Friday, November 14, 2008
Will we ever get past Augustine?
Lately I've been doing a lot of reading for my studies and this has included a vast array of writing from the Early Church Fathers, Augustine, Calvin, Wesley and many more. I have to say that there is a clear and distinct turning point around the 5th century. Prior to this point, theology was extremely optimistic with regard to the possibilities of human life. "Perfection" is a word in the Early Church Fathers that is used with complete liberality, with no apparent fear of misinterpretation or accusation of heresy or otherwise. Then along came Augustine. Or should I say along came Pelagius? Clearly there were many factors that influenced Augustine in the way that he formed his theology, and his writings against Pelagius held an incredibly pessimistic view of the possibility of human perfection through Christ. I recognise that this is because of completely opposite views of Pelagius and his understanding of the effects of sin on the human person. I get that... But why is it that Augustine's pessimism has had such a continuing pervasive effect on the theology of the Christian Church? Calvin is the same, and so are many others I'm sure. Surely there must be a place somewhere in the middle where we can recognise not just Original Sin, but also Original Blessing? Surely if Christ's sacrificial death really is an atoning sacrifice then the benefits of this on a Christian are immediate in this life, not just the next. Will there ever come a time when someone can express a view different to Augustine without being accused of being Pelagian? Is that possible? Will that time ever come? Surely if God is sovereign (which I believe) and Jesus' death and resurrection was effective (which I believe) then can't it be that the Holy Spirit can actually cleanse a person from their sin, not just eliminate the "guilt" of sin. Will that time ever come? Or am I just a hopeless optimist?
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