Manichaean period.
But he left Manichaeism, under the influence of astronomy. Astronomy showed him the perfect motion of the stars, i. e., the fundamental elements in the structure of the universe. This made a dualistic principle almost impossible. If the structure of the universe is a structure of regular mathematical forms which can be calculated and which are harmonius, where can you find the effect of the demonic creation in the world? The world as created in its basic structure is good – this is what he derived from it. This means he uses the Greek Pythagorean idea of the cosmos. He used the principle of form and harmony as it was expressed in mathematics.
Now this Greek European principle overcame the Asiatic dualism and negativity. So the separation of Augustine from the Manichaean philosophy was a symbolic event. It was the liberation of modern natural science, mathematics and technics from the Asiatic dualistic pessimism and negation of reality. This was extremely important for the future of Europe. And, as we shall see, as far as we have time to see it, the later medieval Augustinian philosophers and theologians were always men who emphasized astronomy and mathematics more than anything else. Modern natural science is born, as are Platonism and Augustinianism, on the basis of a belief in a harmonious cosmos determined by mathematical rules. This was also the worldview of the Renaissance. So if we look deeper into the movements of thought, then this anecdotic story, that AugustIne left the Manichaeans because of astronomy and that he had joined them because of the explanation of sin and evil, becomes a world-historical symbol for the relationship of the East and the West, of the Asiatic East and the European West.
The fourth influence: After he had left the Manichaean group, he fell intoskepticism, as always happens if you are disappointed about a system of truth in which you believe, suppressing other elements of truth which are in you but which you do not admit; then if you cannot keep them down any more., you fall into a skeptical doubt about every possibility of truth.
In his period skepticism was a very widely spread mood. Even in the later Academy, i, e., the Platonic school, skepticism about knowledge was present in terms of what is called probabilism: only probable statements are possible; no certainty is possible. This, in the Platonic school, was how the end of the Middle Ages looked.
All his older philosophical writings deal with the problem of certainty, He wanted to overcome the skeptical philosophy; he wanted certainty. This is another element in his thinking. It is very important, again, because it presupposed the negative end of the Greek development. The Greek heroic attempt to build a world on the basis of philosophical reason came to an end in terms of a catastrophe which we usually call skepticism. This was the end of the Greek thinking. The end of the Greek development to create a new world of thinking in terms of reason was skepticism. The heroic attempt of the Greek philosophers (after the archaic traditions had fallen down) to create a new world in terms of a doctrine of essences (Plato, the Stoics), came to an end in terms of skepticism. On this basis the emphasis on revelation must be understood. The negative end of the development of Greek philosophy, namely skepticism, is the negative presupposition for the way in which Christianity received the idea of revelation. Skepticism is very often the negative basis for a doctrine of revelation. Those people who emphasize revelation in the most absurd supernaturalistic terms are those who enjoy being skeptical about everything. Skepticism and dogmatism about revelation are correlate. And the way in which Christianity emphasized revelation in the earlier period and almost up to the Renaissance, is based on the tremendous shock Western mankind experienced when all the attempts of the Greek philosophers to bring certainty proved to be in vain. And this proof was given by the skeptical philosophers, which permeated all schools at that time.
Secondly, this skepticism gave rise to something else, namely to the new doctrine of knowledge, to the new epistemology, which Augustine created and which starts with the inner man instead of the experience of the external world. The skepticism, which was the end of all attempts to build a world in the objective realm, in the realm of things and objects, had the consequence that Augustine was thrown into himself to find the place of truth there, instead of outside. So we have two consequences of his participation in skepticism: the one is that he accepted revelation, and the other that insofar as he tried to find certainty as a philosopher, he tried to find it in the innermost center of his soul – in the subject himself.
Augustine stands between skepticism and the new authority, that of the Church, as Plato stood between the old authority and the beginning of skepticism. Here again we have the end of the archaic period in Plato and the beginning of a new archaic period in Augustine.
The fifth point: the liberation from skepticism in the philosophical realm was produced by his Neoplatonic period. While skepticism was the one end of Greek thinking, Neoplatonism was the other end. Skepticism was the negative, Neoplatonism the mystical, way in which Greek philosophy came to 1ts finish. Augustine became the Neoplatonic philosopher and he used it as the basis for a new certainty, the immediate certainty of God. In Neoplatonism you have the immediacy of truth in the inner soul, and from this he got his new certainty of the Divine,
Secondly, Neoplatonism gave him the basis for his interpretation of the relationship of God and the world, God as the creative Ground of the world in terms of amor (love).
Thirdly, it gave him the entrance to himself, from a psychological point of view, although this had to be supported by his Christian experience.
But now Augustine did something which later on all Renaissance philosophers also did: he turned the meaning of Neoplatonism into its opposite. Neoplatonism was a negative philosophy, a philosophy of escape from the world. The elevation of the soul out of the material world into the Ultimate, is the meaning of Neoplatonism. Augustine changes the emphasis. And this is the case in all Western Neoplatonism. Therefore he dropped the idea of degrees and used Neoplatonism for the .immediate experience of the Divine in everything, but especially in his soul.
In his doctrine of sin and grace, we still have these two influences, the influence of Manichaeism in his doctrine of sin and the influence of Neoplatonism in his doctrine of grace – we will come to this later. But he overcame skepticism not only philosophically, with the help of the Neoplatonists: he also overcame it with the help of the authority of the Church, under the influence of St. Ambrose, bishop of Milano, in whom the authority of the Church was represented.
The principle of authority was a form in which the new archaism, or the new archaic period which starts with the Church tradition, became conscious .of itself. The skeptical catastrophe drove Augustine more and more to authority, to the authority of revelation, concretely given to him by the authority of the Church, concretely given to him by the authority of this great bishop of Milano.
The whole medieval development has in its underground the anxiety of skepticism,
the anxiety of meaninglessness, as we could call it, over against which the acceptance of revelation and authority stood. We can say the catastrophe of the Greek autonomous attempt to construct a world out of pure thought, is the negative presupposition of the Christian doctrine of authority. – Authority for Augustine – you know he said that he would not have believed in the Christian message without the authority of the Church – means the impressive, the imposing, the overwhelming power of the Church and its great great representatives. This element of authority was not what it is for us, a problem of heteronomy, subjectionof something to what someb0dy else says to us we should accept. But it was for him the answer to the question implied in ancient skepticism. Therefore he did not feel it as heteronomy, he felt it as theonomy – and somehow rightly so, at that time. We will come back to this problem in the survey of the Middle Ages.
Seventh: Another element of ,the Church which impressed him profoundly: Christian asceticism, as represented by the monks and saints. He experiences the tension between the mystical ideal and his own sensual nature. In the period of Augustine, the sphere of sexuality was profanized in a terrible way. Neither Stoic reason nor Neoplatonism were able to overcome this profanization, on a large scale. The natural forms of love, sanctified by tradition and faith in the archaic periods of Greece and of the other countries, had been destroyed. An unrestrained naturalism of sex ruled. Against this, all the preaching of Stoics, Cynics, or Skeptics, was unable to help, because they preached the law, and the law was powerless against a naturalistically distorted libido. And now Augustine saw a new principle of sanctification. This gave him the solution for himself and for others also, in this realm. But it had the same tension in itself as Christian Neoplatonism. We already met Christian Neoplatonism in Dionysius, where we found this tension – affirmation and negation of the world. Now we find it here again in the problem of asceticism. Christianity affirms creation and sanctifies existence, through the historical appearance of the Divine in Christ. Neoplatonism negates creation; it has no creation, even. It negates the historical appearance of God, or makes it a universal event which always happens. Augustine was split: insofar as he was a Christian, coming from the Old Testament, he valuated family and sex insofar as it is in the family. Insofar as he was influenced by Neoplatonism and the ancient negativity towards the world, he denied sex and praised asceticism. This conflict goes through the whole history of the Christian Church. We have it even in the Reformers: the Reformation was basically on the positive side of Augustine – Old Testament prophetism affirms the body, etc. On the other hand the suspicion of libido was so deeply rooted in the Christian tradition that in spite of their greatness and their radicalism, the Reformers were unable to eradicate completely this remnant of Neoplatonic asceticism, and were at least very suspicious of everything sexual, as especially in Calvinistic countries the Protestants still are.
This influence was of equal historical importance as the other six. But if a man like Augustine has influences, then not only are these influences important for all later history, but also that which has not influenced him. And this is what I must discuss now. I concentrated around the name of Aristotle. Aristotle is missing in this development – of course, not entirely, because Plotinus took much Aristotle into himself. But Aristotle was not directly important for Augustine. This is equally important. This means that Augustine didn’t include in his theology, in his philosophy, in his life, the concern for Greek science – not only natural science science, but also political science – was not really implied in his thinking. The significance of this is so important that it determines that whole presentation of the medieval development later on.
1) What Aristotle did was to (construct) a system of mediation and not a system of dualism, as we have it in Plato and Plotinus. The system of mediation couldn’t be used by Augustme because for him the dualistic world-view seemed to be the adequate expression of Christianity. So this side of Augustine had to wait until hundreds of years of education of the barbaric tribes had been performed.
2) The emphasis in Aristotle on the importance of the individual gives a good basis for tendencies which are far from Augustine, who wanted the community of the Church.
3) Aristotle speaks about the middle way between the extremes. He denies anything like the erotic and ascetic ecstasies of Augustine. Again, it is a quasi-bourgeois attitude. The consequences of this later on became very outspoken in Protestantism.
4) Aristotle represents the special sciences, which deal with things in their rational and horizontal relationship. Augustine denies the possibility of such, or he denies their importance – what is important is the knowledge of God and the soul, but not of the natural things.
5) Aristotle is a logician. There is no special interest in logic in Augustine. The intuitive and voluntaristic character of his thinking made him disinterested in the abstractions of pure logic.
6) In some way this is the most important thing: Aristotle is an inductive thinker, he is an empiricist. He starts from the given reality in time and space and goes up from there to the highest abstractions. Augustine, following Plato, is an intuitive thinker: he starts from above and goes down to the empirical realities.
These two attitudes were due to clash in the moment in which Aristotle was rediscovered in the ancient world – in the 13th century, which for this reason is the greatest century of Christian theology, and which is completely determined by the tension between Aristotle and Augustine. This tension continues through all the following centuries, and if you want to put a label on me, call me an “Augustinian,” and in this sense, an anti-Aristotelian and an anti-Thomist, in the fundamental attitude of Augustine with respect to the philosophy of religion – not in many other things; for instance, as a gestalt theologian or philosopher I am much nearer to Aristotle than to Augustine or Plato, because the idea of the living structure of a living organism is Aristotelian, while the atomistic, mechanical, mathematical science is Augustinian-Platonic. So there are some exceptions, and we will have more of them in the Middle Ages. But if you want to have the basic line of thought, don’t forget what I told you here: After seven influences from the whole ancient world were mediated through the Middle Ages and to us, through Augustine, one of them was not (mediated): that for which Aristotle stands.
Augustine’s epistemology. The purpose – at the same time, the way – of knowledge is expressed in his famous words: “I wish to know God and the soul.” “Nothing else?” “Nothing at all.” God and the soul. This means the point where God appears to man: in the soul. This he wants to know because only there can he know God, and in no other place. This implies, .of course, that God is not an object besides other objects. God is seen in the soul. He is in the center of man, before the split into subjectivity and objectivity. He is not a strange being, whose existence or non-existence one might discuss, but He is our own apriori, He precedes ourselves in dignity” and reality, and logical validity. In him the split between the subject and object, and the desire of the subject to know the object is overcome. There is no such gap. God is given to the subject as nearer to itself than it itself is to itself.
Now therefore the source point of all philosophy of religion in the Augustinian tradition, is the immediacy of the presence of God in the soul, or, as I like to call it, the experience of the unconditional, of the ultimate, in terms of an ultimate or an unconditional concern. This is the prius of everything. This is not a matter of discussing whether or not somebody exists.
Augustine connects this with the problem of certainty. He says that we have
immediate evidence of two things, namely, the logical form – because even the question of evidence presupposes the logical form – and secondly, the immediate sense experience, which should really be called sense impression because” experience'” is too ambiguous. What he means is this; I now say that I see blue. The piece of color may objectively be not blue but green – I sometimes confuse these two, especially in female dresses, (the horror of Mrs. Tillich!) – in any case, I now have blue, as sense impression. This is absolutely certain, even if the dress is not blue. Now this is what he means with immediacy. I see a man, but I come nearer and it is a tree, in reality; this often happens when you walk through a fog and cannot distinguish a man from a tree, if they are a little bit away from us. This means there is no certainty about the objective element in it, but there is absolute certainty about the impression I have as such. This means there is skepticism about everything real. Logical forms are not real; they are structures which make questions possible; therefore they are immediate and necessary.
Secondly, sense experiences are not real. They are real only insofar as I have them. But whether they are more than this, I don’t know. Therefore these two evidences – of the logic and of the perception – do not overcome skepticism.
Now how can doubt about reality be overcome? You must start with the general doubt. You must doubt about everything. It was not Descartes who said this first. It was not even Augustine, but Augustine also said it. Therefore, is there a point of certainty, somewhere? He says: “You know that you are thinking.” “I know.” “Do not go outside; go into thyself” – namely where you are thinking – “The truth dwells in the interior of man, for a mind knows nothing except what is present to the mind. But nothing is more present to the mind than the mind itself.” i. e., the immediate self-consciousness of the asking skeptic is the fixed point.. The truth which was lost in the exterior world, where everything fell under doubt, is found again in the interior world. The soul is the inner realm, in contrast to Greek philosophy, in which it is the power of life. The discovery of soul, in this sense, is one of the most important consequences of Christianity. It includes the world as the sum of all appearances. In contrast to the Greeks, where the soul is a
part of all things, the world is an object. Now the world is an appearance for the soul, which is the only real thing.
Now these ideas – Go into thy inner reality and there you will find truth – sound very much like Descartes’ cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). But the difference is that in Deseartes, the self-certainty of the ego is the principle of mathematical evidence – he derives from this his rational system of nature – while for Augustine the inner evidence is the immediacy of having God. So he says, after saying “go into thyself,” “And after you have your soul immutable, transcend yourselves i. e., in your soul is something which transcends your soul, something immutable, namely, the Divine Ground. It is the immediate awareness of that which is unconditional, to which he refers here. This is certainly not an argument for the existence of God, but it is a way of showing that God is presupposed in the situation of doubt about Him. “While not seeing what we believe, we see the belief in ourselves.” i. e. , we see the situation of being grasped by something unconditional.
Lecture 18: Augustine (continued)
We discussed the type of thought in epistemology, psychology, and doctrine of God represented by Augustine, which makes him the one representative of the possibilities of a philosophy of religion in which philosophy and the Christian message are brought together.
The statement I made was that after skepticism – in which Augustine himself participated in one period – had broken down the certainty of the external world, Augustine goes into himself and rediscovers the ultimate certainty within his own soul, not in terms of changing psychological terms, but in terms of something unconditional, which transcends all psychological phenomena. I said that this is not an argument for the existence of God, but the description of an element in man’s finitude which is always present, namely the element of the unconditional, of which he is aware.
There were people whom Augustine met who said: Why truth at all? Truth as such is not necessary. Why not stick to probabilities? Why not restrict oneself to pragmatic answers, answers which work? – But he says this is not sufficient, because it leads to a complete emptiness of life. Without something unconditional or ultimate, the preliminary meanings lose their meaning. And this cannot be replaced by another statement, namely that the human situation is not (one of) having truth, but searching for truth. He says: Searching for truth, also, is not an answer to the question of truth because if we are searching for truth, then we must have at least some insight of truth, we must know, when we approach truth we, approach it. But in order to know that we approach truth, we must already have a criterion: truth itself. — What he says here is that in every relativism, however radical it may be, there is an absolute norm presupposed, even if it cannot be expressed in propositions. Since truth is something which we can find only in the interior of the human soul, physics are useless for ultimate truth. They do not contribute to the knowledge of God. He says: While the angels have knowledge of the Divine things, the lower demons recognize the world of the bodies — so a knowledge of the bodily world is a participation in the bodily world. Knowledge is union; union implies love; and he who deals cognitively with the bodies loves them, is connected with them, participates in them. That means he is distracted from the highest, the Divine, knowledge. This, again, means that he is in untruth. Natural sciences have meaning only insofar as they show the Divine causes in nature, show the traces of the Trinity in flowers and animals, but they have no meaning in themselves. This means that in the greater part of the Middle Ages, natural sciences are at least reduced in significance and not really furthered at all. The technical relationship to nature is of no interest to Augustine, and therefore the analysis of controlling knowledge for technical relation. This makes the attitude of the Middle Ages toward natural sciences understandable. It is not a matter that these people were so much more stupid than we are – there are some indications that they were not – -but the reason is that it had no interest for them; they were not in love with what natural sciences produce. If they loved the exploration of nature, then it was nature insofar as it is an embodiment of the Trinity. This of course gave them the possibility of artistic production which is much higher than most we produce under the power of controlling, and not uniting, knowledge. I would ask you to go to the Cloisters (Museum) and look at the carpets on the walls there, and what you find there in terms of the observation of nature. It is not an observation in terms of natural science – probably none of these flowers, and certainly none of these animals, is naturalistically exact. But they all are painted in order to show the traces of the Trinity, I. e., the movement of life to separation and reunion, in the natural objects. They try to show the Divine ground in nature, and that gives them their
extreme beauty. In all these things the intention, that which is really meant, must be understood – otherwise you cannot really understand their creations. You think they were bad craftsmen – even there, there are signs they were not – but they didn’t want what we want, they didn’t want to show objects in 3-dimensional space. They wanted to show the traces of the Divine in nature, as Augustine wished.
The Neoplatonists and Plato himself were nearest to Christianity, Augustine says. And he shows the Trinitarian elements in them, especially the Logos doctrine, in Plato and the Neoplatonists. But then he says – and this is a very important statement, which somehow reveals the whole relationship of theology and philosophy – that there is one thing which philosophy as such never could have said, that the Logos has become flesh. Philosophy gives the possibility for theologians to speak of the Logos, to interpret philosophy in terms of the Logos, but when theology says the Logos becomes flesh, then something is said which is the basis of a religious message and of a theological statement. Here he sees clearly that one thing distinguishes Christianity from classical philosophy, namely the statement of the unique, incomparable historical event. Becoming flesh means becoming historical; the universal principle of the cosmos, the Logos, appears in historical form. And that is, according to Augustine, a matter not of philosophy but of revelation.
In the same way, as in these ideas, the idea of God in Augustine unites Neoplatonic elements – which are always mystical – and ethical personality, and the uniting power is Augustine’s idea of love.
Now let me say a few words about it before 1 go to the other problem, the problem of God, because this idea of love is rightly put in the foreground now. Nygren’s criticism of Christian theology combining eros and agape is predominantly a criticism of Augustine. We have the synthesis in Augustine, and in Nygren – the Swedish theologian who wrote “Eros and Agape” , as you probably know. wants to have them not united but in contradiction. And of course on this basis Augustine must mostly be attacked. Nygren is right that in Augustine there are both elements, the agape element (the element of love, in the New Testament sense, personal, forgiving, – charity (caritas) , – -all this is in his idea. the personalistic Divine forgiving character. But there is also in it the agape element – God is the highest good for Augustine, and all creatures are longing for it, desiring to be united with it, to fulfill itself in intuiting eternally the Divine abundance. The agape element is especially emphasized when we speak of God moving down to man in caritas – 1 prefer the Latin word to the very much distorted word “charity” – in becoming humble in Christ in exercising grace and mercy; the participation in the lowest, the elevation of the lowest to the highest,
Eros, on the other side, drives from below to above, from the lowest to the highest. It is a longing, a striving, a being-moved by the highest, a being-grasped by it in its fullness and abundance. It is exactly as I said before – the Logos becomes flesh: that’s agape. But all flesh (all historical and natural reality) is desirous for God – this eros I. have shown in my Systematics lectures, that if you take eros out, then you cannot speak of love towards God any more, because this is love toward that which is the highest power of being, in which we are fulfilled.
God is also a union of summa essentia, ultimate being, beyond all categories, beyond all temporal and spatial things. Even the categories of substance cannot be used, and if it is used it is abusively used. Essence and existence, being and quality, functions and acts, cannot be distinguished in this side of God. It is the negative theology of Dionysius which is present here, (though) it is not dependent on him (Dionysius),” since Augustine was earlier, but dependent on Neoplatonism, on which both of them are dependent.
But on the other hand, there is the positive way: God is the unity of all forms. He is the principle of all beauty.. Unity is the form of all beauty and God is the unity of all forms. All ideas (all essences, or powers, or principles of things) are in the mind of God. Through these ideas, individual things come to pass and return to God through the ideas.
Now you have here the two elements of the idea of God. Insofar as God is beyond any difference, He is beyond subject and object. Love is not a subjective feeling, directed towards an object. Not objects are ultimately love, but through our love toward them love itself is love. Amor amato, love is love, and that means the Divine ground of being is love. Love is beyond the separation of subject and object. It is the pure essence, blessedness, which is the Divine ground in all things. Therefore if we love things in the right way, including ourselves, then we love the Divine substance in them. If we love things for their own sake, in separation from the Divine ground in them, then we love them in the wrong way, then we are separated from God.. So he can speak of a right self-love, namely if you love yourselves as loved by God, or if you love through yourselves – God, the Divine loving ground of everything.
But on the other hand Augustine is in the personalistic tradition of the Old and New Testament and the early Church. And for him this is even of much stronger importance than for the Eastern theologians, like Origen. He completely takes the point of the West in the Trinitarian discussion. He is not so much interested in the different hypostases, the powers of being in God, the three personae, as he is interested in the unity of God. And he expresses this in terms which make it very clear that he is one of those who are responsible for our present-day inclination to apply the term persona to God, instead of applying it to the Father, Son and Spirit. He is inclined, but of course he never became heterodox, in this respect, although his tendency goes, as the West’s always went, toward a Monarchianistic tendency. He expresses this in using analogies between the Trinity and the personal life of man. He says: “Father, Son and Spirit are analogous to amans, (he who loves), quod amato, (that which is loved), and amor, (the power of love. ). Or: “The
Trinity is analogous to memory, intelligence, and will.” This means that he uses the Trinity in order analogically to give a description of God as person. Since God is a person, and that means a unity, all acts of God towards outside are always acts of the Trinity, even the Incarnation. None of the three personae or hypostases acts for Himself. Since the substance of all things is love, in its three-fold appearance as amans, quod amato, and amor, everything which is created by the Divine Ground has the traces of the Trinity, and this gives the immediate world this theonomous character, that character of all forms of life, not denied or broken, but theonomously filled with Divine substance.
With respect to the relationship of God and the world, there are several important things. He expresses, of course, very clearly the doctrine of creation out of nothing. There is no matter which precedes the creation. Creation is done without an independent substance. This means a continuous threat of finitude. I believe that when our modern Existentialist thinkers – including myself – say that finitude is the mixture of being and non-being, or in everything finite . non-being is present, it has something to do with Augustine’s statement that “everything is in danger of the fathomless abyss of nothingness. ” The world is created in every moment by the Divine will, which is the will of love. Therefore Augustine concludes – and all Reformers followed him – that creation and preservation are the same thing. I. e. , the world is in no moment independent of God. The forms, laws, and structures of reality do not make it an independent reality. God is the supporting power of being, which has the character of love. This makes every deistic fixation of two realities – God and the world – impossible. God is the continuous, carrying ground of the world.
This is in’ agreement with Augustine’s famous doctrine of time. Philosophically speaking, this is his greatest work, perhaps because here he really starts a new era of human thinking about the concept of time. Cf. his prayer (Book 11 of the “Confessions”) Time has no objective reality, in the sense in which a thing is. Therefore it is not valid for God. Therefore the question how time was before the creation, is meaningless. Time is created with the world, it is the form of the world. Time is the form of the finitude of things, as is space also. Both world and time and space have eternity only insofar as they are subjects of the eternal will to creation, I. e., they are potentially resent in the Divine Life, but they are not eternal as real; as real they are finite, they have a beginning and an end. There is only one world process, according to him – and this is the decisive statement in which he denies Aristotle and the Stoics – namely, that there is no cyclical world, cycles of a birth and rebirth of the world after everything repeats itself in the same way, infinitely. This is Greek thinking. But for Augustine, there is a definite beginning and a definite end, and only eternity is before and after this beginning and end. For the Greeks, space was finite, time was infinite–or, better, endless. For Augustine neither time nor space is infinite. In the finitude of space, he agrees with the Greeks; they couldn’t understand the infinity of space because they were all potential sculptors, their world-view was plastic–(they wanted to see bodies) in space – the infinity of space would have disrupted the plastic form of reality, expressed in mathematical forms by the Pythagoreans. Augustine, however, said time was finite. This finitude of time is necessary if time shall have an ultimate meaning. It has not, in Greece, In Greece it is the form of decay and repetition, but it has no meaning of itself, in creative terms. The endless times in nature are meaningless. Meaningful time is historical time. And historical time is not a matter of quantity. The 6000 years of world history of which Augustine speaks are the meaning of time. And if instead of that there were 100, 000 years or, as we say, a few billion years, it cannot take away anything from the meaning of time. Meaning is a qualitative, not a quantitative, concept. The measure of time is not clock time. Clock time is physical time; it tends to repeat itself. But the meaning of time is the kairos, the historical moment, which is its qualitative character.
There is one world whose center is the earth, and one history, whose center is the Christ. This one process is eternally meant by God, but eternity is not time before time nor is it timelessness, something beyond all these categories. But the world itself, although it is intended eternally, is neither eternal nor infinite; but it is finite and meaningful. In the finite moment, infinite meaning is actualized. This feeling of finitude is again something which makes the Middle Ages understandable to us. They felt they lived in one process, which has a definitely known beginning, the days of creation, which are only a few thousand years before our time and which will have a definite end, the days of judgment, which are only a few or a few thousand years ahead of us. And within this period we live; what we are doing in it is extremely important; it is the meaning of the whole world process. But it is limited in time, as it is limited in space. We are in the center of everything which happens, and Christ is in the center of everything which we are. This was the medieval world-view, and you can imagine how far away we are from this if you really realize, not what this means in terms of words, but in terms of a feeling towards reality, an awareness of one’s existence.
This is what Augustine says about the relationship of God and the world. Each of these statements is more important than what other theologians have said, in the whole history of Christianity.
Augustine’s Psychology or, better, his Doctrine of Man: He says that the decisive function in man is the will. It is present in memory and in intellect, and has the quality of love, namely, the desire toward reunion. This predominance of will was another of the great ideas in which the West overcame the East, and which produced the great medieval struggle between voluntarism and intellectualism. The two basic activities of the soul – knowledge and love, or will, which is the same – have an ambiguous character. They are partly directed towards themselves, and partly beyond themselves. They are directed towards oneself in self-knowledge and self-love.. . . . “We are, we know that we are, and we love this our being and knowing” This means we are self-related and self-affirming. We affirm ourselves in knowledge and in will.
On the other hand, of course, love and knowledge transcend ourselves and go to the other beings.
Love participates in the eternal – this is its own eternity. The soul has trans-temporal elements. Now this participation is not what we usually call immortality, but it is the participation in the Divine Life, in the Divine loving ground of being. But this idea is crossed by another one, in Augustine, and this tension is very important. One could say the mystical element is crossed by the educational element. The souls are not only eternal in their essence, but also immortal in the technical sense of continuation in time and space, or at least in time. As a consequence, those who are excluded from eternity because they are separated from God, are still immortal, and their immortality means their punishment, their damnation. They are excluded from God, which means they are excluded from love – love is the ground of being – and they do not deserve any pity. There is no unity of love between them and the others; but if so, one must ask: How, then, is (there) unity of being, if being is love? Here you see one of those conflicts between mystical-ontological thinking and ethical-educational thinking. We had the same conflict in Origen when he spoke about the apokatastasis panton, the return of everything to God, the final salvation of everything that has being – and the Church rejected this. Here we have, again, in Augustine the same conflict. In this conflict esoteric theology and philosophy and mysticism always choose the one side, namely the side of the eternal and the union with God in eternity. Ecclesiastical, educational and ethical thinking always chose the other side, namely, the. personal impossibility of being eternally condemned and punished. Logically this is impossible because the very concept of the eternal excludes continuation in time, and the ontological concept of love – which is so strong in Augustine – excludes being which is not in unity with love. Educational – this is the continuous threat over everybody, and therefore the Church always maintained it, and accepted the logical contradiction in order to produce the threat of eternal (I. e., endless) condemnation. Ontological mysticism and educational moralism contradict each other in such ideas. It reminds me a little of another problem which is much more concrete, perhaps, in our time, but it has the same character: Everybody who thinks seriously, or at least thinks in a Christian or in an existentialist tradition, will agree with me that utopianism, namely the idea that at a certain time the classless society, or the Kingdom of God, will be established on earth, without power or compulsion, is Utopian – I. e., there is “no place” (no topos ) for this in time and space. But if we say this, then we diminish the fanatical will to political revolution and to transformational society – because people tell you: We know this, but if we tell the people, then they will not fight any more for the transformation of society. They can do it if they believe the final stage is at hand – the Kingdom of God at hand. Only this gives the tremendous demanding power – What do you answer? It is the same problem. The ethical (in this case the social-educational) and the insight into the relation of time and eternity contradict each other, and many say: Although we know this is Utopianism, we must pronounce it, otherwise people will not act. Others say: – I belong to the latter.– The disappointment which follows utopianism, always and necessarily, makes it impossible to speak like this to people if you know better, because the disappointment is worse than the weakening of fanaticism. This would be my decision, but this decision is very questionable. But today even in this doctrine of eternal condemnation – you know that in Augustine even the unbaptized children are not condemned to hell but to the limbus infantium where they are excluded from the eternal blessedness, from the Divine love. Now such an idea might have a tremendous educational and ecclesiastical value in some periods of history, it doesn’t have for us any more. It produces very often – especially the personal fear of condemnation – neurotic stages, and therefore we cannot say it is superior to the others.
Now let me give you finally something about Augustine’s Philosophy of History. Each of these doctrines is world-historical, and therefore we must dwell on them so much. If you know him, you know the Middle Ages and much of the Reformation and Renaissance. The philosophy of history is based – as philosophy of history usually is – on a dualism; not an ontological dualism, of course – -this is impossible – but a dualism in history: on the one hand, the city of God, and on the other hand the city of earth or the Devil. The city of God is the actualization of love. It is present in the Church, but the Church is a corpus mixtum , a mixed body, with people who belong to it and others who do not, essentially, Spiritually. But on the other hand, there is a mediation between these two characters of the Church, representing the Kingdom of God and being a mixed body, (I. e., -not being the Kingdom of God), and this is the hierarchy, that is, all those who have the consecrations, who mediate between the two. In them Christ rules the Church and Christ is present. So the Catholic 61urch could use Augustine in both ways. It could identify the Kingdom of God with the Church to such a degree that the Church became absolutized – this was the one development which actually happened. On the other hand, the difference could be made very clear, and this was what the sectarian movement and the Protestants did. There is a dialectical relationship between the Kingdom of God and the Church in Augustine, which was ambiguous and therefore useful for different points of view. But one thing was clear for him: there is no thousand-year (I. e., no third stage in world history. Chiliasm, or millenialism,was denied by him. (In this present time) Christ rules the Church; these are the thousand years; there is no stage of history beyond this stage in which we are. The Kingdom of God rules throughout the hierarchy, and the chiliasts are wrong: they should not look beyond the present state, in which the Kingdom of God is present in terms of history.
The same thing is true of the Kingdom of the earth. It has the same ambiguity. On the one hand it is the state of power, compulsion, arbitrariness, tyranny, the gangster-state (as Augustine called it); it has all the imperialistic characteristics we see in all states. On the other hand,(there) is the unity which overcomes the split of reality, and from this point of view it is a work of love. And if this is understood by the emperor, he can become a Christian emperor. Here again we have the ambiguous valuation: the state is partly identical with the Kingdom of the Devil; partly it is different from it because it restricts the devilish powers.
History has three periods: that before the law, that under the law, and that after the law. In this way we have a fully developed interpretation of history. We are in the last period, in the third stage, and it is sectarian heresy to say that another state must be expected. This heresy was expressed, of course, by the medieval sects, and from that point of view the fight between the revolutionary attempts of the sectarian movements and the conservatism of Augustine’s philosophy of history, becomes visible.