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St. Augustine

"Augustine", "Saint Augustine", and "Augustinus" redirect here. For other uses, see Augustine (disambiguation), Saint Augustine (disambiguation), and Augustinus (disambiguation).

Augustine of Hippo (/ɔːˈɡʌstɨn/[1][2] or /ˈɔːɡəstɪn/;[2] Latin: Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis;[3] 13 November 354 – 28 August 430), also known as Saint Augustine or Saint Austin,[4] was an early Christian theologian whose writings were very influential in the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy. He was bishop of Hippo Regius (present-day Annaba, Algeria) located in the Roman province of Africa. Writing during the Patristic Era, he is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers. Among his most important works are City of God and Confessions, which continue to be read widely today.

According to his contemporary, Jerome, Augustine "established anew the ancient Faith."[5] In his early years, he was heavily influenced by Manichaeism and afterward by the Neo-Platonism of Plotinus.[6] After his conversion to Christianity and his baptism in 387, Augustine developed his own approach to philosophy and theology, accommodating a variety of methods and different perspectives.[7] Believing that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom, he helped to formulate the doctrine of original sin and made seminal contributions to the development of just war theory.

When the Western Roman Empire began to disintegrate, Augustine developed the concept of the Catholic Church as a spiritual City of God (in a book of the same name), distinct from the material Earthly City.[8] His thoughts profoundly influenced the medieval worldview. Augustine's City of God was closely identified with the segment of the Church that adhered to the concept of the Trinity as defined by the Council of Nicaea and the Council of Constantinople.[9]

In the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, he is a saint, a pre-eminent Doctor of the Church, and the patron of the Augustinians. His memorial is celebrated on 28 August, the day of his death. He is the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, the alleviation of sore eyes, and a number of cities and dioceses.[10] Many Protestants, especially Calvinists, consider him to be one of the theological fathers of the Protestant Reformation due to his teachings on salvation and divine grace.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, many of his teachings are not accepted. The most important doctrinal controversy surrounding his name is the filioque.[11] Other doctrines that are sometimes unacceptable to the Eastern Orthodox Church are his view of original sin, the doctrine of grace, and predestination.[12] Nonetheless, though considered to be mistaken on some points, he is still considered a saint, and his feast day is celebrated on 15 June.[13] He carries the additional title of Blessed among the Orthodox, either as "Blessed Augustine" or "St. Augustine the Blessed."[14]

Life

Childhood and education

Augustine was born in 354 in the municipium of Thagaste (now Souk Ahras, Algeria) in Roman Africa.[15][16] His mother, Monica, was a devout Christian; his father Patricius was a Pagan who converted to Christianity on his deathbed.[17] Scholars believe that Augustine's ancestors included Berbers, Latins, and Phoenicians.[18] He considered himself to be Punic.[19] Augustine's family name, Aurelius, suggests that his father's ancestors were freedmen of the gens Aurelia given full Roman citizenship by the Edict of Caracalla in 212. Augustine's family had been Roman, from a legal standpoint, for at least a century when he was born.[20] It is assumed that his mother, Monica, was of Berber origin, on the basis of her name,[18][21] but as his family were honestiores, an upper class of citizens known as honorable men, Augustine's first language is likely to have been Latin.[18] At the age of 11, he was sent to school at Madaurus (now M'Daourouch), a small Numidian city about 19 miles south of Thagaste. There he became familiar with Latin literature, as well as pagan beliefs and practices.[22] His first insight into the nature of sin occurred when he and a number of friends stole fruit they did not even want from a neighborhood garden. While at home in 369 and 370, he read Cicero's dialogue Hortensius (now lost), which he described as leaving a lasting impression on him and sparking his interest in philosophy.[23]

At the age of 17, through the generosity of his fellow citizen Romanianus,[23] Augustine went to Carthage to continue his education in rhetoric. Although raised as a Christian, Augustine left the church to follow the Manichaean religion, much to the despair of his mother, Monica.[24] As a youth Augustine lived a hedonistic lifestyle for a time, associating with young men who boasted of their sexual exploits with women and urged the inexperienced boys, like Augustine, to seek experience or to make up stories about their experiences in order to gain acceptance and avoid ridicule.[25] It was during this period that he uttered his famous prayer, "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet."[26]

At a young age, Augustine began an affair with a young woman in Carthage. Possibly because his mother wanted him to marry a person of his class, the woman remained his lover[27] for over thirteen years and gave birth to his son Adeodatus,[28] who was viewed as extremely intelligent by his contemporaries.[29] He abandoned his lover on his conversion in 389 when his son was 17.

Teaching rhetoric

During the years 373 and 374, Augustine taught grammar at Thagaste. The following year he moved to Carthage to conduct a school of rhetoric, and would remain there for the next nine years.[23] Disturbed by the unruly behavior of the students in Carthage, in 383 he moved to establish a school in Rome, where he believed the best and brightest rhetoricians practiced. However, Augustine was disappointed with the Roman schools, where he was met with apathy. Once the time came for his students to pay their fees, they simply fled. Manichaean friends introduced him to the prefect of the City of Rome, Symmachus, who had been asked to provide a professor of rhetoric for the imperial court at Milan.[30]


Augustine won the job and headed north to take up his position in late 384. At the age of thirty, he had won the most visible academic position in the Latin world, at a time when such posts gave ready access to political careers. During this period, although Augustine showed some fervor for Manichaeism, he was never an initiate or "elect", but remained an "auditor", the lowest level in the sect's hierarchy and he became a teacher .[30]

While still at Carthage, he had begun to move away from Manichaeism, in part because of a disappointing meeting with the Manichaean Bishop, Faustus of Mileve, a key exponent of Manichaean theology.[30] In Rome, he is reported to have completely turned away from Manichaeanism, and instead embraced the scepticism of the New Academy movement. At Milan, his mother pressured him to become a Christian. Augustine's own studies in Neoplatonism were also leading him in this direction, and his friend Simplicianus urged him that way as well.[23] But it was the bishop of Milan, Ambrose, who had most influence over Augustine. Like Augustine, Ambrose was a master of rhetoric, but older and more experienced.[31]

Augustine's mother had followed him to Milan and he allowed her to arrange a marriage, for which he abandoned his concubine. It is believed that Augustine truly loved the woman he had lived with for so long and was deeply hurt by ending this relationship. In fact, there is evidence that Augustine may have considered his relationship with the concubine to be equivalent to marriage, though not legally recognized as such.[32] In his Confessions, he admitted that the experience eventually produced a decreased sensitivity to pain over time. He had to wait two years until his fiancée came of age, and he soon took another concubine. Augustine eventually broke off his engagement to his eleven-year-old fiancée, but never renewed his relationship with either of his concubines.

Alypius of Thagaste steered Augustine away from marriage, saying that they could not live a life together in the love of wisdom if he married. Augustine looked back years later on the life at Cassiciacum, a villa outside of Milan where he gathered with his followers, and described it as Christianae vitae otium – the Christian life of leisure.[33] Augustine had been awarded a job of professor of rhetoric in Milan at the time he was living at Cassiciacum around 383.

Christian conversion and priesthood

In the summer of 386, after having heard and been inspired and moved by the story of Placianus's and his friends' first reading of the life of Saint Anthony of the Desert, Augustine converted to Christianity. As Augustine later told it, his conversion was prompted by a childlike voice he heard telling him to "take up and read" (Latin: tolle, lege), which he took as a divine command to open the Bible and read the first thing he saw. Augustine read from Paul's Epistle to the Romans – the so-called "Transformation of Believers" section, consisting of chapters 12 through 15 – wherein Paul outlines how the Gospel transforms believers, and the believers' resulting behaviour. The specific part to which Augustine opened his Bible was Romans chapter 13, verses 13 and 14, to wit:

Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.[34]

He later wrote an account of his conversion – his very transformation, as Paul described – in his Confessions (Latin: Confessiones), which has since become a must-read classic of Christian theology.

Ambrose baptized Augustine, along with his son Adeodatus, on Easter Vigil in 387 in Milan. A year later, in 388, Augustine completed his apology On the Holiness of the Catholic Church.[30] That year, also, Adeodatus and Augustine returned to Africa,[23] Augustine's home country, during which trip Augustine's mother Monica died.[35] Upon their arrival, they began a life of aristocratic leisure at Augustine's family's property.[36][37] Soon after, Adeodatus, too, passed away.[38] Augustine then sold his patrimony and gave the money to the poor. The only thing he kept was the family house, which he converted into a monastic foundation for himself and a group of friends.[23]


In 391 Augustine was ordained a priest in Hippo Regius (now Annaba), in Algeria. He became a famous preacher (more than 350 preserved sermons are believed to be authentic), and was noted for combating the Manichaean religion, to which he had formerly adhered.[30]

In 395 he was made coadjutor Bishop of Hippo, and became full Bishop shortly thereafter,[39] hence the name "Augustine of Hippo"; and he gave his property to the church of Thagaste.[40] He remained in that position until his death in 430.

Augustine worked tirelessly in trying to convince the people of Hippo to convert to Christianity. Though he had left his monastery, he continued to lead a monastic life in the episcopal residence. He left a regula for his monastery that led to his designation as the "patron saint of regular clergy."[41]

Much of Augustine's later life was recorded by his friend Possidius, bishop of Calama (present-day Guelma, Algeria), in his Sancti Augustini Vita. Possidius admired Augustine as a man of powerful intellect and a stirring orator who took every opportunity to defend Christianity against its detractors. Possidius also described Augustine's personal traits in detail, drawing a portrait of a man who ate sparingly, worked tirelessly, despised gossip, shunned the temptations of the flesh, and exercised prudence in the financial stewardship of his see.[42]

Death and veneration

Saint Augustine of Hippo
San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro Basilica, Pavia.
Bishop, Philosopher, Theologian
Honored in All Christianity
Major shrine San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro, Pavia, Italy
Feast 28 August (Western Christianity)
15 June (Eastern Christianity)
4 November (Assyrian)
Attributes child; dove; pen; shell, pierced heart, holding book with a small church, bishop's staff, miter
Patronage brewers; printers; theologians
Bridgeport, Connecticut; Cagayan de Oro, Philippines;San Agustin, Isabela;

Shortly before Augustine's death the Vandals, a Germanic tribe that had converted to Arianism, invaded Roman Africa. The Vandals besieged Hippo in the spring of 430, when Augustine entered his final illness. According to Possidius, one of the few miracles attributed to Augustine, the healing of an ill man, took place during the siege.[43] According to Possidius, Augustine spent his final days in prayer and repentance, requesting that the penitential Psalms of David be hung on his walls so that he could read them. He directed that the library of the church in Hippo and all the books therein should be carefully preserved. He died on 28 August 430.[44] Shortly after his death, the Vandals lifted the siege of Hippo, but they returned not long thereafter and burned the city. They destroyed all of it but Augustine's cathedral and library, which they left untouched.[45]

According to Bede's True Martyrology, Augustine's body was later translated or moved to Cagliari, Sardinia, by the Catholic bishops expelled from North Africa by Huneric. Around 720, his remains were translated again by Peter, bishop of Pavia and uncle of the Lombard king Liutprand, to the church of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro, in order to save them from frequent coastal raids by Muslims. In January 1327, Pope John XXII issued the papal bull Veneranda Santorum Patrum, in which he appointed the Augustinians guardians of the tomb of Augustine, which was remade in 1362 and elaborately carved with bas-reliefs of scenes from Augustine's life. By that time, however, the actual remains of Augustine could not be authenticated. The Augustinians were expelled from Pavia in 1700, taking refuge in Milan with the relics of Augustine, and the disassembled Arca, which were removed to the cathedral there. San Pietro fell into disrepair, but was finally rebuilt in the 1870s, under the urging of Agostino Gaetano Riboldi, and reconsecrated in 1896 when the relics of Augustine and the shrine were once again reinstalled.[46][47]

Augustine was canonized by popular acclaim, and later recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 1298 by Pope Boniface VIII.[48] His feast day is 28 August, the day on which he died. He is considered the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, sore eyes, and a number of cities and dioceses.[10]

Thought

Anthropology

Augustine was one of the first Christian ancient Latin authors with very clear anthropological vision.[49] He saw the human being as a perfect unity of two substances: soul and body. In his late treatise On Care to Be Had for the Dead, section 5 (420 AD) he exhorted to respect the body on the grounds that it belonged to the very nature of the human person.[50] Augustine's favourite figure to describe body-soul unity is marriage: caro tua, coniunx tua — your body is your wife.[51][52][53] Initially, the two elements were in perfect harmony. After the fall of humanity they are now experiencing dramatic combat between one another. They are two categorically different things. The body is a three-dimensional object composed of the four elements, whereas the soul has no spatial dimensions.[54] Soul is a kind of substance, participating in reason, fit for ruling the body.[55] Augustine was not preoccupied, as Plato and Descartes were, with going too much into details in efforts to explain the metaphysics of the soul-body union. It sufficed for him to admit that they are metaphysically distinct: to be a human is to be a composite of soul and body, and the soul is superior to the body. The latter statement is grounded in his hierarchical classification of things into those that merely exist, those that exist and live, and those that exist, live, and have intelligence or reason.[56][57]

Like other Church Fathers such as

Astrology

Augustine's contemporaries often believed astrology to be an exact and genuine science. Its practitioners were regarded as true men of learning and called mathemathici. Astrology played a prominent part in Manichaean doctrine, and Augustine himself was attracted by their books in his youth, being particularly fascinated by those who claimed to foretell the future. Later, as a bishop, he used to warn that one should avoid astrologers who combine science and horoscopes. (Augustine's term "mathematici", meaning "astrologers", is sometimes mistranslated as "mathematicians".) According to Augustine, they were not genuine students of Hipparchus or Eratosthenes but "common swindlers":[61][62][63][64]

Creation

In City of God, Augustine rejected both the immortality of the human race proposed by pagans, and contemporary ideas of ages (such as those of certain Greeks and Egyptians) that differed from the Church's sacred writings.[65] In "The Literal Interpretation of Genesis" Augustine took the view that everything in the universe was created simultaneously by God, and not in seven calendar days like a literal account of Genesis would require. He argued that the six-day structure of creation presented in the book of Genesis represents a logical framework, rather than the passage of time in a physical way — it would bear a spiritual, rather than physical, meaning, which is no less literal. One reason for this interpretation is the passage in Sirach 18:1, creavit omni simul ("he created all things at once"), which Augustine took as proof that the days of Genesis 1 had to be taken non-literally.[66] Augustine also does not envision original sin as originating structural changes in the universe, and even suggests that the bodies of Adam and Eve were already created mortal before the Fall.[67] Apart from his specific views, Augustine recognizes that the interpretation of the creation story is difficult, and remarks that we should be willing to change our mind about it as new information comes up.[68]

Ecclesiology

Augustine developed his doctrine of the Church principally in reaction to the Donatist sect. He taught that there is one Church, but that within this Church there are two realities, namely, the visible aspect (the institutional hierarchy, the sacraments, and the laity) and the invisible (the souls of those in the Church, who are either dead, sinful members or elect predestined for Heaven). The former is the institutional body established by Christ on earth which proclaims salvation and administers the sacraments while the latter is the invisible body of the elect, made up of genuine believers from all ages, and who are known only to God. The Church, which is visible and societal, will be made up of "wheat" and "tares", that is, good and wicked people (as per Mat. 13:30), until the end of time. This concept countered the Donatist claim that only those in a state of grace were the "true" or "pure" church on earth, and that priests and bishops who were not in a state of grace had no authority or ability to confect the sacraments.[69][page needed] Augustine's ecclesiology was more fully developed in City of God. There he conceives of the church as a heavenly city or kingdom, ruled by love, which will ultimately triumph over all earthly empires which are self-indulgent and ruled by pride. Augustine followed Cyprian in teaching that the bishops and priests of the Church are the successors of the Apostles,[69] and that their authority in the Church is God-given.

Eschatology

Augustine originally believed in premillennialism, namely that Christ would establish a literal 1,000-year kingdom prior to the general resurrection, but later rejected the belief, viewing it as carnal. He was the first theologian to expound a systematic doctrine of amillennialism, although some theologians and Christian historians believe his position was closer to that of modern postmillennialists. The mediaeval Catholic church built its system of eschatology on Augustinian amillennialism, where Christ rules the earth spiritually through his triumphant church.[70] At the Reformation, theologians such as John Calvin accepted amillennialism. Augustine taught that the eternal fate of the soul is determined at death,[71][72] and that purgatorial fires of the intermediate state purify only those that died in communion with the Church. His teaching provided fuel for later theology.[71]

Epistemological views

Epistemological concerns shaped Augustine's intellectual development. His early dialogues [Contra academicos (386) and De Magistro (389)], both written shortly after his conversion to Christianity, reflect his engagement with skeptical arguments and show the development of his doctrine of inner illumination. Augustine also posed the problem of other minds throughout different works, most famously perhaps in On the Trinity (VIII.6.9), and developed what has come to be a standard solution: the argument from analogy to other minds.[73] In contrast to Plato and other earlier philosophers, Augustine recognized the centrality of testimony to human knowledge and argued that what others tell us can provide knowledge even if we don't have independent reasons to believe their testimonial reports.[74]

Just war

Augustine asserted that Christians should be pacifists as a personal, philosophical stance.[75] Nonetheless, he asserted, peacefulness in the face of a grave wrong that could only be stopped by violence would be a sin. Defense of one's self or others could be a necessity, especially when authorized by a legitimate authority. While not breaking down the conditions necessary for war to be just, Augustine nonetheless originated the very phrase, itself, in his work The City of God.[76] In essence, the pursuit of peace must include the option of fighting to preserve it in the long-term.[77] Such a war could not be pre-emptive, but defensive, to restore peace.[78] Thomas Aquinas, centuries later, used the authority of Augustine's arguments in an attempt to define the conditions under which a war could be just.[79][80]

Mariology

Although Augustine did not develop an independent Mariology, his statements on Mary surpass in number and depth those of other early writers.[81] Even before the Council of Ephesus, he defended the ever Virgin Mary as the Mother of God, who, because of her virginity, is full of grace.[82] Likewise, he affirmed that the Virgin Mary "conceived as virgin, gave birth as virgin and stayed virgin forever".[83]

Natural knowledge and biblical interpretation

Augustine took the view that the Biblical text should not be interpreted as properly literal, but rather as metaphorical, if it contradicts what we know from science and our God-given reason. While each passage of Scripture has a literal sense, this "literal sense" does not always mean that the Scriptures are mere history; at times they are rather an extended metaphor.[84]

Original sin


Augustine taught that Original sin of Adam and Eve was either an act of foolishness (insipientia) followed by pride and disobedience to God or the opposite: pride came first.[85] The first couple disobeyed God, who had told them not to eat of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:17).[86] The tree was a symbol of the order of creation.[87] Self-centeredness made Adam and Eve eat of it, thus failing to acknowledge and respect the world as it was created by God, with its hierarchy of beings and values.[88] They would not have fallen into pride and lack of wisdom, if Satan hadn't sown into their senses "the root of evil" (radix Mali).[89] Their nature was wounded by concupiscence or libido, which affected human intelligence and will, as well as affections and desires, including sexual desire.[90] In terms of Metaphysics, concupiscence is not a being but bad quality, the privation of good or a wound.[91]

Augustine's understanding of the consequences of the original sin and of necessity of the redeeming grace was developed in the struggle against Pelagius and his Pelagian disciples, Caelestius and Julian of Eclanum,[69] who had been inspired by Rufinus of Syria, a disciple of Theodore of Mopsuestia.[92] They refused to agree that libido wounded human will and mind, insisting that the human nature was given the power to act, to speak, and to think when God created it. Human nature cannot lose its moral capacity for doing good, but a person is free to act or not to act in a righteous way. Pelagius gave an example of eyes: they have capacity for seeing, but a person can make either good or bad use of it.[93] Like Jovinian, Pelagians insisted that human affections and desires were not touched by the fall either. Immorality, e.g. fornication, is exclusively a matter of will, i.e. a person does not use natural desires in a proper way. In opposition to that, Augustine pointed out to the apparent disobedience of the flesh to the spirit, and explained it as one of the results of original sin, punishment of Adam and Eve's disobedience to God.[94]

Augustine had served as a "Hearer" for the Manichaeans for about nine years,[95] who taught that the original sin was carnal knowledge.[96] But his struggle to understand the cause of evil in the world started before that, at the age of nineteen.[97] By malum (evil) he understood most of all concupiscence, which he interpreted as a vice dominating person and causing in men and women moral disorder. A. Trapè insists that Augustine's personal experience cannot be credited for his doctrine about concupiscence. His marriage experience, though Christian marriage celebration was missing, was exemplary, very normal and by no means specifically sad.[98] As J. Brachtendorf showed, Augustine used Ciceronian Stoic concept of passions, to interpret Paul's doctrine of universal sin and redemption.[99]

The view that not only human soul but also senses were influenced by the fall of Adam and Eve was prevalent in Augustine's time among the Fathers of the Church.[100] It is clear that the reason of Augustine's distance towards the affairs of the flesh was different to that of Plotinus, a neo-Platonist[101] who taught that only through disdain for fleshly desire could one reach the ultimate state of mankind.[102] Augustine taught the redemption, i.e. transformation and purification, of the body in the resurrection.[103]

Some authors perceive Augustine's doctrine as directed against human sexuality and attribute his insistence on continence and devotion to God as coming from Augustine's need to reject his own highly sensual nature as described in the Confessions. But in view of his writings it is apparently a misunderstanding.[104] Augustine taught that human sexuality has been wounded, together with the whole of human nature, and requires redemption of Christ. That healing is a process realized in conjugal acts. The virtue of continence is achieved thanks to the grace of the sacrament of Christian marriage, which becomes therefore a remedium concupiscentiae – remedy of concupiscence.[105][106] The redemption of human sexuality will be, however, fully accomplished only in the resurrection of the body.[107]

The sin of Adam is inherited by all human beings. Already in his pre-Pelagian writings, Augustine taught that Original Sin was transmitted by concupiscence,[108] which he regarded as the passion of both, soul and body,[109] making humanity a massa damnata (mass of perdition, condemned crowd) and much enfeebling, though not destroying, the freedom of the will.

Augustine's formulation of the doctrine of original sin was confirmed at numerous councils, i.e. Carthage (418), Ephesus (431), Orange (529), Trent (1546) and by popes, i.e. Pope Innocent I (401–417) and Pope Zosimus (417–418). Anselm of Canterbury established in his Cur Deus Homo the definition that was followed by the great Schoolmen, namely that Original Sin is the "privation of the righteousness which every man ought to possess", thus interpreting concupiscence as something more than mere sexual lust, with which some of Augustine's disciples had defined it[110][111] as later did Luther and Calvin, a doctrine condemned in 1567 by Pope Pius V.[112]

Augustine taught that some people are predestined by God to salvation by an eternal, sovereign decree which is not based on man's merit or will. The saving grace which God bestows is irresistible and unfailingly results in conversion. God also grants those whom he saves with the gift of perseverance so that none of those whom God has chosen may conceivably fall away.[69][page needed][113]

The Catholic Church considers Augustine's teaching to be consistent with free will.[114] He often said that any can be saved if they wish.[114] While God knows who will be saved and who will not, with no possibility that one destined to be lost will be saved, this knowledge represents God's perfect knowledge of how humans will freely choose their destinies.[114][unreliable source]

Sacramental theology

Also in reaction against the Donatists, Augustine developed a distinction between the "regularity" and "validity" of the sacraments. Regular sacraments are performed by clergy of the Catholic Church while sacraments performed by schismatics are considered irregular. Nevertheless, the validity of the sacraments do not depend upon the holiness of the priests who perform them (ex opere operato); therefore, irregular sacraments are still accepted as valid provided they are done in the name of Christ and in the manner prescribed by the Church. On this point Augustine departs from the earlier teaching of Cyprian, who taught that converts from schismatic movements must be re-baptised.[69] Augustine taught that sacraments administered outside the Catholic Church, though true sacraments, avail nothing. However, he also stated that baptism, while it does not confer any grace when done outside the Church, does confer grace as soon as one is received into the Catholic Church.

Augustine upheld the early Christian understanding of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, saying that Christ's statement, "This is my body" referred to the bread he carried in his hands,[115][116] and that Christians must have faith that the bread and wine are in fact the body and blood of Christ, despite what they see with their eyes.[117]

Against the Pelagians, Augustine strongly stressed the importance of infant baptism. About the question whether baptism is an absolute necessity for salvation, however, Augustine appears to have refined his beliefs during his lifetime, causing some confusion among later theologians about his position. He said in one of his sermons that only the baptized are saved.[118] This belief was shared by many early Christians. However, a passage from his City of God, concerning the Apocalypse, may indicate that Augustine did believe in an exception for children born to Christian parents.[119]

Statements on Jews

Against certain Christian movements, some of which rejected the use of Hebrew Scripture, Augustine countered that God had chosen the Jews as a special people,[120] and he considered the scattering of Jewish people by the Roman Empire to be a fulfillment of prophecy.[121] He rejected homicidal attitudes, quoting part of the same prophecy, namely "Slay them not, lest they should at last forget Thy law" (Psalm 59:11). Augustine, who believed Jewish people would be converted to Christianity at "the end of time," argued that God had allowed them to survive their dispersion as a warning to Christians; as such, he argued, they should be permitted to dwell in Christian lands.[122]

Views on sexuality

For Augustine, the evil of sexual immorality was not in the sexual act itself, but rather in the emotions that typically accompany it. In On Christian Doctrine Augustine contrasts love, which is enjoyment on account of God, and lust, which is not on account of God.[123] For Augustine, proper love exercises a denial of selfish pleasure and the subjugation of corporeal desire to God. He wrote that the pious virgins raped during the sack of Rome, were innocent because they did not intend to sin.[124][125]

Augustine's view of sexual feelings as sinful affected his view of women. For example he considered a man’s erection to be sinful, though involuntary,[126] because it did not take place under his conscious control. His solution was to place controls on women to limit their ability to influence men.[127]

He believed that the serpent approached Eve because she was less rational and lacked self-control, while Adam's choice to eat was viewed as an act of kindness so that Eve would not be left alone.[127] Augustine believed sin entered the world because man (the spirit) did not exercise control over woman (the flesh).[128] Augustine's views on women were not all negative, however. In his Tractates on the Gospel of John, Augustine, commenting on the Samaritan woman from John 4:1–42, uses the woman as a figure of the church.

According to Raming, the authority of the Decretum Gratiani, a collection of Roman Catholic canon law which prohibits women from leading, teaching, or being a witness, rests largely on the views of the early church fathers—one of the most influential being St. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo.[129] The laws and traditions founded upon St. Augustine's views of sexuality and women continue to exercise considerable influence over church doctrinal positions regarding the role of women in the church.[130]

Teaching philosophy

Augustine is considered an influential figure in the history of education. A work early in Augustine's writings is De Magistro (the Teacher), which contains insights about education. However, his ideas changed as he found better directions or better ways of expressing his ideas. In the last years of his life Saint Augustine wrote his "Retractationes", reviewing his writings and improving specific texts. Henry Chadwick believes an accurate translation of "retractationes" may be "reconsiderations". Reconsiderations can be seen as an overarching theme of the way Saint Augustine learned. Augustine's understanding of the search for understanding/meaning/truth as a restless journey leaves room for doubt, development and change.[131]

Gary N. McCloskey finds four "encounters of learning" in Augustine's approach to education: Through Transforming Experiences; as a Journey in Search of Understanding/Meaning/Truth; Learning with Others in Community; and Building the Habits (Love) of Learning. His emphasis on the importance of community as a means of learning distinguishes his pedagogy from some others. Augustine believed that dialogue/dialectic/discussion is the best means for learning, and this method should serve as a model for learning encounters between teachers and students. Saint Augustine’s dialogue writings model the need for lively interactive dialogue among learners.[131]

He introduced the theory of three different categories of students, and instructed teachers to adapt their teaching styles to each student's individual learning style. The three different kinds of students are: the student who has been well-educated by knowledgeable teachers; the student who has had no education; and the student who has had a poor education, but believes himself to be well-educated. If a student has been well educated in a wide variety of subjects, the teacher must be careful not to repeat what they have already learned, but to challenge the student with material which they do not yet know thoroughly. With the student who has had no education, the teacher must be patient, willing to repeat things until the student understands, and sympathetic. Perhaps the most difficult student, however, is the one with an inferior education who believes he understands something when he does not. Augustine stressed the importance of showing this type of student the difference between "having words and having understanding," and of helping the student to remain humble with his acquisition of knowledge.

Augustine introduced the idea of teachers responding positively to the questions they may receive from their students, no matter if the student interrupted his teacher. Augustine also founded the restrained style of teaching. This teaching style ensures the students' full understanding of a concept because the teacher does not bombard the student with too much material; focuses on one topic at a time; helps them discover what they don't understand, rather than moving on too quickly; anticipates questions; and helps them learn to solve difficulties and find solutions to problems. Yet another of Augustine's major contributions to education is his study on the styles of teaching. He claimed there are two basic styles a teacher uses when speaking to the students. The mixed style includes complex and sometimes showy language to help students see the beautiful artistry of the subject they are studying. The grand style is not quite as elegant as the mixed style, but is exciting and heartfelt, with the purpose of igniting the same passion in the students' hearts. Augustine balanced his teaching philosophy with the traditional Bible-based practice of strict discipline.

Works

Main article: Augustine of Hippo bibliography

Augustine was one of the most prolific Latin authors in terms of surviving works, and the list of his works consists of more than one hundred separate titles.[132] They include apologetic works against the heresies of the Arians, Donatists, Manichaeans and Pelagians; texts on Christian doctrine, notably De Doctrina Christiana (On Christian Doctrine); exegetical works such as commentaries on Book of Genesis, the Psalms and Paul's Letter to the Romans; many sermons and letters; and the Retractationes, a review of his earlier works which he wrote near the end of his life. Apart from those, Augustine is probably best known for his Confessions, which is a personal account of his earlier life, and for De civitate dei (The City of God, consisting of 22 books), which he wrote to restore the confidence of his fellow Christians, which was badly shaken by the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410. His On the Trinity, in which he developed what has become known as the 'psychological analogy' of the Trinity, is also among his masterpieces, and arguably one of the greatest theological works of all time. He also wrote On Free Choice Of The Will (De libero arbitrio), addressing why God gives humans free will that can be used for evil.

Influence


Augustine is considered by modern historian Thomas Cahill to be the first medieval man and the last classical man.[133] In both his philosophical and theological reasoning, he was greatly influenced by Stoicism, Platonism and Neo-platonism, particularly by the work of Plotinus, author of the Enneads, probably through the mediation of Porphyry and Victorinus (as Pierre Hadot has argued). Although he later abandoned Neoplatonism, some ideas are still visible in his early writings.[134] His early and influential writing on the human will, a central topic in ethics, would become a focus for later philosophers such as Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. In addition, Augustine was influenced by the works of Virgil (known for his teaching on language), Cicero (known for his teaching on argument), and Aristotle (particularly his Rhetoric and Poetics).

Thomas Aquinas was influenced heavily by Augustine. On the topic of original sin, Aquinas proposed a more optimistic view of man than that of Augustine in that his conception leaves to the reason, will, and passions of fallen man their natural powers even after the Fall.[112] Augustine's doctrine of efficacious grace found eloquent expression in the works of Bernard of Clairvaux; also Reformation theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin would look back to him as their inspiration.

Philosopher Bertrand Russell was impressed by Augustine's meditation on the nature of time in the Confessions, comparing it to Kant's subjective theory of time, which has been widely accepted since Kant.[135] Catholic theologians generally subscribe to Augustine's belief that God exists outside of time in the "eternal present"; that time only exists within the created universe because only in space is time discernible through motion and change. His meditations on the nature of time are closely linked to his consideration of the human ability of memory. Frances Yates in her 1966 studyThe Art of Memory argues that a brief passage of the Confessions, 10.8.12, in which Augustine writes of walking up a flight of stairs and entering the vast fields of memory[136] clearly indicates that the ancient Romans were aware of how to use explicit spatial and architectural metaphors as a mnemonic technique for organizing large amounts of information.

Augustine's philosophical method, especially demonstrated in his Confessions, had continuing influence on Continental philosophy throughout the 20th century. His descriptive approach to intentionality, memory, and language as these phenomena are experienced within consciousness and time anticipated and inspired the insights of modern phenomenology and hermeneutics.[137] Edmund Husserl writes: "The analysis of time-consciousness is an age-old crux of descriptive psychology and theory of knowledge. The first thinker to be deeply sensitive to the immense difficulties to be found here was Augustine, who laboured almost to despair over this problem."[138] Martin Heidegger refers to Augustine's descriptive philosophy at several junctures in his influential work Being and Time.[139] Hannah Arendt began her philosophical writing with a dissertation on Augustine's concept of love, Der Liebesbegriff bei Augustin (1929): "The young Arendt attempted to show that the philosophical basis for vita socialis in Augustine can be understood as residing in neighbourly love, grounded in his understanding of the common origin of humanity."[140] Jean Bethke Elshtain in Augustine and the Limits of Politics finds likeness between Augustine and Arendt in their concepts of evil: "Augustine did not see evil as glamorously demonic but rather as absence of good, something which paradoxically is really nothing. Arendt ... envisioned even the extreme evil which produced the Holocaust as merely banal [in Eichmann in Jerusalem]."[141] Augustine's philosophical legacy continues to influence contemporary critical theory through the contributions and inheritors of these 20th-century figures.

According to Leo Ruickbie, Augustine's arguments against magic, differentiating it from miracle, were crucial in the early Church's fight against paganism and became a central thesis in the later denunciation of witches and witchcraft. According to Professor Deepak Lal, Augustine's vision of the heavenly city has influenced the secular projects and traditions of the Enlightenment, Marxism, Freudianism and Eco-fundamentalism.[142] Post-Marxist philosophers Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt rely heavily on Augustine's thought, particularly The City of God, in their book of political-philosophy "Empire."

While in his pre-Pelagian writings Augustine taught that Adam's guilt as transmitted to his descendants much enfeebles, though does not destroy, the freedom of their will, Protestant reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin affirmed that Original Sin completely destroyed liberty (see total depravity).[112]

Augustine has influenced many modern-day theologians and authors such as John Piper. Hannah Arendt, an influential 20th century political theorist, wrote her doctoral dissertation in philosophy on St. Augustine, and continued to rely on his thought throughout her career. Ludwig Wittgenstein extensively quotes Augustine in Philosophical Investigations for his approach to language, both admiringly, and as a sparring partner to develop his own ideas, including an extensive opening passage from the Confessions. In his autobiographical book Milestones, Pope Benedict XVI, claims St. Augustine as one of the deepest influences in his thought.

In popular culture

Augustine was played by Dary Berkani in the 1972 television movie Augustine of Hippo. He was also played by Franco Nero in the 2010 mini-series Augustine: The Decline of the Roman Empire and the 2012 feature film Restless Heart: The Confessions of Saint Augustine.[143] The modern day name links to the Agostinelli Family.[144]

Jostein Gaarder's philosophical novel Vita Brevis is presented as a translation of a manuscript written by Augustine's concubine after he became the Bishop of Hippo. Augustine also appears in the novel The Dalkey Archive by Flann O'Brian (the pen name of Irish Author Brian O'Nolan). He is summoned to an underwater cavern by an absurd scientist called De Selby; together they discuss life in Heaven and the characters of other Saints. Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s novel A Canticle for Leibowitz cites St. Augustine as possibly positing the first version of a theory of evolution.[145]

Bob Dylan recorded a song entitled "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine" on his album John Wesley Harding. Pop artist Sting pays an homage of sorts to Augustine's struggles with lust with the song "Saint Augustine in Hell" which appears on the singer's 1993 album Ten Summoner's Tales. Christian Rock artist Disciple named their fourth track on their 2010 release Horseshoes and Handgrenades after Augustine, called: "The Ballad of St. Augustine". The song "St. Augustine" appears on Girlyman's album, Supernova. American rock band Moe named and referenced Augustine of Hippo in their song entitled, "St. Augustine."

See also

Saints portal

References

Bibliography

Further reading

  • Green, Bradley G. ISBN 9780227680056
  • * Received a Jerwood Award.
  • Miles, Margaret R. ISBN 9780718892623
  • Règle de St. Augustin pour les religieuses de son ordre; et Constitutions de la Congrégation des Religieuses du Verbe-Incarné et du Saint-Sacrament (Lyon: Chez Pierre Guillimin, 1662), pp. 28–29. Cf. later edition published at Lyon (Chez Briday, Libraire,1962), pp. 22–24. English edition, (New York: Schwartz, Kirwin, and Fauss, 1893), pp. 33–35.

External links

General
  • Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • "St. Augustine, Bishop and Confessor, Doctor of the Church", Butler's Lives of the Saints
  • The Life and Writings of St. Augustine of Hippo: Bishop & Doctor of the Christian Church
  • James J. O'Donnell – texts, translations, introductions, commentaries, etc.
  • Augustine's theory of knowledge
  • St. Augustine page at Christian Iconography
  • "The Life of St. Austin, or Augustine, Doctor" from the Caxton translation of the Golden Legend
  • David Lindsay: Saint Augustine – Doctor Gratiae
  • Fisher House, Cambridge, on 22 November 1994.
Bibliography
  • Augustine of Hippo at EarlyChurch.org.uk – extensive bibliography and on-line articles
  • Bibliography on St. Augustine Started by T.J. van Bavel O.S.A., continued at the Augustinian historical Institute in Louvain, Belgium
Works by Augustine
  • Christian Classics Ethereal Library
  • Augustine against Secundinus in English.
  • Aurelius Augustinus at "IntraText Digital Library" – texts in several languages, with concordance and frequency list
  • Augustinus.it – Latin, Spanish and Italian texts
  • Sanctus Augustinus at Documenta Catholica Omnia – Latin
  • City of God, Confessions, Enchiridion, Doctrine audio books
Biography and criticism
  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Order of St Augustine
  • Blessed Augustine of Hippo: His Place in the Orthodox Church
  • Villanova University

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