Augustine's Confessions

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anochria
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Augustine's Confessions

Post by anochria » Sun Aug 09, 2009 12:24 am

I've noticed a fair amount of criticism of Augustine on these forums.

I have a theory and a question to test it with, if anyone is willing :D

Of those of you who consider yourselves decidedly anti-Augustian, how many of you have read Augustine's Confessions?
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kaufmannphillips
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Re: Augustine's Confessions

Post by kaufmannphillips » Sun Aug 09, 2009 2:16 am

I have not read but a bit of the Confessions. But I will recommend a couple of books by John Rotelle, a member of the Augustinian Order:

Augustine Day by Day

Augustine Day by Day II

These provide short selections for daily devotions. The second volume is the superior of the two.

Rotelle also has a compendium that engages a variety of church writers (Tradition Day by Day), which I used when I taught Christian heritage at a private school ten years ago. Sadly, it appears to be out of print now and prices for it online are stunning.
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AaronBDisney
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Re: Augustine's Confessions

Post by AaronBDisney » Sun Aug 09, 2009 9:20 am

GUILTY! I've never read a syllable of his writings. I've just heard enough of what he's said to know that I've not found a lot of common ground with him.

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mattrose
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Re: Augustine's Confessions

Post by mattrose » Sun Aug 09, 2009 4:18 pm

I have read City of God, but not confessions.

I liked City of God, but disagreed with a lot of it too.

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Re: Augustine's Confessions

Post by anochria » Sun Aug 09, 2009 10:46 pm

Thanks for the answers.

My theory is that people who have read Confessions have much more appreciation for Augustine the man, Augustine the sinner, Augustine the forgiven, etc..

I'd highly recommend the book (at least the biographical parts).

Aaron- perhaps you share some of your eschatology with Augustine at least?
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Re: Augustine's Confessions

Post by AaronBDisney » Mon Aug 10, 2009 9:41 am

Aaron- perhaps you share some of your eschatology with Augustine at least?
Yeah, maybe that. I may get around to reading some of his stuff. I saw "City of God" in the library the other day. Looked like one that might take me 2 months to get through. I hope this isn't a dumb question but what does it contain? Is it just his thoughts or what? I've got no clue.

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Re: Augustine's Confessions

Post by anochria » Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:44 am

City of God is definitely a different read than Confessions. Like night and day.

I like Augustine and I've never read straight through City of God :D I've just skimmed it for topics of interest, and yeah, there's a lot I don't agree with, but when someone speculates on as much as Augustine did, how could we not disagree? I also think that Augustine's conjectures are often taken to mean he thought they were the absolute truth simply because he argued for them forcibly. Actually, I think he demonstrated a) an ability to change his mind and b) an ability to be persuaded through reason.

Confessions is, imo, a page-turner. It's his autobiography of how he became a follower of Christ. There are fascinating accounts of his involvement with Manichaeism (sp?) and how he was freed from that. I have a great memory of riding the train along the Italian coast while reading Confessions and having my heart "strangely warmed" (to quote another church "father") :D

The last section veers away from biography and into City of God-like interpretation of biblical texts. That can be skipped.
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Re: Augustine's Confessions

Post by AaronBDisney » Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:54 am

So Confessions is more personal and City of God is more an interpretation on Scripture? Is that right?

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Re: Augustine's Confessions

Post by anochria » Mon Aug 10, 2009 3:02 pm

Yes, Confessions is more personal.

City of God is more like Augustine's attempt at an interesting blend of a history of the world and a systematic theology. A modern example of this sort of blend might be G.K. Chesterton's Everlasting Man.
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Re: Augustine's Confessions

Post by mattrose » Mon Aug 10, 2009 3:32 pm

I hope to read his confessions at some point. But even though I disagreed with a lot of City of God, I liked it (And agreed with a lot of it too). Here are some of the quotes I collected from City of God.

“The Pagans are angry with us because we speak so frankly of their divinities.”

Why God allows suffering:
1) “An invitation to the wicked to do penance”
2) “God’s scourge is a school of patience for the good”
3) “That men might not seek too eagerly after (worldly things)”
4) “If God did not plainly enough punish sin on earth, people might (deny God)”
5) “Because they wink at their worse sins and fear to frown on (minor sins)”
6) “That the human spirit may test its mettle and come to know whether it loves God”

Sin Defined:
“As long as the will remains unyielding, no crime, beyond the victim’s power to prevent it without sin, and which is perpetrated on the body or in the body, lays any guilt on the soul…No man sins unless it is his choice to sin.”

Thou Shalt Not Kill Defined:
1) “God’s command is to be taken as forbidding self-destruction”
2) “We do not apply ‘thou shalt not kill’ to plants b/c they have no sensation”
3) “Or to irrational animals, b/c they are linked to us by no association or bond”
4) “It only remains for us to apply the commandment to man alone”
5) “The same divine law which forbids…allows certain exceptions”
~ “When God authorizes killing”
~ “When He gives and explicit commission”
~ “It is in no way contrary to the commandment to wage war at God’s bidding”
~ “Or for the representative of the State’s authority to put criminals to death”

A Few Quotable Quotes:
“Our city must remember that in the ranks of its enemies lie hid fellow citizens to be”
“True justice is not to be found save in that commonwealth whose founder is Christ”
“A good man, though a slave, is free; but a wicked man, though a king, is a slave.”

Against Other Worldviews:
Polythism: “What could the Romans lose if, with a wiser economy, they should worship 1 God”
Pantheism: “Does anyone fail to see how impious and blasphemous the conclusion that follows”
Astrology: “God is the Lord of both stars and men”

Against Open-Theism:
“It is plain nonsense for a man to admit that God exists and then to deny that He can know the future…one who does not foreknow the whole of the future is most certainly not God.”

Is Anything Impossible for God?
“It is precisely because He is omnipotent that for Him some things are impossible”

Fate & Free Will:
“We are by no means under compulsion to abandon free choice in favor of divine foreknowledge, nor need we deny- God forbid! – that God knows the future, as a condition for holding free choice. We accept both.

“Christian truth makes clear that these gods are false, that they are useless idols, or unclean spirits, or dangerous demons, or, at best, mere creatures and not the Creator.” (119)

“True religion owed its foundation to no city; it was itself the foundation of a wholly celestial city.” (126)

“After the people of God had been given the revelation of the mystery of eternal life, at the proper time and by the same authority…they (Jewish rites like Sabbath) were abrogated.” (133)

“There can be no greater or worse death than where death itself never dies. Since it is the nature of the soul that it cannot be without some sort of life, having been created immortal, it is the depth of death for it to be alienated from the life of God in an eternity of pain.” (134)

“We should not seek and worship God for the sake of the passing cloud of this mortal life, but for the sake of that happy life which cannot be other than everlasting.” (135)

“God is not the soul of all things, but the maker of all souls.” (136)

“I must mention various operations of the one true God. It was because of these that the pagan philosophers, who were making a serious effort to interpret the indecent and immoral mysteries, made for themselves so many false gods.” (139)

“We can never sufficiently thank Him for the gifts of nature…that we have a reasoning mind by which we can seek Him…He did not leave us to ourselves, but sent to us His Word, who is His only Son” (141)

“Natural theology cannot be discussed with men in the street but only with philosophers, that is, as the name implies, with lovers of wisdom… a true philosopher will be a lover of God. That does not mean that all who answer to the name are really in love with genuine wisdom, for it is one thing to be and another to be called a philosopher.” (144)

“The Epicureans, for example, believed that life could be produced from lifeless matter.” (151)

“No one is really happy until his love ends in fruition. For, even those who love what they should not love do not consider loving but only fruition as the source of their satisfaction.” (156)

“Some of our fellow Christians are astonished to learn that Plato had such ideas about God and to realize how close they are to the truths of our faith.” (159)

“It is surely easier for a man to cease to be a man by worshiping man-made gods than for idols to become divine by being adored.” (167)

“If they (demons) can foresee much more of the future than men, it is only because, by longer experience, they have learned to decipher signals which mean nothing to us. Often enough, their predictions are merely pre-announcements of what they are planning to do.” (182)

“Our Scripture also gives the name ‘gods’ to men who belong to the people of God.” (183)

“We offer Him our allegiance- for ‘allegiance’ and ‘religion’ are at root, the same.” (191)

“Thus it is that He is both the Priest who offers and the oblation that is offered. And it was His will that as a sacrament of this reality there should be the daily sacrifice of the Church, which, being the Body of Him, her Head, learns to offer itself through Him.” (196)

“Many prophecies… have already been accomplished [so]… we can firmly trust that all the other will likewise be fulfilled.” (203)

“Now there is one way and one way alone that can save us from all aberrations, the Way which is both God and man- God as the goal and man as the means to reach it.” (207)

“This Mediator, first through the Prophets, then by His own lips, afterwards through the Apostles, revealed whatever He considered necessary.” (207)

“Those who propose that the world is eternal, without beginning, and, therefore, not created by God… are raving with the deadly disease of irreligion…for the very beauty of form in all that is visible proclaims, however silently, that the world was created.” (208)

“There was no such thing as time before the universe was made.” (211)

“As for these ‘days,’ it is difficult, perhaps impossible to think- let alone to explain in words- what they mean (The only question is whether we can find an appropriate meaning for the ‘morning’ and ‘evening’ of such a day.)” (212…referring to the ‘days’ in Genesis 1)

“If the angels are included in the works of God during these six days, they are the light which was called day…we should take the distinction between the good and bad angels as the meaning of the words: ‘God separated the light from the darkness, calling the light Day and the darkness night.” (216, 225)

“What we call evil is merely the lack of something that is good.” (217)

“We cannot presume that they shared in wisdom equally with the angels who enjoy a plenitude of true happiness precisely because they were never deceived concerning its eternity.” (220)

“We should not underestimate the significance of numbers, since, in many passages of Sacred Scripture, numbers have a meaning for the conscientious interpreter.” (242)

“If one seeks for the efficient cause of their evil will, none is to be found…there is no efficient cause of an evil will…like trying to see darkness or hear silence…What makes the will evil is, in reality, an unmaking.” (251, 254, 256)

“The will does not fall into sin, it falls sinfully.” (255)

“They hold that, just as the world is reborn out of its previous matter, so a new human race would arise from the elements of nature and only thereafter would a progeny of mortals spring from parents. And the same would be true of the rest of the animals.” (259)

“The human soul is, in a true sense, immortal, nonetheless it, too, can suffer its own sort of death. It is said to be immortal because it can never, in the least degree, cease to live and perceive.” (269)

“And what the first man became by perversion and penalty, this his descendants are by birth- natures subject to sin and death.” (272)

“The sinners would not have died unless they sinned; the saints will sin unless they die…God has rewarded faith with so much grace that death, which seems to be the enemy of life, becomes an ally that helps man enter into life.” (274)

“I have in mind those un-baptized persons who die confessing the name of Christ. They receive the forgiveness of their sins as completely as if they had been cleansed by the waters of baptism.” (275)

“The separated souls of the saints are now in peace, while those of the wicked are in pain, and will be so until the resurrection of their bodies, when the former will enter into life everlasting and the latter into a second and eternal death.” (277)

“The next question to be asked is with what death God threatened our first parents…Was it the death of the soul, or of the body, or of the entire man, or the so-called second death? The answer is: every kind of death.” (277)

“The fact is that the soul, which had taken perverse delight in its own liberty and disdained the service of God, was now deprived of its original mastery over the body…From this moment, then, the flesh began to lust against the spirit.” (278)

“There are some who have allegorized the entire Garden of Eden where, according to Holy Scripture, the first parents of the human race actually lived.” (287)

“We ought not, therefore, to blame our sins and defects on the nature of the flesh, for this is to disparage the Creator.” (302)

“A man who lives according to God owes it to wicked men that his hatred be perfect, so that, neither hating the man because of his corruption nor loving the corruption because of the man, he should hate the sin but love the sinner.” (304)

“Yet, man did not so fall away from Being as to be absolutely nothing, but, in so far as he turned himself toward himself, he became less.” (309)

“Man who was destined to become spiritual even in his flesh, if only he had kept the commandment, became, instead, fleshly even in his soul.” (312)

“Unlike material possessions, goodness is not diminished when it is shared” (329)

“There have never been lacking, then or now, specimens, however rare, of extraordinary stature…frequent discoveries of ancient bones of immense size.” (339)

“When there is any discrepancy in two versions, since both of them cannot be true to the facts, it is better to believe what we find in the original from which the translations have been made.” (347)

“As soon as, with an increased population, it became possible for men to choose wives who were not their sisters, they were bound by the law of love to do so.” (351)

“As to the nonsense about there being Antipodae, that is to say, men living on the far side of the earth, where the sun rises when it sets for us, men who have their feet facing our when they walk- that is utterly incredible.” (367)

“Thus, the prophets sayings are of the three classes; one class refers to the earthly, a second to the heavenly Jerusalem and a third to both simultaneously.” (381)

“Just as I feel that those are greatly mistaken who think that the historical facts in those books have no significance other than that things occurred as described, so I find too venturesome those who maintain that absolutely everything is bound up with allegorical meanings.” (382)

“Ichthys, which means fish…is a name for Christ, because as a fish can live in the depths of waters, Christ was able to live in the abyss of our mortality without sin, which is truly to live.” (400)

“No single translator should be ranked ahead of so many.” (414)

“When the Devil saw the human race abandoning the temples of demons and marching happily forward in the name of the freedom-giving Mediator, he inspired heretics to oppose Christian teaching under cover of the Christian name.” (418)


“At this point, people usually inquire: When will all this happen? A most unreasonable question, for, if it were good for us to know the answer, the Master, God Himself, would have told his disciples when they asked Him…He replied: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates…’ – an answer, it should be noted, given to men who had not sought to know the exact hour, or day, or year, but only the general time of this fulfillment. Obviously, then, it is a waste of effort for us to attempt counting the precise number of years which this world has yet to go, since we know from the mouth of Truth that it is none of our business.” (421)

“Gigantic persecutions, instead of destroying the faith…made it grow beyond belief.” (421)

“Thus we can establish the very day on which the first year of Christianity began, namely, the fifteenth of May, the day when the Holy Spirit came down.” (424)

“Christians can feel a real joy when our friends die a holy death. Their death, of course, afflicts our heart, but faith gives us the surer consolation.” (448)

“It is the duty of a blameless person not just to do no wrong, but to keep others from wrongdoing and to punish it when done, so that the one punished may be improved by the experience and others be warned by the example.” (463)

“The City of God does not care in the least what kind of dress or social manners a man of faith affects, so long as these involve no offense against the divine law.” (466)

“No man must be so committed to contemplation as, in his contemplation, to give no thought to his neighbor’s needs nor so absorbed in action as to dispense with the contemplation of God.” (467)

“The attraction of leisure ought not to be empty-headed in activity, but in the quest or discovery of truth, both for his own progress and for the purpose of sharing ungrudgingly with others.” (467)

“In connection with the last judgment, therefore, we who believe can be sure of the following truths: Elias the Thesbite will return; the Jews will believe; Antichrist will persecute the Church; Christ will be the Judge; the dead will rise; the good will be separated from the wicked, but will be renewed…but how and in what sequence the events are to occur we must leave to future experience…my own view is that they will occur in the order I have just mentioned.” (492)

“The fact is that the whole world now believes that the earthly body of Christ has been taken up to heaven. Learned and unlearned alike no longer doubt the resurrection of His flesh and His ascension into heaven, while there is but a handful of those who continue to be puzzled. Now what all these believers believed was either credible or it was not. If it was credible, then the incredulous should ask themselves whether they are not rather ridiculous. If it was no credible and yet was believed, then we have something really incredible, namely that something incredible should be so universally believed.” (509)

“It is sometimes objected that the miracles, which Christians claim to have occurred, no longer happen. One answer might be that they are no longer necessary…The orginal occurrence was so palpably credible that it needed no additional miracles to convince men’s minds of its truth… the canon of Scripture is closed… the original miracles are everywhere repeated and are fixed in people’s memory.” (512-513)

“How difficult it is to remember, how easy to forget; how hard to learn and how easy to be ignorant; how difficult to make an effort and how easy to be lazy. We need go no further to realize to what depths our damaged nature tends to gravitate and what aid it needs to be rescued from its inclinations.” (520)

“It is true that, in regard to the rewards which the soul is to enjoy in the blessedness which is to follow the present life, the best of the pagan philosophers agree with us. What they object to, however, in our faith is the resurrection of the body; on this point, they are emphatic in their denial. However, the fact is that the majority of men have moved away from the small minority of skeptics and have turned to Christ who, by His own Resurrection, realized in fact what seems absurd in theory.” (530-531)

“The memory of our previous miseries will be a matter of purely mental contemplation, with no renewal of any feelings connected with these experiences.” (542)

“There is a clear indication of this final Sabbath if we take the seven ages of world history as being ‘days’ and calculate in accordance with the data furnished by the Scriptures. The first age or day is that from Adam to the flood; the second, from the flood to Abraham. (These two days were not identical in length of time, but in each there were ten generations.) Then follow the three ages, each consisting of fourteen generations, as recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew: the first, from Abraham to David; the second, from David to the transmigration to Babylon; the third, from then to Christ’s nativity in the flesh. Thus we have five ages. The sixth is the one in which we now are. It is an age not to be measured by any precise number of generations, since we are told: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates, which the father has fixed by his own authority.’ After this ‘day,’ God will rest on the ‘seventh day,’ in the sense that God will make us, who are to be this seventh day, rest in Him.” (544)

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