“The Augustinian Revolution in Theology” Part I

Last week I introduced my small readership to Thomas Allin’s book “The Augustinian Revolution in Theology” (please see An Introduction to “The Augustinian Revolution in Theology”). In that post I selected a quote where Pastor Allin discussed how Augustine’s theology had changed over time, moving from an orthodox Latin theology in his early writings to what we now recognize as distinctly Augustinian. That distinctive Augustinian theology is what I will spend the rest of this series laying out. Most modern theologians and pastors are so taken with Augustine’s intellect that they will gloss over the harshness of his theology (if they are even aware of it). Pastor Allin does us all a favor by laying bare that harshness in Augustine’s own words.

Take it away Pastor Allin!

We now return to Augustine. What did he teach? What are the special characteristics of Augustinianism? A satisfactory answer is rarely given to these questions. Many writers betake themselves to second hand sources. Some quote from textbooks; others give us disquisitions on the metaphysic or psychology (or what-not) of Augustine. I shall confine myself to the far safer and more accurate – if more humble – course of stating in order, and virtually in his own words, the various points of his system.

We begin with a truly amazing fact – Augustine’s theory of original sin starts from a false rendering. The Greek phrase eph’ hō (a) was by Latin versions rendered as in quo, and St. Paul was thus made to say in quo (b) omnes peccaverunt (in whom all sinned), instead of “because (in that) all sinned.” This false rendering of the Apostle’s words is followed by a false rendering of the Apostle’s thought which runs through every line of Augustinianism. St. Paul dwells on Ruin in order to heighten the idea of Redemption, its grandeur and its universality. Thus, Adam’s sin, of which virtually nothing whatever is said by any Old Testament writer, by any Evangelist, or by Christ, becomes to Augustine all in all. It is invested with quasi-miraculous powers for evil – it is inexhaustible. Per rationem seminis [By the nature of the seed] all the human family sinned in Adam, (c) all sinning de facto [in fact], all damned everlastingly de jure [in right], and the overwhelming majority damned in good earnest. In a passage from Augustine (d) are two words full of significance – carnali generatione [carnal generation]. Here opens a miserable chapter of Augustine in which he drags sin and the sexual relation into the closest relation. Here we may safely find the fountain head of that pruriency which has disgraced so much of the practical theology of the past, and which still defiles the Confessional. Sexual desire transmits the virus of original sin which flows on through libido, thus transmitting the poison from parent to child, through the membra genitalia [genital members] on whose inobedienta [disobedience] Augustine dilates so often.

This theory is primary in his doctrine of original sin, is practically the hinge of which it turns. Sex and sin are thus two watchwords of Augustinianism, two pillars of its temple. I append a few references out of many that might be given. How Augustine revels in such sexual themes may be seen in many passages. (e)

The Augustinian Revolution in Theology
By Thomas Allin

Pp. 139-141

For a list of all posts in this series please see: Posts Quoting From Thomas Allin’s “Augustinian Revolution in Theology”


(a) Romans 5:12
(b) Adam.
(c) “Op. Imp. Contr. Jul.,” [“Against Julian of Eclanum” (?)] iv. 104.
(d) “De peccatorum meritis et remissione,” iii. 8.
(e) “De nuptiis et concupiscentiâ,” i. 5, 8, 24; “De Bono Conj.,” 3, 6; “De Gratiâ Christi et de peccato originali,” 34, 35; “C. d. Pel.,” i. 7, 16, etc.

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