WHAT WAS TATIAN’S HERESY?

OR

WAS AUGUSTINE THE FATHER OF TOTAL DEPRAVITY?

Kurt Dahlin  September 1, 1996, Rev: December 4, 2002

 

 Augustine:    “the whole mass was condemned as if in a vitiated root,”

 (City of God 14.26).  

 

“the whole human race has been condemned in its first origin,”

(City of God 22.22).   

 

“that in one man the whole human race was originally, and as one may say, radically, condemned;” (Enchiridion 48).

 

There is much consensus building by Western scholars ascribing to the genius of Augustine a doctrine of original sin that leaves Adam and all his descendants corrupt, depraved and condemned by nature. Augustine is heralded as the Father of total depravity. He taught that Adam was abandoned by God, enslaved to sin, unable to do good and hopelessly corrupt. As a result of the sin of Adam all human beings, at birth, become a  “mass of perdition.” J. B. Mozley believed that it was Augustine’s preeminent contribution to add the total corruption of Adam to the Church’s theology of the fall (117, 118). Augustine taught that our totally depraved nature necessitated a divine decree by which God irresistibly elects some to eternal life. The rest of the “mass of perdition” are left to themselves to be punished eternally. God could save them all but for some incomprehensible reason he does not. The denial of Adam’s salvation is the starting point that leads to the “mass of perdition” theory which in turn leads to a double decree: some elected to eternal life and some elected to eternal hell.  Augustine, also, considered lawful sexual intercourse within marriage to be corruption (City of God 14.16,18,21,23,24). The offspring of even Christians are children of wrath, damned at birth (Enchiridion 52). All the progeny of Adam, apart from any actual sin, inherit the original sin and ensuing guilt of Adam. Augustine’s doctrine of original sin is usually accepted as the norm in the West.


Walker wrote,

Though his influence in the East was to be relatively slight, owing to the nature of the questions with which he was primarily concerned, all Western Christianity was to become his debtor. Such superiority as Western religious life came to possess over that of the East was primarily his bequest to it. He was to be the father of much that was most characteristic in mediaeval Roman Catholicism. He was to be the spiritual ancestor, no less, of much in the Reformation (161).

 

Augustine is considered the progenitor of Western Christianity. However, he has had insignificant impact in the East. Western historians tell us that no one in the Church prior to Augustine taught a doctrine that left Adam and his posterity in a mass of perdition. Philip Schaff wrote, “The Augustinian system was unknown in the ante-Nicene age, and was never accepted in the Eastern Church” (Vol. VIII 542). The universal Church before Augustine did not attach any judicial consequence to the sin of Adam in their doctrine of original sin. The Ante-Nicene Church viewed the fall in terms of a defect, not depravity. Even John Calvin understood that Augustine departed from the Fathers:

 

But Ambrose, Origen, and Jerome, were of the opinion, that God dispenses his grace among men according to the use which he foresees that each will make of it. It may be added, that Augustine also was for some time of this opinion; but after he had made greater progress in the knowledge of Scripture, he not only retracted it as evidently false, but powerfully confuted it, (August. Retract. Lib. 1, c. 13.).... Let the testimony of Augustine prevail with those who willingly acquiesce in the authority of the Fathers: (Institutes 3. 22. 8).

 


In all my research on the subject of original sin I was lead to believe that Augustine invented and was the first to promote the “mass of perdition” concept of the fall of Adam. Justo Gonzalez found some trace in Tertullian yet credits the full development to Augustine (Vol. 2 44).  Schaff recorded, "that Augustine's doctrine of predestination was opposed to the opinions of the fathers and the sense of the church (ecclesiastico sensui), and that no ecclesiastical author had ever yet explained the Epistle to the Romans as Augustine did..." (Vol. III 852). It is agreed by all that Augustine’s novel doctrine of original sin is without any historical orthodox precedent. However, no Western scholar is even remotely concerned that Augustine’s “mass of perdition” theology has no root in apostolic tradition.

            Why did Augustine have little or no impact on the Eastern Church?  Simply because the East had already rejected the total corruption of Adam as Gnostic heresy. We discover from Irenaeus that Tatian, actually, was the first to invent a new doctrine that denied Adam’s salvation leaving his descendants as a “mass of perdition.” Tatian also called marriage corrupt and fornication (Schaff, Vol. II 494). Tatian was expelled from the Church as a Gnostic heretic.  All the Western history books I searched agreed that Tatian became a heretic but no one would specifically describe the nature or tenets of his heresy. Philip Schaff simply defined Tatian’s error as:

!                      Marriage was a licentious tool of the devil, corruption and fornication, as also asserted by Marcion and Saturninos.

 

!                      He created invisible aeons similar to Valentine (Schaff, Vol. II 494).

 

The followers of Tatian kept the system alive until the fifth century. They were called Encratites because of their ascetic lifestyle. The title “Encratites” was used indiscriminately for all Gnostic ascetics including Saturninos, Marcion and Severus. Schaff wrote, “The Manichaeans also sheltered themselves under this name”  (Vol. II 495). Yet, there remained another major component to Tatian’s heresy that Schaff relegated to the back of his History of the Christian Church: Volume II and only mentioned in passing.

Tatian of Assyria (110-172)...  seems to have afterwards wandered to the borders of heretical Gnosticism, or at least to an extreme type of asceticism. He is charged with having condemned marriage as a corruption and denied that Adam was saved, because Paul says: “We all die in Adam” (727).

 


Finally, we discover that Tatian was the first to promote the perpetual corruption of Adam denying his salvation. Tatian also taught a corporate guilt of all humanity in Adam. Adam was left in a state of depravity and alienation from God that we all share as his progeny. This new element of Tatian’s heresy sounds very similar to Augustine’s doctrine of original sin. Augustine had been a Manichaean student and teacher for nine years (Walker 161). Therefore, Augustine was a teacher of Gnosticism and indirectly a student Tatian for nine years.  Augustine used the same scripture and the same interpretation as Tatian to develop his “Biblical” doctrine of original sin and predestination. Gnosticism was not a new heresy by the time of Tatian. What was Tatian’s novel contribution to the ever-developing body of heretical doctrine? The denial of Adam’s salvation and the corporate guilt of his descendants. Why are Western scholars silent on this issue?

 What exactly was the heresy of Tatian and was Augustine really the Father of total depravity?  I have selected passages from Irenaeus, who lived 200 years before Augustine, and other Fathers to enable the reader to decide. Irenaeus can boldly claim to have the authority of apostolic succession. Can Augustine make this same claim for his doctrine of original sin? No. Irenaeus stated that the prevailing doctrine of original sin in the universal church was handed down as a tradition from the Apostles themselves (Chadwick 82). However, The denial of Adam’s salvation and the “mass of perdition” theory of original sin was handed down by Gnostic heretics. Tatian’s new doctrine of original sin had no place in the church, history or apostolic tradition. Eventually, Augustinian doctrine will become the foundation of the Western Church (Walker 172). It will only be a matter of time until the West separates from the East. Augustine leads the West in a direction that ultimately results in an irrevocable schism from the Church founded by Peter in the Eastern Patriarchate of Jerusalem (Acts 2).

 

THE DOCTRINES OF TATIAN, THE ENCRATITES, AND OTHERS


WE learn from several sources that Tatian (A.D. 110-172) was an Assyrian, but know nothing very definite either as to the time or place of his birth. Epiphanius (Haer, 46.) declares that he was a native of Mesopotamia; and we infer from other ascertained facts regarding him, that he flourished about the middle of the second century. He was at first an eager student of heathen literature, and seems to have been especially devoted to researches in philosophy. But he found no satisfaction in the bewildering mazes of Greek speculation, while he became utterly disgusted with what heathenism presented to him under the name of religion. In these circumstances, he happily met with the sacred books of the Christians, and was powerfully attracted by the purity of morals which these inculcated, and by the means of deliverance from the bondage of sin which they revealed. He seems to have embraced Christianity at Rome, where he became acquainted with Justin Martyr, and enjoyed the instructions of that eminent teacher of the Gospel. After the death of Justin, Tatian unfortunately fell under the influence of the Gnostic heresy, and founded an ascetic sect, which, from the rigid principles it professed, was called that of the Encratites, that is, “The self-controlled,” or, “The masters of themselves.” Tatian latterly established himself at Antioch, and acquired a considerable number of disciples, who continued after his death to be distinguished by the practice of those austerities which he had enjoined.

The sect of the Encratites is supposed to have been established about A.D. 166, and Tatian appears to have died some few years afterwards.

Tatian’s “Address to the Greeks” is a most unsparing and direct exposure of the enormities of heathenism. Several other works have been composed by Tatian; and of these The  Diatessaron, or Harmony of the Four Gospels,  shows that the Four Gospels, and these only, were deemed authoritative about the middle of the second century. His Gnostic views led him to exclude from the continuous narrative of our Lord’s life, given in this work, all those passages which bear upon the incarnation and true humanity of Christ (Ryland 62-63 slightly adapted).

 

 Schaff noted that more than two hundred copies of the Diatessaron have been recovered (Vol. II 730).

 

THE EARLY FATHERS AND THE ORIGIN OF TOTAL DEPRAVITY

IRENAEUS, AGAINST HERESIES. BOOK 1.28.1


1. Many offshoots of numerous heresies have already been formed from those heretics we have described. This arises from the fact that numbers of them C indeed, we may say all C desire themselves to be teachers, and to break off from the particular heresy in which they have been involved. Forming one set of doctrines out of a totally different system of opinions, and then again others from others, they insist upon teaching something new, declaring themselves the inventors of any sort of opinion which they may have been able to call into existence. To give an example: Springing from Saturninus and Marcion, those who are called Encratites (self-controlled) preached against marriage, thus setting aside the original creation of God, and indirectly blaming Him who made the male and female for the propagation of the human race. Some of those reckoned among them have also introduced abstinence from animal food, thus proving themselves ungrateful to God, who formed all things. They deny, too, the salvation of him who was first created. It is but lately, however, that this opinion has been invented among them. A certain man named Tatian first introduced the blasphemy. He was a hearer of Justin’s, and as long as he continued with him he expressed no such views; but after his martyrdom he separated from the Church, and, excited and puffed up by the thought of being a teacher, as if he were superior to others, he composed his own peculiar type of doctrine. He invented a system of certain invisible Aeons, like the followers of Valentinus; while, like Marcion and Saturninus, he declared that marriage was nothing else than corruption and fornication. But his denial of Adam’s salvation was an opinion due entirely to himself.

 

NOTE:

·         Tatian was the first to invent a doctrine that denied Adam’s salvation.

·         He is called a heretic, teaching some new blasphemy.

·         He separated from the church.

·         He declared marriage to be corruption and fornication.

·         Justin did not teach that Adam was unsaved, “he expressed no such views.”

 

 

IRENAEUS. AGAINST HERESIES. BOOK 3.23.1

 

ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION TO TATIAN, SHOWING THAT IT WAS CONSONANT TO DIVINE JUSTICE AND MERCY THAT THE FIRST ADAM SHOULD FIRST PARTAKE IN THAT SALVATION OFFERED TO ALL BY CHRIST

 


1. It was necessary, therefore, that the Lord, coming to the lost sheep, and making recapitulation of so comprehensive a dispensation, and seeking after His own handiwork, should save that very man who had been created after His image and likeness, that is, Adam, filling up the times of His condemnation, which had been incurred through disobedience, C [times] Awhich the Father had placed in His own power.” [This was necessary,] too, inasmuch as the whole economy of salvation regarding man came to pass according to the good pleasure of the Father, in order that God might not be conquered, nor His wisdom lessened, [in the estimation of His creatures.] For if man, who had been created by God that he might live, after losing life, through being injured by the serpent that had corrupted him, should not any more return to life, but should be utterly [and for ever] abandoned to death, God would [in that case] have been conquered, and the wickedness of the serpent would have prevailed over the will of God. But inasmuch as God is invincible and long-suffering, He did indeed show Himself to be long-suffering in the matter of the correction of man and the probation of all, as I have already observed; and by means of the second man did He bind the strong man, and spoiled his goods, and abolished death, vivifying that man who had been in a state of death. For at the first Adam became a vessel in his (Satan’s) possession, whom he did also hold under his power, that is, by bringing sin on him iniquitously, and under color of immortality entailing death upon him. For, while promising that they should be as gods, which was in no way possible for him to be, he wrought death in them: wherefore he who had led man captive, was justly captured in his turn by God; but man, who had been led captive, was loosed from the bonds of condemnation.

 

 

 

NOTE:

 

·         The Lord saved Adam.

·         God was not conquered by Satan.

·         Adam was not utterly and forever abandoned to death.

·         The serpent did not prevail over the will of God.

·          Adam was loosed from the bonds of condemnation.

·         God was not placed under compulsion to leave Adam in bondage to condemnation.

 

IRENAEUS. AGAINST HERESIES. BOOK 3.23.2

 

2. But this is Adam, if the truth should be told, the first formed man, of whom the Scripture says that the Lord spake, “Let Us make man after Our own image and likeness;” and we are all from him: and as we are from him, therefore have we all inherited his title. But inasmuch as man is saved, it is fitting that he who was created the original man should be saved. For it is too absurd to maintain, that he who was so deeply injured by the enemy, and was the first to suffer captivity, was not rescued by Him who conquered the enemy, but that his children were, C those whom he had begotten in the same captivity. Neither would the enemy appear to be as yet conquered, if the old spoils remained with him.

 

IRENAEUS. AGAINST HERESIES. BOOK 3.23.8

 


8. All therefore speak falsely who disallow his (Adam’s) salvation, shutting themselves out from life forever, in that they do not believe that the sheep which had perished has been found. For if it has not been found, the whole human race is still held in a state of perdition. False, therefore, is that, man who first started this idea, or rather, this ignorance and blindness--Tatian. As I have already indicated, this man entangled himself with all the heretics. This dogma, however, has been invented by himself, in order that, by introducing something new, independently of the rest, and by speaking vanity, he might acquire for himself hearers void of faith, affecting to be esteemed a teacher, and endeavoring from time to time to employ sayings of this kind often [made use of] by Paul: “In Adam we all die;” ignorant, however, that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Since this, then, has been clearly shown, let all his disciples be put to shame, and let them wrangle about Adam, as if some great gain were to accrue to them if he be not saved; when they profit nothing more [by that], even as the serpent also did not profit when persuading man [to sin], except to this effect, that he proved him a transgressor, obtaining man as the first-fruits of his own apostasy. But he did not know God’s power. Thus also do those who disallow Adam’s salvation gain nothing, except this, that they render themselves heretics and apostates from the truth, and show themselves patrons of the serpent and of death.

NOTE:

 

·         It is false to disallow Adam’s salvation.

·         It is absurd that God should rescue Adam’s children but not Adam himself.

·         It is false that the whole human race is in a state or mass of perdition.

·         Tatian first started this heresy, ignorance and blindness.

·         Tatian invented something new, independent of the rest (of the Church).

·         Tatian’s basis for the state or mass of perdition heresy is a twisted interpretation of Paul, “In Adam we all die.”

·         There is nothing to gain by denying Adam’s salvation.

·         Those who teach the depravity of Adam render themselves heretics and apostates from the truth.

 

 

TERTULLIAN. IX APPENDIX:  AGAINST ALL HERESIES.  CHAPTER 7, ANF 3

 

To all these heretics is added one Tatian, a brother-heretic. This man was Justin Martyr’s disciple. After Justin’s death he began to cherish different opinions from his. For he wholly savors of Valentinus; adding this, that Adam cannot even attain salvation: as if, when the branches become salvable, the root were not!

Other heretics swell the list who are called Cataphrygians, but their teaching is not uniform. For there are (of them) some who are called Cataproclans; there are others who are termed Cataeschinetans. These have a blasphemy common, and a blasphemy not common, but peculiar and special. The common blasphemy lies in their saying that the Holy Spirit was in the apostles indeed, the Paraclete was not; and in their saying that the Paraclete has spoken in Montanus more things than Christ brought forward into (the compass of) the Gospel, and not merely more, but likewise better and greater. But the particular one they who follow Aeschines have; this, namely, whereby they add this, that they affirm Christ to be Himself Son and Father.

 

NOTE:


·         Tatian became a heretic after Justin’s death.

·         Tatian’s novel addition to heretical doctrine taught that Adam cannot attain salvation.

·         Tertullian shows that in order for the progeny or children of Adam (branches) to be salvable the root  (Adam) must be saved.

·         Adam was not damned.

·         The children of Adam are not damned in Adam.

 

 

 

HIPPOLYTUS: The Refutation of All Heresies

BOOK 8. CHAPTER 9

 

Tatian, however, although being himself a disciple of Justinus the Martyr, did not entertain similar opinions with his master. But he attempted (to establish) certain novel (tenets), and affirmed that there existed certain invisible Aeons. And he framed a legendary account (of them), similarly to those (spoken of) by Valentinus. And similarly with Marcion, he asserts that marriage is destruction. But he alleges that Adam is not saved on account of his having been the author of disobedience. And so far for the doctrines of Tatian.

 

 

HIPPOLYTUS: The Refutation of All Heresies

BOOK 10. CHAPTER 14

 

Tatian, however, similarly with Valentinus and the others, says that there are certain invisible Aeons, and that by some one of these the world below has been created, and the things existing in it. And he habituates himself to a very cynical mode of life, and almost in nothing differs from Marcion, as appertaining both to his slanders, and the regulations enacted concerning marriage.

 

NOTE:

 

C                  Tatian established certain novel or unusual doctrines.

C                  He taught that Adam, as the author of disobedience, was not saved.

C                  Tatian affirmed the Gnostic beliefs of Valentinus and Marcion.

C                  Marriage is destruction.

C                  His worldview is marked by cynicism.


 

 

The pre-Augustinian church unanimously rejected the Gnostic doctrine of the Total Depravity of Adam. The doctrine of the Total Depravity of Adam cannot be found in any orthodox creed, any council or any Father in all of church history prior to Augustine. Schaff wrote, “The Augustinian system was unknown in the ante-Nicene age, and was never accepted in the Eastern Church. This is a strong historical argument against it” (Vol. VIII 542). Instead we discover that the denial of Adam’s salvation and the ensuing mass of perdition theology, popularized by Augustine and John Calvin, are rooted in Tatian, a Gnostic heretic. The Eastern Church had already rejected the Total Depravity of Adam as a tenet of Gnostic heresy introduced by Tatian. Why should the East accept Augustine’s version of it?  The significance of this is even weightier when we remember that the Christology of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is also rooted in Arian Gnosticism. The theology of a semi-divine Jesus is not found in any orthodox creed, council or Father in the early church. The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ doctrine that describes Jesus as a created being is traceable to Arius, a 4th century heretic. It is easy to deny any legitimacy to the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) because their Christology is not rooted in the apostolic tradition of the Early Fathers. We are not impressed by the proficiency of JW scholars or the magnitude of their adherents. However, we become squeamish when applying the same historical test of orthodoxy to the theology of Augustine and John Calvin. The authority of the Fathers is firmly established in Jesus, the Apostles and the Scriptures.  Alfred Edersheim, considered one of the foremost experts on Jewish backgrounds to the New Testament wrote, “So far as their opinions can be gathered from their writings, the great doctrines of Original Sin, and of the sinfulness of our whole nature, were not held by the ancient Rabbis” (165). This means that the Jews did not interpret their own scriptures (the Old Testament) in such a way as to deny Adam’s salvation. The root of a non-Augustinian original sin is embedded in Jesus and the apostles not Greek humanism.

 

 

 

 


Tatian’s New Heresy:

 

C                  The denial of Adam’s salvation

C                  The whole of human nature is in a state or mass of perdition

C                  The whole human race is a mass of corruption in Adam

C                  Marriage is corruption

 

Augustine and Original Sin

 

Augustine, Enchiridion chapter 26

 

From this state, after he had sinned, man was banished, and through his sin he subjected his descendants to the punishment of sin and damnation, for he had radically corrupted them, in himself, by his sinning. As a consequence of this, all those descended from him and his wife (who had prompted him to sin and who was condemned along with him at the same time) -- all those born through carnal lust, on whom the same penalty is visited as for disobedience -- all these entered into the inheritance of original sin. Through this involvement they were led, through divers errors and sufferings (along with the rebel angels, their corruptors and possessors and companions), to that final stage of punishment without end. “Thus by one man, sin entered into the world and death through sin; and thus death came upon all men, since all men have sinned.”44 By “the world” in this passage the apostle is, of course, referring to the whole human race.

 

Note:

 

C      Adam is punished, banished, damned

C      All Adam and Eve’s descendants share their damnation. Their progeny inherit original sin and are corrupt and condemned at birth.

C      Marriage is “carnal lust.”  

 

Augustine, Enchiridion chapter 27

 

THE STATE OF MISERY TO WHICH ADAM’S SIN REDUCED MANKIND, AND THE RESTORATION EFFECTED THROUGH THE MERCY OF GOD

 


Thus, then, matters stood. The whole mass of the human race was under condemnation, was lying steeped and wallowing in misery, and was being tossed from one form of evil to another, and, having joined the faction of the fallen angels, was paying the well-merited penalty of that impious rebellion. For whatever the wicked freely do through blind and unbridled lust, and whatever they suffer against their will in the way of open punishment, this all evidently pertains to the just wrath of God (SDL 498).

 

NOTE:

 

C      The whole mass of humans are born condemned, impious, wicked, unbridled lust.       

 

 

Augustine, Enchiridion CHAPTER 48

 

THE GUILT OF THE FIRST SIN IS SO GREAT THAT IT CAN BE WASHED AWAY ONLY IN THE BLOOD OF THE MEDIATOR, JESUS CHRIST

Nevertheless, that one sin, admitted into a place where such perfect happiness reigned, was of so heinous a character, that in one man the whole human race was originally, and as one may say, radically, condemned; and it cannot be pardoned and blotted out except through the one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who only has had power to be so born as not to need a second birth.

 

NOTE:

 

·         The entire human race was originally and radically condemned in Adam.

 

Augustine, Enchiridion CHAPTER 99

 

For then he perceives that the whole human race was condemned in its rebellious head by a divine judgment so just, that if not a single member of the race had been redeemed, no one could justly have questioned the justice of God; and that it was right that those who are redeemed should be redeemed in such a way as to show, by the greater number who are unredeemed and left in their just condemnation, what the whole race deserved, and whither the deserved judgment of God would lead even the redeemed, did not His undeserved mercy interpose, so that every mouth might be stopped of those who wish to glory in their own merits, and that he that glorieth might glory in the Lord.

 

 

            NOTE:

 

·         The entire human race deserved the just condemnation of its rebellious head.

·         It is just to leave the majority unredeemed.

 


John Calvin and Original Sin

 

John Calvin, Institutes  Book 2.  chapter 1. 5

 

As Adam’s spiritual life would have consisted in remaining united and bound to his Maker, so estrangement from him was the death of his soul. Nor is it strange that he who perverted the whole order of nature in heaven and earth deteriorated his race by his revolt. “The whole creation groaneth,” saith St. Paul, “being made subject to vanity, not willingly,” (Romans 8:20, 22.) If the reason is asked, there cannot be a doubt that creation bears part of the punishment deserved by man, for whose use all other creatures were made. Therefore, since through man’s fault a curse has extended above and below, over all the regions of the world, there is nothing unreasonable in its extending to all his offspring. After the heavenly image in man was effaced, he not only was himself punished by a withdrawal of the ornaments in which he had been arrayed, viz., wisdom, virtue, justice, truth, and holiness, and by the substitution in their place of those dire pests, blindness, impotence, vanity, impurity, and unrighteousness, but he involved his posterity also, and plunged them in the same wretchedness. This is the hereditary corruption to which early Christian writers gave the name of Original Sin, meaning by the term the depravation of a nature formerly good and pure. The subject gave rise to much discussion, there being nothing more remote from common apprehension, than that the fault of one should render all guilty, and so become a common sin. This seems to be the reason why the oldest doctors of the church only glance obscurely at the point, or, at least, do not explain it so clearly as it required.

 

NOTE:

 

C      Adam is alienated from God, corrupt, a frightful deformity.     

C      Calvin must malign the oldest doctors of the church in order to popularize his opinions.

 

John Calvin, Institutes  Book 1.  chapter 15.4

 

There is no doubt that Adam, when he fell from his state, was by this defection alienated from God. Therefore, even though we grant that God’s image was not totally annihilated and destroyed in him, yet it was so corrupted that whatever remains is frightful deformity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


John Calvin, Institutes  Book 3.  chapter 23.3

 

As we are all vitiated by sin, we cannot but be hateful to God,...all whom the Lord predestines to death are naturally liable to  the sentence of death,...Should all the sons of Adam come to dispute and contend with their Creator, because by his eternal providence they were before their birth doomed to perpetual destruction, when God comes to reckon with them, what will they be able to mutter against this defense? If all are taken from a corrupt mass, it is not strange that all are subject to condemnation (Calvin, Inst. III. ch. 23. 3)

 

The Oldest Doctors of the Church

 

IRENAEUS. AGAINST HERESIES. BOOK 3.23.8

 

8. All therefore speak falsely who disallow his (Adam’s) salvation, shutting themselves out from life forever, in that they do not believe that the sheep which had perished has been found. For if it has not been found, the whole human race is still held in a state of perdition. False, therefore, is that, man who first started this idea, or rather, this ignorance and blindness C Tatian. As I have already indicated, this man entangled himself with all the heretics. This dogma, however, has been invented by himself, in order that, by introducing something new, independently of the rest, and by speaking vanity, he might acquire for himself hearers void of faith, affecting to be esteemed a teacher, and endeavoring from time to time to employ sayings of this kind often [made use of] by Paul: “In Adam we all die;” ignorant, however, that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Since this, then, has been clearly shown, let all his disciples be put to shame, and let them wrangle about Adam, as if some great gain were to accrue to them if he be not saved; when they profit nothing more [by that], even as the serpent also did not profit when persuading man [to sin], except to this effect, that he proved him a transgressor, obtaining man as the first-fruits of his own apostasy. But he did not know God’s power. Thus also do those who disallow Adam’s salvation gain nothing, except this, that they render themselves heretics and apostates from the truth, and show themselves patrons of the serpent and of death.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


ORTHODOXY AND ORIGINAL SIN

 

The universal church for 400 years prior to Augustine viewed the fall as a deprivation of grace but left Adam with a fundamentally sound nature and will (Mozley 105).  Mozley and many others believe that it was Augustine's contribution to add the total corruption of the will to the church’s theology of the fall. However, the will, according to the early Fathers, was not substantially affected by the fall (Mozley 118). The Ante-Nicene church before Augustine did not attach any judicial consequence to the sin of Adam in their doctrine of original sin.  The Eastern Orthodox Church today retains the Ante-Nicene perspective which views man as responsible for individual sin, without making their condemnation and guilt contingent upon Adam's sin in the Garden. The Eastern Orthodox Church believes that the human masses are innocent before actual sin. The Orthodox are scandalized by Augustinian predestination because it began as a novelty in the church and depends wholly upon Augustine’s view of the fall. So, Augustinian predestination hinges upon Augustine's doctrine of original sin, which is the imputation of guilt, condemnation and total depravity to all the sons of Adam at birth.   However, the Eastern Orthodox Church makes each individual person responsible for his or her own sin. This is not to say that the human race does not become a mass of sin. All humans will sin in the due course of time and cannot escape because "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God"  (Rom. 3:23). However, we discover that Augustine’s anthropology was at odds with the universal church and historic orthodoxy. Schaff recorded, "that Augustine's doctrine of predestination was opposed to the opinions of the fathers and the sense of the church (ecclesiastico sensui), and that no ecclesiastical author had ever yet explained the Epistle to the Romans as Augustine did..." (Vol. III 852). The voice of the church up to the time of Augustine viewed the fall in terms of a defect, not as total depravity. Mozley stated that Augustine brought 300 years of theology to a point and explained the corruption of human nature to mean the loss of freewill (117,118).


However, "the point” is not that Augustine brought 300 years of the voice of the church to a conclusion.  The point is that the universal church retained its historic view of original sin.  While in the West under the influence of Augustine, a new interpretation took root.  Walker wrote,

Though his influence in the East was to be relatively slight, owing to the nature of the questions with which he was primarily concerned, all Western Christianity was to become his debtor (161).

 

 The first four hundred years of church history do not lead into Augustine.  He was one small voice that only influenced the Roman West. Moreover, it is an anachronism to divide the church at this time into East and West as if there were two separate churches. The Great Schism of 1054 had not yet occurred. Augustine was only one voice among many. The “Eastern” church is really the universal church. To say, therefore that Augustine had no influence on the East means that he had no influence on the one holy catholic and apostolic church. The universal church, of which Augustine was a part, did not change its historic orthodoxy for a novelty doctrine.  Mozley stated that the voice of the Church for 300 years, which included Ignatius, Papias, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose and Jerome taught that Adam's sin issued only a defect to his progeny.  This means that the early church never approved what Augustine taught about our corporate depravity in Adam (116,118).  Augustine does not reform a deviant doctrine, he popularized a new one.  Augustine’s new doctrine was not rooted in historic apostolic tradition. The church as a whole did not teach that we are guilty and punishable eternally in Adam at birth.  The early church did not teach double predestination, unconditional election, irresistible grace, limited atonement, or the total corruption of the will (Mozley 106, 111, 116).  Augustinian original sin has no foundation in apostolic tradition. It is in fact a new doctrine.  If synergism was the orthodox view for 400 years prior to Augustine--can we be wrong to suppose that synergism was the view of Paul, Peter, Jesus and the rest of the apostles?


Mozley stated that those who begin "accustomed to the later theological statements of this doctrine" are dissatisfied when they read the early church's understanding of original sin (118).  What he means is that when someone examines the Ante-Nicene doctrine of original sin, through the doctrinal lens of Augustine, they find the early church at dissonance with him.  I suggest that the doctrine of the early church should be the starting point by which we compare later theological developments.  We should not begin with Augustine to determine the validity of the early church's 400-year old position on the fall of Adam.  We should not begin with the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Christology to determine the validity of the Ante-Nicene position on the Trinity. Let the testimony of the Fathers prevail. Trinitarian theology is traceable and well documented in the history of the universal church. Nicea is a formulation of that orthodoxy into the Creed of A.D. 325.  Likewise, Augustinian original sin is nowhere found in the orthodox history of the church prior to him.  The “mass of perdition” theory of the fall is clearly traceable to Tatian. Tatian was rejected as a blasphemer. The voice of the apostolic church can protect the Trinity from triflers and heretics--why can’t apostolic tradition be enough to protect the church's pre-Augustinian doctrine of original sin? Let the testimony of the Fathers prevail.

Augustine's doctrine of predestination in all its parts is contingent upon his novel doctrine of original sin. The Apostolic Fathers prior to Augustine (Augustine died in A.D. 430) believed that Adam's fall left the will fundamentally sound (Mozley 105).  Though all mankind become sinners and need salvation, their condemnation is not regarded as a consequence of original sin but as a result issuing from the freewill of each individual (Mozley 107). Augustine (Enchiridion 97) and Calvin knowingly separate themselves from orthodoxy on this important issue and stand with Tatian. Calvin wrote, “Let the testimony of Augustine prevail with those who willingly acquiesce in the authority of the Fathers:” (Institutes 3. 22. 8). Whichever theological system you choose to accept is your business. However, you should be aware of the roots and accurate doctrine to which you adhere. Calvin demanded that a choice be made between the authority of the Fathers and Augustine. However, the choice is clear. We are compelled to declare, “Let the testimony of the Fathers prevail with those who willingly acquiesce in the authority of Augustine.”


WORKS CITED

 

 

Augustine. City of God. The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers First Series, Volume 2.         Ed. Philip Schaff. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994.  

 

Augustine. Enchiridion. The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers First Series, Volume 3.         Ed. Philip Schaff. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994.  

 

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans                   Publishing Company, 1986.

 

Chadwick, Henry. The Early Church. New York, NY: Dorset Press, 1986.

 

Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Part I. Grand Rapids, MI:     Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986.

 

Gonzalez, Justo L. A History of Christian Thought, Volume II. Nashville, TN: Abingdon    Press, 1992.

 

Hippolytus. The Refutation of All Heresies.Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Eds.                Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson                     Publishers, Inc., 1994.

 

Irenaeus. Against Heresies. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Eds. Alexander Roberts and             James Donaldson. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994.

 

Mozley. J.B.  A Treatise on the Augustinian Doctrine of Predestination.  New York, NY:   E.P Dutton and Company, 1878.

 

Ryland, J.E. Trans. Introductory Note to Tatian the Assyrian. Ante-Nicene Fathers,            Volume 2. Eds. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Peabody, MA:          Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994.

 

Schaff, Philip.  History of the Christian Church, Vol. II.  Grand Rapids, MI:                       Eerdmans Publishing House, 1994.

 

Schaff, Philip.  History of the Christian Church, Vol. III.  Grand Rapids, MI:                      Eerdmans Publishing House, 1994.

 


Schaff, Philip.  History of the Christian Church, Vol. VIII.  Grand Rapids, MI:                    Eerdmans Publishing House, 1994.

 

Tertullian. Appendix: Against All Heresies. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Eds.               Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson                     Publishers, Inc., 1994.

 

Walker, Williston. A History of the Christian Church. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1970.