Saturday, 8 April 2006

Qumran and predestination (II)

Here is the conclusion to Chris Petersen’s guest-post on the Qumran community’s doctrine of double predestination:

So where did Qumran get its strong determinism from? Some scholars suggest the influence of Zoroastrianism. These scholars argue that during the exile when the Persians began to dominate, some of those Jews living in exile assimilated many of the Zoroastrian beliefs into their system, most notably the belief in a dualism between light and darkness. These Jews then synthesized their high view of God's sovereignty with this dualism, thus giving birth to the determinism that finally reached full bloom in the theological system of the Essenes.

This is of course only a theory. Nevertheless, what I find intriguing is that the first Christian to formulate a strong doctrine of determinism, Augustine of Hippo, was once part of a religious movement known as Manichaeism which had its origins in Persia and also borrowed dualistic themes from Zoroastrian religion. Now it is usually asserted that Augustine's doctrine of predestination arose out of his conflict with Pelagius. But I can't help wondering if the dualism he associated with in his Manichaean days might have provided the basis for this doctrine, which was subsequently developed during the Pelagian controversies.

Now, of course I'm not the first to suggest that Augustine's early Manichaeism influenced much of his later thought. But it’s worth asking whether there is a direct connection between belief in a strong dualism in nature, and belief in a fatalistic or deterministic ordering of that nature. Religious systems that hold to some kind of dualism in nature tend also to have fatalistic and deterministic characteristics. Could this have been the case with Augustine? Could his dualism have led ultimately to his doctrine of predestination?

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