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Augustine of Hippo – Obstinate declarations

September 7, 2014

“[Manes] wrote at great length on scientific subjects, only to be proved wrong by genuine scientists, thereby making perfectly clear the true nature of his insight into more abstruse matters. Because he did not want them to think lightly of him, he tried to convince his followers that the Holy Spirit, who comforts and enriches your faithful servants, was present in him personally and with full powers. Therefore, when he was shown to be wrong in what he said about the sky and the stars and the movements of the sun and the moon, it was obvious that he was guilty of sacrilegious presumption, because, although these matters are no part of religious doctrine, he was not only ignorant of the subjects which he taught, but also taught what was false, yet was demented and conceited enough to claim that his utterances were those of a divine person.

Whenever I hear a brother Christian talk in such a way as to show that he is ignorant of these scientific matters and confuses one thing with another, I listen with patience to his theories and think it no harm to him that he does not know the true facts about material things, provided that he holds no beliefs unworthy of you, O Lord, who are the Creator of them all. The danger lies in thinking that such knowledge is part and parcel of what he must believe to save his soul and in presuming to make obstinate declarations about things of which he knows nothing.”

(from Confessions [307-400]; translated by R. S. Pine-Coffin)

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