An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Augustine on mathematics?

"The good Christian should beware of mathematicians, and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that the mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of Hell" (St. Augustine, De Genesi ad Litteram, Book II, xviii, 37).

This quote made 'famous' by Morris Kline - it's on the back of the Pelican version of his Mathematics and Western Culture - should read 'astrologers' rather than mathematicians.

A better translation by J. H. Taylor SJ  is:

37. Hence, we must admit that when astrologers speak the truth, they are
speaking by a mysterious instinct that moves a man's mind without his
knowing it. When this happens for the purpose of deceiving men, it is the
work of evil spirits. To these spirits some knowledge of the truth about
the temporal order has been granted, partly by reason of their keen and
subtle senses, since they possess bodies of a much more subtle nature than
ours, partly because of their shrewdness due to the experience they have had
over the long ages they have lived, partly because the good angels reveal to
them what they themselves have learnt from Almighty God, at the command of
Him who distributes man's merits by the right principles of His hidden
justice. But sometimes these wicked spirits also feign the power of
divination and foretell what they themselves intend to do. Hence, a devout
Christian must avoid astrologers and all impious soothsayers, especially
when they tell the truth, for fear of leading his soul into error by
consorting with demons and entangling himself with the bonds of such

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