By Augustine's time, Greek was already fading in the West, no doubt. I was merely showing that in this instance, Russell wasn't in error.
It was my fault, but please don't mistake the mildness of my use of the word "distractions." Augustine was capable of serious anger when it came to those worldly distractions. Just ask the Pelagians (a group of Christians trying to preserve that pagan notion that sin requires volition.)
Augustine thought the senses, and even secular learning, had their PLACE. He was, among early Christians, relatively philosophical and relatively pro-pagan, with a HEAVY emphasis on the word "relatively." Like many Christian philosophers, he was endeavoring to reconcile the completely other-worldly ideas of Paul with the more practical considerations that the Greeks had confronted. I will agree with you there.
But, like just about any early Christian he held the secular in "contempt," quite literally.
Reason cannot know the good, of course. City of God, Book XIX, "It is written, 'the just live by faith,' for we do not as yet see our good, and must therefore live by faith; neither have we the power ourselves to live rightly" but only by the help of God to live by faith.
And, for him, that's all that really mattered. Like Paul said, we don't deserve salvation -- any of us. This world is almost nothing but pain and agony -- any pleasure or wealth here is vain and idle -- and our only real hope is in the next life. Science is definitely among the earthly distractions which pave the way to Hell. The focus of our attention should be on getting there, not fixing or understanding this world.
In City of God, after going on about how it is far better for a man to know the means of salvation rather than being able to "measure the heavens," after warning us repeatedly about the sin of intellectual arrogance, Augustine gives us my favorite example:
"With a cruel zeal for science, some medical men, who are called anatomists, have dissected the bodies of the dead, and sometimes even of sick persons who have died under their knives, and have inhumanly pried into the secrets of the human body to learn the nature of the disease and its exact seat, and how it might be cured..." (City of God, Book XXII, 24)
(Edited by James S. Valliant
on 9/28, 8:42pm)