Deus Ex Machina

"This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently of that mortal god, to which we own under the immortal God, our peace and defense." -Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan

What Exactly is so Saintly about “St” Augustine?

The great irony of “St” Augustine is that if he were alive today, he would never have made the episcopate, even less have become a saint. A roman priest today caught sleeping around would have been suspended, if not hounded right out of the priesthood, never mind one who fathered a child with a concubine. He would probably have been compelled, if not by canon law, at least by social pressure into leaving the priesthood and marrying the mother of his child, and the Church would have been relieved to have him completely forgotten as a scandal to the Church.

But as Matthew Colvin rightly points out, “St” Augustine sinned when he broke off his engagement with the woman who sired his child

and with whom he lived in implicit marriage for thirteen years. This was a man who was objectively, outwardly, audibly called – by his own hormones, by his situation, by God, and by the desperate cries of the common-law wife he abandoned, whose name he has wrongfully effaced from history — called to be a father and husband. He rejected that calling.

By every objective and public measure, his life and his behaviour would have been a damnable -and I use this word advisedly- scandal to the Church, he would never have become an ecclesiastical official, even less ascend to sainthood. But yet simply because of his, quite frankly, rambly emo confessions and his ability to juggle esoteric metaphysical concepts, he gets to retain not only his episcopate but be proclaimed to be in touch with the divine itself, as if Christian sanctification consists in being emo and theological sophistication rather than conformity to the will of God. (And by the way, the more I read Pelagius, the less I think of “St” Augustine’s attempts to turn metaphysical mumbo jumbo like freewill and determinism into controverted theological and doctrinal points, which I think is quite frankly a waste of everyone’s time. But then again, this might be my Protestant prejudice which finds itself entirely satisfied with Pelagius’s justification by faith alone to be bothered with the rest of the metaphysical nit-picking.)

However, such is the depth of the power of “Catholic tradition”, the exaltation of celibate state over the married state, that his -literal- bastardisation of his child by refusing to marry his concubine is not only forgiven but celebrated, or at least conveniently glossed over, and he was rewarded not only with a priesthood but a sainthood.

That the Roman Church today now exalts the married and family state is a testament to how far and how much the Roman Church has changed, or maybe a testament to the power of the Reformation. To believe that the church which produced the “Theology of the Body” is the same one which held the Council of Trent declaring that,

CANON X.-If any one saith… that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony; let him be anathema.

seriously stretches the imagination. Is it plausible to believe that the Church which now teaches, if not exactly proclaim officially, that the marriage estate is a mirror of Christ’s love for his Church, is the same one which anathemise anyone who denies that marriage is inferior and less blessed, if not an outright bane and curse, in comparison to celibacy?

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5 comments on “What Exactly is so Saintly about “St” Augustine?

  1. Cal
    January 1, 2014

    Emo and rambly? Ouch. It was my impression that part of the reason Augustine wrote his Confessions was, in the form of a narrative prayer, reveal his own history, and the divine love of God within it, to people who looked upon the mighty African Bishop as some sort of perfected icon.

    I agree that Augustine had drank far too deeply from the Neo-Platonic well that his grammar was so totally effected. It ended up making a mess of some of his bible reading, but that was one thing he did. He read his bible and wrote over and against the heavy neo-platonic influences from Alexandria. So his “mumbojumbo” was sadly one belonging to his age.

    Now I’ve never read Pelagius, which perhaps is something to do, but I don’t understand your comments. Pelagius’ great offense, which ignited that little war, was when he read in the Confessions “Command of me what you will, and give me what you command”. As far as I know, based mostly on Peter Brown’s work, was that Pelagius was a moralist and rigorist trying to reform the Roman aristocracy. Augustine rejected that approach, and tried to find that third ground for the Church as hospital. For the sick, and for getting better.

    Augustine may not have provided the best argument, as his justifications ended up laying the groundwork for medieval christendom (though his work also contained the seeds for its destruction).

    You’re right, with Colvin, that Augustine was wrong in consigning his common-law wife to anonymity, and bastardizing his son. He was also cruel and idiotic in his disputations with the Donatists. However maybe that’s why we ought to rejoice for “St” Augustine. Holiness is in the Holy One, being planted in Christ. I don’t know his heart, but I would reckon Augustine trusted Christ. Thus he’s St. Augustine, along with one of his readers, St. Martin, the near psychotic German minister.

    Cal

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    • Dominic
      January 1, 2014

      Well, you’ll understand my comments when you do read Pelagius then. 🙂

      As for “St” Augustine, if you don’t know his heart, then you can’t know whether he “trusted” Christ or not, where else is trust, or faith, to be found? I prefer to not canonise anyone, Martin or Augustine, and leave the judgement to God alone.

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      • davidbrainerd2
        January 3, 2014

        Its clear from his writings that he was no Christian but just an opportunistic politician, worse than Barack Obama.

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    • davidbrainerd2
      January 3, 2014

      The gospel changes one’s character if one truly believes it. Guys like Augustine and Luther and Calvin were just politicians and cult leaders. They never believed a word of it: they just used it to seize power.

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  2. davidbrainerd2
    January 3, 2014

    1.) “(And by the way, the more I read Pelagius, the less I think of “St” Augustine’s attempts to turn metaphysical mumbo jumbo like freewill and determinism into controverted theological and doctrinal points, which I think is quite frankly a waste of everyone’s time. But then again, this might be my Protestant prejudice which finds itself entirely satisfied with Pelagius’s justification by faith alone to be bothered with the rest of the metaphysical nit-picking.”

    Are you kidding? Because this metaphysical nitpicking is all Protestantism is. Again, if we mean Luther and Calvin’s Protestantism. If we mean Karlstadt and Erasmus, and Menno Simmons, then no. So by “Protestant” do you actually mean Anabaptist? IF not, I think you are confused. Mainline Protestantism is simply Augustinianism, period.

    2.) “However, such is the depth of the power of “Catholic tradition”, the exaltation of celibate state over the married state, that his -literal- bastardisation of his child by refusing to marry his concubine is not only forgiven but celebrated, or at least conveniently glossed over, and he was rewarded not only with a priesthood but a sainthood.”

    I think you didn’t read far enough into your Confessions of “St.” Augustine. Augustine did get married, just not to the woman he had all those bastards with. Augustine was living as a Manichean Gnostic when he had the common-law “wife.” What brought him back to the Catholic church was when his mother somehow arranged a marriage for him with a rich Catholic lady…you know, the sort of marriage that will set you well on your way to becoming a bishop in the 4th century…i.e. marrying into money so you can buy an ecclesiastical office. Yes, he got married. He ditched the mother of his children and married some rich old biddy to use her money to make himself an officer of the RCC and thus of the Empire.

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This entry was posted on January 1, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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