Friday, October 01, 2010

Florovsky on St. Augustine

Allow me to begin by explaining why I'm commenting here, and not on the blog where this originated; Mr. Schultz has turned off "comments" on his blog entries and asks if one would like to comment to send to his private email which is linked to his profile.  Well, those who know me know that I'm not into private debates - nor do I wish to submit my comments to Mr. Schultz for him to deem whether they are worthy of him responding...  I'll let the readers decide that.  So, without further ado, here is Schultz' post (which is appropriately linked), and my words will be inserted in BLUE.

Florovsky on Augustine Moved by the Authority of the Catholic Church

"For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church."1

Many readers of this blog (speaking of "Beggars All") both recognize this quotation from Augustine and know how it is often used to claim that the influential church father held to ecclesiastical beliefs similar to modern Roman Catholicism. What I would like to do is provide corroboration from Eastern Orthodox scholar Georges Florovsky (emphasis original):

The phrase must be read in its context. First of all, St. Augustine did not utter this sentence on his own behalf. He spoke of the attitude which a simple believer had to take, when confronted with the heretical claim for authority. In this situation it was proper for a simple believer to appeal to the authority of the Church, from which, and in which, he had received the Gospel itself: ipsi Evangelio catholicis praedicantibus credidi. [I believed the Gospel itself, being instructed by catholic preachers].
It is a bit ridiculous to say "St. Augustine did not utter this sentence in his own behalf," when he so clearly opens the sentence with, "For MY part..."
The Gospel and the preaching of the Catholica belong together. St. Augustine had no intention "to subordinate" the Gospel to the Church.
It is not a matter of subordination!  The matter is that Jesus Christ empowered His Church to be the "pillar and ground of truth" (1 Tim 3:15), and the REAL point St. Augustine is making is that you won't find this truth among the bishops of the Manichaeans!  Those who have split from the One, True Church do not possess the authority to preach the Truth anymore - even if they are "using" the Gospel/Scriptures - they are not the "pillar and ground of the truth" (ibid.).
He only wanted to emphasize that "Gospel" is actually received always in the context of Church's catholic preaching and simply cannot be separated from the Church. Only in this context it can be assessed and properly understood.
Like I said.  So after Florovsky appears to deny the necessity of the Church in St. Augustine's view - he comes right back and affirms it!  The above two sentences are exactly my sentiments!
Indeed, the witness of the Scripture is ultimately "self-evident," but only for the "faithful," for those who have achieved a certain "spiritual" maturity, — and this is only possible within the Church. He opposed this teaching and preaching auctoritas of the Church Catholic to the pretentious vagaries of Manichean exegesis. The Gospel did not belong to the Manicheans. Catholicae Ecclesiae auctoritas [the authority of the Catholic Church] was not an independent source of faith. But it was the indispensable principle of sound interpretation. Actually, the sentence could be converted: one should not believe the Church, unless one was moved by the Gospel. The relationship is strictly reciprocal.2
Well, other than the first part of the quote from Florovsky, the rest is tenable and even acceptable.  The faithful Catholic would or should have no problem with the overall sentiment expressed here.  Even Florovsky is conceding the reciprocal relationship - as in it goes BOTH ways, whereas our Protestant friends (in some ways similar to the Manichaeans) seem to favor only one side of this reciprocal statement.

It also never ceases to amaze me how many Protestants seek support for their departure from the Catholic Faith through Eastern Orthodoxy.  The Protestant should realize, for the most part, Orthodoxy rejects you even more than they reject tenets of Catholicism!  Orthodoxy sees Protestantism as something purely Western (which it is) and as a "problem for the Latin Church."  Since they already oppose the Latin Church in many ways, this little out-growth from the Latin Church is dismissed as such.  Most in Orthodoxy have no time for Protestants (with the exception of perhaps a few polemicists).  Orthodoxy has MUCH more in common with Catholicism than ANY Protestant cult.


1. Against the Epistle of Manichaeus, ch 5.

2. Fr. Georges Florovsky, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View (Buchervertriebsanstalt, 1987). This excerpt may also be found online


  1. If you're going to omit a sentence from what I've written, it would be helpful to indicate as much by using an ellipsis.

  2. My apologies for the oversight, there was one more sentence which merely stated you were not going to cover some "old ground" (kind of an ironic comment when we're talking about patristics!) - here is that sentence (which I'm also including the whole paragraph for context) for the reader who may not follow the link back to Beggars...

    Many readers of this blog both recognize this quotation from Augustine and know how it is often used to claim that the influential church father held to ecclesiastical beliefs similar to modern Roman Catholicism. This latter assertion has been refuted in a variety of contexts (including three contexts discussed here at this blog), so I have no intention of covering old ground. What I would like to do is provide corroboration from Eastern Orthodox scholar Georges Florovsky...

  3. Or perhaps you meant your parenthetical statement just before the footnotes, which would not have been appropriate here on this blog, since comments are welcome here on CathApol.

    That sentence is:
    (Public comments are closed. Private comments may be sent via e-mail. The address is located on my blogger profile.)

    Again, HERE comments are NOT CLOSED, so readers - please feel free to join in the conversation.

    In JMJ,

  4. Protestants just love to *try* to explain away the Catholic Church in the writings of the Church Fathers. It is comical and convoluted at best. The objective reader, reading St. Augustine's comments in context in his "Confessions" and "The City of God" can't help but see the basis of much of Catholic teaching as we know it today. Arguably, St. Augustine was one of the most influencial philospher/theologians (along with St. Paul and St. Thomas Aquinas among others) of the Church and her teachings. To say that St. Augustine was not Catholic, did not understand the Catholic Church as it is known today, or that he did not support the papacy as we know it, is to be in denial of what he actually wrote.

    As for the quotes I have submitted here, I happen to be reading an English translation of the "Confessions" and the "City of God" and published quotes from them. It would be impossible for me to publish both of those tomes online. I have given online references and when possible online links so the reader can read it 'in context'. Have you seen the size of the "City of God?" My copy is almost 1100 pages. The accusation that St. Augustine is taken out of context by Catholic apologists is simply silly. He is a CATHOLIC DOCTOR who wrote on Catholic theology. Period.

  5. Probably appilies to writing as well:

    "It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood."

    Karl Popper

  6. There was a "link-back" link on the original blog article (Mr. Schultz') but no longer. Hmmmm.

  7. As in I deleted it?

    It's still there last time I checked.

  8. Hello Matthew,
    Well, it was gone - it is back now. I'm not accusing you, or any one in particular - but the link was there, then it wasn't now it is.



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