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Theological Discussion
on Eight Teachings of
Augustine of Hippo

This has been extracted from a very large piece that included Fr. Michael Azkoul's Augustine of Hippo: An Orthodox Christian Perspective. No author was given. The document has been cleaned up (two separate sets of endnotes, both numbered with arabic numbers was unwieldy, to say the least) and typographical errors corrected. Most of the endnotes, being brief citations, have been incorporated directly into the text inside square brackets. Endnotes which proved to be erroneous or lacked a number mark in the text have been removed. A few of the notes have been expanded, especially those referring to Fr. Michael Azkoul's book, The Influence of Augustine of Hippo on the Orthodox Church, a copy of which is owned by the webmaster. These, and a note by a previous editor, are in a format distinct from the rest of the text. —t.r.v.


The mark of the genuine Church of Christ is the true Faith which She holds and the free and open discussions which may take place in Her concerning the dogmas we have received from our Fathers. This helps us gain a deeper understanding of the treasure we have inherited and keeps us free from any heresy. In this spirit, therefore, we present to you the following report on Bishop Augustine of Hippo (351-430) and his relationship to our Orthodox Faith, believing it to be of considerable significance to us in these modern times. In it we shall attempt to demonstrate: (1) Why he has been historically excluded from the list of the saints by the Holy Orthodox Church, (2) the heretical status of at least eight of his teachings, and, (3) his role as the fountainhead of the Western heresies.

I — The Orthodox Church's Exclusion of Augustine

The works of Augustine, who wrote only in Latin, were originally disseminated only throughout the West. His beliefs regarding original sin, grace, predestination, and free will, were not part of the Apostolic Tradition, yet he claimed scriptural authority for his doctrines. He ravaged the Scriptures with his misleading interpretations and diverged from the tradition of the Fathers. He acknowledged that there were differences between him and Christian writers of his time, but he dismissed it as the result of circumstance. He appointed himself to use the tools of his Graeco-Roman culture to bring out all the rational associations of the Faith. Some Orthodox people today who revere Augustine attempt to dismiss all his errors by saying that all his works were corrupted, but this cannot be substantiated by any proof whatsoever.

Almost as quickly as his ideas were made known, both he and his views were denounced by holy Fathers dwelling in those regions at that time. In the East, though Augustine lived near Egypt during a time when many saints were flourishing there and their lives were being prolifically recorded, there lies a conspicuous silence regarding his life — something unexpected for anyone considered to be a saint and a renowned theologian of Orthodoxy. Rather about the only thing we can determine as to how he was received by the local Orthodox community, is that the Monastery of Hardrumentum in his see was greatly troubled by his teachings. Azkoul: The Influence of Augustine of Hippo on the Orthodox Church (hereafter, Influence), p. 31: The monks at the monastery of Hadrumentum understood his charitology to mean the abolition of free will. Augustine hoped to calm their fears with De gratia et libero arbitrio and De correptione et gratia (426-427). They seemed to have been assuaged, but On Rebuke and Grace caused a storm among the ascetics of Gaul, especially at Marseilles where St John Cassian, the disciple of St John Chrysostom, took up the pen against Augustine's monergism and theory of predestination. But let us now substantiate these claims with a little more history.

In the West, Augustine's theory of original sin evoked consternation everywhere, but most especially among the monks of Southern Gaul (France). The leader of the monks was St. John Cassian (commemorated Feb. 29th), who had been ordained to the diaconate by St. John Chrysostom and instructed by the desert fathers of Egypt. Through his monastic movement and his writings in this field and on Christology, he had a strong influence on the Church in Old Rome. He took exception to Augustine's views on God, man, and grace, saying he had audaciously passed beyond the limits set by divine revelation. In this he was joined by St. Vincent of Lerins (comm. May 24th), St. Hilary of Arles, St. Honoratus, hermit of Lerins (comm. January 16th), St. Gennadius of Marseilles, and St. Faustus of Riez (Rhegium), the ecclesiastical writer Arnobius the younger, and the Churches of Britain and Ireland.

In the East, before and after the falling away of the see of Rome, we find Augustine with neither followers, nor authority. No Ecumenical Synod honoured him as St. Gregory of Nyssa was honoured with the title Father of Fathers by the Seventh Ecumenical Synod. The Fourth Ecumenical Synod listed Augustine among the holy Fathers of the Third Ecumenical Synod. But we know that he did not attend this Synod because he had died ten months earlier! His name was on a list of bishops that was either outdated when the Third Ecumenical Synod was summoned, or it was inserted in the record by someone for their own purpose. The editor of the large piece added: Actually, Augustine's name was on a list of bishops eligible to attend and invited. The list was compiled quite sometime before the Council, and evidently was not edited. It had been, of course, widely distributed as presumably all hierarchs received a copy. Augustine was too ill to travel to the Council to begin with and, in fact, died before the council convened." He was never hailed as the Great or the Theologian. Neither is there a feast day, nor churches erected in his honour, nor troparia composed for him (until our own times), nor sons named for him (as some were named for St. Augustine of Canterbury, Enlightener of England), nor icons to his memory, nor mention in the ancient books of the saints, such as the tenth century Menologia of St. Symeon Metaphrastes, the Tcheti Minei of Metropolitan Makari (d. 1564), nor later in the Menaion of St. Dimitri of Rostov. We have no knowledge of any miracles either performed or connected with his grave, no fragrance of sanctity emanating from his body. The only thing we do know about his death is that he died reciting a passage from the pagan philosopher Plotinus. [Recorded by his biographer Possidius, found in the book Early Christian Biographies, by R.J. Deferrari.]

With regard to Greek Christendom, it was in his time that the first symptoms of the coming rift between the Churches had appeared. He accepted the Nicene Creed, but seldom refers to it. The Constantinopolitan Creed is not mentioned in his writings. His influence on Greek Christianity is slight. Of his own knowledge of Greek he speaks slightingly. His anti-Pelagian stand was known in the East, but in 415 Palestinian bishops, at the synods of Jerusalem and Diospolis, disapproved of his views.

Some Church Fathers of the Roman Empire in the East (Patriarchs Photios and Gennadios II Scholarios, and Metropolitan Mark of Ephesus) referred to him as blessed and father. Their appellation, however, was based on references to Augustine in the Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Synod, but their knowledge of his life and doctrine was severely limited. Saint Photios had only a vague knowledge of his writings, and read only fragments of Augustine, supplied by the Carolingians. In early youth St. Gennadios read two or three books of Augustine, but rejected him later in life. Saint Mark knew nothing of him, except what he read during the Council of Florence (1437). None of them ever studied Augustine. [Azkoul: Influences, p. 44.]

Only in the 13th-14th centuries did interest in Augustine arise in the East. Maximos Planoudes, the Kydones brothers, and Manuel Kalekas translated and studied his works. Kalekas was anathematized by the Orthodox Councils of the fourteenth century, together with Barlaam and Akindynos, whose theology was Augustinian. With the fall of Constantinople, wealthy Greeks fled to the West where their sons were educated in European universities. A new interest in Augustine awakened. In the seventeenth century, Augustine began attracting some attention among the Eastern Orthodox. During the time of Peter the Great (1672-1725) and his love for all things western, Augustine was introduced into Russian seminaries. When the Calvinist-minded Patriarch Cyril Lukaris (1660-1702) wrote his Confession of Faith, he had borrowed heavily from the ideas of Augustine. This book was condemned as a collection of Western innovations by the Orthodox Synods of Constantinople (1638, 1672), Jassey (1641-2), and Bethlehem (1672). Underlying Lukaris' entire work was the theology of Calvin which, as F.L. Battle explains in his introduction to Calvin's Institutes, is little more than a systematized presentation of Augustinianism.

Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain (1749-1809) was given select paragraphs of Augustine's writings by certain Uniate visitors. Impressed with the extracts, Nicodemos placed Augustine's name in the Greek Synaxaristes (June 15th), with a troparion by Michael Kritoboulos. Nicodemos assumed that the doctrinal errors were the work of forgers, though there is no evidence to indicate that. The truth is thought that Nicodemos knew very little about Augustine. In 1968 the State Church of Greece added Augustine's name to the Church Calendar. Other Churches followed that example.

II — Eight Major Sources of Heresy

Let us now consider eight of the more pervasive teachings of Augustine which became the source of heresies, namely: (1) the Filioque, (2) original sin, (3) the redefining of baptism, (4) predestination and irresistible grace, (5) the disavowal of free-will, (6) confusion in understanding the differences between essence and hypostases and the energies of the Holy Trinity, (7) theophanies and created energies, and (8) the validation of heretical baptism.

1. The Filioque Heresy

Augustine was the author of the Filioque, that heresy which eventually cut off the West from the Orthodox Church. Even after the Second Ecumenical Synod, Augustine was emphatically teaching: God the Father is He from Whom the Word is born and from Whom the Holy Spirit principally proceeds. I have used the word principally, so that it may be understood that the Spirit proceeds from the Son also. [On the Trinity, 15:16:29]... The Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Father into the Son and then proceed from the Son for our sanctification; but He proceeds from Both at the same time, although the Father has given this to the Son, that just as the Holy Spirit proceeds from Himself, so He also proceeds from the Son. [On the Trinity, 15:27]

However, in the Gospel it is written: But when the Comforter comes, Whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth Who proceedeth from the Father, that One shall testify of Me (John 15:26). Saint Photios the Great has shown in The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit that this doctrine of the Filioque gives that power which characterizes the Father — generation — to both the Father and Son. Thus the Father loses what makes Him Father and the Son has a characteristic added to His hypostasis, making Him superior to the Father. Therefore, in Augustine's way of thinking the Father loses what makes Him Father, and the Son has a power added to His hypostasis. Further on, as St. Photios comments, Thus the enemies of God ... make the Son greater than the Spirit, by reason of being His cause ... What can be found more blasphemous or more insane than this? The Filioque, according to Saint Photios, is the offspring of the devil, the enemy of the human race.

Saint Mark Evgenikos spoke to the Latins in council at Florence regarding the disputed scriptural passage (Jn. 15:26), saying, Here, by three expressions, our Saviour has placed the three divine Persons in their relation to each other. Of the Spirit, He says, When the Comforter is come; of Himself with the Father, He says, Whom I will send unto you from the Father; and then, of the Father alone, he says, Who proceedeth from the Father. Do you not see a strict exactness in the divine doctrine? He did not say, the Holy Spirit Who proceeds from Us ... Consequently, no Filioque can be implied here. The great Metropolitan of Ephesus also added that the addition to the Creed was the first cause of schism. [Pillars, 441, 442]

2. Original Sin

Augustine taught that Adam's original sin energized all his unlawful desires. This original sin, he said, has passed on to all men through the seed of man by the procreation of the flesh; and only those who, by Christ, are regenerated in their souls out from the body's defilement within are saved. His claim is verified in the following quotes:

Adam bound his offspring also with the penalty of damnation, an offspring bound with the sin by which he had corrupted that his progeny, born through fleshly concupiscence, received the fitting retribution for his disobedience.... (The) human race was burdened with original sin throughout the ages, burdened with the manifold errors and sorrows down to the final and endless torment with the rebel angels. [Enchiridion, 26-27, PL 40:245]


Owing to one man all passed into condemnation who are born to Adam, unless they are reborn in Christ, even as God has appointed to regenerate them before they die in the body. For He has predestinated some to everlasting life as the most merciful Bestower of grace; while to those whom He predestinated to eternal death, He is the most righteous Awarder of punishment. They are punished not only on account of the sins which they add by the indulgence of their own will, but on account of the original sin, even if, as in the case of infants, they had added nothing to that original sin. Now this is my definite view on the question, so that the hidden things of God may keep their secret, without impairing my own faith. [On the Soul and Its Origin, Bk IV, Ch 16]

Further on he writes:

Even if there were in men nothing but original sin, it would be sufficient for their condemnation. [On the Soul and Its Origin, Bk IV, Ch 20]

According to Augustine of Hippo, without a conversion in God's wrathful disposition towards man, in which He withheld grace and forgiveness, there could be no alteration in man's state. Mankind was guilty, depraved, and bereft of grace by a punitive divine decision. Christ came in order to annul the just wrath of God, [Enchiridion, Ch 30] so that grace and benevolence may flow again. Augustine maintained that God, in His wrath and vengeance, justly decreed death upon Adam and all who were lying under this wrath by reason of original sin. [Enchiridion, Ch 33] Everyone bears guilt which he incurs at birth, [Enchiridion, Ch 119] and is in the bonds of inherited guilt. [Enchiridion, Ch 28] And, all are justly subject to the bondage in which the devil holds them. [Enchiridion, Ch 49] Both Protestants and Roman Catholics believe that Christ died on the Cross to turn the anger of God away from guilt-laden mankind and to Himself. They argue that the first man, Adam, sinned against God, and the guilt for his offense, and therefore, God's wrath, was passed on to all the generations that followed. Atonement was demanded for both Adam and personal sins.

How contrary this is to Orthodoxy! For we do not teach God predestined the fall of any man because of Augustine's idea of original sin, but rather, He allows all men to freely choose life or death.

Saint Gregory Palamas says:

We must understand from His words that God did not make death (Wis.1:13), either of the body or of the soul. For when He first gave the command, He did not say, On the day you eat of it, die, but In the day you eat of it, ye shall surely die (Gen.2:17). He did not say afterwards, Return now to the earth, but ye shall return (Gen. 3:19), foretelling in this way what would come to pass. [One Hundred and Fifty Chapters, 51 PG 150:1157A-1160A]

According to Saint Paul Sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; so also death passed to all men, inasmuch as all have sinned (Rom. 5:12). However, we do not inherit the guilt of Adam. We do not inherit his sin, but the propensity to sin. Saint Ambrose agrees, and says, Our iniquity is one thing, the other our heel wherein Adam was wounded by the tooth of the serpent, a wound bequeathed to all of Adam's issue, a wound by which we all go limping ... this iniquity of my heel surrounds me, but this is Adam's iniquity not mine. [Ps. XL VII, 8, 9 PL 14:1214D, cf 1415AB.] Man's freedom is restricted by his corruption, which is sewn into the fabric of human nature, but is not abolished. [Azkoul, Influences, p. 83]

And as for what we have inherited from Adam as a consequence of his transgression, it was not any kind of sin or guilt; but rather, as Orthodoxy teaches, we have inherited his substance and therefore his mortality. Adam sinned and he, along with his posterity are subject to death. For all sin and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), and the sting of death is sin (1 Cor. 15:56). Mortality is the cause of human corruption, that is the passions, which are the dynamics of sin. Human sinfulness confirms mortality. Thus, we sin, because we die, and, necessarily, we die as a consequence of our sins. Azkoul: Influence, p. 218, fn 56: St Paul exclaimed, The sting of death is sin — τὸ δὲ κέντρον τοῦ θανάτου ἡ ἁμαρτία (I Cor. 15:56) Thus, we sin, because we die; and, necessarily, we die as a consequence of our sins. More exactly, Adam sinned and he, along with his posterity, dies. Mortality is the cause of human corruption — the passions — which are the dynamics of sin. Human sinfulness confirms human mortality. Augustine changed the sense of St Paul's words. Because sin is the sting of death, he writes, it is the sting by whose stroke death strikes (Contra epp. Pelag. IV, 7 614). On the contrary, since the immortal cannot sin, the sting of death is sin.

Saint Paulinus of Nola explains that the earthly corruption, that ancestral venom descended from Adam, infecting the whole human race, remains in me [Ep. 30:2]. But God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ (2 Cor.5:19). Only the incarnate Lord could prevail against the sentence of death and the sting of death to 'blot out the bond written in ordinances against us [Col. 2:14] of death and to humble the crafty one [Ep. 23:5] God became man to deliver the creature from the power of the devil who controls humanity through death, whose sting is sin. Death is our legacy, but Christ conquered the evil one and death, and gave us the grace by which to attain life everlasting. [Azkoul: Influence, p. 88] And He gave us not grace alone, but His own humanity with it as a new leaven and power of regeneration of the whole man. By dying to the old man we are reborn in Christ.

Saint Kyril of Alexandria in his writings speaks of inherited death and corruption, but not inherited guilt. Since Adam produced children in his fallen state, we, his descendants, are corruptible, as coming from a corrupt source. The curse of mortality was transmitted to his seed after him, for we are born of mortal substance. Our Lord Jesus Christ is a new beginning of our race, reforming us unto incorruptibility by assaulting death, and nullifying the curse through His own flesh. Corruption and death are the universal and general consequences of Adam's transgressions. In like manner the universal and general ransom has been accomplished finally in Christ. All are released by Christ from the primal penalty, the penalty of death. For this reason the all-wise Paul asserts, Death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who did not sin in the likeness of Adam's transgression (Rom.5:12). Under the law, then, death reigned, but with the advent of Christ, came the righteousness of grace, whereby our bodies were cleansed from corruption [Selected Letters VI, 20, pp. 200-204 (ed. by L. R. Wickham, Oxford, 1983).] The abolishing of sin and its consequences is not a juridical act or fiat, but the regeneration of humanity by the real and organic union of God and creature in Christ, and the transmission of this new life to all who become sons of God by adoption.

Thus the Incarnation of Christ the Word has abolished not only the sin of Adam which wrought our death, but all the consequences thereof. Although Adam died because he sinned, we sin because we die. Our sinning is the manifestation and the ratification of our mortal nature. Nothing reveals our mortality and sinfulness more so than our many bodily passions. [Azkoul, Influence, p. 103] Saint John of Damascus says that from the time of Adam to Christ, the human race has been subject to passion instead of dispassion, mortality instead of immortality [Exposition on the Orthodox Faith, II, 30 977D].

The reasoning engendered by this doctrine of original sin tends to disdain the very Incarnation of Christ, Who took flesh from His Mother, who herself was born of the seed of man. In St. Macrina's prayer recorded by St. Gregory of Nyssa, she said, Thou hast restored again what Thou hadst given, transforming with incorruptibility and grace what is mortal and shameful in us. Thou hast redeemed us from the curse and sin, having become both on our behalf. Thou hast crushed the head of the serpent ... and negated the one who had power over us through death [The Life of St Makrina, PG 46:984 CD]. Saint Paul explains to us that God made Him Who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we may continue becoming the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). What is this? asks St. John Chrysostom. That is, He suffered as a sinner to be condemned, as one cursed to die [Hom XI on Second Corinthians]. The Apostle also consoles us, saying that the law of the Spirit which is life in Christ Jesus freed me from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2). Having been freed from sin, we were made slaves to righteousness (cf. Rom. 6:18). When we were in the flesh, the passions of the sins, which were through the law, were working in our members to bear fruit unto death (Rom. 7:5). Our old man was crucified with Him, in order that the body of sin might be rendered inactive, so that we no longer serve sin (cf. Rom.6:6).

The Apostle James, the brother of our Lord, writes: Each is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own desire. Then after the desire is conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, after it is fully formed, bringeth forth death (Jas.1:14, 15). Saint Paul urges us to make the decision not to let sin continue reigning in our mortal bodies, so as not to obey it in its desires (Rom. 6:12). It is true, however, that he does not hide the struggle that is before each of us when he himself confesses, For I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good; for to will is present with me, but to work out the good I do not find ... I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and leading me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members (Rom. 7:18, 23). He then asks, Who will deliver me from this body of death? And he exclaims, I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 7:24, 25). Free from indwelling sin, he claims, There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:1, 2). This promise is made to all who desire to walk in the Spirit, and not only to Augustine's predestined elite. This fatal view of a preordained elect is overturned by St. Peter who affirms that all are invited to enter the kingdom of the heavens, because His divine power hath freely given us all the things for life and piety, through the full knowledge of Him Who called us by glory and virtue, by which He hath freely given to us the very great and precious promises, that through these ye might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption which is in the world by desire (2 Pet.1:3, 4).

Thus armed, the faithful Orthodox Christian is called to struggle with the passions. At holy baptism, we put on Christ for ourselves, and we are buried with Him by baptism into death. For which, we are always delivered unto death on account of Jesus, that also the life of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh (2 Cor. 4:11). Saint Athanasios the Great tells us that in the servants of God wherein grace abounds, sinful desires wither, for they evaporate in a nature superior to the first Adam ... superior, because it is deified [Spiritual Homily XXVI, 2 PG 34:676B].

3. The Redefining of Baptism

Augustine taught that baptism was instituted to wash away original sin, the guilt we inherited at conception. Perhaps as a backlash to his previous illicit relations outside of marriage. Augustine believed that the sexual act is mingled with evil, inasmuch as it is the means by which an evil, Adam's guilt, is transmitted to those born by such generation. He taught that it was for this reason that children are regenerated in baptism [Cf. Contra Jul. III, vii 15 709]. He says, (T)hose who believe in Him are being absolved by the layer of regeneration from the guilt of their sins, to wit: both of the original sin they have inherited by generation — and that, in particular, for which regeneration was instituted — and all other sins contracted by evil conduct [Tractate CXXIV, On the Gospel of St John, ch 21].

Orthodoxy teaches that we are baptized to become members of the Body of Christ. We are buried with Him by the baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised up from the dead through the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (cf. Rom. 6:4). Indeed, this newness of life through baptism also means our old man is put away and all our sins have been washed away, yet no holy Father attributes to baptism the property of taking away an original sin which Adam gave us. The holy Fathers do not speak of a guilt that is combined with this original sin that baptism washes away.

In another place Augustine taught differently about guilt. In baptism, he said, the consequences of original sin are removed, but not the guilt. One may be free from original sin, but not ... the guilt, the tyrannical burden which children inherit from their parents despite the grace of baptism [On Marriage and Concupiscence I, xxvi, 29 PL 44:430]. Here is the quintessential Augustine. Original sin as a fallen nature is not really his main concern. For him, the relationship between God and man is essentially an external juridical one: judgment and guilt. A specific number of people are predestined to salvation, regardless of their nature, regardless of their own inner disposition and motives. Their nature is not destined to be changed, but merely their legal status.

As we can begin to see, Augustine uses words and terms not common with the holy Fathers. Original sin, Guilt of Adam, Predestination, are terms not used by the holy Fathers, because they are not Orthodox. Its seems as if one idea led to another, which needed a solution, and brought forth another conclusion. This is typical of one not well rooted in the Faith, and one not submitting his ideas to those older and more advanced in the spiritual life. Augustine lacked the opportunity to reap the spiritual fruit of the mystery of obedience, the spiritual fruit which the other holy teachers of Orthodoxy partook of, such as Saints John Chrysostom, Basil, Gregory, and others. Unfortunately no sooner had Augustine entered the ranks of the faithful, that the rhetoric and grammar professor of Milan immediately took to teaching and writing books attempting to reconcile his philosophy with the Faith, instead of sitting patiently in the seat of the learners and humbly developing a mind and vocabulary of the Fathers. This Augustine did also, even abandoning the catechism he was receiving under St. Ambrose. When St. Ambrose was questioned about Augustine's ideas, he said that the latter cut short his catechism and was not diligent in coming. He said that Augustine was only interested in debating his own position.

4. Predestination and Irresistible Grace

Augustine taught that God has predetermined some people to damnation whose wills He does not allow to turn toward Him, and some to salvation whose wills He does not allow to turn away from Him. For Augustine, election is absolutely gratuitous, and God's arbitrary will is impervious to foreseen merits and good actions. Concerning his perception of predestination, he says, I speak thus of those who are predestined to the Kingdom of God, whose number is so certain that none may be added to or subtracted therefrom ... while those who do not belong to this most certain and blessed number are most righteously judged according to their deservings. For they lie under the sin which they have inherited by original generation and so depart hence with the inherited debt [On Rebuke and Grace, XIII, 39 940, 42 942].

Although Augustine insists he is an advocate of free will, what kind of free will is he defending when one is powerless to choose between good and evil? He says that predestination to eternal life is wholly of God's free grace, and asks, ...who will be so foolish and blasphemous as to say that God cannot change the evil wills of men, whichever, whenever, and wheresoever He chooses, and direct them to what is good? [Enchiridion, Nicene Fathers, 1st Ser., Vol. 3, Ch. 98, Predestination to Eternal Life is Wholly of God's Free Grace] And if one should choose the good, it is due to overwhelming and irresistible grace. Augustine attempts to interpret Scripture when he defines the words of St. Paul, It is not therefore a matter of man's willing, of his running, but of God's mercy (cf. Rom. 9:16), saying not of man's willing or running, but God's mercy means precisely that the entire process is credited to God, Who prepares the will and helps the will thus prepared [Ench., 32 248.].

But according to this, one does not truly exercise free will, rendering salvation solely the work of God. We have no function or capacity in the decision. Augustine gives the example of the twins of Isaac and Rebecca, saying, Thus both the twins (Jacob and Esau) were born children of wrath, not on account of any works of their own, but because they were bound in the fetters of that original condemnation which came through Adam. But He Who said, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; loved Jacob of His undeserved grace, and hated Esau of His deserved judgment [The Enchiridion, Nicene Fathers, 1st Ser., Vol. 3, Ch. 98, Predestination to Eternal Life is Wholly of God's Free Grace].

The Bishop of Hippo wrote: God foreknew believers; but He chose them that they might be so, not because they were already so... He did not foresee that we ourselves would be holy and blameless, but He chose and predestined us that we might be so [On the Predestination of the Saints, XVII, 34 PL 44:985]. He maintained his theories till his death, towards the end restating that the elect cannot fall away, preserved not by their own strength, but only by the irresistible grace of God. The gift of God is granted to them ... that they may not fall into temptation. And, No saint fails to persevere in holiness to the end [On the Gift of Perseverance, 19].

Augustine's theory of predetermination and coercive grace cannot be reconciled with true free will. For Augustine, God's supreme and incomprehensible sovereignty does not confer with human choices. The elect are imposed upon by God with an irresistible grace. It is God, therefore, who makes a man persevere in the good, who makes him good; but they who fall and perish have never been in the number of the predestined [On Rebuke and Grace, XII, 36 938] Thus, according to Augustine, If you wish to be a catholic, do not venture to believe, to say, or to teach that they whom the Lord has predestinated for baptism can be snatched away from his predestination, or die before that has been accomplished in them which the Almighty has predestined [Book 3, Addressed to Vincentius Victor, Nicene, 1st Ser., Vol. V, Chapter 13 - His Seventh Error. In the Shape of a Letter Addressed to Presbyter Peter]

He postulated that all Christians have sufficient grace by which freedom is restored. All Christians receive grace to cooperate with God, and to choose between the good and evil. Nevertheless, only elect members of the Church shall be saved according to the eternal and hidden decree of God. Augustine thus said that all grace is prevenient (anticipatory) and cooperative. But sufficient grace, the grace of cooperation, or even anticipatory grace is insufficient to be elected. Augustine was the first to divide the faithful into those who possessed the common sufficient grace, and those who are predestined to glory and vouchsafed the more blessed efficacious grace that was imposed upon them. He then went on to say that the grace of perseverance — that is the irresistible and efficacious grace — is the grace of salvation.

Moreover, no one would be saved if God had not brought aid to the infirmity of the human will, so that it might be unchangeably and invincibly motivated by divine grace... Even though the will of the elect may be weak and incapable of good, God prevents their defection [Book 3, Addressed to Vincentius Victor, Nicene, 1st Ser., Vol. V, Chapter 38 940]. Indeed, for him all men are totally depraved, the elect and the non-elect. The Bishop of Hippo disagreed with the holy and great St. Cyprian when the latter compared the Church with the Ark of Noah. Augustine contended that only a few are saved by faith, a faith which they possess by virtue of their predestination to glory [On the Predestination of the Saints, XVII, 34 985].

The few that are saved by the irresistible grace imposed upon them is an idea outside the Orthodox Tradition. What about the poor hapless ones who are not on the rolls of the elect? Augustine explains, They have been made vessels of wrath, and were born to the advantage of the saved... God knows what good may be made of them... Yet, He leads none of them to the salutary and spiritual repentance by which a man in Christ is reconciled to God [Contr Jul V, iv, 14 PL 44:792,793] Thus, who may be understood as given to Christ? According to Augustine, These are they who are predestinated and called according to the purpose, of whom not one perishes. And therefore none of them ends this life when he has changed from good to evil, because he is so ordained, and for that purpose given to Christ, that he may not perish, but may have eternal life [Treatise on Rebuke and Grace, Ch 21].

Concerning salvation, our holy Fathers neither speak of compulsion nor fatalism, but always advance the part of the human will in the divine economy. All the Orthodox are synergists, meaning God and man working together, even though all were called, but not all obeyed [Comm. in Ep. ad Rom. XV, 1 541]. Saint John Chrysostom tells us that the heavenly call alone is not sufficient for salvation, not without the purpose of the called [Comm. in Ep. ad. XV, 1 PG 60:541]. Saint Makarios the Great adds that man has the freedom to make himself a vessel of the devil or a vessel of election and life [Spiritual Homilies, XV, 40 PG 34:604B].

Saint John of Damascus comments, We ought to understand that while God foreknows all things, He does not predestinate them. For He knows already those things that are in our power, but He does not predestinate them. For He does not will that there should be wickedness, nor does He impose virtue. Thus, foreordination is an act of the prescient divine command. On the other hand, God foreordains those things which are not within our power in accordance with His foreknowledge. In His foreknowledge, God has forejudged all things already according to His goodness and justice [Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, II, 30].

Is anything foreordained? What is foreordained was the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God foreordained before the ages unto our glory (cf. 1 Cor.2:7), the mystery of the Incarnation that as many as were placed in the ranks of eternal life believed (Acts 13:48). Saint Paul explains that we are His work, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph.2:10) What also is appointed is a day, in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man Whom He hath ordained (Acts 17:31). When Saint Jude informs us that certain people slipped in secretly, who of old were proscribed unto this judgment, ungodly ones transposing the grace of our God into licentiousness, and denying the only Master, God, and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 4), Saint Bede the Venerable observes, They themselves deserved this judgment, this condemnation, because they themselves acted wickedly; as the Lord says that some shall come forth who have done good things to a resurrection of life, but those who practise mean things, to a resurrection of condemnation (cf. Jn.5:29). [Bede, Commentary on Jude]

Furthermore, if we were not granted our free will, but predestined, why should St. Paul urge the Romans, who once presented their members as slaves to uncleanness and to lawlessness, to now present their members as slaves to righteousness unto sanctification (Rom.6:19), if their ultimate fate is inevitable? Yes, in times past, we used to walk according to the age of this world, according to the prince of the authority of the air, the spirit now operating in the sons of disobedience (Eph.2:2). But Augustine's predestined numbers for bliss cannot evade judgment and condemnation if they have lived according to the flesh. The truth is, if we live according to the flesh, we are at the point of dying, but if by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body, we shall live (Rom.8:13).

5. The Disavowal of Freewill

The Pelagianists were a group of heretics which Augustine fought against. They taught that salvation could be attained through one's own efforts, or through one's own will. They emphasized the human will. When Augustine tried to combat this heresy, he went to the opposite extreme, teaching that only God's will was operative, He is the Almighty One, He will even force or convert man's will to conform to His own. This, of course, falls in line with his other unorthodox ideas of predestination and irresistible grace.

Concerning the inescapability of God's predestination of some to damnation and others to compulsory grace, Augustine said, I think, too, that I have so discussed the subject that it is not so much myself as the inspired Scriptures which have spoken to you in the most vivid testimonies of truth; and if this divine record be looked into carefully, it reveals that God Himself converts the will of man from evil to good and that once it is converted, He directs him to good actions and eternal life; but also, that those who follow after the world are so at the disposal of God that He turns them wherever and whenever He wills — to bestow kindness on some and heap punishment on others, as He Himself judges rightly by a counsel most secret to Himself [On Grace and Free Will, 41] He thus defined a capricious deity akin to those of pagan myths.

Augustine said, God converts the will of man from evil to good. This concept or teaching is completely foreign to Orthodoxy. God has bestowed upon human beings the unique property of freewill and reason, which likens us to Himself, and to the angels. This also distinguishes us from animals, who have none of the above. If God converts our will, He is infringing on that image of God in which He made us, for it is said, God created man after His image (Gen. 1:26).

Saint John of Damascus believed that the phrase, after His image clearly refers to the side of human nature which consists of mind and freewill. In refutation of Augustine's notion, he said, It is to be understood that the choice of actions belongs to us, while the completion which is good takes place with God's just co-working with those of a disposition for the good and of an upright conscience, in accordance with His foreknowledge. [Saint John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book II, Chap. 29]

Moreover, he continues, Bear in mind, too, that virtue is a gift from God implanted in our nature, and that He Himself is the source and cause of all good, and without His co-operation and help we cannot will or do any good thing. But we have it in our power either to abide in virtue and follow God, Who calls us into ways of virtue, or to stray from paths of virtue, which is to dwell in wickedness, and to follow the devil who summons but cannot compel us. For wickedness is nothing else than the withdrawal of goodness, just as darkness is nothing else than the withdrawal of light."[Saint John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book II, Chap. 30]

Therefore, according to the holy Fathers, salvation is a matter of synergy, of cooperation — that of man with God, if man wills (actively chooses) the good, the right path, the virtuous life — then will God grant grace. To say that God infringes on the freewill of man is outside the Apostolic Tradition, and therefore, outside of Orthodoxy.

6. Confusion in Understanding the Differences Between Essence and Hypostases and the Energies of the Holy Trinity

In his de Fide et Symbolo, Augustine makes this outlandish statement: With respect to the Holy Spirit, however, there has not been, on the part of learned and distinguished investigators of the Scriptures a fuller and careful enough discussion of the subject to make it possible for us to obtain an intelligent conception of what also constitutes His special individuality (proprium). But all at the Second Ecumenical Synod knew well that this question was settled once and for all in the Creed by the word procession, meaning the manner by which the Holy Spirit has His origin from the Father, which constitutes His special individuality. In any case, Augustine spent many years trying to solve this non-existent problem concerning the individuality of the Holy Spirit and, because of another set of mistakes in his understanding of revelation and theological method, came up with the Filioque, the addition of and the Son to the procession of the Holy Spirit in the articles of the Nicean Creed. The Franks believed that Augustine solved a theological problem where all other Roman Fathers failed.

A second mistake in the same discourse occurred when he identified the Holy Spirit with the divinity which the Greeks designate, and explained that this is the love between the Father and the Son.

The Holy Spirit is an individual hypostasis with individual characteristics not shared by other hypostases, but He does share fully everything that the Father and Son have in common, to wit, the divine essence and all uncreated energies and powers. He is not what is common between the Father and Son, but has in common everything the Father and Son have in common. But Augustine never understood the distinction between the common essence and energies of the Holy Trinity and the incommunicable individualities of each hypostasis. He himself admits that he does not understand why a distinction is made in the Greek language between ousia (essence) and hypostasis in God. Nevertheless, he insisted that his distinctions must be accepted as a matter of faith and rendered in Latin as una essentia and tes substantiae. [De Trinitate, 5.8.10] It is clear that Augustine accepted the most important aspect of the Trinitarian terminology of the Cappadocian Fathers and the Second Ecumenical Synod. However, he did not know the teachings of Saints Basil, Gregory the Theologian or Gregory of Nyssa. Augustine confuses generation and procession with the divine energies.

7. Theophanies and Created Energies

Later when Augustine became Bishop of Hippo, we find in his writings that he believed that Christ's presence in the Old Testament consisted merely of predictions and expectations of His future coming, but He was not personally present and active in Old Israel. [Gabriel, George: By More Than Words Alone (Ridgewood, NJ, 1998), p. 11] In his work On the Trinity, he said that in the Old Testament theophanies, the Prophets saw neither a divine person, nor the uncreated glory of God. [Bk. 3, Ch. 11.26] They saw only created energies or special effects created by angels in which God was figuratively signified by the angels. Whatever the saints saw in the glory of God, according to Augustine, it was a created thing that came into being in order to show what was necessary to be shown, and then ceased to be. [Bk. 2, Ch. 7.2] And, All those appearances were wrought through a creature. They were wrought by angels. Not only the visible things, but also the world itself was wrought by angels. [Bk. 3, Ch. 11.22]

The Logos was always identified with the Angel of God, the Lord of Glory, the Angel of Great Counsel, the Lord Sabbaoth and the Wisdom of God Who appeared to the Prophets of the Old Testament and became Christ by His birth as man from the Virgin Theotokos. No one ever doubted this identification of the Logos with this very concrete individual, Who revealed in Himself the invisible God of the Old Testament to the Prophets, with the peculiar exception of Augustine, who in this regard follows the Gnostic and Manichaean traditions. Augustine rejects as blasphemous the idea that the Prophets could have seen the Logos in any manner. Augustine agrees with the Arians and Eunomians that the Prophets saw only a created Angel, created fire, cloud, light, darkness, etc., but he argues that in none of these was the Logos Himself present. The theophanies were only symbols of God. As a result of his reading of Scripture, the theophanies are creatures or symbols that come into existence in order to convey a divine message, and then passed out of existence. [Romanides, John S.: Franks, Romans, Feudalism & Doctrine, from web site http://www. (May 1998)]

Augustine made no distinction between whether revelation is given directly to human reason or to human reason by creatures, or created symbols. It is always the human intellect itself which is being illumined or given vision. The vision of God is an intellectual experience for Augustine. Therefore, every revelation for him is a revelation of concepts which can be searched out by reason for a comprehensive understanding. When the Franks accepted this way of thinking from Augustine, they transformed the purpose of theology into a scholastic tradition of studying and searching out the divine nature, whereas the Church Fathers taught that no one, not even the celestial hierarchies, can know the divine essence which is known only to the Trinity. The above ideas on the Old Testament are but a few examples of how Augustine deviated from the holy Fathers.

8. The Validation of Heretical Baptism

Augustine blurred the lines of the living Body of Christ in more ways than one, for he said, Heretics have lawful baptism unlawfully. [On Baptism, Against the Donatists V. vi, 7 181] From this, one may deduce that heretics have the other Mysteries and grace. The monstrous consequences of his predestination led him to believe that the predestined can find the Mysteries outside of the Church. He says, It is possible that some have been baptized outside the Church may be considered to have been really baptized within, while some who seemed to have been baptized within may be understood, through the same foreknowledge of God, to have been baptized outside of Her. [Concerning Baptism Against the Donatists 5, 28, 39]

Thus, for Augustine, the visible, hierarchical, sacramental Church, has predestined people elsewhere who may find the Mysteries abroad. Heretics may also perform a valid sacrament, and he says so: If anyone is compelled by urgent necessity, being unable to find a Catholic from whom to receive baptism, and so, while preserving Catholic peace in his heart, should receive from one outside the pale of Catholic unity, the sacrament which he was intending to receive within the Church, should this person be suddenly dispatched from this life, he would nevertheless be deemed a Catholic. [Concerning Baptism Against the Donatists 1, 2, 3] Therefore, he believes the Holy Spirit confers Mysteries and the grace of salvation outside of the holy Church — even for the elect's sake.

But these unorthodox ideas have been refuted by our holy Fathers, such as St. Athanasios, who wrote: There are many other heresies too, which use the words only, but not in a right sense, as I have said, nor with sound Faith, and in consequence the water which they administer is unprofitable, as deficient in piety, so that he who is sprinkled by them is rather polluted by the irreligious than redeemed. [Discourses Against the Arians, II. XVII. 43]

Yet, as if these opinions were not extreme enough, Augustine wrote about Donatist baptism to the Donatist Petilian, saying, We recognize in heretics that baptism, which belongs not to the heretics but to Christ ... For the sacraments indeed are holy, even in such men as these, and shall be of force in them to greater condemnation, because they handle and partake of them unworthily. Both those among us and among you have and transmit the sacrament of baptism ... What we fear, therefore, to destroy, is not yours, but Christ's; and it is holy of itself, even in sacrilegious hands ... For we destroy the treachery of the deserter, not the stamp of the Sovereign. [The Letters of Petillian, the Donatist, Bk. II Chap. 109. 246 (247)]

Continuing, he says, But we do not remove baptism from heretics. Why? Because they possess baptism as a mark in the same way as a deserter from the army possesses a mark. So, too, do heretics have baptism. [On the Creed: A Sermon to the Catechumens, In Nicene Fathers, 1st Ser., Vol. III, §16]

Showing the seriousness of the crime by priests who practice and teach such things, St. Cyprian of Carthage writes: Dearest brother, we must consider, for the sake of the Faith and the religion of the sacerdotal office which we discharge, whether the account can be satisfactory in the day of judgment for a priest of God, who maintains, approves, and acquiesces in the baptism of blasphemers, when the Lord threatens and says, And now, O priests, this commandment is to you. If ye will not hearken, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory to My name, saith the Lord Almighty, then I will send forth the curse upon you, and I will bring a curse upon your blessing (Mal.2:12). Does he give glory to God, who communicates with the baptism of Marcion? Does he give glory to God, who judges that remission of sins is granted among those who blaspheme against God? [Epistle LXXIII to Pompey, Against the Epistle of Stephen about the Baptism of Heretics, in The Epistles of Cyprian, Ante-Nicene Fathers, pp. 388, 389]

It is this erroneous teaching regarding baptism that gladdens those who espouse the heresy of ecumenism. They have as their champion, Augustine, just as the Latins and Protestants have him as their supreme theologian.

III — Augustine: Fountainhead of the Western Heresies

Augustine's heresies have been the source for the inauguration and consolidation of the heterodox from Orthodoxy. We have already shown how his Filioque heresy initiated the fall of the Western Church. The two other heresies which energized the momentum behind the West's migration from salvation as revealed by the Orthodox Church was their adoption of Augustine's doctrine of original sin and theory of irresistible grace.

God established His work through His operations or energies. Grace is a divine energy, a power by which our mortal nature is transformed. It is not compulsory as Augustine believed. Grace departs from a soul that resists salvation, but acts with the human will that desires it. Augustine was the first to set forth grace as created for man. The Orthodox doctrine of uncreated grace was well defended by St. Gregory Palamas against Barlaam of Calabria, an Augustinian. Saint Gregory asked him rhetorically, How do you participate in the divine nature if grace is not somehow an extension of It?

A belief in Augustine's definition of predestination that a specific number of selected people shall be saved as citizens of the City of God may lead one to withdraw from a synergistic and cooperative relationship with God in striving against the passions. This theory has led many to either anticipate a divine atonement which is monergistic (salvation achieved by a single will or power) and coercive, through the minutiae of ritual or sensationalistic acceptance of a personal Saviour. Neither of the latter two forms leads to deification. Those that chose the latter two forms, instead of striving against the passions, gave rise to alternate and heretical forms of salvation, that is, the religions of the Papacy and Protestantism.

Concerning Roman Catholicism, not long after its falling away from us because of their adoption of Augustine's Filioque heresy, Thomas Aquinas, who considered himself to be — and indeed thoroughly was — Augustinian, eventually converted the whole of the Latin Church over to his ritualistic theology, a theology which now is the foundation and cornerstone upon which all Roman Catholicism stands. It was Augustine's view of a totally depraved and guilty mankind that necessitated the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

Thomas Aquinas taught Augustine's presumptuous doctrine that merely by the priest properly performing the right ritual can original sin, which damns one, be removed automatically. In reaction and opposition to this, a second solution was formed for original sin. An Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther, protesting against the hypocritical aridity of the former view (and its automatic priestly absolvements upon anyone who paid for monetary indulgences from the clergy), baptized the populace into his mystically saving experience. This experience consisted of nothing more than the assurance that you are one of the prejustified, inwardly elected — whom Augustine had theologically invented — whose soul God has already saved and will now irresistibly draw to Himself regardless of your relationship to the Church or what sins you might now commit. It is very telling that Luther wanted to remove the book of James from the canon of the Scriptures, where it is written: What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? (Jas.2:14). When any talk arose of removing Augustine from the list of the Fathers, he said, When Augustine is eliminated from the list of the Fathers, the others are not worth much. [On the Councils of the Church, Luther's Works, Vol. 41, p. 27]

In the reformations of the sixteenth century, both Protestant and Roman Catholic reformers appealed to different aspects of his teachings to support their claims. Roman Catholics cited his teachings on ecclesiology and sacramental theology. Protestants invoke his teachings on the Christian's dependence on the grace of God for justification. Martin Luther quotes him more than one hundred times in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans alone. Augustine's ideas have provided arguments for political arrangements. His approval of the Donatists' suppression influenced theories of just war, and his social theory, described in City of God, urges the maintenance of a hierarchical ordering in society. [19. 13-15]

In contrast to the theology of the Orthodox Fathers of the East and the West, the Frankish theological tradition makes its appearance in history reading and knowing in full only Augustine. As the Franks became acquainted with other Latin-speaking or Greek-speaking Fathers, they subordinated them all to the authority of Augustinian categories. Even the dogmas promulgated at Ecumenical Synods were replaced by Augustine's understanding of these dogmas.

It is largely because of the development of these Augustinian heresies, that there has arisen the general confusion of secularism, which, in a sense, is just a more firm attachment to the justification initially provided by original sin, that sin is natural to us and therefore requires not remedy but pardon (i.e. toleration), as well as an attachment to the initial faithless despair behind original sin that there is no true redemption within this mortal existence — it being inherently sinful — but rather is something you just have to live with. Capping off this general spirit of Western heresy is Augustine's heretical validation of the baptism of heretics, a view that has contributed greatly to the present Ecumenical movement and its divergent heresies that he largely created.

In conclusion we may honestly say that because the Orthodox Church never officially carried out the condemnation made by some of our saints, fathers and monastics upon this Bishop of Hippo, his teachings have now come to form heresies even larger than the Latin Church itself. Yet as the Russian New Martyr Archbishop Hilarion Troitsky commented: We can only thank God that the doctrine of the Eastern Church was formulated outside the sphere of Augustinianism, which we must consider as alien to us. [The Unity of the Church and the World Conference of Christian Communities, trans. by M. Jerenic, p. 31]

Unfortunately, though, rather than giving heed to our own councils that condemned the basic tenets of his teaching, we instead now give heed to the council of those sympathetically aligned with the Western heresies that surround us. For within our own Church, divine services are celebrated for this man who inaugurated the fall of the Western Church and the western world from Orthodoxy with his Filioque heresy. He is guilty of too many serious theological errors and has cheated generations of people out of salvation by his teaching on original sin and predestination.

All of this, we hope, will give you good reason to judge this man and his teachings as unworthy of any veneration or reverence, for he has reaped much destruction upon our Holy Orthodox Church. Augustine is neither a saint, nor a Church Father.


Sources & References for Biography and Theological Discussion

A Dictionary of the Christian Biography. Ed. by Henry Wace, D.D., and William C.Piercy, M.A. Peabody. MA: Hendrickson Publishers, s.v. Augustinus, Aurelius

Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. Ed. by Everett Gerguson, Michal P. McHugh, and Frederick W. Norris. NY: Garland Publishing Co., 1990, s.v. Augustine

Gabriel, George, By More Than Words Alone (Ridgewood, NJ, 1998)

Romanides. John S., Franks, Romans, Feudalism, & Doctrine, from web site http:// (May 1998)

The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series I, Volumes III and V on Augustine, trans. & ed. by Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 2d ed., edited By F. L. Cross, and E. A. Livingstone, s.v. Augustine of Hippo

The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Alexander P. Kazhdan, editor-in-chief. NY, NY: Oxford University Press, 1991, s.v. Augustine



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