Augustine, the former gnostic, and his many heretical views

Augustine, a former gnostic, lived between 354 and 430 AD, and introduced the following heretical views into church and made them popular

1. Absolute predestination (God decides who will be saved/doomed)
2. Impossibility of falling away or apostasy (Eternal Security)
3. Man has no free will (monergism)
4. One cannot know if he/she is saved (since also those who are carnal minded might be saved)
5. God commands impossibilities (God requesting man to stop sinning which he cannot do)
6. The supreme authority of the Roman church
7. Purgatory
8. Prayers for the dead
9. The damnation of unbaptized infants and adults
10. Sex is sinful also within a marriage because depravity is inherited (hence the rise of monasteries)
11. Mary never committed sin, and we do well to worship her/pray to/through her
12. The gifts of healing, prophecy and tongues have ceased
13. Apocrypha is included in the Scriptures
14. Eucharist is necessary for salvation
15. Giving people the official “saint” title

Unlike Pelagius, Augustine didn’t understand much Greek. The historian Neander observed that Augustine’s teaching “contains the germ of the whole system of spiritual despotism, intolerance, and persecution, even to the court of the Inquisition”. He instigated bitter persecutions against the Bible-believing Donatists who were striving to maintain pure churches after the apostolic faith.

Augustine interpreted Bible prophecy allegorically; among other things teaching that the Catholic Church is the kingdom of God.

Augustine was one of the fathers of the heresy of infant baptism, claiming that unbaptized infants were lost, and calling all who rejected infant baptism “infidels” and “cursed”.

Augustine exalted church tradition above the Bible and said,”I should not believe the gospel unless I were moved to do so by the authority of the Catholic Church”. 

He was among the first who taught a-millennialism and that the nephilim were descendents of Cain instead of (as the Bible says) a mixture of angels and female human beings.

Augustine said:

“By Adam’s transgression, the freedom of’ the human will has been completely lost.”

“By the greatness of the first sin, we have lost the freewill to love God.”

“By subverting the rectitude in which he was created, he is followed with the punishment of not being able to do right” and “the freedom to abstain from sin has been lost as a punishment of sin.”

According to Wikipedia we can learn: 

He was contemporary with Jerome and Ambrosius. In his early years he was heavily influenced by Manichaeism and afterward by the Neo-Platonism. Although he later abandoned Neoplatonism some ideas are still visible in his early writings. After his conversion to Christianity, Augustine developed his own approach to philosophy and theology, accommodating a variety of methods and different perspectives. He believed that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom, and he framed the concepts of original sin and just war.

When the Western Roman Empire was starting to disintegrate, Augustine developed the concept of the Catholic Church as a spiritual City of God (in a book with the same name). The Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion view him as an pre-eminent Doctor of the Church, and the patron of the Augustinian religious order. Many Protestants, especially Calvinists, consider him to be one of the theological fathers of Reformation.   Much of Augustine’s later life was recorded by his friend Possidius, bishop of Calama (present-day Guelma, Algeria), in his Sancti Augustini Vita. Possidius admired Augustine as a man of powerful intellect and a stirring orator who took every opportunity to defend Christianity against its detractors. Reformed theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin would look back to him as their inspiration.

Compared with Augustine,  Pelagius was way more consistent with the Bible and shared the same Bible interpretation as the church fathers before him. (Read more about him in another blog post in the same Category.)

18 thoughts on “Augustine, the former gnostic, and his many heretical views

  1. Thanks for a good post on a man who has so influenced Christian thought, even though he would be considered a heretic today. It truly aggravates me that so many protestants quote him as if he was a great church father.

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  2. I recommend people read Augustine for themselves. You will find much that edifies and enlightens–unlike this article which misrepresents the bishop of Hippo badly.

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    • Hey David
      Yes, it’s good advice to read Augustine’s own material (and Pelagius own material), where it’s apparent what he truly believed – even if we changed his mind a few times. The church fathers before him had totally different Bible views, and Augustine brought in a lot of heresies into church.
      God bless

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  3. Thanks for an interesting post. I enjoyed the City of God at one time but always found the Confessions unbearable, so like Erasmus I was never a big fan. But since Luther found his indespensible I figured he must be so. Yet the more one digs in to him the more Gnostic and confused he seems to be. I’m with you. An inflated esteem for Augustine is responsible for much confusion in the Catholic Church but even more so in the Protestant since the Reformers were preoccupied with essentially Augustinian problems. So much so that one historian has famously joked that the Reformation was a quarrel in the mind of Augustine. The Orthodox churches don’t esteem him as a Saint of church father I don’t believe. As a historical figure he remains vital. While his conclusions aren’t the end all be all and he may be heretical in many ways we should all be conversant in his ideas for the sake of all believers.
    I do think we need to be freed from a kind of theological narcissism which is so stifling and so characteristically Augustinian.

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    • Hey Nick!

      You seem to know, in depth, what you’re talking about since you’ve taken the time to read Augustine’s books.
      You said “As a historical figure he remains vital.”. Yes, he is still a person who influences the churches (particularly through Calvin and Luther) even though he lived a long time ago.

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  4. Just wanted to add that this argument has rested its ugly head numerous times in Church history, perhaps the best example being the controversy between the Jansenists and the Jesuits in the 17th century. Sufficient grace vs Efficacious grace. A needless splitting of hairs. It’s both. As John says in the Gospel, “grace for grace.”

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    • You wrote: ” perhaps the best example being the controversy between the Jansenists and the Jesuits in the 17th century. ”

      Never heard of the Jansenists so I’m behind in my studies 🙂 Yes, the issue/debate concerning grace is always current.

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    • Augustine definitely brought a lot of falsehood into church. I believe the Biblical teaching that we are NOT saved by faith alone. Faith without works is dead.

      Ja. 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and NOT by faith only.

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      • I’ve started to suspect that Augustine’s Faith is the equivalent to Mani’s Gnosis and Calvin’s Regeneration. I think Jesus wanted our faith to be an attitude, not a creed. That’s why he ordered his disciples not to interrupt those performing exorcisms according to his will.
        In fact, I think you don’t need to know Jesus by name to do his will, lest his crucifixion damn the unreached and the Gospel become an ultimatum instead of Good News. Some people have been raped in the Church and still love Jesus though they hate the “Jesus” their abusive parents taught them.

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      • << the Gospel become an ultimatum instead of Good News.

        Gospel means "good news".

        <<Some people have been raped in the Church and still love Jesus though they hate the "Jesus" their abusive parents taught them.

        Very true, and it's also our responsibility to look for God ourselves.

        Acts 17:26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:

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  5. Purgatory is much older than Augustine, and is not a Gnostic idea, but a Phariseic one. Augustine is the one who popularized the Gnostic damnation (eternal life in hell) instead of an actual second death or paying the last farthing once you stop worshipping the Beast.

    As for the Apocrypha, I have no idea why you trust the Masoretes instead of the Apostolic and Early Fathers who used and knew the Septuagint, which is closer to the DSS than the Masoretic Text or Vulgate.

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    • Hello there
      When it comes to the Apocrypha I haven’t claimed that I “trust” one version over another, and neither do I blindly trust the content of the books I quote. Moreover, all books under the label of Apocrypha might not be trustworthy, and the individual books shouldn’t be judged as a group. There are secular lost books (like the book of Jasher) which seems to be very reliable even thought it’s not divine.

      God bless

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