The concept and general characteristics of patristics.

Medieval philosophy is usually divided into 2 periods: patristics (II – VIII centuries AD) and scholasticism (IX – XV centuries).

Patristics is divided into three stages:

1. Early patristics II – III centuries;

2. Mature patristics IV – V centuries;

3. Late patristics of the 5th-8th centuries.

Patristics (from Latin pater – father) – usually called the totality of the teachings of the fathers of the Christian Church II – VIII centuries. AD

The Church Fathers have the following qualities:

1. Sanctity of life;

2. Orthodox faith, confessed in written works (orthodoxy of teaching);

3. Gift of the Holy Spirit;

4. Official recognition of them by the Church.

Teachers of the Church – were called church authors who had outstanding learning and were especially noted by the Church (Tertuman, Clement of Alexandria, Origen).

The patristics begins its historical existence in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, which usually include 5 authors of the first half of the 2nd century: Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna and Hermas.

The Apostolic Fathers were considered either direct disciples of the apostles, or disciples of their disciples, and in their spirit were still entirely within the boundaries of the apostolic teaching.

In the writings of the Apostolic Fathers (for the most part these are epistles to Christian communities), the main problems of Christian philosophizing begin to take shape.

The list of these problems is outlined by the apostles themselves:

1. God and his essence;

2. Christ as Logos;

3. Man and his relation to God;

4. The world and its structure;

5. History and its purpose.

The Apostolic Fathers addressed exclusively to Christian audiences.

By the middle of the II century. the still few Christian communities lived in a society whose entire way of life and ancient traditions sharply opposed the Christian worldview. Therefore, the most important task of Christianity at that time was to protect the Christian doctrine from pagan criticism. This task was taken over by apologetics. Apologists in one way or another were many major fathers of the Church until the 4th century. The writings of the apologists were for the first time addressed to an external, pagan audience. The task facing the apologists was to show the non-Christian world that the beliefs of the pagans are absurd, their philosophy is full of contradictions and is unable to give a single truth for all; that the best minds of philosophers (Socrates, Plato, the Stoics) are close to Christianity, that Christian theology is the only philosophy that brings people the same truth for all, that the living experience of turning to the one God is higher than the abstract Hellenic wisdom.

Defensive works were written by many professed Christian scholars; the most outstanding works were the apologies of Justin (Justin), Tatian, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Irenaeus of Lyon, Hippolytus of Rome.

Another attempt to betray to Christianity the nature of an ordered philosophical doctrine was Gnosticism (from Greek knowledge) – a broad trend that united a number of near-philosophical sects. Gnosticism reached its heyday in the middle of the 2nd century. thanks to the activities of the Gnostics: Marcion, Apelles, Valentinus, Basilides. All Gnostics were united by the search for higher knowledge, which in itself gave “truth” and “Salvation”. The teaching of the Gnostics was an eclectic and gloomy theosophical mythology, in which the Christian idea of salvation in Christ was combined in the most bizarre way with elements of Judaism, Eastern dualistic teachings (Zoroastrianism), Greek philosophy (Pythagoreans, Platonic, Stoic), and all this “theory” was involved on magic and astrology. The Gnostics were opposed by Irenaeus of Lyons (circa 202), one of the most significant theologians of the late 2nd century. His main work is Against Heresies.

Truth in patristics is not an individual, but a conciliar property; it belongs not to this or that author, but to the whole Christian community.

The authority of every father of the Church is explained not by his personal originality in the field of doctrine, but by the fact that his thoughts are in agreement with tradition, sanctified by apostolic and ecclesiastical authority.

From the point of view of the Fathers of the Church themselves, patristics is not a collection of separate teachings, but a single teaching, revealed and expounded by the Fathers of the Church with different fullness and depth.

Christ preached orally, in direct communication with people. His verbal sermon was recorded by his disciples. With the spread of Christianity and the strengthening of the Church, the need to solve problems related to clarifying the meanings of Christian truths, combating heretical movements, the exact formulation of the main provisions of the Christian dogma, in response to distortions introduced by heretics, and clarifying the text of Holy Scripture increased. These tasks were solved by the Fathers of the Church for a long time. It was during the period of patristics that the foundations of Christian theology were laid. However, theology turns out to be at the same time a special form of philosophizing. Patristics is philosophizing in faith, under the sign of faith. Therefore, patristics does not recognize the truth “in general”, but only the truth of Revelation, the truth of salvation. Genuine philosophy, from the point of view of the Church Fathers, is identical to theology (theology), and faith always takes precedence over reason. Therefore, the philosophizing of the Fathers of the Church is so closely connected with and determined by purely religious tasks that it almost never appears in a “pure” form, free from a dogmatic shell.

Holy Scripture is the source of truth and at the same time the ultimate explanatory authority.

Therefore, Christian philosophizing can be understood as a philosophical exegesis of a sacred text, and the method of such philosophizing can be understood as a set of interpretations of this text.

The fundamental thesis of patristics says: the truth lies in the Holy Scriptures, and the task of the theologian (true philosopher) is to correctly understand and explain it. It was on these paths that Christian theology took shape primarily as a religious-philosophical hermeneutics.

Patristics is divided into western and eastern. The Holy Fathers of the Church, who lived in the Eastern Mediterranean, i.e. in the area of the Greek language, they wrote their works in Greek (Eastern patristics). Starting from the IV century. In the western part of the Roman Empire, a number of prominent Christian thinkers write their works in Latin (Western patristics).

Patristics flourished in the 4th century. Which is called the golden age of patristic writing. At that time, such prominent Church Fathers as Athanasius the Great, Basil of Caesarea (the Great), Gregory the Theologian, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom and others lived and worked. Dionysius the Areopagite (V-VI centuries), Maximus the Confessor (VI – VII centuries), John Domasken (VII – VIII centuries).

In the IV – V centuries. Latin patristics flourished: many works of Hilary of Pictovia, Ambrose of Milan, Jerome of Stridon (translated the Bible into Latin), Aurelius Augustine and Pope Leo the Great entered the golden fund of world literature (for example, Augustine’s “Confession”).

Aurelius Augustine

The most prominent representative of Western patristics is considered to be Aurelius Augustine, known as Augustine the Blessed (354-340). Augustine is precisely that genius of philosophy who laid the foundation for a new philosophizing (he was also a remarkable theologian, church figure, and bishop).

Augustine created an ingenious, harmonious philosophical system that lasted until the 13th century, when a slightly different school of philosophizing was created by the efforts of Thomas Aquinas. God and the soul are the main themes of Augustine’s philosophizing. By establishing the relationship between the soul and God, the thinker also solves other philosophical issues, primarily questions about man. The image and likeness of God in man, according to Augustine, is his rational nature (mind, reason, consciousness). Speaking about the creation of man, Augustine indicates that man “was created from nothing” (“On the City of God”, XIV, 1). He categorically disagrees with Plato, who asserted that the body is a fetter, the tomb of the soul. The body and soul, being created by God, have a good nature, and the body is conceived as that part of human nature that is subordinate to the soul. Because of the fall, the body was out of control, and the soul became the servant of the body. Christ, by His redemptive sacrifice, restored the original order and made it clear to people that the body should serve the soul, and not the soul – the body.

Man, according to Augustine, is the unity of soul and body. Here he again objects to the Platonists, who asserted that only the soul is the essence of man. Of course, the soul is ontologically higher than the body, but without the body it is not yet a person. But in this unity, the soul still has a higher status, and therefore Augustine says that man is a rational soul that owns its body.

Augustine devotes his treatise On the Immortality of the Soul to the proof of the immortality of the soul.

The problem of man interests Augustine not from the point of view of “man in general”, but from the point of view of the human “I” – a specific person in its individuality and particularity. This approach, characteristic of patristic literature in general, is radically opposed to the ancient view of man. Individuality in full was inaccessible to antiquity. Only the personal God of Christianity opens up the possibility to represent the soul in volume, to feel and express its immeasurable depth.

Movement deep into one’s own “I” is conceived by Augustine as a movement towards God. The better a person knows himself, the closer he becomes to God.

Augustine argues that the impetus for self-knowledge is the drama of the inner world. The irremediable inner contradiction of will and desires torments the human soul. It can be overcome only by means of subordinating one’s own will to the will of God. Then insight comes. In the dramatic internal struggle associated with any significant episode of life, the spiritual and mental processes that form the human being are revealed. Augustine calls them the “inner man”.

Speaking of the inner man, Augustine focuses on those qualities of a person that are analogous to the qualities of God. One of them is love. Love presupposes infinity (eternal).

If ancient thought calls a virtuous person one who knows the laws of the universe and can scientifically determine virtue and the way to achieve it, then Augustine puts forward a radically different view: a virtuous person is one who loves. The value of a person is determined by the gift of love. Love gives a person the strength to overcome evil. “He who is full of love is full of God himself,” says Augustine.

Faith and Reason . The question of the relationship between faith and reason for Augustine is not idle. Augustine is sure that the problem of the existence of truth and its knowledge is the main, key for Christianity. Augustine in his conception of truth proceeds from the phrase spoken by the Savior (Jesus Christ): “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14.6). If truth does not exist, as skeptics claim, then neither does God. And if the truth is unknowable, then God is unknowable and all ways of salvation are closed to us. Therefore, it is important for Augustine to prove that truth both exists and is knowable.

In the Monologues, Augustine says: “I desire to know God and the soul.” – “And nothing more?” asks Augustine, and replies: “Absolutely nothing.” These words hold the key to his whole philosophy. What is a soul (and, accordingly, what is a person) and how can we know God, how can a soul know God, come to God and receive salvation, who is God, how did he create the world, etc.. From these problems follow all questions – epistemological, ontological, axiological, ethical, etc.

Augustine for the first time leads the position that both faith and knowledge, while differing, still do not exclude each other. Faith is one of the types of knowledge, one of the types of reason. Faith is opposed only to comprehending, rational thinking. But faith is also thinking. Not all thinking is faith, but all faith is thinking . As proof, he cites the fact that only a thinking being, a person, has religion.

Augustine’s idea of the deep relationship between faith and reason is: “I believe in order to understand, and I understand in order to believe.”

Augustine does not believe that faith is unreasonable, although the truth of the statements of faith cannot be proven. Faith and reason are branches of one human ability – the ability to know. Faith is not anti-rational, but super-rational. This means that if the position of faith seems absurd to a person, it is only because the person does not fully understand them. A person cannot understand everything, he can only believe in many things; deep faith and true reason are identical.

Philosophy of history. Augustine is rightly considered the philosopher who was the first to consider the problems of the history of mankind in philosophical terms. The fact is that in antiquity there was no philosophy of history, since there was no linear idea of time. The world seemed cyclical in which everything repeats itself. This concept of cyclic time could not give rise to a philosophical-historical concept, and therefore ancient philosophers practically did not deal with the problems of history.

Christianity brings to the world a completely different understanding of history, in which the world has a beginning in divine creation and an end described in the Apocalypse. The ancient world had no meaning in itself, while the Christian picture of the world is filled with deep meaning: if God creates the world, provides for it, He Himself becomes a man, creates the Church, then this is no accident. God’s atoning sacrifice only makes sense if our world is unique and has its own history.

Thanks to the Holy Scriptures (Bible) it is known that the history of mankind develops according to the law prescribed by God to the world. The Old Testament says that God has a plan when creating our world, and a person, thanks to God’s help, can know this plan.

This is also evidenced by the activity of the prophets, who were given this ability to know and predict the future. Augustine divides the whole history from the Fall to the Last Judgment into six periods, and the seventh period, which will come after the end of the world, symbolizes the seventh day when God “rested from all his works.” The first period is from Adam to the Flood, the second is from the flood to Abraham, the third is from Abraham to David, the fourth is from David to the resettlement in Babylon, the fifth is from the resettlement to the incarnation of Jesus Christ, now the sixth period is underway, the seventh century will be later, this age will be our Sabbath after the resurrection of the dead. Each period has its own meaning and its own task on earth. The duration of all these periods are different. It is impossible to say when the seventh period will come and our sixth day will end. Augustine argued that it is impossible to know the time of the end of our world.

The main work of Augustine is called “On the City of God”, more precisely “On the State of God”. Augustine sees the meaning of human history in moral progress and conceives of history as a progressive movement towards maximum moral perfection, towards that epoch when Divine grace will triumph. Then people will acquire the state of “impossibility” to sin. According to Augustine, there is a certain state, a certain divine city in which the righteous will live and which opposes the earthly state. The inhabitants of the earthly state live according to earthly laws; the inhabitants of the heavenly city live according to the Divine will. An earthly city does not correspond to any earthly state, and not a single person knows to which city it belongs. For each person performs in his life such actions that can correspond to one or another city; only God knows what city he belongs to, whether this person will be saved or not.

The symbol of the earthly city is Babylon, or the Roman Empire, which Augustine calls the second Babylon, and the symbol of the heavenly city is Jerusalem, or the earthly Church.

The state arises as a result of the fall and exists only in earthly life. An absolutely just state is obviously unrealizable, since it is impossible to achieve an ideal organization within the limits of earthly institutions and through limited human forces. The state can be improved gradually, but never in the course of earthly history will it become perfect. It will always be an arena of struggle between the forces of good and evil, as well as the hearts of people. This struggle will be resolved beyond human history. On this basis, Augustine can be considered a supporter of Christian eschatology, the doctrine of the end of history.

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