Saint Augustine (Doctor Gratiae) is considered by Catholic and Anglican churches as:

one of the most important Church Fathers in Western Christianity for his writings in the Patristic Era. (source)

I read Confession and City of God and frankly his writings are very lighting.

Why doesn't the Orthodox church recognize him by these titles?

  • 2
    I have edited your question to ask just about the Orthodox church only, as asking about all churches is clearly too-broad to be answered in a single answer.
    – Flimzy
    Commented May 14, 2016 at 15:41

4 Answers 4


There is a certain amount of freedom within the various Christian Churches to employ or ascribe certain titles to particular saints or blessed in their own way (or traditions).

The title of Doctor of the Church was first instituted officially on September 20, 1295 by pope Boniface XIII, when he accorded this title to four saints, Pope Gregory the Great being the first.

"The Doctors of the Church are great saints known for their defense and explanation of the truths of the Catholic Faith. The original eight Doctors of the Church—four Western (Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Pope Saint Gregory the Great, and Saint Jerome) and four Eastern (Saint Athanasius, Saint Basil the Great, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and St. John Chrysostom)—were named by acclamation, or common acknowledgment; the rest have been named by various popes, starting with the addition of St. Thomas Aquinas to the list by Pope Saint Pius V in 1568."

Even within the Catholic Church, various local churches and Rites have added their own saints to the official Catholic list of 34 Doctors of the Church. If this freedom exists in the Catholic Church, it follows then that other denominations have the same freedom!

"In addition, some parts of the Roman Catholic Church have recognized other individuals with this title. In Spain, Fulgentius of Ruspe and Leander of Seville have been recognized with this title. The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church has recognized Ambrose, Jerome, Gregory the Great, Augustine, Athanasius, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom, as well as Ephrem the Syrian, Isaac the Elder, Pope Leo I, John of Damascus, Cyril of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius of Salamis, and Gregory of Nyssa. The Chaldean Catholic Church has recognized Polycarp, Eustathius of Antioch, Meletius, Alexander of Jerusalem, Athanasius, Basil, Cyril of Alexandria, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, Fravitta of Constantinople, Ephrem the Syrian, Jacob of Nisibis, James of Serug, Isaac of Armenia, Isaac of Nineve, and Maruthas."

As for the Eastern Orthodox Churches:

"The Eastern Orthodox Churches honors many of the pre-schismatic saints as well, but the application of the term Doctor or Father of the Church is somewhat more flexible than in the West, and it is misleading to look for lists of officially recognized Doctors. An Eastern Orthodox understanding of such pillars of the Church include saints such as Photios I of Constantinople, Gregory Palamas, Nicodemus the Hagiorite, and possibly even more recent saints such as Nektarios Kefalas. An exception to this flexibility is the grouping of Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom, universal teachers or Doctors who are collectively known as the "Three Hierarchs" and represent the Christianization of the Hellenic tradition and education."

The Eastern Orthodox uses various other titles that other denominations generally do not invoke for their saints. Their traditions remain quite valid.

  • Started this answer prior to the edit of the question.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented May 14, 2016 at 16:00
  • Thank's for your answer, so there isn't a reason why, for example, Photios I of Constantinople or John Chrysostom are consider Doctor while Saint Augustine isn't?
    – granmirupa
    Commented May 14, 2016 at 18:16
  • What I think Ken Graham was trying to get across is that there is no "Doctor" title in the Orthodox Church. I comment more in my answer.
    – user22553
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 4:10

Here is the short version of the answer:

The Orthodox church believes that Augustine gave a personal tint to his theology, thus deviating from the rest of the earlier patristic fathers, especially regarding the Trinity and the nature of sin and grace. The Orthodox think Augustine was greatly influenced by neo-platonism, thus he is more "philosophical" than the Eastern way of ascetism, sacramental and liturgical lifestyle.

To quote from Archimandrite Sergius Bowyer in his book Acquiring the Mind of Christ:

It might be said that one of the foremost difficulties with Augustine's thought is that he maintained a neoplatonist approach to understanding both God and human nature, which is based thoroughly on man's reasoning and rational abilities...This is what essentially separates Augustine from the Eastern Orthodox tradition. His approach is based more on philosophical concepts rather than on the experiential methodology inherited from the Church Fathers before him.

  • Welcome to Christianity.SE. Thanks for you your answer. I edited in some format to make the sourced quote stand out. A little more meat on the Trinity, and the sin and grace points woule be nice. Please take the tour and edit the help center to see how this Q&A site works. Also review how to write a good answer. On the technical side, this site uses markup, which has help features for format when you click on the "edit" option under your answer. We hope that you'll browse other topics of interest to you. Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 13:13
  • Nice answer! But I don't think it's necessary to refer to the shortcomings of the other answers, so I've removed that opening line. Welcome to C.SE! Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 13:26
  • hi Lee, thanks. I admit that I sort of assumed more than the question asked--namely, what's the PROBLEM with Augustine, from the Orthodox perspective.
    – jericks3
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 17:52

Augustine is found on the calendar of saints of the Orthodox Church, although some of his teachings are viewed as simply theological opinion, and these are generally rejected by the Orthodox Church.

For further reading, see Father Seraphim Rose, The Place of Blessed Augustine in the Orthodox Church, from Saint Herman Press.

  • Welcome! Thanks for contributing. You might consider adding more details (what does the Orthodox Church reject of Augustine's teachings?), but this is a good start to an answer. If you haven't already done so, I hope you'll take a minute to take the tour and learn how this site is different from others. Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 23:21
  • For your answer to work well here, you would need to provide actual quotes, rather than just a reference, to Orthodox materials supporting your points. See: What makes a good supported answer? Commented Jul 24, 2016 at 8:11

I think the simplest answer, which Ken Graham alluded to, is that we have no such title in the Orthodox Church. In fact, although the Wikipedia article cited is entitled "List of Eastern Orthodox saint titles", I would call these appellations instead of titles. There is no process for deciding, for example, who should be called a "Confessor" and who should be called an "Enlightener". As strange as it seems, in most cases people started appending these descriptions somewhat spontaneously and they simply grew into common usage. The Orthodox Church is very precise in most things, but thoroughly spontaneous in others.

This is tangential to your question, but Augustine, though considered a Church Father, would not be considered a "Doctor" of the Church in the Roman Catholic source of the word. Some of Augustine's beliefs are considered somewhat heretical, especially some of his early teachings on the relationship of grace, free will, and predestination.

Although Augustine expressed his opinions as theologoumena - theological opinions - and even renounced them later, some of them persisted in the west and are now foundational doctrine for many Christians.

Most cite the supposed dispute over Papal supremacy in 1054 as the primary reason why Rome and the East mutually separated, but there are also profound differences in theology - some stemming from how Augustine's teachings were interpreted - that preclude any kind of a reunion.

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