This is an extra page. It should not exist, but it exists nonetheless…
So what’s your question to ’42’?
Or please let’s discuss St. Augustine…
Hey! A bit about St. Augustine of Hippo:
Augustine is really great stuff. He was a very intelligent fellow and had an incredibly rich and poetic spiritual life. So don’t think I am being dismissive of Augustine.
Around the time of St. Augustine’s writings, Western Rome fell to the barbarian hordes. Rome’s territories were soon divided into various barbarian kingdoms, controlled by various barbarian kings. Rome (that is, the city and those under its jurisdiction) was cut off from the East, where the other four major centers of Christian thought were (Alexandria, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch).
Over time, theologians in the West stopped interacting with Greek theology as much, as the language was being lost there. They began turning “sola” to the Latin Fathers: Like Tertullian, St. Jerome, St. Augustine. This political/cultural isolation, plus the theological linguistic shift to Latin, caused The Western church to elevate the greatest Western Father, Augustine, to a place of de-facto theological primacy. He became THE Western Father, the Father of Fathers. This is why the Western Church to this day (Catholics and Protestants) thinks Augustine is the most important Church Father.
Now, to shift over to Manicheanism:
Manicheanism is a syncretic Gnostic sect supposedly founded by a fellow named Mani in Persia a few centuries after Christ. It’s like Baha’i on steroids: They stuck Buddha, Christ and Abraham together in weird mishmashes. The level of syncretism, at least in my understanding, varied from location to location. Manicheanism is related to the later heresies of Paulicianism, Bogomilism and Catharism.
Some common beliefs of Manichean Gnosticism:
1. A low view of matter: A material world was considered fallen and imprisoning of the superior soul. This is typical Gnosticism, and segues into belief #2:
2. Total Depravity of Creation: Everything is so Fallen that it needs to be destroyed and remade as purely spiritual. An evil, lesser god made the material world, but the god of their jesus is going to bring you out of it if you’re lucky. Relics and the bodies of saints, the Eucharist, and other material things often seemed abominable to them.
3. Women and sex are bad and fallen: This is a big hold over from certain Greek neoplatonic thought. Sex made more people in the material world, and thus sex is merely birthing souls into the material “fallen prison”. The masculine was seen as superior to the feminine both physically and spiritually. I’ll give a quote from an early Gnostic Gospel, the pseudo-gospel of Thomas, to demonstrate my point:
“Simon Peter said to them, ‘Make Mary leave us, for females don’t deserve life.’
Jesus said, ‘Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven.”
4. Predestination of souls: You were born with the Divine Spark; you get to go to Aristotelian Sphere heaven with Gnostic jesus. You weren’t? Too bad.
on 1/2: do you have something about the way Paul uses the expression ‘the flesh’? Some explanations of those verses are really quite based in anti-matter dualism…
on 3: I know the last verse of the ‘gospel of Thomas’ and I’ve always found it a very weird and sexist saying… (Though some say it’s a later addition and not part of the original text) A friend of mine really likes verse 77:
Jesus said, “I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there.
Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.”
To me that sounds more like bordering on pan(en)theism (of panchrist-ism) than like anti-matter dualism.
and 4) do you think there is manichean roots in the calvinist doctrine of predestination?
1. You don’t need a body to be carnal (the flesh). After all, one third of the angels fell before man did, and they were bodiless powers to begin with. The issue of “body/soul” is that people often interpret it to mean that the physical half of a person is the body, and the spiritual half is the soul. But such a notion is quite odd and defies both ancient Greek and Christian definitions of the soul.
2. The Gospel of Thomas is an incredibly early gnostic writing. Some of the sayings there are essentially orthodox, or appear to be, probably because of how early it is.
3. Calvinism probably has no direct link to any form of Gnosticism, but draws on certain strains of Greek and post-Greek thought to construct itself.
Augustine used to be a Manichean. His Confessions, I believe, chronicle his mother’s attempts to get him to convert from Manicheanism to orthodox Christianity, and his eventual conversion away from that sect. Augustine never had interaction with the Fathers of the East. He had his Latin bible and he had his Manichean background, and he did more with those than any other man probably could have.
But he carried some baggage over.
1. Celibacy: St Augustine was a big proponent of Celibacy, and if I’m not mistaken, he once said that the best result of marriage is producing new celibates (you can see the Manichean overtone here.)
2. The Fall: Augustine takes the Fall too far with his particular version of Original Sin. This was partially based on a Latin mistranslation of Romans 5:12:
“The King James Version rightly translates Romans 5:12 as: ‘And so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.’ The Latin translation of the latter clause [was] ‘in whom all have sinned”.
The Manichean doctrines of the Fall seem manifest in the Western view of Original Sin adopted from Augustine (though Augustine himself never went quite that far.)
3. Semi-Modalism: Augustine’s view of the Trinity, coloring much of Western Trinitarian theology after him, was semi-modalist. Modalism is the notion that God’s essence begets His persons, that the unity of God is in an essence not rooted in a particular person (whereas it should be rooted in the Father, who is the source of essence and being), and that the “real” God is the essence that unites His Persons. Whether or not this erroneous abstraction was produced by Manichean baggage or not, I have no way to know. But to me it seems somewhat likely.
about celibacy: aren’t there other church fathers who are quite extreme here?
about the fall: this is interesting; and I’m probably not that Augustinian here… but I guess some more Wesleyan strains of evangelicalism are closer to ‘traditional christianity’ than a lot of other protestants.
So our Western idea of original sin originates from a vulgata mistranslation of Rom 5:12?
About the semi-modalism: This is very technical stuff which has been debated very furiously in the days of the old councils. It seems that you would call the nicean creed with the filioque inserted in it also semi-modalist then?
1. About marriage only being good for producing celibates? I think that’s a distinctly Augustinian opinion. Many Fathers, and of course, St. Paul, advocate celibacy in general as a preferred state.
2. From a vulgate mistranslation and theology built around taking law court metaphors literally, yes😛.
3. Filioque is a symptom of semi-modalism, not a cause. It was inserted to combat Arianism; the fact that such an insertion didn’t set off immediate alarm bells shows that there was already a semi-modalist leaning. I mean, just look at the Shield of the Trinity.
But Augustine is still a genius and a saint and his wisdom outweighs his human errors, in my opinion.
thanks, this is interesting
(for anyone who stumbles upon this dialogue in this weird place, it is a spinoff from the comments on one of Lisa Delays blogposts : http://lisadelay.com/blog/2011/08/29/gender-roles-and-the-early-church-envisioning-capacitarianism-part-ii read it, it’s wordt it!!!)
As to your question about a Manichean or Gnostic influence in Western Christianity:
Gnosticism pops up here and there, again and again, in all Christianities. Each generation has to stomp out the shoots.
If I had to pinpoint a particular Western sect with the most Gnostic influence, I’d go with Calvinism. In the East and the West, folk-beliefs about the soul can be very dualistic in a gnostic sense as well.
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