Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.) was and is the most influential theologian in virtually all of professed christendom. Both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism embrace him as the author of their respective (but radically different) core doctrines of the grace of God toward man. Eastern Orthodoxy, though rejecting some of the teachings of Gus (imputed sin, predestination, the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Son), still reveres him as a saint of the church. Vocal opponents of Gus in professing Christianity have been few. Most of these are noncomformists holding to Pelagian or semi-Pelagian free-will views of salvation. Yet one is hard pressed to find any author who regards the writings of Gus overall as promoting a gospel different from the New Testament. Free-will proponents love his earlier writings that avoid teaching determinism in salvation. Roman Catholics and Protestants freely quote from statements to support whatever view is favored individually or coporately, as virtually any position can be bolstered somewhere from the massive number of Augustines published works. How did Augustine end up being regarded equally as father of the Roman Catholic Church and father of the Reformation (depending on which tradition a theologian seeks to defend)? The answer to this question is not difficult. For centuries we have been drowing in a sea of paradoxical affirmations all synthesized together. It matters not whether the teaching comes in the form of systematic theology, biblical theology, historical theology, confessional theology, devotional literature, or pastoral teaching whether exegetical, practical, or topical. I have been assured by many teachers in christendumb that paradox is as sure and certain as Jesus Christ. No matter how hard we wish or try, we will supposedly never be rid of it, it is alleged to constantly reside in the core of our human thinking and decisions. The crowning argument is that opponents of paradox theology teach plenty of it themselves. Of course, quoted examples are not hard to find! All of this should cause us to question the ultimate objective of paradoxical teachers, since it is impossible to know the real and true meaning of what is being promoted. Like Erasmus whom Luther fought against, opposing assertions are philosophized by them to be both true and false at the same time. Such reasoning will never lead to a recovery of the gospel in its apostolic purity. But it is the bread and butter of learning according to worldly scholarship.
This series of articles is written to expose the core teachings of Augustine as another gospel (Gal. 1:6), one that is not according to the mystery of the gospel hidden to the worlds masses but imparted to the understanding of Christs elect (Col. 1:27, Mt. 13:23). The gospel according to Gus certainly evidences a partial enlightenment (Heb. 6:4) and knowledge (Heb. 10:26) that comes from extracting an array of gospel language from the scriptures. This is true of all erroneous systems of teaching professing Christ. A simple comparison of the apostolic gospel of the New Testament with Augustines gospel yields this stark contrast:
NT Gospel: Gods justification (a just and right status from God) is constituted solely in the person and finished redemptive work of His Son Jesus Christ.
Gus Gospel: Gods justification is based on inner transformation of human character to a state of perfect love by the gracious power of the Holy Spirit.
NT Gospel: Assurance of inclusion in the election of grace is declared to individual recipients of salvation by the Spirits gift of faith alone, from the moment of personal regeneration to all eternity afterward.
Gus Gospel: Assurance of inclusion in the election of grace is declared to individuals by the Spirits gift of faith initially, imparted in the sacrament of water baptism. At this time the Holy Spirit destroys the handicap of original sin (inherited genetically) and restores the free will lost in Adams rebellion. It is maintained only by character transformation to a state of perfect love. Grace and a just status can easily be lost after the inception of faith, through neglect of exercising free-will to perform works of love.
NT Gospel: All who are justified in Christ and receive assurance of the election of grace can never fall away from a state of grace or assurance, but are preserved in a regenerate state by the Holy Spirit for all eternity afterward.
Gus Guspel: Many who are initially justified in Christ will lose salvation through a neglect of exercising free will to pursue works of love. These are predestined to receive the Holy Spirit in water baptism and later fall away from grace.
The gospel of Augustine is mostly a rerun of what is taught in virtually all of the post-apostolic fathers, predestination only excepted. The published fathers from Justin until Gus taught a strict amalgamation of New Testament gospel language with pure free-will Platonism. Whereas Gus taught the same gospel as the ancient fathers in his earlier ministry, in his mature thinking he revised the Patristic approach to an amalgamation with limited free-will Neo-Platonism (ala Plotinus) instead. This becomes clear by studying his early writings, which teach exactly the same doctrine as the fathers on every point, and comparing these to his works later in life. The important thing to realize is that Gus teachings are a product of the post-apostolic apostasy away from the gospel, not a proponent of the apostolic gospel itself.
The series to follow will follow the outline of examining 5 key points of Augustinian doctrine, organized into the acronym of SPOOF. A clear understanding of these dogmatic assertions will reveal that the Gus Gospel is a deceitful imitation (i.e., spoof) of the New Testament kerygma and not a recovery of it. Many Protestants will retort with quotes from Gus affirming that salvation is wholly of Gods electing grace and not at all of us! While there is no question that such quotations exist in abundance, it is abundantly clear in examining the teachings of Augustine that he has defined grace as something foreign to the apostolic meaning and glorifies the free-will of creatures as responsible for the final achievement of salvation.
Subjective Justification: Justification achieved through a proposed grace defined as Gods transforming power first communicated in water baptism.
Partial Determinism: Confession of a Divine predestination that guarantees outcomes in history without interfering with the free-will determination of creatures, as taught in the two-sphere predestinarian philosophy of Plotinus.
Original Perfection: Confession that God is never the ultimate or first cause of evil, therefore Satan and Adam were originally created in a state of perfect freedom from sin and its impulses.
Original Sin: Confession that Adam was the sole originator and creator of his own sin by the power of free-will. Adams unique act of sin was committed in the absence of sinful impulse, therefore it incurred the just curse of imputed and inherited sin to the entire human race. This imputation guarantees all humanity is conceived in hell-bound inquity through genetic transmission of uncontrolled evil desire.
Freedom of the Will: The gift of absolute free-will was imparted to Satan and Adam originally, then lost in the rebellion. It is restored by the Holy Spirit in water regeneration and is the human determinant in final salvation.
The importance of understanding Augustines role in the history of dogma is crucial in realizing how we arrived at the churchianity that dominates our present era. The only way to correct the post-apostolic apostasy is a return to the gospel of Christ inscripturated by His apostolic testimony. May the Lord bless each heart searching the scriptures diligently to know Christ as the only Way, Truth, and Life.