Written by Victor Stanley Jr. In Peter Brown’s Augustine of Hippo the chapter titled “Populus Dei” the reader is taken into Augustine’s congregation. Even more than that, the reader is taken into the minds, attitudes, and lives of Augustine’s congregation and the culture that surrounds them. Interestingly enough, the problems present in late fourth century North Africa are very similar to the problems facing the Church, at least in the U.S., today.
Written By Victor Stanley Jr. In Harmless’ Augustine: In His Own Words chapter 3, of particular interest to me is an excerpt from St. Augustine’s Sermon 279. This excerpt deals with what Harmless calls ‘suspicious conversions,’ and specifically with the conversion of a man named Faustinus. According to Harmless Christianity had become the major religion in North Africa in the late fourth-century, and great pressure was placed on pagans to convert.
Written By Victor Stanley Jr. In Book XII of St. Augustine’s autobiography Confessions, the Bishop of Hippo seeks to discuss Heaven and Earth. Specifically in chapters two through eight Augustine deals with the idea of God endowing what he calls ‘formless matter’ with form. Throughout this section he seems to borrow heavily from Plato’s ideas of what are known as The Forms; for Plato these ‘forms’ are eternally existing, they are independent of the mind, they are transcendent i.e. non-spatial and non-temporal, they are intelligible, and they are perfect.
Written By Victor Stanley Jr. In Book I of St. Augustine’s Confessions he addresses the idea of original sin, that is the doctrine that man is born in sin, and is thus inherently wicked, corrupt, sinful, depraved, or various other terms that describe a similar state. In Book I, 7, 11 Augustine makes the statement that, “The only innocent feature in babies is the weakness of their frames; the minds of infants are far from innocent.” This is a key doctrine in the Christian faith
Written by Victor Stanley Jr. In Confessions VIII, 8, 20 through VIII, 10, 22 St. Augustine wrestles with the dichotomy of man’s seemingly divided will. While he advocates for freewill, his thought processes, as presented in the text, strongly suggest a lack of freewill. This is evident in lines such as, “The mind commands the body and is instantly obeyed; the mind commands itself, and meets with resistance,” or “When the mind issues its command that the mind itself should will something, it fails to do so.”
Written by Victor Stanley Jr. Historical Criticism as an Apology for Christian Truth In Confessions VI, 5, 7 St. Augustine briefly addresses an epistemological issue dealing with truth. Augustine points out that some of the teachings of the Catholic Church “were not demonstrated rationally,” but makes the point that the Church did not practice the deceit of the Manicheans when it came to requiring belief in things that lacked substantial empirical evidence; for the Manicheans “promised knowledge and derided credulity, but then went on to demand belief in… absurd myths which certainly could not be demonstrated.” What follows this understanding is a great apology for accepting the claims of scripture,…
Written by Victor Stanley Jr. In book five of St. Augustine’s autobiographical work titled Confessions St. Augustine mentions a doctrine held by the Manicheans that puts forth the idea that man is not responsible, or rather not accountable for his own sins. He says that during his time as a Manichean* he believed “that it is not we who sin, but some other nature within us that is responsible.” On the surface this actually seems to line up with biblical teaching on man’s sin nature, but as Augustine elaborates on the idea by adding that this ‘nature’ he speaks of is actually some outside force imposing its will on man,…