June 15, 2012

Is Saint Augustine of Hippo A Father of the Church?

By Fr. John Romanides

Augustine of Hippo, the Source of the Humorous Errors of Barlaam

Although both the Papacy and the Protestants have theologically associated both Saints Ambrose and Jerome with Augustine, the latter has no theological relation with the former. Both Ambrose and Jerome belong to the tradition of the Roman Ecumenical Councils. However, Augustine is the unique source of the humorous errors of Barlaam the Calabrian who was accused of heresy by St. Gregory Palamas and was condemned as a heretic by the Councils of Constantinople New Rome held in 1341, 1347 and 1351 for his teaching that God reveals his will to humans by means of creatures which He brings into existence to be seen and heard and which He passes back into non-existence when the revelations have been accomplished.

Such revelations have been supposedly recorded in the Bible because they were preserved by the Biblical writers.

This nonsense cannot be termed a heresy since it is too stupid.

In any case these positions of Augustine have remained the backbone of both Protestantism and the Papacy.

Augustine describes these positions in great detail which he repeats over and over again in the earlier books of his DE TRINITATE.

Is Augustine of Hippo A Father of the Church?

Orthodox Fathers of the Church are those who practice the specific Old and New Testament cure of this sickness of religion. Those who do not practice this cure, but on the contrary have introduced such practices as pagan mysticism, are not Fathers within this tradition.

Orthodox Theology is not "mystical," but "secret" (mystike). The reason for this name "Secret" is that the glory of God in the experience of glorification (theosis) has no similarity whatsoever with anything created. On the contrary the Augustinians imagine that they are being united with uncreated original ideas of God of which creatures are supposedly copies and which simply do not exist.

In this regard Augustine’s teaching on original sin, i.e. his understanding of Rom. 5:12, and therefore related questions like mysticism, were first condemned by the Council of Orange in 529 and also by the Ninth Roman Ecumenical Council of 1341 in the person of Barlaam the Calabrian. The Fathers of this latter Council were not aware that the heresies of Barlaam they were condemning stemmed from Augustine. Also in 1957 the faculty of the University of Athens approved the doctoral thesis on "Ancestral Sin" of John S. Romanides which had proven that the very presuppositions of Augustine’s theology based on analogia entis and analogia fidei has nothing in common with the Fathers of the Roman Ecumenical Councils. Augustine had not been in the Calendar of the Church of Greece. He was added during the period of the dictatorship of the colonels who uncanonicaly appointed Father Jerome Kotsonis as Archbishop of Athens (1968-1974) who was known for his non-patristic orientation. It was he who added Augustine to the Church Calendar of the Church of Greece.

Up until the 14th century only the last three chapters of Augustine’s De Trinitate had been translated into Greek. These chapters are completely Orthodox. He tells us himself that he wanted to rewrite his De Trinitate which the Archbishop of Carthage Aurlean wanted to examine, but finally corrected what he could. Having in mind these three Orthodox chapters of Augustine, the Roman Emperor and his bishops at the Council of Ferrara and Florence (1438-1442) became completely confused by the theological method being used there by the Frankish theologians and concluded that the Franks had tampered with the works of Augustine.

Gennadius Scholarius, the first Patriarch of Constantinople New Rome after the Turkish takeover in 1453, had been at the Council of Ferrara/Florence (1438-1442) as a layman. He had brought back to Constantinople manuscripts of Augustine and concluded the following about his positions on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity which are clearly not due to tampering. He takes Augustine to task as follows:

"To say that the Hypostasis of the Spirit comes or proceeds from the Son, that is to say that It holds its existence from him, not only as cause of the love for us, or of love in itself, but also as the love of the Father and the Son for each other, emerging from one to go to the other, the Father being the first giver and receiving in turn the Son, all this is insupportable grossness…Where does one find clearly exposed, in the sacred books, that the Holy Spirit is the reciprocal love of the Father and the Son, Who love each other, and Who derives his existence from the Two. In which sacred treasure has this sacred dogma been hidden? And how did it escape the notice of the other Fathers who, nevertheless have examined all with great care?"

Indeed some centuries earlier, just after the Norman conquest, the second Lombard Archbishop of Canterbury Anselm (1093-1109) was not happy with Augustine’s use of procession in his De Trinitate XV, 47, i.e. that the Holy Spirit proceeds principaliter from the Father or from the Father per Filium. (See Anselm’s own De fide Trinitate chapters 15, 16 and 24). This West Roman Orthodox Filioque, which upset Anselm so much, could not be added to the creed of 381 where "procession" there means hypostatic individuality and not the communion of divine essence as in Augustine’s Filioque just quoted.

Augustine is indeed Orthodox by intention by his willingness to be corrected. The real problem is that he does not theologize from the vantage point of personal theosis or glorification, but as one who speculates philosophically on the Bible with no real basis in the Patristic tradition. Furthermore, his whole theological method is based on happiness as the destiny of man instead of biblical glorification. His resulting method of analogia entis and analogia fidei is not accepted by any Orthodox Father of the Church. In any case no Orthodox can accept positions of Augustine on which the Father’s of Ecumenical Councils are in agreement "against" him. This website (www.romanity.org) is not concerned with whether Augustine is a saint or a Father of the Church. There is no doubt that he was Orthodox by intention and asked for correction. However, he can not be used in such a way that his opinions may be put on an equal footing with the Fathers of Ecumenical Councils.