History of Philosophy and Christian Thought - Lesson 29


Augustine writes to refute Pelagianism by focusing on the biblical teaching about sin.

Ronald Nash
History of Philosophy and Christian Thought
Lesson 29
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Augustinian Philosophy

Part 5

V. Pelagianism

A. Major Beliefs

1. Denies Original Sin

2. Denies Total Depravity

3. Denies Causal Connection with Adam

4. Ability to Achieve Moral Perfection

5. Salvation by Works

B. Augustine's View on Sin

1. Posse Non Peccare

a. Able not to sin

b. Adam before the fall

2. Non Posse Non Peccare

a. Not able not to sin

b. All mankind after the fall

3. Non Posse Peccare

a. Not able to sin

b. All mankind in heaven

c. Christ

  • Thales and Anaximander were two philosophers in the sixth century BC that lived in Miletus.

  • Heraclitus and Pythagoras lived into the 5th century BC.

  • Any worldview addresses the subjects of God, ultimate reality, human knowledge, ethics and human persons.

  • Fundamental beliefs of a naturalistic worldview is that nothing exists outside the physical universe and that all things evolved.

  • Plato was a student of Socrates and lived into the fourth century BC. He opposed hedonism, empiricism, relativism, materialism, atheism and naturalism.

  • Plato described the universe as having three levels: the world of particulars, the world of forms, and the form of the good.

  • Plato's view of the universe was dualistic.

  • One of Plato's fundamental arguments is that the human soul is immortal.

  • Evaluation of Plato's arguments and comparison of Plato's philosophy with biblical theology.

  • Empiricism teaches that all human knowledge arises from sense experience. Rationalism teaches that some human knowledge does not arise from sense. experience

  • Aristotle was a student of Plato and lived in the fourth century BC.

  • Aristotle rejected Plato's doctrine of two worlds.

  • Discussion of Aristotelian philosophy as it relates to the incarnation.

  • Aristotle's philosophy as it relates to attributes of God and fundamental assumptions about psychology.

  • Aristotle made a distinction between passive intellect and active intellect.

  • Discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the law of non-contradiction.

  • Discussion of the nature and substance of matter.

  • Hellenistic philosophy was an approach that was popular from the fourth century BC to the fifth century AD.

  • Stoics were determinists who believed in living according to nature.

  • Hedonism emphasized pleasure as the greatest good. "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we might be dead."

  • Philo's philosophy was based on a synthesis of Stoicism and Platonism.

  • Implicit "Logos" Christianity is an underlying theme in the book of Hebrews.

  • Plotinus lived in the third century AD and is considered the founder of Neoplatonism.

  • Augustine is a Latin church father, is considered by many to be one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity.

  • Augustine wrote Confessions as an autobiographical work to record his experience as a sinful youth and his experience becoming a follower of Christ.

  • Augustine wrote to refute some heresies of the day by focusing on the concepts of faith and reason.

  • Augustine writes about the problem of evil and describes evil as the absence of good.

  • Augustine writes to refute Pelagianism by focusing on the biblical teaching about sin.

  • Augustine writes to refute Donatism.

  • The fundamental idea of skepticism is that no one can know anything. Augustine this statement contradicts itself because the skeptic is claiming that you can know that you can't know anything.

  • When Augustine wrote "The City of God," he had a linear view of history.

  • In Augustine's theory of knowledge, he says that eternal reason and human reason are two different levels of reason.

  • Augustine was personally convinced of the importance of divine illumination.

  • The intellectual background of Thomas Aquinas was influenced by the discovery of ancient manuscripts, the rise of universities, the rise of religious brotherhoods and the rise of Muslim philosophy.

  • Aquinas describes faith as whatever a human can know through special revelation, and reason as whatever a human can know outside of special revelation.

  • Aquinas attempts to prove God's existence.

  • Aquinas describes four kinds of law as eternal, divine, natural and positive.

  • The rationalists and empiricists set the stage for Kant and other philosophers of the modern era.

  • Kant argued that moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality he dubbed the “Categorical Imperative."

  • Kants two worlds are the phenomenal world and the noumenal world.

  • Discussion of criticisms and questions about Kant's ideas.

  • Similarities between Kant's ideas and postmodernism.

  • The dialectic is a central idea in Hegel's philosophy.

  • Ideally, Marxism begins with class struggle, then revolution, dictatorship of the proletariat, withering away of the state, and a utopian classless society.

  • Discussion of four faces of Marxism.

  • Nietzsche proclaimed that, "God is dead." His cure was to live life knowing there is no ultimate meaning. Kierkegaard emphasized a worldview based on true faith.

In this class, you will explore the rich history of philosophy and its relationship with Christian thought. The course begins with an introduction to the definition and importance of philosophy in Christian theology. You will then delve into the evolution of philosophical thought from the Pre-Socratic era, through the Classical Greek philosophers, and into the Hellenistic period. As you progress, you will discover how early Christian thought emerged and developed during the Patristic period, with a special focus on Augustine. The class continues with an examination of medieval Christian thinkers, such as Anselm and Thomas Aquinas, and concludes with an analysis of modern philosophers like Descartes, Kant, and Kierkegaard, and their influence on contemporary Christian thought.

Dr. Ronald Nash

History of Philosophy and Christian Thought



Lesson Transcript

[00:00:01] Now, the second controversy that concerned Augustine after his conversion is lumped into his books that are called the Anti Pele gene controversy. Pelagius was a British monk. Pelagius was a British monk who began to travel in the region of Italy. He visited Rome. He visited North Africa. He really wanted to meet Augustine, but they never pulled it off. And once Augustine became acquainted with Pelagius ideas, Augustine wanted nothing to do with him. Plagiarism is one of the major heresies of the Christian church. Segments of plagiarism, in fact. Roman Catholic theology. Roman Catholic sometimes get angry. This is Roman Catholic leaders. They sometimes get angry when people like me call them collegians. They say, Well, we are semi collegians. Don't give any credibility to that Armenian ism. Ooh. Now, some of you may really. Your hair may be standing here. My hair never stands up. But yours may. But the truth is, friends are many in ism, not Armenian ism. An Armenian is a person from a certain part of the Middle East. But Armenian ism is a form of plagiarism. Now, some kinds of. Some types of Armenians try to escape the heretical implications of their view. Let me give you some of the major beliefs of plagiarism. Okay. And we'll do this very quickly. First of all, Pele just denied. He said there is no such thing as original sin. He denied original sin. Now, let me explain. Original sin. Original sin is the Christian doctrine that every human being is born with a sinful nature. You do not have to teach human beings how to sin. That's the easiest thing for a human being to do. Now I have two grandchildren. It must be clear to you that any children born in an environment that includes me and my wife must be a magnificently honorable environment.


[00:02:51] Okay. Why, then, do my grandchildren sin? They do. They fight. They complain. They tease each other. Now, where does that come from? Yeah, my. My daughter in law's side of the family. No, no, folks, that won't work. All right. You do not have to teach children how to sin. You do? What do you do as a parent? You've got to restrain that evil. You've got to discipline children, you know, in a loving kind of way. Andrew. Stop doing that. And these are good kids, but they have, you know, they're born with sinful natures. Okay. Police just denied that. Moreover, the Bible teaches. Well, this is police. This is Augustine. Every human being is born with a sinful nature. Original sin Pelagius also denied. Total depravity. No, Total depravity. Now, there's a big confusion here. Just because every human being is totally depraved does not mean that we're all as wicked as we could possibly be. I am totally depraved, but believe me, I could be a whole lot worse than I am. As could you. People sometimes say to me, Man, why do you have these problems? To which the proper answer is, You should have known me 45 years ago. C.S. Lewis again. Now Lewis has his problems. All right. Lewis has his problems. And I won't go any further into them. But Lewis talks somewhere, I think, in mere Christianity about some people from non-Christian religions who live better lives than some Christians do. And don't deny that, you know, this could be this could be a Hindu holy person. And I'm putting up quotation marks here. Or a muslim holy man. Although that's a little harder to conceive these days, isn't it? Total depravity. Now, total depravity does not mean that here is a here are two glasses of water.


[00:05:36] Okay. And let us say that in the case of the first glass of water, we drop in there, we add three drops of black ink. Okay. So the water is colored to a great extent, but every molecule of that water is tainted, is colored. But now let's suppose we pour in to our glass of water, five bottles of black ink so that the water becomes totally black. Once again, every molecule of the water is tainted is is touched by the black ink. But the intensity of the corruption is greater in one glass than the other. Well, we could say that this, but this glass represents. Here's a rogues gallery of wicked men in our in our in the last 100 years. This represents Adolf Hitler and his Nazi criminals. All right. Here's Joseph Stalin and his Soviet criminals. Here is Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda kata, or however you pronounce it. And there's the Taliban. And and we could add lots of other people. So every human being is totally depraved because every aspect of our being is corrupted by sin. But some human beings are worse than others. Now, as C.S. Lewis said, with respect to so-called holy people from other religions, they may very well live a better life. But that doesn't that doesn't prove anything about their religious system. You've got to look. This is C.S. Lewis. You've got to look at where a person was before his Christian conversion. Some of us are more rotten than others. All right. And thus, if we're more rotten than others, maybe some of us have got farther to go in the journey towards sanctification than others. I you know, I had I've had friends in my lifetime who would often make me wish that I was starting off from the same.


[00:07:56] But I had I had different parents had I had different as. Positions. And when I look at a person who is, you know, really it's humanly speaking, a pretty good person but doesn't know Jesus. I keep saying what I would like to say to them is just think what you could be and what you could do if you came to Christ. Okay. I think that might help you someday. All right. So Pilate just denied total depravity. Augustine taught it. We are totally depraved. Okay. Now, I'll go over here to the Augustine Page. Augustine? The Bible. Calvin, Any biblical Christian recognizes that our sinful state in life is a is an effect of Adam's fall, that there is a causal connection between our sinful state and the fall of Adam. What happened in the Garden? Just exactly how that causal connection works is subject to different theological explanations. You know, is it hereditary? You know, but it is a causal connection. I am a sinner today because I fell when Adam fell. Paula Jones deny that causal connection. They say that Adam's sin affects us only insofar as Adam was a role model, human being sin. By following Adam's example, not because we have an inherit. We have inherited a fallen nature from Adam. Okay. Now, the genes also teach that, therefore, it is within the reach of every human being to achieve moral perfection. It's up to me. See, for Calvin, it is grace. For Pelagius, it is works. Anybody who teaches that human beings can save themselves through their own works is apologia. And that is clearly contrary to the New Testament and the Old Testament. It's clearly contrary to the reformed understanding of situation, of the situation and so on. Now, as things proceeded, Augustine finally was moved.


[00:10:33] And you must understand this Augustine changed his mind about a lot of things. And finally, about 400 A.D., he began. He was he was reformed. He taught a gospel of grace. I'm going to I'm going to be Fay truthful to you. I'm going to invent that. There's one big mistake. But nonetheless, he taught that we cannot save ourselves. We are saved only and exclusively by the grace of God. And in fact, Augustine finally came to believe. He wrote a book called On the Predestination of the Saints. He really did believe something like the Five Points of Calvinism, If you don't remember what those are, the acronym is Tulip. Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints. Augustine also wrote a book called On the Perseverance of the Saints. People become believers only because God chose them before He created the world. But Augustine did make one mistake. He was infected by a series of errors that eventually corrupted what Today is the Roman Catholic Church. He came to believe that God's grace which saves can be mediated in the sacraments, and thus baptism becomes a means of salvation. Bad stuff. And the other sacraments become a means of salvation. So it's a mixed bag for Augustine. And you can go on and read more about that. There is just one more thing I want to say about Augustine's relationship with plagiarism. He distinguished three Latin expressions, which do a nice job of explaining where human beings are with respect to salvation. Now, I've got to put the needle on the record here. Here we go. The first of these expressions was posed a known picture. This is still anti plagiarism. Let me. Playing the Latin word Sare posse is the Latin word.


[00:13:06] That means to be able to to be able to think of possibility. Known, of course, as the Latin word for not and picture is the Latin infinitive that means to sin. This was the condition of Adam in the Garden of Eden. He was also known Pocari, which means he was able not to sin. I guess we might say that Augustine is implying here, perhaps, that Adam may have been the only human being had who had free will. Now, no Calvinist is going to be dumb enough to say that, but I'm, you know, I'm trying to figure out all that Augustine might have been implying here. Adam was able not to sin. Notice he wasn't righteous, he was innocent. He had not yet sinned. And so presumably he had the power, the ability not to sin before the fall. Then after the fall, every human being is known, pulsing, known pocari. That's every human being, including the fallen. Adam, This includes you and me. We are not able not to sin. We're known policy known Pocari. Every one of us is prone to sin in this way or that way. Now we all have our peculiar vices. Some people are not tempted in the ways that other people are tempted. Okay. But we all are tempted fatally in some ways, or others. Known policy known Pocari. That's all of us. Now, after after our salvation is complete in heaven, we will be known. Posts a picture. We will be. This is heaven. We will been unable to sin. Now, can you imagine someone saying, Oh, you mean I can't sin at all? Shucks, even on Saturday nights, heaven must be a boring place. People like that don't have to worry because they're not going to be in heaven, right? People like that don't have to worry if we have these three possibilities.


[00:15:47] What do we believe about the Incarnate Christ? There are some theologians who and you probably know this, there are some theologians who do believe that Jesus had the possibility of sinning, but always gained the victory over it. He never succumbed to it. He was sinless. We had all better agree that Jesus was sinless, but could he have sinned if he wanted to? Others say that's a pretty futile exercise because maybe we can't know the answer or something else. But I'll tell you the answer that I always come up with whenever I'm asked this. And I, I remember going through a little struggle trying to figure out my position on this 45 years ago. And once I made the decision, I've never repented of it. My answer has to be this Jesus could not have sinned. Why read my book? The concept of God? Read the chapter on Divine. Well, if you take apologetics, you'll read that in I study the question Can God sin? And my answer is no. And I list several things that God can't do. He cannot violate the law of non the law of non contradiction. Oh, yes. He cannot do that, too. He cannot sin. All right. And three, he cannot change the past. And I give all of my arguments.