Presentation on theme: "The Confessions of Augustine"— Presentation transcript:
1 The Confessions of Augustine By George Dunn and Brian McDonald
2 Augustine’s Significance Most influential Christian writer aside from the New Testament authorsA North African who lived through the declining years of Roman EmpireLast great thinker of “antiquity” and first of Medieval thinkersHis Confessions a new genreTakes the form of an autobiographyUnprecedented in its depth of insight into human psychology, the dynamics of desire and the “enslaved will”So much so that he has been dubbed “the first modern man.”
3 Augustine’s Life as Framework for The Confessions Born of pagan father and Christian MotherHe left and then returned to his mother’s faithConfessions written soon after conversion (age 32)Could also be called “Testimonies” because he not only confesses sin but testifies to grace of GodSignificant that it is written in the form of an extended prayer. Why?Augustine’s interest in two things: God and the soulPrayer focuses the attention on bothGod can only be known through prayer and only through addressing God in prayer can we truly see ourselvesTruly to know God is inseparable from loving him.
4 Human Life as Based on Love Basic truth no. 1: all human beings are loversTo be human is to love some object and to be centered on itHuman love comprises many objectsSex, friendship, food, reputation, entertainmentNone give lasting satisfaction because they don’t lastThe human will is subject to the love: “Affections moving the will”Only Eternal God can satisfy the deepest of our longingsSo for Augustine, true life is prayer in which we direct the whole stream of our love to God.Confessions is the erratic journey of Augustine “love life” away from and back to God
5 Infancy as a Clue to Human Life and Human Sin Begins with infant suckling as emblematic of the “gift” nature of love (if no sin)The desire is a giftThe milk is a giftThe desire to share with infant is a gift“Original” life is the gifts of God, flowing through each to each like the flow of milkDisrupting intrusion of sin“Demand” replaces grateful receiving“Demand” replaces God with selfRest of Confessions: “Demands’s” self-centered quest for satisfying love
6 Another “Representative” Story: the Theft of Pears Like “milk” this is another “parable.”Would also have reminded its Christian audience of another “fruit theft” story, the Garden of EdenStructured around question: “What did I love in you O theft”Motive was not hunger, but the thrill of stealing itselfThis puzzles Augustine for all acts, even sinful ones, are done “through the desire of gaining or the fear of losing some Lower goods” (1010)Conclusion is that sin is a desire to “grab” what God has:Pride aims at his loftinessCruelty aims at the “fearfulness” of GodLust aims at the “caressing” effects of God’s charity.So even our sin testifies to God because it is a ‘perverse imitation” of God: a pretense that we can produce what only God can.So what Divine quality was Augustine trying to “imitate” in stealing pears? The divine POWER: a pretense that, like God himself, he was under no law (1012)
7 Boiling in a “Cauldron of Illicit Lusts” Carthage, the next stage, is a “cauldron” not just of sexual lusts, but of ambition and hunger for reputationHis further journeys lead him into the sect of “Manicheeism” and then to Rome and Milan where Ambrose becomes his teacher.Intellectual surrender to Christianity is not accompanied by inner “surrender” and the mystery of the will which won’t submit to what the intellect accepts his the forucs of Book 8:
8 The Conversion Augustine’s prayer: “Make me chaste, but not yet…” Augustine’s conflict:His lusts “plucking at my garment of flesh….shall we not be with you forever?” (1019)Compare to quitting smoking or any other deeply rooted habitAugustine’s deliveranceHis will must be converted from the outside for it lacks the power to change the “affections” which move it in the old directionsTwo “outside experiences” come upon him and effect this deliveranceA vision of “chastity” or “continence” as a “serene and joyous maiden” accompanied by young men and womenA voice heard in a garden crying “Take up and Read”: and he picks up a copy of Paul’s letters and takes as a divine sign the words his eyes alight on: “Not in chambering [promiscuity] and impurities, not in contention and envy, but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh. . “ (1020)He takes this as a direct message from God and is empowered to surrender his life to God
9 A Comparison of Augustine and Socrates Continuity and contrast with Greek sensibilities, especially as represented by SocratesCuriosity and desire to “know” is shared by both. In both certainly en emphasis on “the examined life”DifferencesIn Augustine knowledge is essentially a revelation from God and not an achievement of human reasonGoal of life is “righteousness” not virtue, and this too is a gift of graceRedemption and not the “golden mean” (Aristotle) is the goal of life and again is a Divine gift rather than human accomplishment.The will cannot regulate itself so must be remolded by overpowering action of God2) Keep remembering phrase “affections moving the will” and Augistine’s view of sin as “disordered” love. This will also be helpful as you “look forward” to Dante when we come to him
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