On Augustine

Ed Feser sent me an e-mail asking if I had written this Amazon.com review. I began typing a response, then realized I should really make it into a blog post. So:

I wrote the review as a joke. I thought that that would be obvious to everyone, especially after my first comment, but apparently not. But of course I know who Augustine was, and I regularly cite him as one of the most influential Christian theologians of all time. See here, here, and here, for example.

I do believe, in all seriousness, that a great many of Augustine’s arguments are worse than those of even the most notoriously bad modern Christian apologists (i.e. Josh McDowell). Now there’s something to be said for it being unfair to judge an ancient thinker by modern standards, but I think we also have to take into account the fact that Augustine didn’t get his status as a “great” thinker purely by force of argument. It helps that it was his faction (i.e. what we now call “orthodox Christianity”) who managed to violently suppress other view points, rather than the other way around.
Violently suppressing other viewpoints is something Augustine himself advocated; see his letter to Donatus.  See also the end of book five of City of God, where he gloats about the fact that other people were reluctant to publish a rebuttal to him because of the “danger” of doing so. I think we should always be suspicious whenever we find a  “great” thinker advocating violence to suppress other viewpoints.