4 Point Book Review on Augustine’s “The Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, and Love”

The Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, And Love was written by Augustine, who isn’t one of my favorite theologians. Augustine was trained in philosophy, so his writing is very philosophical.

I am not a philosophically minded person. I do not care about the deep, intricate cogitations of people’s brains that much, not even my own. Augustine will drill a subject to death, talking in circles, and going on and on and on. It’s writers like him that necessitated the invention of people called “editors.”

Although this was not light reading, it wasn’t the worst of the stuff I’ve read by Him. Here are four points I took away from this book:

  1. The Title
    Any book that has “enchiridion” in the title is going to be a piece of work. Enchiridion is an actual word, even though it’s not in my spell-checker. I looked it up in Webster’s Dictionary and it was there. It is from the Greek en– which means in, and the Greek word cheir meaning hand. In hand. The idea is that it is a handbook or manual. Huh, who knew. I also added a comma after Hope that is not in the original title. My wife tells me all lists should include a comma before the and, otherwise the last two things would be lumped together by the and. It makes me feel better that, although he philosophizes better than me, I can still correct his grammar. The book had little to do with faith, hope, or love and I have no idea why he called it this.
  2. Original Sin
    Augustine is fixated on Original Sin and has some rather strange views attached to it. Original Sin is the fault of sex. Augustine, in his Confessions, had a long, sordid sexual history. After he slew that beast, he tended to speak of sex as always being bad. Even marital sex was bad in his mind. Sex is what transfers Original Sin, therefore, sex has to be bad. He also thinks that kids are responsible for their parents’ sins, since the parent’s sex transferred their sin. He’s also somewhat convinced that kids are guilty for all their forefathers’ sins. His logic on sex would have to lead him there. He is very weird on this issue.
  3. Baptism
    I do not agree with his take on baptism, most of which comes out of his strange views of Original Sin, especially in the area of infant baptism. Infant Baptism, according to him, releases babies from Original Sin, but not any sins they do on their own. There are zero verses on this. He also completely botches the doctrine of baptism in relation to Jesus Christ, saying that Jesus will baptize with water and the Spirit, which of course the Bible never says. But he makes an effort to quote the Bible having said this, which I do not like. Several times he referenced verses that did not say what he said they said. I hate that.
  4. The Church Forgives Sin
    Augustine believes the Church is the only place you can go to remove your sins. I find this unbiblical. He even says that the man who does not believe the Church remits sins has committed the Unpardonable Sin. Wow. Surprisingly (sarcasm), he has zero verses on that one either. Since he puts more stress on baptism than he does on faith, and only the Church can properly baptize, the Church is the only place to get sins remitted.

I am not, and never have been, a fan of Augustine. He is considered to be the Father of the Catholic Church and also of the Reformed Church. Calvin’s Institutes are merely a recitation of Augustine’s writings. I disagree with Augustine’s views on predestination, non-elect babies going to hell, and various other Calvin-hijacked doctrines on this issue.

For instance, when trying to answer the Bible’s claim that God “who will have all men to be saved” when we know all men are not saved, says this:

We are not on that account to restrict the omnipotence of God, but are rather to understand the Scripture, “Who will have all men to be saved,” as meaning that no man is saved unless God wills his salvation; not that there is no man whose salvation He does not will, but that no man is saved apart from His will, and that, therefore, we should pray Him to will our salvation, because if He will it, it must necessarily be accomplished.”

Uh, no.

It’s a nice theory, but it’s not what the common sensical reading of the verse says. This is the kind of stuff that drives me insane.

Augustine is a philosopher and writes like one. Unfortunately, he starts with philosophical conclusions and picks and chooses verses that he thinks backs up his philosophy. I do not see him as a theologian, but a philosopher borrowing some God talk.

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5 thoughts on “4 Point Book Review on Augustine’s “The Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, and Love””

  1. I find it interesting that his mother prayed earnestly for her wayward son, when he was in the prime time of his sinning life, and it seems to have worked.

    However, other than that bright spot, I wonder if the world would not have been better without this “father” of the church. It seems, from what I’ve read about him, that his religio-philosophic ideas really laid a solid foundation for the church-state union that oppressed Europe for the next 1200 years.

    The part you quoted at the end (his commentary on 1 Tim 2:4 is absolute nonsense. “no man is saved unless God wills it”, yet “God wills all to be saved.” The obvious conclusion then is that all will be saved! whether we pray for it or not! He’s just reasoning himself into a corner.

  2. He did not say anything about Mary, other than a few things about the Virgin Birth, which were weird based on his views on Original Sin, nor did he mention anything about priests in this book.

  3. Frank,
    Yes, I find him to be a very disturbing theological force in the church, enough to make me not refer to him as “saint” Augustine, cuz I don’t know that! His views have brought more strange doctrine into the church and his usage of Scripture is maybe up to par with the likes of Joel Osteen. No context ever, just picking a phrase here and there to make his point. I don’t care for him. It does seem as though he had a conversion, but other than that, I think he should have kept his mouth shut.

  4. Scary that Augustine is held in such high esteem in so many theological traditions.
    A very GOOD example of why all tradition should be diligently tested against what scripture actually says and not according to what others tell us it says.

    And a special thanks for the part about the comma usage. I’ll now feel more at ease when I use a comma before “and” in a list.

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