Jones points out the essential tension between a rising orthodoxy and the essentially mystical dimension and foundation of "Christianity" (as something of an invention/development by Paul -- though on Jones' account, the logos of the Gospel of John is equally "mystical" in the sense that it is an identity with the logos [or, for Paul, the risen Christ] which the believer seeks).
This tension can be stated in still different terms -- and ones which reflect on the conflict between what became "orthodoxy" and the Gnostics. Like the original human encounter between those who became disciples and Jesus -- mysticism relies ultimately on the authority of one's own experience. Yet, as contemporary authors point out (e.g., Soelle), this appeal to the validity of one's own experience is essentially anti-hierarchical, anti-authoritarian. (In still broader terms: the "mystical" experience of a first-hand encounter with the Divine - e.g., the early Christian community receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Paul on the road to Damascus, etc.- is central to the prophetic tradition, as one allied with more egalitarian forms of community and more oral forms of authority.)
By contrast, as the church becomes acculturated, as the Jesus movement is transformed into an institution -- and, correlatively, as the emphasis on "an inner change effected in this life through identification with Christ Jesus" shifts to "something that is going to happen in the distant future," (55) -- the shift is precisely to a hierarchical institution (the Church) which holds an authority over the individual (as it determines the proper creed, the sacred scripture, and the exact meaning of these in terms of behavior, law, and ritual). (In broader terms: there is a shift here from the oral/egalitarian ethos of the first-generation Christians to the literate/hierarchical ethos of Christianity as it becomes progressively more and more assimilated into the prevailing structures and mores of the larger Greco-Roman world. This in turn fosters a shift from the prophetic to the more apocalyptic dimensions of the early belief-system - specifically, a shift from the task of embodying social justice in this world as an anticipation of God's kingdom on earth, to the task of seeking individual salvation in an afterlife, as a reward for the righteous individual.)
In these terms, the Gnostics, too, were "individualists," in the sense that they too insisted on a "mystical" or spiritual transformation -- one which further tended in a dualistic direction as it devalued the body and this life altogether.
Arius takes monotheism seriously -- so as to deny that Christ was God. Rather, Arius argued that Christ was not eternal and perfect. "On the contrary, like everything else, he was created by the Father out of nothing, and he subsequently became incarnate in the body of Jesus of Nazareth."(64)
By contrast, what becomes the orthodox view (from the Council of Nicea, 325 C.E.) of the Trinity is fully admitted to be a "mystery," -- i.e., a statement finally beyond fully rational understanding and thus beyond the criterion or standpoint of rational/logical consistency.
Jones mentions here Tertullian, whose antirationalism is legend (65), as an instance of the Church placing faith as a mystery above reason. But this is at once to deprecate human, natural powers -- leaving us, as Jones puts it, with the only hope "in the generosity of higher powers; [man's] best attitude is one of humility and pious respect; and the key to his whole future is unquestioning faith in the extrrational, supernatural revelations of the ultimately incomprehensible divine."(65)
As a response to the problem of evil -- essentially dualist
CONTRAST BETWEEN GREEK AND CHRISTIAN VIEWS
Whereas the Greeks conceived it their chief task to give an account of man's relation to nature, the Christians considered that what alone matters is man's relation to a transcendent, infinite, absolutely perfect being. This changed the whole preoccupation of philosophy. For the Greeks, natural science and the social sciences were significant both in their own right and as instruments of the good life; for the Christians, they were irrelevant and even dangerous. For the Greeks, morality was essentially a social ethics and its aim was happiness. For the Christians, morality was a department of religious practice. Conduct was judged not by the end it achieves but by the degree of its conformity to God's commands, and since the perfection of the Deity gave the Christian an absolutely exalted ideal to aim at, the Christian alwasy felt a sense of failure. No matter how good he was, he was not as good as he ought to be. (70)
The Greeks lived in a universe that was basically one, and they believed themselves to be, as it were, in step with it. That is, their world was a cosmos of which they were a part. The central problem for them was to understand this world, which, just because it was a cosmos, they held to be in essence understandable. By contrast, the Christians lived in a universe in which something was profoundly amiss. On the one hand there was a transcendent creator god; on the other, a corrupt and erratic world. The central problem for them, therefore, was not scientific but practical: how to get back into step, how to return to the creator from whom men have wandered. (70)
Acute sense of sin (Confessions)
Attitude towards sex
His manicheanism, and then neoplatonism as offering intellectual solutions to the problem of evil
MANICHEANISM avoids the problem of evil by attributing evil to the evil god. It also neatly "explains" the conflict of will experienced by both Paul and Augustine ("that which I would not do, I do; that which I would do, I do not do").
OBJECTION: from the standpoint of Christian orthodoxy, Manicheanism violates the doctrinal insistence on monotheism
NEOPLATONISM avoids the monotheist's objection to Manicheanism: evil is now "merely negative, merely the absence of good"(79)
[This, however, will lead to further problems, insofar as its rigorous monotheism appears to leave little room for human freedom -- and thus for human responsibility.]
In any case, once Augustine believes he has found a solution to the problem of evil (within the Roman Catholic framework -- i.e., Neoplatonism)...
--> this leaves only the need for the will to convert -- a will thwarted precisely by "the love of women" (79)
[--> Doctrine of Original Sin]
PROPERTIES OF GOD
Augustine and Plato both "profoundly disliked change" -- and hence, ultimate reality must be "immutable and impervious to change and decay." (85)
However, since Augustine is now taking up the question of the relationship between "underlying reality"//appearance now in terms of the Christian Creator/creation relationship, this substitutes for the Platonic (and, more generally, the classical Greek) problem of the relationship between the One and the many the Christian problem of the relationship between a creative God and the creation which, according to doctrine, is created out of nothing.
This leads to a particular problem: the problem of "too much" and "too little" difference between the transcendent Creator and creation:
If we emphasize transcendence -- then the Creator is entirely removed from human ken and language, and
--> too much independence on the part of the creation, especially human beings.
If we fail to emphasize transcendence enough
--> the Neoplatonic heresy of pantheism.
Augustine's solution to this dilemma in part rests on his "inward turn." Unlike Plato, who finds mathematics as an absolutely certain starting point -- Augustine takes the self -- the doubting self, in particular, as the point of certainty. (87) [As Jones points out, this becomes in Descartes' hands the starting point of modern philosophy as well.]
In part, the distinction is made in terms of time --
the eternality of God vs. the temporality of human perception.
As well, things become still more complicated as Augustine both incorporates a "classical" conception of God as the object of our loves (Platonic/ Aristotelian/Neoplatonic) -- and shifts from this classical conception (whose notion of the perfection of God precludes God's interest in humanity) to the Judeo-Christian conception of God as providential.
As Jones points out, this not only explains how Christianity thus meets the religious needs of the Roman world -- it also opens up a whole new hornet's nest of problems, namely...
PROVIDENCE, EVIL, AND FREE WILL
Doctrine of Original Sin
(again, fueled especially by his Manicheist background, experience of sexuality, "acute" sense of sin)
Evil is explained both as a lack of understanding on our part (of God's greater purposes) - and as the positive outcome of our free choice.²