Was Augustine a Scripturalist?
by Drake Shelton
by Drake Shelton
First it must be ascertained what Scripturalism is. I believe that the axiom of Scripturalism is the revelation of Jah. This is defined as the Protestant canonical list. This axiom gives man one source of knowledge in two categories special and general revelation. Special revelation is the propositions that are inferred from the canonical list. General revelation is the apriori structures otherwise known as innate ideas. For info on the distinction between General and Special Revelation see TR The White Horse Inn: Nonsense on Tap. The propositions of scripture are therefore deduced from the list and are therefore given an account. The axiom is not knowledge. It is THE assumption. In Dr. Robbins' article TR The White Horse Inn: Nonsense on Tap he clearly refers John 1:9 to the apriori structures and those who criticize Scripturalism for ignoring the apriori structures simply have not done their homework. It is true there are some inconsistent statements regarding the exclusive role that scripture plays regarding knowledge but the answers are very clear and both Clark and Robbins touch on these things. First the apriori structures are deduced from scripture as Clark made clear in his Festschrift and this is what I think they mean when they say that all knowledge must be deduced from scripture, in the sense that they are demonstrated from scripture. Yet I think it easier to say that all knowledge comes through revelation in two categories special and general. Therefore, on this assumption and definition was Augustine a Scripturalist? Let's see what he said:
(The quotes from Book 3 are taken from Against the Academicians and The Teacher [Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing, 1995] )
Augustine, Concerning the Teacher
"There are two statements made by the Academicians which we decided to argue against to the best of our ability. (a) nothing can be perceived; (b) one should not assent to anything."
vs. 35 "Accordingly, prove that either this inference or those disjunctions given above can be false because of sleep, madness, or the unreliability of the senses! If I remember them when I wake up, I'll admit that I've been beaten. I think it's now sufficiently clear what falsehoods seem to be so through sleep and madness, namely, those that pertain to the bodily senses. For that three times three is nine and the square of rational numbers must be true, even if the human race be snoring away!"
Here we have an admission that sensation does not give knowledge. However, the rational light of the apriori structures does.
vs. 10-15 "If there are four elements in the world, there are not five. If there is only one Sun, there are not two. The same soul can't both die and be immortal. A man can't be simultaneously happy and miserable. It isn't the case here that the Sun is shining and that it is night....These and many other things, which would take too long to mention, I've learned to be true through dialectic. They are true in themselves regardless of what condition our senses are in."
Again we have here the admission of logic as innate in men and an indisputable proof of the reality of truth.
vs. 25 "Dialectic has also taught me that there shouldn't be any dispute over words when there is agreement on the matter for the sake of which the words are spoken. Anyone who disputes in this way should be instructed if he does so through inexperience;"
Logic asserted again.
11.38 [Basic Writings of Augustine Volume 1 pg. 391] Concerning the Teacher
"But, referring now to all things which we understand, we consult, not the speaker who utters words, but the guardian truth within the mind itself, because we have perhaps been reminded by words to do so. Moreover, He who is consulted teaches; for He who is said to reside in the interior man is Christ, that is, the unchangeable excellence of God and His everlasting wisdom, which every rational soul does indeed consult. But there is revealed to each one as much as he can apprehend through his will according as it is more perfect or less perfect. And if sometimes one is deceived this is not due to a defect in the truth which he has consulted any more than it is a defect of external light that the eyes of the body are often deceived; yet we confess that we consult this external light about visible things in order that it may show them to us in so far as we have the power to discern."
Here is where the real meat of the matter pertains. Here Augustine denies that knowledge is gained through sensations of an external world and asserts that Christ ALONE is the Teacher of men, ergo revelation is the source of knowledge not the senses.
12.40 Against the Academicians and the Teacher [Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing, 1995] Concering the Teacher
vs 30-35 "When we deal with things that we perceive by the mind, namely by the intellect and reason, we're speaking of things that we look upon immediatley in the inner light of Truth, in virtue of which the so-called inner man is illuminated and rejoices...Therefore, when I'm stating truth's, I don't even teach the person who is looking upon these truth. He's taught not by my words but by the things themselves made manifest within when God discloses them."
If there was any reserve in the reader before this quote the issue is now settled. Augustine makes it very clear, the sensation is not the source of the knowldge. In the occasion of the sensation it is God who immediately gives knowledge to men. This is explicitly Scripturalism and let the reader understand that Dr. Clark did not get his theory out of thin air. He got it from reading Augustine. Augustine made some inconistent remarks regarding sensation in his other works to the ones here so I will confidently say Augustine was a Scripturalist though inconsistent at times.
One such alleged inconsistency is in Aquinas' Summa 126.96.36.199 Whether there is falsity in the senses? [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/aquinas/summa.FP_Q17_A2.html]
"Objection 1: It seems that falsity is not in the senses. For Augustine says (De Vera Relig. 33): "If all the bodily senses report as they are affected, I do not know what more we can require from them." Thus it seems that we are not deceived by the senses; and therefore that falsity is not in them...
On the contrary, Augustine says (Soliloq. ii, 6), "It appears that the senses entrap us into error by their deceptive similitudes."