Augustine’s kind of Platonism doesn’t really depend on those details. This view is illogical for Augustine, as the Greek notion that the blessedness of a human soul merging into the divine is contradictory with a blessed bodied god. Asiedu, “Augustine’s Christian–Platonist Account of Goodness: A Reconsideration.”, [38] Johannes Brachtendorf, “Orthodoxy without Augustine,”, [45] Maarten Wisse, “Was Augustine a Barthian?,”, [50] Johannes Brachtendorf, “Orthodoxy without Augustine,”, Asiedu, F.B.A. ‘For Augustine, the individual human being is a body-soul composite, but in keeping with his Neoplatonism, there is an asymmetry between soul and body.’ ‘Long after he had shed much of his Neoplatonism, his treatises remained filled with dense punning that displays his delight in language and his verbal virtuosity.’ Not to mention, it is incredibly fascinating. Plato's metaphysics and epistemology shaped Augustine's understanding of God as a source of absolute goodness and truth. Also, because God created Adam upright and uncorrupt, Adam and his offspring could have remained sinless. In some ways his thought paralleled that of the later pagan Neoplatonists, but in others it quite opposed them. Augustine challenges the view that the most blessed souls would be eternally bodiless despite their belief that gods, whose souls are most blessed, are eternally united to their immortal bodies because of the will of the Supreme. This was due to St. Augustine of Hippo, who was influenced by the early Neoplatonists Plotinus and Porphyry, as well as the works of the Christian writer Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, who was influenced by later Neoplatonists, such as Proclus and Damascius. [58] Allan Gomes, “Talbot Theological Seminary, Historical Theology Class Lecture.” La Mirada, October 2004. Augustine’s Philosophical Theology & Neoplatonism, Modern Culture and the Conceit of Affluence, Examining the Evidence for Systemic Racism, How Then Do We Live as Christians in a Broken World, Walking the Line Between Church and State, The Once and Future King: Defending An Orthodox Christology. There’s Plato himself, of course (428-348 BC). This the very genius of their philosophy forbade them to hold, since they looked on matter as impure.”[37] Brachtendorf  adds, “For Augustine, the Neoplatonists see the homeland from a distance but do not find the way there, which is Christ.”[38], Letter to Hermogenianus & Anti-Palagian Writings. Augustine is perhaps best known for incorporating Neoplatonic ideology into Christian doctrine. Also, because God created Adam upright and uncorrupt, Adam and his offspring could have remained sinless. Neoplatonism is defined as a modern term used to describe a period of Platonic philosophy beginning with the work of Plotinus. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Body & Soul. Overall, history has shown that the philosophical principles of Neoplatonism were not detrimental to Augustine positive impact upon the church. From the various philosophical worldviews of the ancient age to even cultic religious movements of his own, Augustine eventually championed a powerful Christianity through a broad and deep framework of culturally & internally pressing systems of thought. This is also called the chief end, or final good. I do not yet fully know…Difficulty, in truth, the difficulty of a foreign tongue, dashed, as it were, with gall all the sweetness of Grecian fable. Augustine shows a vast account of his breadth and depth of knowledge when he begins to teach the reader the 3 branches of Platonic philosophy, rational, moral, and natural. – Confessions Book 4, Chapter 15. In his On Christian Doctrines treatise, Augustine writes, “If those who are called philosophers, and especially the Platonists, have said aught that is true and in harmony with our faith, we are not only not to shrink from it, but to claim it for our own use from those who have unlawful possession of it.”[10] This was one of Augustine’s and other early church fathers’ best doctrines – that truth was a byproduct of God’s general revelation to all of mankind and Christians have even more of a right to use logic, meaning, and truth than any other ancient thinker. [37] Phillip Schaff, Nicene & Port Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Edited by Phillip Schaff. [23], Plotinus felt that Plato needed to be interpreted. It is God’s irresistible grace that establishes such a freedom of the will toward the good. /* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block. Plotinus deliberates in the Enneads how matter, evil, and the soul are related. Expert on Plato and ancient Greek philosophy, Dr. Lloyd Gerson of the University of Toronto said that Plotinus is often called the founder of Neoplatonism and “is one of the most influential philosophers in antiquity after Plato and Aristotle. I often am. Augustine Certain central tenets of neoplatonism served as a philosophical interim for the Christian theologian Augustine of Hippo on his journey from dualistic Manichaeism to Christianity. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. This is also called the chief end, or final good. Our sole hope, our sole confidence, only assured promise, is your mercy.”[44], So for Augustine, rather than philosophy as in Plato, it is only by God’s grace and mercy that we can consider our God to be blessed. “Was Augustine a Barthian?” Ars Disputandi Volume 7 (2007). Augustine sets the stage by showing that Platonic philosophy is the best philosophy of the Greeks. Here again we see the parallel between Augustinian thought and Neoplatonic thought. The neoplatonists interpreted Plato as a thinker who "understood the eternal truth" consistent with later Christian ideology. He states it this way, “not all the faculties of its being retain free play, for Matter hinders their manifestation; it encroaches upon the Soul’s territory and, as it were, crushed the Soul back; and it turns to evil all that it has stolen until the Soul finds strength to advance again. First, at the time of Augustine’s life, the most influential Neoplatonistic thinkers had come and gone, but much of the thoughts of the Neoplatonists were still gaining traction in the intellectual Academies and broader culture. All donations are tax deductible. But because sin entered the world, through Adam, body and soul both die, where the death of the soul is the eternal 2nd death when God forsakes the soul as the body forsakes the soul in the 1st death. The soul must have matter for human existence and that entails a weakening of the soul. Neo-Platonism. This the very genius of their philosophy forbade them to hold, since they looked on matter as impure.”[37], Brachtendorf  adds, “For Augustine, the Neoplatonists see the homeland from a distance but do not find the way there, which is Christ.”[38], So here we have seen in Augustine the interaction and evaluation of Plato and the Neoplatonists. Plotinus’s metaphysics, ontology, and aesthetics would later become very important to Christianity, Humanism, medieval mysticism, the revival of neo-Platonism during the Renaissance, and … [23] In Meno, Plato teaches that the soul always retains the ability to recollect what it once grasped of the forms, when it was disembodied. This can only be done by knowing and imitating God which will lead to blessedness. Lastly, this article will not consider the thoughts of Neoplatonists that lived after Augustine as he would obviously not have been influenced by their views. The Christian apologists Clement of Alexandria and Origen had vied with the incipient Neoplatonic tradition for control of the Platonic heritage. Plato discussed the chief good – which is the highest aim to seek in order to be blessed. [41] Johannes Brachtendorf, “Orthodoxy without Augustine,” Ars Disputandi 6 (2006). */. Neoplatonism was an early influence on Christian thinkers. He thought that man is blessed by the enjoyment of the thing he loves – not by just loving. —. Augustine was born on 13 November 354 at Tagaste, in northern Africa, in an area that is now Algeria, and died in 28 August 430, in Hippo Regius, also in what is modern Algeria. John Rist adds, “In addition to thinking of God as being itself, the Neoplatonists, following Plato, also thought of him as the Good, since they identify being as the Good…Augustine thinks that in so far as a man is called good, that is because he partakes or shares in the unqualified goodness which is God.”[43] To this end, Augustine says that “no man ought to feel secure in this life. Neo-platonism (or Neoplatonism) is a modern term used to designate the period of Platonic philosophy beginning with the work of Plotinus and ending with the closing of the Platonic Academy by the Emperor Justinian in 529 C.E. [17] Fabulous was a term that referred to the theatre. But not just enjoyment of anything, it has to be something worthwhile. H�\SMo�0��W�#H���J�V��i[�Rܺ=8��a�(�~��^v�{f^��X�e The soul is considered the animating part of the human. In 6 (2006). At the age of 17, he was sent to Carthage for his education where he studied philosophy and religion there. It’s ordered so that the man who could be made better from having been worse may not also from having been better become worse. And no doubt I should at least mention a couple of names. This was a departure from the divine will for Creation in Augustine. [35] John Rist, Author of Augustine: Ancient Thought Baptized puts it this way, “The discovery of the importance of Christ as the only way drove Augustine beyond the Platonic books…while the Neoplatonists might speak the truth about God’s nature, they lack the means of access to it. So although the Greek language was not mastered by Augustine, the respect for it is apparent. In 384 in Milan, while being influenced by Ambrose, he encountered many “books of the Platonists.”[7] Michael Mendleson, professor of philosophy at Lehigh University, adds that “the books of the Platonists provided him with a metaphysical framework of extraordinary depth and subtlety, a richly textured tableau upon which the human condition can be plotted…He credits the books of the Platonists with making it possible for him to conceive of a non-physical, spiritual reality”[8] Specifically, the German theologian Johannes Brachtendorf adds, “The Neoplatonists taught Augustine in Milan the metaphysical truths about God, namely that he is immutable, immaterial, highest unity, and highest good.”[9] This is very clear in Augustine’s later books which show an extensive knowledge of philosophy, literature, and theology of Plato and the NeoPlatonists. Gomes, Allan. In the following we can see how much interaction there is between Platonism and Neoplatonism with Christianity in Augustine. However, the purpose here is to understand the parallel in Augustinian thought to NeoPlatonic thought. [26] Lloyd Gerson, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. “Was Augustine a Barthian?”. Augustine, a student of Neoplatonism before his conversion to Christianity, maintained the importance of this influence in his evolution toward the Christian faith. To philosophize is to love God. Augustine teaches the absence of completely “free” choice. [14] Aurelius Augustine, The City of God, Book 8, Chapter 13. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1975. Neoplatonism was a major influence on Christian theology throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages in the West. Lastly, this article will not consider the thoughts of Neoplatonists that lived after Augustine as he would obviously not have been influenced by their views. This would inevitably bring meaning. Have the doctrines of Augustine left a positive impact in Christendom or should his Neoplatonistic thought be disregarded? – Confessions, Book 4, Chapter 15. Neoplatonism was a major influence on Christian theology throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages in the West. [11] Paul wrote of this same general revelation in his writings, namely Romans chapter 1. September 5, 2008. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plotinus/#1 (accessed November 23, 2009). Unlovely, I rushed heedlessly among the lovely things You have made. [55] Michael Mendelson, “Augustine” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2000. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/augustine/#2 (accessed November 12, 2009). Then during a trip to Rome in 383, due to his education in the liberal arts, he began to question Manichaeism when he saw that its understanding of the universe owed more to astrology than astronomy. Augustine of Hippo, adapted some Neoplatonism into his philosophy. For him, Christianity didn’t have an answer since all the Christians were being killed off for their views. But he wrestles with the desire for God as part of the soul’s devotion and design but is impossible without his irresistible grace. to 529, when Justinian closed the Academy at Athens. So as we have seen, he encompasses the Pauline doctrine, the Old Testament transgression and especially Neoplatonism. This was due to St. Augustine of Hippo, who was influenced by the early Neoplatonists Plotinus and Porphyry, as well as the works of the Christian writer Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite, who was influenced by later Neoplatonists, such as Proclus and Damascius. To philosophize is to love God. Thus his nature freely chooses that which is good because he has become by nature a good man. [11], He writes, “Let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master.”[12]. In fact, one might say that theology was and is quite influenced by the powerful forces of culture, authority, war, discrimination, history, egos, and heresy. He was perhaps divinely positioned through those years of rigorous intellectual preparation and internal struggles, ranging from concupiscence to intellectual doubt to cultic following, to discover that he could use their own terms & concepts against them. For the Platonists, sin is a turning away from the true being of reality. This whole of life is called an ordeal. [16] F.B.A. Additionally, to focus this study to a reasonable volume, it is best to consider select views of only the notable Neoplatonists to which Augustine most plausibly could have been influenced by. [23] Aurelius Augustine, The City of God, Book 13, Chapter 19. This was a departure from the divine will for Creation in Augustine. Neoplatonism was a major influence on Christian theology throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages in the West. In doing so, he presented a form of Neoplatonism that could be absorbed into the church of his day, notably in his arguments for the Trinity. Tillich, Paul. But like Plato, Augustine understands that a creature’s being and blessedness is derived from and fulfilled in “in Thee.”, In Platonism and Neoplatonism, evil and suffering in the world are due to an “estrangement from the absolute as the absolute, that is in the sense of falling apart…this falling apart of the one to multiplicity is the relationship of form to matter…returning to the One is a turning away from matter, as it is a turning away from multiplicity.”[45]. Our sole hope, our sole confidence, only assured promise, is your mercy.”[44] So for Augustine, rather than philosophy as in Plato, it is only by God’s grace and mercy that we can consider our God to be blessed. This is like an animal soul, but man also has a rational soul with rational faculties. “Orthodoxy without Augustine.”, Wisse, Maarten. point that Augustine was trying to … Augustine indubitably wanted to make a connection between Platonism and Christianity because he knew that besides the flesh and the internal debates within the Catholic Church the wisdom of the world was the most powerful & compelling force to fight against. [46] Lloyd Gerson, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. He included a new preface to highlight Camus’ relationship with Christianity, especially to St. Augustine. Augustine's Neoplatonism. Neo-Platonism was a philosophical movement inaugurated by Plotinus (AD 204/5 - 270), which reinterpreted the ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. Augustine’s views on time, God’s relationship to time, God’s foreknowledge, God’s providence, predestination, and election (although not discussed here, these were influenced by the Neoplatonic themes and the doctrine of God’s immutability) greatly affected the thought of middle age thinkers such as John Dun Scotus, Boethius, William of Ockham and Molina. [48] Plotinus, Enneads, Treatise 1, Section 10. This highly suggests a continuous life of diligent and fruitful learning. s~cond . Thus, by examining Augustine’s background & training in Greek philosophy & Neoplatonic thought, his interaction with and evaluation of Platonism & Neoplatonism to Christianity in his own writing, and the parallel between Neo-Platonic philosophy & his philosophical theology, it is easy to conclude that his philosophical theology of original sin, free will, and the nature of man was influenced by Neoplatonism. Had Augustine developed essential Christian doctrines because of the prevailing Greek philosophical influences of the early church period or was his thought was purely based on the teaching of Scripture? You were with me, but I was not with You. Enter your email address to reset your password. But, this article considers only the possible influences of Plotinus, Porphyry, and correspondingly, Plato. Let us cut a slice in history and investigate a case study in philosophical influences on theology. It is now the parallels in Augustine’s thought with Neoplatonism that we know shall turn. Within Neo-Platonism was a view that fit Augustine – an emphasis on the intellect, the ability of humans to understand and learn, a rational belief that was not outlandish like the Manichees, and human responsibility resulting from free will. Regarding his departure, Mendelson writes, “It is often helpful to view his thought as presenting a gradual movement away from a Greek intellectualism towards a voluntarism emphasizing the profound ignorance and difficulty of the human condition, as well as the need for divine aid to overcome the ignorance and difficulty.”[15], Additionally, Professor of Religion F.B.A. Moreover the relevance of Greek thought to Christian thought was not the only parallel connection Augustine delivered. He went so far as to ponder that Plato could have even read the Pentateuch, as Plato’s conception of how the world began could just have been a strange take on Genesis 1:1 where “the Spirit of God moved over the waters.” Plato mentions the water, air, earth, and fire were mutually united at Creation. [54] Thus, a sinless Adam, for Augustine, would have been immortal. Augustine was a Manichee for nine years. [5] Phillip Schaff, Nicene & Port Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Edited by Phillip Schaff. The will is not coerced. Secondly, the terms “Neoplatonism” & “Neoplatonist” were not applied to the thinkers of modified Platonism till last few centuries of our modern era. Plato & other NeoPlatonists thought that the soul is an immaterial substance, part of the world of forms, separate from the body which continues to exist after physical death. [25] Aurelius Augustine, The City of God, Book 10, Chapter 30. 1. For they suppose that the blessedness of the soul then only is complete, when it is quite denuded of the body, and returns to God a pure and simple naked soul.”[31]. [3], He writes, “But why did I so much hate the Greek, which I studied as a boy? [52] Aurelius Augustine, Confessions, Book 7, Chapter 16. Although not an expert, Augustine learned Greek in school and continued to learn it to study the Scriptures. But modern scholarship passes over in silence what Augustine does say in Confessiones 7.9.13–14, presumably agreeing with Gilson that Augustine’s claims can’t be taken seriously. In spirit, it’s much closer to the real Plato, because it adopts the overall outlook of Plato without a lot of the additions and complications of later Platonists. Without question there is more interaction with Plato and the Neoplatonists in his Confessions and The City of God than in any of his other works and within those works he interacts with Plato and the Neoplatonists view more than with any other ancient author or view. This gives indication that Augustine understands their view so much so that he works with it, laboriously at times, using it to highlight points of Christian doctrine. The founder of Neoplatonism was a third-century Greek philosopher named Plotinus. New York, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886, see page 336. You were with me, but I was not with You. Neoplatonism is incomplete; its underlying weakness is that it is theoretical, without the power to instigate right action.”[36], In Confessions, Book 7 Chapter 9 to the end of the book, Augustine compares the doctrine of the NeoPlatonists concerning the Logos with the “much more excellent doctrine of Christianity.” He refutes the NeoPlatonists by showing Scripture after Scripture that Jesus was in fact divine and coeternal with the Father, the same substance. This could be considered a type of NeoPlatonic ethics where man’s habits form character and he acts in accordance with his character. 1. 3 (July 2002): 328-343. Thus, the implications of the doctrines of Augustine have left an overwhelmingly positive impact on the church – this cannot be understated. In his epistemology Augustine was Neoplatonic, especially in the subjectivity of his doctrine of illumination —in its insistence that in spite of the fact that God is exterior to humans, human minds are aware of him because of his direct action on them (expressed in terms of the shining of his light on the mind, or sometimes of teaching) and not as the result of reasoning from sense experience.
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