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Interview – Aurelius Augustine (354-430)

Born and raised in a North African colony located in modern Algeria, Augustine was a professor of Rhetoric in Rome and Milan until 386, when he converted to Christianity. After returning to Africa and becoming a Bishop in 395, Augustine laid out the foundation of many Christian doctrines. He continues to be highly regarded by Catholics, Calvinists and Charismatics.

This interview is recorded in May, 430.

Augustine, covered in a blanket, reclines on a sofa. The Bishop does not like interviews. He has already written more than 2,000,000 words expounding his doctrines and has nothing more to add.

Q: Thank you, Bishop Augustine, for granting this interview. Let us begin with the burning question: damnation of infants. In hindsight, was this a terrible mistake?

AUGUSTINE: I have written many, many volumes on this question. Ask my secretary for a reading list.

Q: Can you explain, in a nutshell, how have your views changed over the past 50 years?

AUGUSTINE: I recently completed a volume entitled Reconsiderations, which modifies in some slight ways my youthful writings.

Q: I read it and didn't see any reconsideration of infant damnation.

AUGUSTINE: The sin of Adam, and the woman who led him into sin, corrupted all of mankind. Original sin is sufficient cause for endless punishment.

Q: Even of infants?

AUGUSTINE: All flesh born of women lies under just condemnation, they are children of wrath. Our Lord Jesus Christ affirms this when he says: He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Q: Just for the record, it wasn't Jesus who said that, it was John the Baptist.

(pause. Augustine is indignant at being caught misquoting the Bible.)

AUGUSTINE: All scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, correcting and rebuking!

Q: I stand rebuked. When you invented original sin, did you realize that infant damnation would be the necessary consequence?

AUGUSTINE: I am not the 'inventor' of original sin. The Christian faith has held it from ancient times. People who question original sin are the innovators. In the judgement of God, every man woman and child is in the devil's power, unless and until they are regenerated in Christ.

Q: How can new born babies be under the devil's power?

AUGUSTINE: The Christian faith unfalteringly declares that all who have not been redeemed and regenerated through holy baptism remain captives in the power of the devil. Infants have committed no sin of their own, therefore it is original sin that holds them captive under the devil's power. I repeat: unless and until they are regenerated in Christ.

Q: What of children whose parents could not or would not have their children baptized?

AUGUSTINE: That is for the parents to answer!

Q: It is not the parents who suffer. Infant damnation has caused a lot of Christians to question this doctrine of original sin.

AUGUSTINE: They do well to question and tremble at the consequences! Saint Paul taught that all children of Adam are excluded from the kingdom of God unless they have received the grace of Christ before they die. There is no doubt about that.

Q: A lot of people doubt it.

AUGUSTINE: The Bible is unequivocal: No merits are found in infants to cause some to be admitted into God's Kingdom!

Q: Do you at least agree that infants will not be tormented as much as hardened criminals?

AUGUSTINE: It may be affirmed that infants who die without being baptized will receive the mildest form of condemnation.

Q: But these unfortunate infants will be refused entry into the kingdom of God for all eternity?

AUGUSTINE: What Christian would allow it to be said that sinners could receive eternal salvation without being born again in Jesus Christ? Such a fiction has never been heard and never will be heard!

Q: How can a new born baby be a sinner?

AUGUSTINE: All are condemned unless and until they are born again in Christ.

Q: What of the children in many nations and ages that never heard of Jesus? Why must people of other faiths suffer eternal torment for what they never knew?

AUGUSTINE: Original sin condemns all children of Adam or none. Take the instance of an adult who died in a region of the earth where he never heard the name of Christ. Can the heathen be saved by nature and free will? Clearly not! If so, we must say that Christ died in vain.11 The Bible teaches that all men are condemned through the original sin of Adam and the woman who led him into sin. Therefore the Pagan cannot be admitted to heaven, no matter that he never had opportunity to become a Christian. There can be no exceptions.

Q: Many people do not see a loving or just God in your system.

AUGUSTINE: The only men unjustly treated are those who receive undeserved grace for salvation. Those unchosen for salvation have no ground for complaint because they only receive the just punishment for their sin. By offering undeserved grace to some and righteous punishment to the deserving, God shows that he is both loving and just.

Q: What do you reply to those who say we must make a personal choice because grace is an offer we can accept or reject.

AUGUSTINE: What utter nonsense! Understand what the apostle means when he says: Unto you is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for his sake. Both were gifts of God because the apostle said that both were given. There is no human choice involved.

Q: When you were fighting with your old comrades the Manicheans you wrote: To say that people sin without will, is craziness. To hold anyone guilty of sin for not doing what he could not do, belongs to the height of iniquity and insanity.

AUGUSTINE: You have been reading that miscreant Pelagius!

Q: No, I've been reading Augustine.

(pause. Augustine is again indignant but in error.)

AUGUSTINE: That was an error I have retracted. Forty years ago I was still under the influence of Pagan thinking that our acts of faith can make us deserve God's gracious gifts.

Q: You also wrote: If men are not free to choose, we cannot hold that the sin is theirs. And everyone agrees that only evil souls are justly condemned. You were not preaching then that infants and righteous Pagans must be condemned for some imaginary original sin.

AUGUSTINE: God's wonderful forgiveness cannot be called grace if any merit precedes it. That would simply be payment of a debt. Nothing can be clearer.

Q: Really? Why would a just God pre-select some for paradise and others for damnation?

AUGUSTINE: Christ our Lord explains the working of predestined grace when he says: Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. The disciples were not called because they believed; they believed because they were called.

Q: The arguments you present, even if you've written scores of books and hundreds of letters, is impossible for ordinary people to understand. The more they think about it, the less they can believe innocent people were condemned before they were born. If everyone is born evil and the salvation of a few is predestined, you deny hope to billions!

AUGUSTINE: And rightly so! The single sin of Adam, committed in a Paradise of perfection, was of so heinous a character that the whole human race was radically and permanently condemned. The condemnation of Adam's children is so perfectly just that if not a single member of the human race had been saved, no one could question the justice of God.

Q: What kind of God would have created men with freedom of choice and then condemned them for using it?

AUGUSTINE: They misused it! Both angels and humans sinned by misusing their freedom to do their own will and not their Master's.

Q: So you admit we have freewill!?

AUGUSTINE: We had freewill! The only liberty fallen man retains is the freedom to sin. His will is damaged. He is in inescapable bondage to sin and infinitely free to increase his condemnation.

Q: Why can't God free the lost as well as the saved?

AUGUSTINE: Only a fool would say God has no power to change the will of evil men. He created them and he can redirect them whenever he chooses.

Q: Then why doesn't he? Where is mercy and justice in that?

AUGUSTINE: When God saves, it is of mercy. When He does not, it is justice.

Q: How can random condemnation be divine justice? That would be horrifying.

AUGUSTINE: Indeed, very many, moan over the eternal punishment and perpetual, uninterrupted torments of the lost and say they do not believe it to be so.They directly oppose themselves to Holy Scripture.

Q: They are only opposed to the way you read Scripture. Where did Jesus teach anyone was pre-destined to condemnation? He taught that we have choice and personal responsibility to choose. To deny hope to billions is downright evil!

AUGUSTINE: The will of the Omnipotent can never be evil: even when it inflicts evil it is just, and what is just is never evil. Whether the Omnipotent God takes pity on whom he will, or in judgement hardens whom he will, He is never unjust in what He does! Never!!

Q: Do you realize that even your most ardent followers reject your doctrine of infant damnation?

AUGUSTINE: Original sin condemns all children of Adam or none.

Q: On that we can certainly agree. Thank you for being so candid.

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