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Augustine's Corruption of Christianity
Although Augustine repudiated his belief in Manichaeism in the process of his conversion to Christianity,
its residual influence is apparent in his attitudes and values,
and the doctrines which developed from his influence in the Christian Church.
was characterized by intense pessimism about the potentialities of human nature and any inherent goodness (total depravity), relieved only by confidence in the existence of a godly élite (the elect). Manichees were "passionate, self-disciplined, righteous and obstinate" (Johnson 1976:114). Manichees demanded an exceptionally long catechumenate. They were secretive and had their own network of contacts.
Augustine joined them at age twenty and remained a catechumen for nine years. Augustine travelled to Rome, and later to Milan, with their help, which provided him with contacts and jobs.
Augustine began reading Neoplatonic writings (probably Plotinus, Porphyry, etc..) and accepted their view of the incorporeal nature of God, and the existence of evil. From then on throughout his life, Augustine understood the incorporeal nature of God and the existence of evil in Neoplatonic terms (JL Gonzalez 1986:21).
Augustine had known essential Christian doctrine from his mother, but while in Milan (at age 32) he was deeply impressed by bishop Ambrose and became his convert, being aware that he was joining something vast and universal with Rome at its centre. He recounts that, affected by the spiritual dedication of certain men and ashamed of himself, he threw himself down under a fig tree in tears and there resolved to dedicate himself. His subsequent writings however present more of a Neoplatonic view than Christian, and its was some time before the characteristically Christian tone of his writings would later emerge.
Manicheeist passionate obstinacy and conscienceless extremism shows in Augustine's behaviour toward the Donatist Christian majority of his North Africa. (The Donatists rejected bishops that had betrayed their flock during the persecutions).
His persecution
of fellow Christians
In his systematic cruelty toward these Donatist Christians (he incited the authorities to persecute them), he expresses his awe of the status of a universal church (as he learned from Ambrose), by preaching of them –
"The clouds roll with thunder that the House of the Lord shall be built throughout the earth; and these frogs (the Donatists) sit in their marsh and croak – 'We are the only Christians!'."
this line, he wrote to a Donatist friend concerning the use of force, that he had seen his own town (previously Donatist) –
"brought over to Catholic unity by fear of the imperial edicts".
  Augustine also writes –
"The necessity of harshness is greater in investigation than in the infliction of punishment"
and so consistently justified the use of force in general to ensure conformity to the Christian faith, citing and twisting Luke 14:23 ('compel them to come in') – thus opening the theological door to all the cruel atrocities of a later Inquisition.
Manichee pessimism of human potential shows in Augustine's words concerning understanding nature.
He writes –
"There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity... It is this which drives us to discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing, and which men should not wish to learn." (Quoted in Lantern Vol.XX VIII, No.3, p.71.)
The Image of God.
Manichee pessimism of human potentialities came to the fore particularly in Augustine's vehement opposition to the British reformer Pelagius. Although Pelagius' theology has some echoes of modern positive-thinking combined with self-denial and generosity toward the poor, he raised issues that exposed the Manichaeism inherent in Augustine's theology.
Pelagius writes –
"No one knows better the measure of our strength than He who gave us our strength; and no one has a better understanding of what is within our power than He who endowed us with the very resources of our power.
He has not willed to command anything impossible, for He is righteous; and He will not condemn a man for what He could not help, for He is holy."
continues that a Christian should therefore have the fortitude of Job. He should "feel the pain of others as if it were his own and be moved to tears by the grief of other men", unlike Augustine's dry-eyed collaboration in Donatist victimization.
this attempt to rebut this, Augustine fell back on divine sovereignty.
No one had the right to question God concerning His behaviour. By His "divine decree" alone God established "an unshakeable number of the elect". Pelagius' human choice was unthinkable, for had not "that corpulent dog, weighed down with Scotch porridge" denied original sin? Infants needed baptism for this very reason! Human suffering, deserved or not, occurred because God was angry. "This life, for mortals, is the wrath of God. The world is a small-scale Hell". "This is the Catholic view: a view that can show a just God in so many pains and in such agonies of tiny babies", Augustine said.
his confrontation with Julian of Eclanum, a Pelagius supporter, Augustine asserted that the genitals were appropriately made by God as instruments for the transmission of original sin:
"Ecce unde! That's the place! That's the place from which the first sin is passed on!".
response, Julian of Eclanum insisted that Augustine's twisted views on sex were a direct result of his early Manichee training.
Julian retorted –
" saying that men are so incapable of virtue that in the very womb of their mothers they are filled with bygone sins ...and, what is disgusting as it is blasphemous, this view of yours fastens, as its most conclusive proof, on the common decency with which we cover our genitals."
ensure the Roman state's co-operation in the enforcement of Church edicts against Pelagius obtained under Augustine's influence, eighty fine Numidian stallions were shipped from North Africa to Italy and distributed among the imperial cavalry commanders. Groups of Pelagian supporters in various parts of the empire were then identified and forcefully broken up.
St. Augustine's bribes
Passed onward through the years, Augustine's perspectives were most fully incorporated into Luther's Reformation through John Calvin's development of a logically consistent theology that more effectively protected this inscrutable sovereignty of God.
the renewal of Christianity needed to reach further than a Church Father's perspective on the Scriptures. It needed a direct personal acquaintance with the Christ of the Bible which shared His own holy perspective.
For this purpose He gave His Spirit.
Be encouraged therefore for the faithfulness of the Spirit of God Himself will yet ensure the ultimate outcome as Christ continues to build His Church.
Bibliography: • Gonzalez, Justo L. 1971 A History of Christian Thought Vol.2. US:Abingdon Press.
• Johnson, Paul 1976 A History of Christianity London, UK: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

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