The Birth of Christian Philosophy
Christian Accommodation with Pagan Philosophy
From the Early Church Fathers to St. Augustine



 
Introduction
'What was Athens to do with Jerusalem?' This question asked by the Latin Father Tertulian has been asked by Christians ever since it was raised.  And just as it was in Tertullian's time, Christians have responded differently to it.  Most have favored a blending of the best of "Athens" with the truth of Churistanity.  But others have fought consistently against using "profane" philosophy to assist "sacred" Christianity.  In the minds of those who subscribe to this position, such an accommodation of Christianity with pagan philosophy is a dessacration of the truth as preached by Jesus Christ.  But proponents of  both views do agree that an accommodation has been made. The formulation of doctrines of the Christian Church were greatly influenced by  pagan philosophy, especially that of the Greek philosophers in the Early Middle Ages.  But while it is evident that the Church found that Athens and Jerusalem did indeed have much in common, it is important to understand how deeply pagan philosopy entered Church thought, especially in the formulation of doctrine, if one wishes to understand the mind-set and presuppositions of medieval thought.  For not only were religious ideas affected by philosophy, but Western thought for the next two millennium would in large part be an interplay of these two intellectual forces.  Christian belief and pagan philosophy would  is the intellectual underpinning of all subsequent Western  social, political, philosophical and legal thought.
How then did this accommodation take place?  Certainly Tertulian did not believe it inevitable or even advisable.  And he was not alone, although he may have been the most influential of the "nay sayers".   Other equally influential and ultimately victorious Churchmen of the opposing point of view would eventually win out.  But despite their victory, a strong "rear guard" action continued to be fought by elements within the Church; and indeed, the battle continues to be fought. 
Different attitudes of the early Church Fathers towards pagan philosophy
There were basically two different kinds of attitudes which the early Church Fathers took towards the pagan philosophy: The Latin Fathers (Tertullian, Arnobius, Lactantius, and others) rejected philosophy as a heathen product. While on the other side, the Greek Fathers (Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and the Neoplatonic Christians) cultivated philosophical knowledge.  Certainly part of the reason for this difference in attitude was the fact that the Eastern Church was more heavily influenced by Greek thought in general.  As Greek speakers, these Churchmen saw themself in the tradition of the "lovers of wisdom,"  while Latin speakers found less to praise in Greek thought.
 Anti-Accommodation Church Fathers
Tertullian (c. 160-c. 230)
 Among the Latin Church Fathers, Tertullian represents the voice of the those who severely rejected the philosophy as a heathen product. The most
famous words of this opinion is written in his Prescription against  Heretics, 7. It reads:
'What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? What between heretics and Christians? Our instruction comes from " the porch of Solomon," who had himself taught that "the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart." Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic and dialectic composition. We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel. With our faith, we desire no further belief. For this is our palmary faith, that there is nothing which we ought to belief besides.'[1]
Those Christians who agreed with Tertullian refuted their pagan opponents by either ignoring their attacks or by disparaging the learned foolishness of the Greek philosophers. But this was not the general approach of the Church. 
Pro-Accommodation Church Fathers
 Initial "philosophical" formulations were the result of apologetic concerns.  Unlike Tertullian,  the successors of the Apostoles and the Eastern Church Fathers  recognized that the traditional Judeo-Christian images and ideas of thought were only poorly understood by their pagan neighbors.  Indeed, that misunderstanding had in great measure been the source of repeated persecution.  Nor was biblical language readable understood by non-Jewish converts to the faith.  Thus, they concluded that in order to proclaim the message of Jesus in a manner that their non-Jewish adherents could readily understand, it was necessary to formulate those concepts using the intellectual terminology of the day.  In the process, the Church Fathers came to an appreciation for the potential of Greek thought.  It was eventually "baptized' as  Christian thought for  it proclaimed the Christian message in terms that were both intelligible and meaningful to men and women of the early second and third centuries. 
In response to the challenge of the Hellenized world, several theological models were worked out in early Christian Church: [2]
1. In the second century, the Christian apologists elaborated the first new philosophical theology by borrowing from popular philosophy and invoking
the Hellenistic-Johannine Logos (seen as active everywhere in the world). In large measure, their efforts were unsystematic attempts to formulate a rational defense of Christian thought and practice.
2. Around the end of the second and the beginning of the third centuries, Irenaeus (c. 125-202 CE) offered a more complete theological system. His
thought guided by a keen desire to clarify the nature of salvation history as evidenced by Scripture and apostolic tradition. In this way, he sought to undermine the claims of the Gnostic mythologies. Relying heavily upon the writings of Paul of Tarsus and the fourth gospel, he identified the common philosophical logos (the Greek concept for divine reason) with the Johannine attribution of logos as the "voice" of God as given in His revelations to men, especially in the teachings of Jesus.
3. In the middle of the third centuries (parallel to Tertullian in the west) there was the theology of Clement and Origin, the two influential Alexandrians, who boldly assimilated all previous efforts at theological synthesis (including Gnostic ones). They brought these ideas to their dialogue with Neo-Platonic philosophy. From their work evolved the first fully articulated, widely influential, long prevalent macromodel of theology. The structural elements of this Greek theology, which were both cosmopolitan and ecclesiastical, historically responsible and philosophically reflective. This fruitful merger of Biblical ideas with Neo-Platonic thought became the regula fidei ("rule of faith") that was both intellectually satisfying and religiously meaningful.

 
Factors Favoring the Accommodation of Greek Thought 
Philosophy as the Basis of Ordinary Education
In the first and second centuries, the philosophy taken for granted by ordinary educated folk, was in effect a blend of Stoicism and Platonism. On the ethical side it was profoundly molded by Stoicism, while on the metaphysical side it looked more to Platonism. [3]
The elementary education in the Middle Ages were pagan. The book which was to become the common text-book of the Seven Arts was by a pagan, of Neo-Platonic views. This was the De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, by Martianus Capella. [4]
As early as Philo (30bce-46ce), the current intellectual coin of the more literate classes of society was a blend of Stoic ethics with Platonic metaphysics and some Aristotelian logic. Like the "common" form of Greek spoken in the Hellenistic world, this mixture of Hellenistic philosophies was the philosophical koine, and Philo simply accepted that as a given fact. [5]
A further indication of Christian appreciation for the positive aspects of Greco-Roman philosophy can be seen in the persistent elaboration of
Hellenistic concepts in the period of Christian intellectual domination during the Middle ages. Thus, even when no longer necessary as "the
common ground" on which to engage in apologetics with the pagan world, classical thought remained the substrata for philosophical reflection
during the Middle Ages. [6] 
The easy mixing of Christian concepts with the popular intellectual medium of the times, Greek philosophy, is further evidenced by the discoveries of
papyrus fragments of pagan Greek literature that were written in the same style and handwriting as Biblical fragments discovered in the same finds.
Evidently, the two literatures (Christian and pagan) belonged to the same ancient world. [7]
 Apologetic Impluse: Educated Christians Utilize the "Philosophical Idiom"
 As more educated people in society joined the Christian ranks, it was only natural that educated Christians became apologists for their beliefs in the language of their education.  Thus, they used  some of terms and ideas taken from directly Greek philosophy.  Moreover, following the general understanding of the times, these apologists considered the wise man (the pagan philosopher) capable of discerning  the truth of monotheism and approximating other aspects of belief, even if imperfectly.  [8]
The Latin apologists in the period from the early third to the early fourth century, were all men highly educated in the Latin culture of their day. In several cases holding positions as professional rhetoricians and advocates. Most of them were converts to the Christian faith and were conversant with contemporary Greek Christian literature. They were fully capable of drawing on the philosophical material made available to them by both the pagan and the Christian traditions. Their urge to take a position on the relationship between Christianity and Greek philosophy sprang from the need to make sense of their own intellectual experience no less than from the need to defend the new faith and to arm their co-religionist for survival in a hostile environment. [9]
Even those Christian thinkers whol were less disposed  to the insights of  pagan philosophy found that the attacks of pagan philosophers and polemicists on Christian thinking compelled them to study the philosophy and arguments of their adverseries. As a result of there endeavors, Platonism and Christianity drew closer to one another. Christians came to realize that the two systems shared much in common. In fact, many Christian thinkers came to believe that Plato actually had drawn his philosophical ideas from the Old Testament. 

 
RESULT:   Christian Shift in Vocabulary and Approach
Early church leaders like Irenaeus were ready enough to use the rhetorical figures of their education in the pagan schools as they developed arguments against the heretics. Even the anti-philosophical Tertullian borrowed from the Stoics in psychology and used the methods and terminology of legal argumentation in his writings. His "natural" borrowings from the popular philosophies of the day is telling witness of the profound influence that classical culture had upon all educated men of the day. In the end, Tertullian could not escape his world. [10] Classical culture thus influenced the Christian church, especially in the direction of favoring an intellectualistic interpretation of religion, emphasizing dogmatic formulations as well as the need for educated clergy. [11]  With the advent of Neoplatonism, in the third century, Churchmen had cause to celebrate the reconstruction of Plato's thought through the prism of Plotinus' mystical insight. From this point forward, the "baptized" Plato would become the framework for the Church's philosophical world-view. [12]
While responding and accommodating Greek philosophy, the church gradually departed from its Jewish-Christian origins and became more and more
Hellenized and institutionalized. The religious message was framed in the idiom of the philosopher, reminiscent at every turn of Heraclitus or Plato
or Aristotle or Cleanthes or Epictetus. This process did not go unnoticed. References to Christianity as a philosophy founded by a philosopher
occasionally occur, even in Christian circles. [13] One Christian Bishop, Phileas, on trial before the Roman magistrate Cucianus in A.D. 303, says that. 'Paul [Paul the Apostole] ... supreme among the Greeks surpassed Plato and other philosophers.' (Apologia of Phileas - Papyrus Bodmer XX,
ed. Martin. Geneva, 1964) [14]
The noted Christian thinker and historian, Eusebius of Caesarie (265-340) even identified Jesus as a philosopher: 'Nobody can deny that our Savior
and Lord was a philosopher and a truly pious man, no impostor or magician. (Eusebius, Demonstration of the Gospel 3.6.8 - PG 22. 225) [15] The attacks of pagan philosophers and polemicists on Christian thinking compelled the Church Fathers to study the philosophy and arguments of their adverseries. As a result of there endeavors, Platonism and Christianity drew closer to one another. Christians came to realize that the two systems shared much in common. In fact, many Christian thinkers came to believe that Plato actually had drawn his philosophical ideas from the Old Testament. 

 
 Early Church Fathers And the Accommodation of Philosophy
Basil (c. 330-379)
Basil considered the reading of the pagan authors useful for Christian students if they could recognize in these a portrayal of arete (excellence, truth, virtue); this element would help them in their education, defined by Basil as the cultivation of the soul to prepare it for pilgrimage on the road to eternal life. Basil qualified the acceptance of the pagan authors as praeparatio evangelia paved the way for continued acceptance by Christian of the traditional education in the liberal arts, provided these studies were regarded as giving the students the tools, whether moral or literary, for further study of Biblical truth. [16]
Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215)
Clement of Alexandria accepted idea that Greek philosophers had borrowed from the Old Testament and had distorted what they borrowed. He had the
conviction that Plato had arrived at some knowledge of the truth through the illumination of the divine Logos. Further, Clement regarded philosophical speculation not simply as a preparation for Christian wisdom, but also as an instrument for penetrating, grasping and stating this wisdom. [17]
Dealing with the Greek philosophy and Christian truth, he wrote:
 'Those who say that philosophy took its origin from the devil should recall that saying of the scripture about the devil "changed into an angel of light" his intention being utter prophesy. When he prophesies in the
guise of an angel of light he must tell the truth. His utterance of angelic and enlightened teaching is therefore salutary - at the particular time, that is, when he changes to this activity and not during usual state of apostasy. He has to make use of truth to lead on the require cunningly into friendship with himself and so eventually into error Philosophy, then is not false, for the chief and liar changes his whole operation to make use of it. We are not far off the mark if we repeat the common thought that indeed philosophy has been given to the Greeks as their own kind of covenant, their foundation for philosophy of Christ, even if Greek philosophers do close their ears to the Christian truth, despising its barbarian accent... The philosophy of the Greeks, partial and particular
though it is, contains the basic elements of that genuine and perfect knowledge which is higher than human, which is engaged upon purely intellectual objects, even upon those spiritual objects which eye had not seen nor ear heard nor the heart of man ever conceived until they were made plain to us Christians by our Great Teacher...' [Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 6.8 (PG. 9. 288), Migne, Patrologia, vol. 9, col. 288] [18]

 
Justin Martyr (c. 105-c. 165)
Justin Martyr, who had made his way to Christianity via the philosophical schools and had found some light in Plotonism in particular, hold a positive evaluation of Greek thought, especially Platonism, as an approximation to the truth. notably in his Dialogue with Trypho. [19] He saw the pagan philosophers as people who had conceived some share on the logos when he wrote:
'Everything that ever been well expressed or conceived by the philosophers or lawmakers they have elaborated... because of some share in the logos. Since of course they did not acquire complete knowledge of the logos, which is Christ, they often contradicted one another.' Justin, Apology 2. 10 (PG. 6. 460) [20]

 
Origin (c. 185-254)
The representative person of Christian school at Alexandria, Origen, who have developed a Christian world-view with the aid of philosophy, especially of Plotonism and to some extend, of Stoicism. His treatise On First Principles expressed the out look of a philosophical minded theologian. Origen had tried to have interpreted Christian Trinitarian belief in the light of the Neo-Plotonism hierarchy. His allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures was adopted from that of Philo. This allegorical way of interpretation of the Scriptures had lead to a philosophical and speculative interpretation of the Bible and by which had developed Christian speculative theology with the aid of ideas derived from or suggested by philosophy.[21]

 
St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
In Latin Christendom, the name of Augustine stands out as that of the greatest of the Fathers both from a literary and from a theological standpoint.[22] He is also said to has greatest influence upon the history of dogma and upon religious thought and sentiment in the Western Christendom than any writer outside the canon of Scripture. [23] His authority as a Christian writer is second only to the canonical writings and the official pronouncements of the Church. [24]As the bishop of Hippo, Augustine was referred to approvingly as Augustinus magister. His influence, from the early Middle Ages, through Scholasticism, Humanistic and Reformational traditions and the heightened attention in the seventeenth century, has extended to the present. Today he still fascinates Christians and non-Christians, philosophers and theologians, men of letters and other scholars.[25]
Among Augustine's greatest contributions to Latin Christianity was his justification of the role of secular learning for theologians. [26]
The historical background of Augustine's thought
Born in Latin Africa in 354 to a pagan father and a Christian mother, St. Monica.[27] By citizenship and cultural orientation he was a Roman. His
formal education was Latin rhetorician. Later He taught rhetoric in Thagaste, Cartage, Rome and Milan. The training centered on the arts of effective speaking and writing and was an alternative to the less practical pursuit of philosophy. He was first drawn to philosophy through an exhortatory essay on the subject by Cicero, the great model of the rhetoricians.[28]
 'Neo-Platonism', whose proponents called themselves 'Platonists', was a popular and widely influential school of thought that Augustine eventually came to support.   The authentic doctrine of Plato had been rediscovered by the works of Plotinus whose discourses The Enneads' was edited by his disciple Porphyry. Porphyry turned Plotinus discovery of Plato into text-books. In Milan, much of the articulate and fashionable Platonism was Christian. An African professor of rhetoric, Marius Victorinus, had suddenly joined the Christian Church. He also translated Plotinus and other Neo-Platonic writings into Latin. Thus, the book made available by translation to less educated man such as Augustine, were provided by a man known to have 'died as a Christian'. And that, 'There are the writings of the Platonist, ways that show the path that leads to belief in God and His Word.'[29] To a Christian Platonist, the history of Platonism seemed to converge quite naturally on Christianity. For Ambrose, the followers of Plato were the 'aristocrates of thought'.[30]The movement into which Augustine had entered was a movement with distinctive features among Latin-speakers. Like Cicero, he tried to reconcile the ideas they had picked up from the Greek with the traditional religion of their elders. Augustine was introduced into these new ideas 'through a certain man, who
was puffed up with pride, the writings of the Platonist that had been translated out of Greek into Latin.'[31] Reading of the Platonic books had brought Augustine to a final and definitive 'conversion' from a literary career to a life 'in philosophy'[32]
His conversion and the Greek philosophers
Augustine's conversion, in a real sense it gathered up the spiritual experience of the ancient world: the religious thought of the Psalmist, of Plato, of the Stoics, of St. Paul. [33]
An indication of the religious motive permeating Greek philosophy is the fact that right at the end of antiquity it was an 'exhortation to the philosophic life', written by Cicero in imitation of a pre vious one by Aristotle, the Protreptikos, which first turned Saint Augustine's thoughts towards Christianity, and then it was a reading of Plotinus which took him a stage further towards the spirituality of Saint Paul. These was indicated in his Confessions when he wrote:
'Among these companions at that unsteady age I was studying works of rhetoric, the art in which I wanted to shine, for my ambition was damnable puffed up, being a mere delight in earthly vanity. And in the course of reading I came upon a work of Cicero, whose style, if not his heart, wins general administration. The work contains his exhortation to philosophy and its title is Hortinius. Now this book changed my feelings, turned my prayers towards you, Lord, and left my aims and desires different from before.  Every vain ambition suddenly seemed cheap to me, and I began to desire the immortality of wisdom with an incredible fervor of heart. And I began to rise and return to you. [Augustine, Confessions 3. 4]

'But when I read those books of Platinus I was taught by them to seek incorporeal truth, and so I saw your "invisible things, understood by the things that are made".' [Augustine, Confessions 7. 20]

'There are in the writings of the Platonists, ways that show the path that leads to belief in God and His Word.' [Augustine, Confessions 8, 5]

These views about Platonist were more than theoretical for Augustine. He sees the workings of providence in the fact that he became acquainted with
Platonism before his conversion to Christianity.
Augustine's attitude towards pagan philosophers
Augustine's attitude towards the pagan philosophy is best represented by Chapter 40 of the second book of his On Christian Doctrine which reads as
follows:
Moreover, if those who are called philosophers, and especially the Platonists, have said 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. For, as the Egyptians had not only the idol and heavy burdens which the people of Israel hated and fled from, but also vessels and ornaments of gold and silver, and garments, which the same
people when going out of Egypt appropriated to themselves, designing them for a better use, not doing this on their own authority, but by the command of God, the Egyptians themselves, in their ignorance, providing them with things which they themselves were not making a good use of; in the same way all branches of heathen learning have not only false and superstitious fancies and heavy burdens of unnecessary toil, which every one of us, when going out under the leadership of Christ from the fellowship of the heathen, ought to abhor and avoid; but they contain also liberal instruction which is better adapted to the use of the truth, and some most excellent precepts of morality; and some truths in regard even to the worship of the One God are found among them. Now these are, so to speak, their gold and silver, which they did not create themselves, but dug out of the mines of God's providence which are everywhere scattered abroad, and are perversely and unlawfully prostituting to the worship of the devils. These, therefore, the Christian, when he separates himself in spirit from the miserable fellowship of these men, ought to take away from them, and to devote to their proper use in preaching the gospel. Their garments, also, -- that is, human institutions such as are adapted to that intercourse with men which is indispensable in this life, -- we must take and turn to a Christian use.

And what else have many good and faithful men among our brethren done? do we not see with what a quantity of gold and silver and garments Cyprian, that most persuasive teacher and most blessed martyr, was loaded when he came out of Egypt? How much Lactantius brought with him? And Victorinus, and Optatus, and Hilary, not to speak of living men! How much Greek out of number have borrowed! And prior to all these, that most faithful servant of God, Moses, had done the same thing; for of him it is written that he learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. And to none of all these would heathen superstition (especially in those time when, kicking against the yoke of Christ, it was persecuting the Christian) have ever furnished branches of knowledge it held useful, if it had suspected they were about to turn them to the use of worshipping the One God, and thereby overturning the vain worship of idols. But they gave their gold and their garments to the people of God as they were going out of Egypt, not knowing how the things they gave would be turn to the service of Christ. For what was done at the time of the exodus was no doubt a type prefiguring what happens now. And this I say without prejudice to any other interpretation that may be as good, or better.[34]


 
 Augustine's view of intellectual and human knowledge
For Augustine, to understand Scripture one needs to know the words and also the things referred to. Knowledge of the latter is useful, because it sheds
light on their figurative significance.[35] He had seen the liberal arts and science as servants in the interpretation of Scripture.
Augustine refers to matters of human invention, like the letters of the alphabet, which are useful to know. History also is well, as it helps us to
understand Scripture; and a knowledge of physical objects will help us to understand Scripture references. Likewise a moderate knowledge of rhetoric
and dialectic enables one the better to understand and expound Scripture. [36]
Thomas Aquinas from his understand of St. Augustine's attitude towards the Greek philosophy in his teaching wrote:
'Consequently whenever Augustine, who was imbued with the doctrines of Platonists, found in their teaching anything consistent with faith, he adopted it, and those things which he found contrary to faith he amended.' [37]
The philosophy used by Augustine in elaborating his theology had been that of Plotinus-or rather a revised version of it.' [38] In his City of God,
Augustine devotes a good deal of space (especially in Books 8-12) to praising Platonism above other non-Christian beliefs.
Augustine is equally sensitive to philosophy and to literature as the essence of the classical culture which was his by inheritance and in whose light he defined his Christian identity. [39]
Augustine's philosophy like Plato's is one not of argument but of vision.  This distinctly Platonist quality is evident throughout Augustine's works, despite the fact that on occassion he imperfectly understood certain elements of Plato's thought as contained in the literature available to him.  Yet, Augustine did penetrate to the essential feature of Plato's thought -- the recognition that the order of perfection, like that of all the absolutes, is transcendent in nature and not mundane.  [40]  The ideal is not expressable in worldly matter.
Augustine approached the Faith with ideas formed from philosophical study and his own reflections; thus, the metaphysical and allegorical treatment
of Scripture texts that were elicited in the process of study and reflection bare a distictly Augustine character.  Personal insight and philosophical insight are brought into harmony. [41]
Philosophy as a proper tool
Patristic philosophy consisted in the formulation of Christian doctrine, which in theory was an eliciting of the truth of Scripture. It embodied the
substantial results, or survivals if one will, of Greek philosophy, so far as it did not controvert and discard them. Augustine recognized it as a proper tool; but like other tools its value was not in itself but in its usefulness. As a tool, dialectic, or logic as it has commonly been called, was to preserve a distinct, if not independent, existence.[42]
For Augustine, Scripture is always the primary datum and philosophy a useful tool for expounding and understanding it.[43] When Augustine speaks of
understanding, he always has in mind the product of a rational activity for which faith prepares the way.[44] As he said, 'We believe that God exists,
but to understand that He exists we have to reason, argue, prove; only then will the "understanding" of God's existence come to us.45]
The essential difference between rational philosophy and Christianity in Augustine's mind is that the one is fallible and the other certain. This is core of his apologetic writings against the Platonist as against all the pagan schools.46]
Augustine felt no need to justify his method to pagan philosophy but he was sensitive to the objections of Churchmen who rejected the use of philosopy in matters of faith.  This was especially true of Augustine's own African church, which would dispense with philosophizing altogether. This anti-philosophical attitude, as discussed above, is epitomized in a famous outburst by Tertullian (c. 169-220): 'What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?' [47] Against this way of thinking, Augustine argued explicitly in his treatise On Christian Doctrine (De Doctrina Christiana). The considerations which he added are, appropriately and typically, drawn directly from Scripture, figuratively interpreted.
In his masterwork, City of God, Augustine interprets history in the context of human society and God's salvific plan in the context of the crumbling Roman Empire.  But his desire to draw a clear line between this worldly endeavors and those of spiritual purpose did not extend to the point of negating the value of "worldly wisdom".  Indeed, he devotes a good deal of space (especially in Books 8-12) to praising Platonism above other non-Christian schools of thought. He speculates about whether Plato could have had some knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures and suggests that the Neoplatonists speak, though in a confused way, of the Trinity. Their God is, he considers, not merely similar to the true God, but the same God. Yet the Platonists cannot reach a fuller understanding of  God. They know where to go, but not how to go there. Their search for knowledge is hindered by pride; they need to embrace the fulness of truth by humbly accepting Christ.[48]
Augustine did not see himself as an innovator.  He thought of himself in the context of the Christian apologists, who had long used elements of  philosophy in their efforts to prove the validity Christianity.  Christian Platonists before him had already established that the intellectual and the spiritual are inextricably related.  Augustine is not a Christian who simply borrows elements from Platonism, as though from some external source.  He was convinced that "truth" is indivisible, and that the doctrine he expounds, as he finds it in Scripture and in his Christian predecessors, is unrecognizable and unthinkable in abstract separation from those modes of Platonic thought that can be shown to be true.  As Augustine envisioned the nature of "truth" there could be no proto-scholastic division of philosophy from theology:  Truth is one;  as is Christian sapientia. To the extent that Platonic thought expressed that truth, it was Christian.  Thus, Augustine maintained that those aspects of logic and argumentation that were correct in  "platonic thought"  had to be embraced.  They were true, and truth could not be denied.   saw not difficulty in being both a Platonist and a Christian . [49] 
Augustine's rejection of certain positions within Platonism as "false" were rejected because they were both intellectually and  morally incorrect.  There is no room in his view for a position being intellectually correct and morally incorrect.  Truth could not be separated into such "neat" but totally illogical compartments.  The logic and argumentation of "platonic error" could and had to be resisted because it was intellectually wrong.  And because it was wrong, it not possible that it could be morally acceptable.  Given this understand of the unity of "truth", Augustine considered Platonism, in one form and another, was not an alternative to Christianity, but as a form of Christian understanding.  In his conversion to the faith,  Platonism is not abandoned, but is continually converted with him, in the continual conversion of his intellect and will.  Thus, Augustine sees Christianity within the limited but real truth of Platonism, and Platonism in the light of the word of revelation. [50]
His point is that Christians share with the Platonists the same notion of God the Father and the same notion of his eternally begotten son - the Word
in whom all things are made. He testifies, as one of the few who have risen to the actual vision of God, that the God of the Christians and the God of the Platonists is one and the some. Furthermore, the conception of the proper end of the human soul, of its perfect bliss, as consisting in this vision, is common both to Platonism and Christianity. The City of God is liberally sprinkled with passages that mantain this position unequivocally.51]

 
Challenges faced by  St. Augustine 
In the West, Augustine faced challenges on every level of human existence.  But rather than leading to sophistry, Augustine continued  to look for truth beyond the world of appearance.  In this, he was not unlike the earliest Greek philosophers for sought to understand the underlying reality of the material world.  Faced with the down fall of the Roman Empire, his personal crisis, the struggle to free himself from dualistic Manichaeism and academic skepticism, he found refuge in the material and spiritual explantions of the Church as illuminated in the terminology of  Neo-Platonism.  Once convinced of the correctness of his position, he moved confidently to  allegorizing, to Christian asceticism, and finally to the episcopate. 
Augustine was forced to systematically examine the relationship of Christian and Platonic thought.  Unlike his Chrisitan predecessors, he found it necessary to press his reflections forward as he, and the Church faced two major crisis:  the Donatist crisis, which had a profound impact on Augustine's--and the whole Western world's--understanding of the Church and the sacraments; and the Pelagian crisis, which played a crucial role in formation the theology of sin and grace. [52]  Thus, Augustine never ceased the project that first brought him to the faith.  He continued to defend the Roman oxthodoxcy,  the authority of the episcopate, and correctness of the Church's theological understanding by examining the Scriptures in the context of Chrisitian tradition and Neo-Platonic philosophy

 
 

-------------------------
 
[1]  J. H. Hexter (ed.), The Tradition of the Western World, Vol. 1, p. 142 
[2]  Hans Kung, Theology for the Third Millennium, p.140 
[3]  Henry Chadwick, Early Christian Thought and the Classical Tradition, p .5 
[4]  Henry Osborn Taylor, The Mediaeval Mind, Vol. I, p. 71 
[5]  Henry Chadwick, Ibid., p. 6 
[6]  Fredrick  Copleston, A History of Medieval Philosophy, p. 23 
[7]  James Shiel, Greek Thought and the Rise of Christianity, p. 1 
[8]  Fredrick  Copleston, A History of Medieval Philosophy, p.18  J 
[9]   Marcial L. Colish, The Stoic Tradition from Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages -II, Studies in the history of Christian Thought, Heiko A.Oberman, ed., p. 9 
[10]  Wendy E. Helleman (ed.), Christianity and the Classics - the Acceptance of a Heritage, p. 11 
[11]  Ibid., p. 19 
[12]  John E. Bentley, Visual Outline of Philosophy, p. 30 
[13]  James Shiel, Greek Thought and the Rise of Christianity, p. 1 
[14]  Ibid. p. 2 
[15]  Ibid.
[16]  Wendy E. Helleman (ed.), Christianity and the Classics - the Acceptance of a Heritage, p. 11  Ibid., p. 20
[17]  Copleston, A History of Medieval Philosophy, p. 20
[18]  Shiel, op cit., p. 3
[19]  Copleston,  Ibid., p. 19-20
[20]  James Shiel, Ibid., p. 3
[21]  Copleston, A History of Medieval Philosophy, p. 21-22
[22]  Copleston, A History of Philosophy, Vol. 2, Part 1, p. 55
[23]  David Knowles, The Evolution of Medieval Thought, p. 32
[24]  Eugene Portalie, A Guide to the Thought of Saint Augustine, p.xxxvi
[25]  Johannes Van Oort, Jerusalem and Babylon, p.1-2
[26]  Micheal Haren, Medieval Thought, - The Western Intellectual Tradition from Antiquity to the Thirteenth Century, p. 37
[27]  Ibid, p. 42
[28]  Ibid., p.42
[29]  Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, Book VII.
[30]  Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo, p. 92-93
[31]  Confessions, Book VII
[32]  Peter Brown, op cit., p. 103
[33] Ottley, Studies in the Confessions of St. Augustine, p.3
[34] Augustine of Hippo, On Christian Doctrine, Book II, Chapter 40
[35]  Henry Osborn Taylor, The Mediaeval Mind, Vol. I, p. 66
[36]  Ibid., p. 67
[37]  Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I, q.84, a.5. (quoted by E. Gilson in Elements of Christian Philosophy, p. 281
[38]  Etienne Gilson, Elements of Christian Philosophy, p.16
[39]  Marcial L. Colish,  op cit.,  p.143
[40]  M. Haren, op cit., p. 47
[41]  H.O. Taylor, op cit., Vol. I, p. 68
[42]  Ibid., p. 70-71
[43]  M. Haren, op cit., p. 45
[44]  Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of St Augustine, p.36
[45]  De Lib. Arbnit. II, 2, 5-6; PL 32, 1234, as quoted by Gilson, p. 36
[47]  Tertullian, Prescription against Heretics, 7
[48]  John Marenbon, Early Medieval Philosophy, p.13
[49]  Joanne McWilliam (ed.), Augustine from Rhetor to Theologian, p. 110
[50]  Ibid., p. 111
[51]  Ibid., p. .58
[52]  H. Kung, ob cit., p. 140-141