In Part 6, we discussed how Augustine would have refuted such claims that he either remained a Manichee or that he would sneak in some of their beliefs which were not in the Christian Church up to that point. As I have been continuing my reading through Augustine’s works, I came across some direct refutations to claims that he was still a Manichaean. In 405, near the beginning of the Donatist controversy, Augustine wrote the work that we know as “Answer to Petilian, The Donatist”. In that he refuted much that Petilianus had to say regarding baptism, rebaptism, and the legitimacy of baptism if the baptizer is a hypocrite.
In Book III, Augustine questioned here that if someone doesn’t give credence to the praises of another’s friend, then they shouldn’t believe the detractions of his enemy. Only a man’s conscience can vouch for certain things which can’t be seen. Accordingly, Augustine notes that Petilianus insists that he’s still a Manichaean. But Augustine, in his own conscience, confesses that he is not. Believe either Augustine or the detractor who makes false claims against him – whether that be Petilianus or Ken Wilson.
For if one should not give credence to the panegyrics of a friend, neither should one believe the detraction of an enemy. There remain, therefore, those things which are hidden in a man, in which conscience alone can bear testimony, which cannot be a witness before men. Herein Petilianus says that I am a Manichæan, speaking of the conscience of another man; I, speaking of my own conscience, aver that I am not. Choose which of us you had sooner believe.Answer to Petilian, The Donatist, Book III, Chapter 10
Later in the same book, Augustine demonstrates that Petilianus does not even recognize the differing levels of membership (for lack of a better word) in Manichaeaism. He misuses the level of a catechumen when referring to a woman who was a hearer. He even said that Augustine was a presbyter of the Manichaeans. Augustine tells them to read what he had written in Confessions, Book III
Let him further go on, in his discourse of many but manifestly empty words, to matters of which he is wholly ignorant, or in which rather he abuses the ignorance of the mass of those who hear him, and from the confession of a certain woman, that she had called herself a catechumen of the Manichæans, being already a full member of the Catholic Church, let him say or write what he pleases concerning their baptism—not knowing, or pretending not to know, that the name of catechumen is not bestowed among them upon persons to denote that they are at some future time to be baptized, but that this name is given to such as are also called Hearers, on the supposition that they cannot observe what are considered the higher and greater commandments, which are observed by those whom they think right to distinguish and honor by the name of Elect. Let him also maintain with wonderful rashness, either as himself deceived or as seeking to deceive, that I was a presbyter among the Manichæans. Let him set forth and refute, in whatever sense seems good to him, the words of the third book of my Confessions, which, both in themselves, and from much that I have said before and since, are perfectly clear to all who read them.Answer to Petilian, The Donatist, Book III, Chapter 17
In summary, Augustine left no room for discussion when it came to whether or not he was still Manichaean. When someone like Petilian or Wilson would wish to assert otherwise, they are bearing false witness against another. Augustine would have asked for a refutation not only of his written words but also the reading of his conscience.Tags: chrisw-kenwilson