November 30, 2012

escape from Augustinianism - an exhortation

St. Augustine's influence upon Western Christianity is second to none.  However, his theology, primarily due to the neoplatonic philosophy which influenced it, moved Christianity away from the primitive Church, and thus the Apostolic faith, in a number of ways.

The Eastern Church wasn't as "infected" by Augustine's theology and never adopted some of his 'novel' theological ideas (double predestination, extreme notions of total depravity, unBiblical notions of God's love, a warped view of human sexuality and and overall concept of God that is shaped more by Neoplatonism than the Bible).

Thankfully there are a growing number of theologians and philosophers who are unraveling (and abandoning) these pagan influences upon Western Christianity and I believe we are seeing a resurrection of the most primitive, Apostolic understanding of God's nature, man's condition and the very core of God's essence - His love.  Largely due to Augustine's inordinate influence upon Western theologians (both Catholic and Protestant), God's love has rarely, if ever, been given primacy.

As philosopher/theologian Thomas Jay Oord has stated it, "Love has not been the orienting concern, organizing principle, or primary lens through which theologians have written theology" (The Nature of Love: a Theology).

Only when love is primary will His other attributes, such as His sovereignty, holiness, glory, justice, power, knowledge, etc. be brought into Biblical balance and set Christianity apart from every other religion on the planet.

Contrary to what many think, God's love and in particular the expression "steadfast love" is in fact used to describe God's Nature more than any other concept - and that was before the revelation of God in Christ.  The New Testament only serves to strengthen this Old Testament truth.

To whatever extend Augustine's theology reflects the faith and practice of the New Testament Church, we do well to embrace it, but when he doesn't (and he OFTEN didn't), may we endeavor to escape from Augustinianism and recover "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints".