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Quotations from Augustine of Hippo: Proof that you can study “holy scriptures” for a lifetime and pray for guidance and come to conclusions like these

Augustine of Hippo

The earliest image of St. Augustine from a 6th century fresco in San Giovanni Lateran, Rome.

Augustine joined his ego with that of the largest religious movement in the Roman Empire which expanded his ego and gave him more verbal outlets for whatever steam was building up between his ears than ever before, more people to preach to verbally and textually, telling them what to believe and how to act, because otherwise… hell. How big a kick is that? What expands a personʼs ego more than imagining one has the ability to jangle the keys to eternal life or death in peopleʼs ears? One imagines one is preaching and writing for Godʼs sake not your own, that you are giving God a voice via promoting your own understandings of “Godʼs words.” You even get to tell your audience that God teaches it is virtuous of them to humble themselves and listen to you and other church leaders you agree with, and God doesnʼt want them listening to any of those “heretics” with whom you disagree. All the while convincing yourself that itʼs your divinely appointed job to help preserve the eternal safety and sanctity of your congregationʼs immortal souls.

Augustine devoted his life to being a cult leader, one of the earliest, loudest and most listened to when it came to arguing that heretics must be compelled/forced to enter or re-enter the fold of the one true Catholic Church. He set forth the principle of Cognite Intrare (“Compel them to enter,” based on Luke 14:23). Cognite Intrare would be used throughout the Middle Ages to justify the Churchʼs suppression of dissent and oppression of difference.

Not long after Augustineʼs arguments were put forth the Roman Emperors who were at least nominally Christian began to produce laws related to the persecution and even execution of unrepentant heretics who refused to keep their damned mouths shut or their pens out of the ink well. Augustine also taught that children who had not undergone the one true baptism of the Catholic Church remained in Satanʼs power and were hell bound if they died prior to receiving such baptism, which I am sure added to no oneʼs anguish at all. (Up till the 1970s Catholic seminarians had to learn how to use a syringe filled with holy water to baptize babies in the womb if the birthing process was not going well in order to ensure such babies would wind up in heaven.)

Below are quotations from Augustine:

  • “In Luke it is written: ‘Compel people to come in!’ By threats of the wrath of God, the Father draws souls to his Son.”
  • “There is no salvation outside the church.”
    —City of God
  • “…there is a righteous persecution, which the Church of Christ inflicts upon the impious.”
  • “…many have found advantage (as we have proved, and are daily proving by actual experiment), in being first compelled by fear or pain, so that they might afterwards be influenced by teaching.”
    —Treatise on the Correction of the Donatists
  • “The king serves God in one way as a man, and in another as a king; as a man, he serves Him by living in fidelity to His law, and since he is also a king, he serves by promulgating just laws, and forbidding the opposite, and by giving them a fitting and strong sanction; just as Zecharias served by destroying the shrines and temples of the idols; just as King Josias served by himself doing like things; just as the King of the Ninevites served by compelling the whole State to appease God; just as Darius served by giving the breaking of the idols into the power of Daniel; just as Nebuchadnezer served by forbidding by a terrible law all those dwelling in his kingdom to blaspheme God.” And in the same place he adds: “Who, being in his right mind, will say to kings: ‘In your kingdom have no care as to that by which the Church of your Lord is supported or opposed,’ ‘In your kingdom it is not your affair who wishes to be devout or sacrilegious,’ to whom it cannot be said: In your kingdom it is not your affair who wishes to be virtuous or who does not?”

Augustine also wrote about the one non-Christian Emperor who reigned after Constantine (all the rest were at least nominally Christians):

  • “Julian, the betrayer and enemy of Christ, allowed the freedom of perdition to heretics… [also] allow[ing] sacrilegious disputes to be freely indulged in.”

Thus Augustine complained about freedom being allowed to heretics to speak their minds or write their works.

St. Augustine, in Epistle 62,

  • “We warn that a heretic is to be avoided, lest he deceive those who are infirm or inexperienced, to such an extent that we have not denied that he should be corrected by any means possible and so on.”

Augustine, in Book II of his Retractions, Chapter 5, and in Epistles 48 and 50, retracts what he had once thought, that heretics should not be forced to believe, and proves at length that it is very useful; he always rules out the punishment of death, not because he thought they did not deserve this, but both because he judged that this was unbecoming the gentleness of the Church and also because no imperial law was in existence, by which heretics were sentenced to death; for the Law, “Quicumque, C. de hereticis,” was promulgated a little after the death of Augustine.

That, however, Augustine judged it to be just, if heretics were put to death, is beyond question; for, in Book I, in opposition to the letter of Parmenianus, in Chapter 7, he demonstrates that if the Donatists were punished by death, they would be justly so punished. And in tract 11, on John:

  • “They kill souls, he says, and are afflicted in the body, those who bring about eternal deaths complain that they suffer temporal deaths,”

by which he says they falsely complain that they are killed by Emperors; nevertheless, even if this were true, they would be complaining unjustly. Finally, in his Letter 50, to Boniface, he writes that the Church does not want any heretic to be put to death: nevertheless, as the House of David could not enjoy peace unless Absalom were done away with and David was consoled by the peace of his realm in his grief over the death of his son: so when, from the laws of Emperors against heretics, the deaths of some follow, the sorrow of the maternal heart of the Church is assuaged by the deliverance of a multitude of people.

St. Augustine replies (in Letter 50 to Boniface, and elsewhere) that the Apostles never did that [called upon the secular arm to persecute heretics], because then there was no Christian Ruler they could call upon. For, at that time, the words of the Psalm (II, 2 & 10) were verified:

  • “The kings of the earth, and the princes conspire together against the Lord and against His anointed.” (v. 2)

And after the time of Constantine, that began to be verified which is written later in the same Psalm:

  • “And now, O kings, give heed; take warning, you rulers of the earth: Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice before Him; with trembling pay homage to him…” (vs. 10-12)

Soon the Church implored the help of the secular arm.

Augustine in a Disagreeably Impatient State

“Augustine was at his most disagreeably impatient when faced by groups whom he saw as self-regarding enclaves, deaf to the universal message of the Catholic Church. He insensibly presented the Church not only as the true Church, but as potentially the Church of the majority of the inhabitants of the Roman world. He was the first Christian that we know of to think consistently and in a practical manner in terms of making everyone a Christian. This was very different from claiming, as previous Christians had done, that Christianity was a universal religion in the sense that anyone in any place could, in theory at least, become a Christian. Augustine spoke of Christianity in more concrete, social terms: there was no reason why everybody in a given society (the Jews excepted) should not be a Christian. In his old age, he took for granted that the city of Hippo was, in effect, a Christian city. He saw no reason why the normal pressures by which any late Roman local community enforced conformity on its members should not be brought to bear against schismatics and heretics. He justified imperial laws that decreed the closing of temples and the exile and disendowment of rival churches [Donatist and other churches]. Pagans were told simply to ‘wake up’ to the fact that they were a minority. They should lose no time in joining the Great Majority of the Catholic Church. In fact, the entire world had been declared, more than a millennium before by the prophets of Israel, to belong only to Christ and to his Church, and Augustine quoted the second Psalm as proof: ‘Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron.’ [Psalm 2:6,8,9,12].”

“[Of course not everyone was swayed by Augustineʼs arguments.] We have a recently discovered letter that Augustine wrote at the end of his life to Firmus, a notable of Carthage. Firmus had attended afternoon readings of Augustineʼs City of God. He had even read as far as book 10. He knew his Christian literature better than did his wife. Yet his wife was baptized, and Firmus was not. Augustine informed him that, compared with her, Firmus, for all his culture, even his sympathy for Christianity, stood on dangerous ground as long as he remained unbaptized.“
—Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom, 2nd Ed., (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), p.91, 92

Augustine Also Taught Christians These Things:

On the Necessity of Believing in What the Scriptures Say Without Hesitation

“…in matters that pass beyond the scope of the physical senses, which we have not settled by our own understanding, and cannot—here we must believe, without hesitation, the witness of those men by whom the Scriptures (rightly called divine) were composed, men who were divinely aided in their senses and their minds…”

On the Necessity of Believing that Vast Waters Lie Above the Firmament

Genesis speaks of the firmament (Gen. 1:6-7) as that place that divides the earthly waters from the heavenly waters. Augustine offers a lengthy allegorical interpretation of the firmament in his Confessions (book 13)—seeing it as a symbol of Scripture and its place between the earthly and the heavenly—but the presence of an allegorical interpretation does not mean that he also rejects the literal existence of a firmament.

When some philosophers of Augustineʼs day argued that the waters would be too heavy to stay in the sky, Augustine replied, “If God ever wished oil to remain under water, it would do so.” (The Literal Meaning of Genesis 2.2).

The “term ‘firmament’ does not compel us to imagine a stationary heaven,” says Augustine, “we may understand this name as given to indicate not that it is motionless but that it is a solid and that it constitutes an impassible boundary between the waters above and the waters below” (The Literal Meaning of Genesis 2.10.23). And while he appears later in life to question his confidence in the exact nature of the firmament (Retractions 2.6.2), he continues to hold to its literal existence.
—Brandon Withrow, Augustine, Genesis, and “Removing the Mystical Veil”: Part 2

Augustine mentions that “…[in Genesis 1] the firmament was made between the waters above and beneath, and was called ‘Heaven,’ in which firmament the stars were made on the fourth day.” [City of God chapter 11.5-9] In that same chapter Augustine cites Psalm 148:3-4 that states the “sun, moon, stars and heaven” praise the Lord along with “the waters above the heavens,” which assumes waters exist above the stars. Augustine adds, “Whatever the nature of the waters [above the firmament], we must believe in them, for the authority of Scripture is greater than the capacity of manʼs mind.”

Augustineʼs last phrase above was echoed by Martin Luther as late as the fifteenth century:

“Scripture simply says that the moon, the sun, and the stars were placed in the firmament of the heaven, below and above which… are the waters… We Christians must be different from the philosophers in the way we think about the causes of things. And if some are beyond our comprehension like those before us concerning the waters above the heavens, we must believe them rather than wickedly deny them or presumptuously interpret them in conformity with our understanding”
—Martin Luther, Lutherʼs Works, vol. 1, Lectures on Genesis, ed. Janoslaw Pelikan (St. Louis, MI: Concordia, 1958), pp. 30, 42, 43].

“Many [of the Church Fathers] repeat the statement of Augustine, that whatever the nature of the waters [above the firmament], we must believe in them, for the authority of Scripture is greater than the capacity of manʼs mind.”
—Frank Egleston Robbins, The Hexaemeral Literature: a Study of the Greek and Latin Commentaries on Genesis

On the Falseness of the History Which Allots Many Thousand Years to the Worldʼs Past

“They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed [since the creation of Adam and Eve].
—City of God, Book XII, Chapter 10, On the Falseness of the History Which Allots Many Thousand Years to the Worldʼs Past

“…those antediluvians lived more than 900 years.”
—City of God, Book XV, Chapter 14

On the Absurdity of Believing that Men Exist on the Other Side of the Immense Expanse of Ocean

“As to the fable that there are Antipodes, that is to say, men on the opposite side of the earth [Augustine is poo pooing the idea that human beings will be found on the opposite side of a spherical earth, not a flat one], where the sun rises when it sets on us, men who walk with their feet opposite ours, there is no reason for believing it. Those who affirm it do not claim to possess any actual information; they merely conjecture that, since the earth is suspended within the concavity of the heavens, and there is as much room on the one side of it as on the other, therefore the part which is beneath cannot be void of human inhabitants. They fail to notice that, even should it be believed or demonstrated that the world is round or spherical in form, it does not follow that the part of the earth opposite to us is not completely covered with water, or that any conjectured dry land there should be inhabited by men. For Scripture, which confirms the truth of its historical statements by the accomplishment of its prophecies, teaches not falsehood; and it is too absurd to say that some men might have set sail from this side and, traversing the immense expanse of ocean, have propagated there a race of human beings descended from that one first man.”
—City of God 14:9

On Augustineʼs Belief in Human Giants Based on Bible Passages Combined with Finding Large Bones in the Ground

“…the size of menʼs bodies was larger then than now… the large size of the primitive human body is often proved to the incredulous by the exposure of sepulchers [in this case, buried bones], either through the wear of time or the violence of torrents or some accident, and in which bones of incredible size have been found or have rolled out. I myself, along with some others, saw on the shore at Utica a manʼs molar tooth of such a size, that if it were cut down into teeth such as we have, a hundred, I fancy, could have been made out of it. But that, I believe, belonged to some giant.”
—City of God, Book 15, Chapter 9

On Godʼs Re-Creation of Animals Directly from the Ground in Distant Lands Right After the Flood

In The City of God (16.7), Augustine discusses Noahʼs Ark and how it was that animals were present on distant islands so soon after the great flood:

“[I]t is asked how they [various wild animals] could be found in the islands after the deluge … It might, indeed, be said that they crossed to the islands by swimming, but this could only be true of those very near the mainland; whereas there are some so distant that we fancy no animal could swim to them … they were produced out of the earth as at their first creation … this makes it more evident that all kinds of animals were preserved in the ark, not so much for the sake of renewing the stock, as of prefiguring the various nations that were to be saved in the Church.”

On The Damnation of Infants That Die Without Having Been Baptized

“Infants, When Unbaptized, are in the Power of the Devil… The Christian faith unfalteringly declares that they who are cleansed in the laver of regeneration (i.e., the baptismal font) are redeemed from the power of the devil, and that those who have not yet been redeemed by such regeneration are still captive in the power of the devil, even if they be infant children of the redeemed… From the power of the devil… infants are delivered when they are baptized; and whosoever denies this, is convicted by the truth of the Churchʼs very sacraments, which no heretical novelty in the Church of Christ is permitted to destroy or change, so long as the Divine Head rules and helps the entire body which He owns—small as well as great. It is true, then, and in no way false, that the devilʼs power is exorcised in infants, and that they renounce him by the hearts and mouths of those who bring them to baptism, being unable to do so by their own; in order that they may be delivered from the power of darkness, and be translated into the kingdom of their Lord.”
—On Marriage and Concupiscence, Book 1, Chapter 22

On the Knowledge of the Saints Concerning What Is Going on in the Outer Darkness

“They who shall enter into [the] joy [of the Lord] shall know what is going on outside in the outer darkness… The saintsʼ… knowledge, which shall be great, shall keep them acquainted… with the eternal sufferings of the lost.”
—The City of God, Book 20, Chapter 22, “What is Meant by the Good Going Out to See the Punishment of the Wicked” & Book 22, Chapter 30, “Of the Eternal Felicity of the City of God, and of the Perpetual Sabbath”

On How Fire Can Burn Forever Yet Not Consume a Body

“I have already sufficiently made out that animals can live in the fire, in burning without being consumed, in pain without dying, by a miracle of the most omnipotent Creator.”

On the Location of Hell

“It seems to me that in the twelfth book I ought to have taught that hell is under the earth rather than to give a reason why it is under the earth, since it is believed to or said to be earth, as if it were not so.”
Retractations, written near the end of Augustineʼs life

Much More on Augustine & Hell if you Click (Here)

On How the Sexual Organs Functioned in Eden

“In Eden, it would have been possible to beget offspring without foul lust. The sexual organs would have been stimulated into necessary activity by will-power alone, just as the will controls other organs. Then, without being goaded on by the allurement of passion, the husband could have relaxed upon his wifeʼs breasts with complete peace of mind and bodily tranquility, that part of his body not activated by tumultuous passion, but brought into service by the deliberate use of power when the need arose, the seed dispatched into the womb with no loss of his wifeʼs virginity. So, the two sexes could have come together for impregnation and conception by an act of will, rather than by lustful cravings.”
—The City of God, Book 14, Chapter 26

As evidence in favor of his view that Adam had full control over his member in Eden, Augustine cites the case of people who can “make musical sounds” out of their “behinds”):

“We do in fact find among human beings some individuals with natural abilities very different from the rest of mankind and remarkable by their very rarity. Such people can do some things with their body which are for others utterly impossible and well-nigh incredible when they are reported. Some people can even move their ears, either one at a time or both together. Others without moving the head can bring the whole scalp-all the part covered with hair-down towards the forehead and bring it back again at will. Some can swallow an incredible number of various articles and then with a slight contraction of the diaphragm, can produce, as if out of a bag, any article they please, in perfect condition. There are others who imitate the cries of birds and beasts and the voices of any other men, reproducing them so accurately as to be quite indistinguishable from the originals, unless they are seen. A number of people produce at will such musical sounds from their behind (without any stink) that they seem to be singing from the region. I know from my own experience of a man who used to sweat whenever he chose; and it is a well-known fact that some people can weep at will and shed floods of tears.”
—City of God, Book 14, Chapter 24

On Women

“…the woman together with her own husband is the image of God, so that that whole substance may be one image; but when she is referred separately to her quality of help-meet, which regards the woman herself alone, then she is not the image of God; but as regards the man alone, he is the image of God as fully and completely as when the woman too is joined with him in one.”
—On the Trinity Book 12 7.10

On Abstinence Being More Important Than the Continuance of the Human Race

“In the first times, it was the duty to use marriage… chiefly for the propagation of the human race. But now, in order to enter upon holy and pure fellowship… they who wish to contract marriage for the sake of children, are to be admonished, that they use rather the larger good of continence. But I am aware of some that murmur, ‘What if all men should abstain from all sexual intercourse, whence will the human race exist?’ Would that all would… Much more speedily would the City of God be filled, and the end of the world hastened. For what else does the Apostle Paul exhort to, when he says, ‘I would that all were as myself;’ or in that passage, ‘But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remains that both they who have wives, be as though not having: and they who weep, as though not weeping: and they who rejoice, as though not rejoicing: and they who buy, as though not buying: and they who use this world as though they use it not. For the form of this world is passing away.’” (1 Cor. 7:7-8, 29-31)
—On the Good of Marriage, Sections 9-10

On His Advocacy of the View that Slaves Ought to Love Their Masters

“…the apostle [in the New Testament] admonishes slaves to be subject to their masters, and to serve them heartily and with good-will, so that, if they cannot be freed by their masters, they may themselves make their slavery in some sort free, by serving not in crafty fear, but in faithful love, until all unrighteousness pass away, and all principality and every human power be brought to nothing, and God be all in all.”
—City of God, Book XIX, Chapter 15

On the Wickedness of Giving Presents to Friends

MacMullen notes the joyous pagan festivals, including feasts, dancing, poetry orations and their long persistence despite the opposition of the bishops (Augustine tried to argue that giving friends presents was wicked).
—See, Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries

On “Curiosity”

“There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity. It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing and which man should not wish to learn.”
—The Confessions

On curiosity, compare a passage from another early Church Father, Lactantius 250-325 CE., who claimed that God made Adam the last of his creations so that he should not acquire any knowledge of the process of creation.

Or consider what another early Church Father, Jerome, wrote, “Is it not evident that a man who day and night wrestles with the dialectic art, the student of natural science whose gaze pierces the heavens, walks in vanity of understanding and darkness of mind?” Comment. in Ep. ad Ephes. iv, 17

“For centuries Stoic philosophers and Christian theologians struggled to subdue curiosity as one of the most disruptive, intractable and potentially vicious human traits. According to the 12th-century saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the evil angel fell as a result of curiosity. ‘He had peered curiously into what was to come and wanted what he was not allowed to have and hoped presumptuous hopes,’ Bernard writes, concluding that ‘rightly is curiosity considered the first step of pride; it was the beginning of all sin.’ Two centuries later, when Petrarch climbed a mountain in Provence and began to enjoy the view from the summit, he nervously opened his copy of Augustineʼs Confessions and was stunned by words that seemed to him a direct rebuke: ‘And men go to admire the high mountains, the vast floods of the sea, the huge streams of the rivers, the circumference of the ocean and the revolutions of the stars—and desert themselves.’

“Yet the great work that checked Petrarchʼs curious gaze paradoxically contains the seeds that would eventually transform the churchmanʼs vice into the psychoanalystʼs virtue. Augustine himself was far too much in the grip of curiosity to endorse unequivocally its condemnation. If he chastised excessive interest in the world, he directed a virtually obsessive attention to the hidden reaches of his innermost self: ‘I have become a problem to myself, like land which a farmer works only with difficulty and at the cost of much sweat.’ More specifically, he manifested what was, for the pre-modern world, an unusual interest in his adolescence, from his theft of pears to his gaudy nights in Carthage, and a still more unusual interest in his early childhood, from his infantile rages to his first stumbling efforts to speak.”
—Stephen Greenblatt, Curiosity Is Destiny: For Adam Phillips, psychoanalysis is about restoring peopleʼs appetite for life, New York Time, February 22, 1998

One of the more remarkable transformations in the history of European intellectual life was the removal of curiosity from the table of the vices and its inscription into the table of virtues. From the beginnings of Latin Christianity in the second century (Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine), curiositas was defined as a vice; but by the fifteenth century it had begun to be considered a virtue, and by the eighteenth century it was simply assumed by most European thinkers to be virtuous.

“It is no exaggeration to say that European thought about curiosity is Augustinian from the fifth century to the fifteenth… Curiosity for Augustine is appetite for nothing other than the ownership of new knowledge.” It is a kind of concupiscentia, a disordered desire that guarantees its own disappointment. Curious concupiscence engages in close study and investigation of its chosen objects. “But the curious man is always a fornicator: he perverts study and investigation in much the same way that having sex with those to whom you are not married perverts the gift of the sexual appetite.” Thus the curious man is distinguished from the studious man.

Curiosityʼs desire is closed off to its objects relation to God, considered only in isolation, whereas the studious manʼs interest is open to a knowledge of things including their relatedness to God. The second of Jesusʼ three temptations in the wilderness (where Jesus is placed on the templeʼs pinnacle and asked to throw himself down because of the scripture that says Godʼs angels will permit no harm to come to him) is the paridigmatic temptation of curiosity, says Griffiths, because it offers satisfaction of the experimental appetite. Appetite for novelty is another key element in curiosity, an appetite that prevents contemplative rest and also “prevents curiosityʼs gaze from seeing the vestigium aeternitatis, eternityʼs trace, in the things at which it looks.” Yet again, curiosity is characterized by loquacitas, a garrulity or chattiness involved in becoming known as one who knows.

But the most important element in Augustineʼs critique of curiosity, according to Griffiths, has to do with the attempt to own knowledge, “to assert proprietas over it, to make it subject to oneself (sibi tribuere).” … Curiositas, then, is an appetite that operates within the constraints of the libido dominandi, the lust for dominance that ownership brings. Its Augustinian contradictory is studiousness, and this is an intellectual appetite that operates within the constraints of a proper appreciation of givenness, or of what Augustine would prefer to call the gift, the donum Dei.
—Paul J. Griffiths, “The Vice of Curiosity,” Pro Ecclesia, Vol. XV, No. 1 (Winter, 2006)

I think the point Griffiths, above, was trying to make, is that Augustine wanted everything in oneʼs mind to be related to God, in fact, in relation to the Catholic Churchʼs ideas and beliefs about God. Hence, one must not be too curious. Knowledge for its own sake might derail the faithful from their prayers and single-minded devotion to God/Church and the Churchʼs mission of “saving” the world. This is borne out by much else that the early Church Fathers wrote concerning knowledge, curiosity, and the priority that Catholic beliefs and teachings must take over and above everything else. Concerning the early Church Fathers and science, the historian, Richard Carrier, has produced some youtube videos and podcasts on the topic that one can google and/or find on itunes. His presentations feature further quotations from early Church Fathers that bear out what I have stated.)

On the Contempt Augustine and other Church Fathers had for Ancient Skeptical Thinking

MacMullen points out the contempt prominent Christians such as Tertullian, Augustine, Lactantius, Ambrose and John Chrysostom had for ancient philosophy. They denounced Plato and Aristotle by name, and mocked the idea of skeptical study and the scientific attitude. Nor did they stop there. They told stories about apparitions over the battlefield, miraculous cures, the ever present existence of demons, people raised to life by Christians, and dragons turned to dust by the sign of the cross.
—See, Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries

“After Constantine there existed an empire-wide instrument of education: the church. What bishops, even emperors, made plain, and what could be heard in broader terms from every pulpit, was an agreed upon teaching. Every witness, every listener should know the great danger to his soul in Platoʼs books, in Aristotleʼs, in any of the philosophical corpus handed down from the past. The same danger threatened anyone using his mind according to their manner, with analytical intent, ranging widely for the materials of understanding, and independent of divine imparted teachings… Another factor that arose specifically out of the ongoing conversion of the empire was the doctrine of demonic causation. The belief in the operation of maleficent forces on a large scale had to await Christianity; and it was of course Christianity that was to form the medieval and Byzantine world… Satanic agents were to be seen as the cause not only of wars and rebellions, persecution and heresy, storms at sea and earthquakes on land, but of a host of minor or major personal afflictions. So, in consequence, Christians were forever crossing themselves, whatever new action they set about, and painted crosses on their foreheads too, responding to their leadersʼ urging them to do so. It would protect them against all evil.”
—Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries

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