LECTURE 4 – OCTOBER 6, 2011
- Virtue is a quality pointing out humanity/ deepest nature
- To imitate God is to become passionate
- World made for her sake, why Church new but like old woman? – Sheppard Hermas (strange
passage – Silano’s favourite passage is the Church like old woman one
- Western Christian – owes something to Augustine because he owes immensely to history of
Western Christianity and Culture
- The book today is evidence of that
- Change in approach to Christian experience since he was the first to write about this- Implicitly
arrogant exercise to write down for the purpose of having world know about you… he is the
prototype, the one with whom this kind of thing begins! Which si one way of raising question, is
he writing an autobiography, the Confessions?
- What is Augustine’s place in this course?
- Augustine, repetitive, stubborn Confessions are easiest of his works to deal with, most likely to be
intelligible, he is very prolific, he wrote everything after conversion, only had half a life to write
- Many are theological treatises, many are controversial writings where he responds to others
writings, he has many letters that survived, rich collection of sermons which are worth reading
- Because Confessions are first before becoming priest, about conversion, most often presented to
students – CONTINUE Christian experience by educating students
Is it an autobiography?
- A confession? What is it? Talking to God?
- A confessor? – Someone who suffered at hands of prosecutor but was not killed. So if someone
imprisoned, captured, released again = confessor – second class witness, not witnessed to point of
being killed but he has suffered – somewhat similar to a martyr then – made acknowledgement of
faith – this is what the word meant before Augustine takes it up
- If he is writing confessions he must be a confessor in a sense – he is giving witness, he saves self
from writing autobiography because he looks back, it is a story of his mistakes, faults, failures to
respond, if you write a book in self-praise he self praises but since he casts self down in order to
praise down then the genre can come a live and it is okay, this is the form autobiography retains
in early modern age, writes to show how foolish he is and how unresponsive to grace
- Similar to Dante- failure to respond to promptings of grace, account of failures- other examples of
autobiography – trying to discern what god was saying and how they failed to respond
appropriately thus it is a humble exercise in that sense, in that Gods deeds in my life, my response
to these deeds (a shared Christian experience)
We approach it because one man’s experience, it is full of detail, tells how Christianity lived in
4 century South Africa – it is sublime too - What did you learn about the experience of a Christian in 4 century
Manichean – maybe better to put Augustine next week? – Due to “what is the role monasticism has
already come to play in the definition of a Christian life?” - Because the problems of the body raised in
first place in the monastic experience.
Augustine 354- Monasticism already 100 years old, he was aware of the phenomenon - a friend decided
to become a monk – Trier – How does monasticism approach this question? – Father of Monasticism
believed body is disgrace- Antony hates to be seen eating because it is a sign reminding one of humble
state, if there was no sin you would not need to eat
Hunger today is a pressing necessity- it distinguishes us from being like angels who were not bound by
To what extent are food and sex related? – Monks find importance in food more than sex, because they
cannot help having to eat.
Are gluttony and lust different? Or are there distinct dissimilarities? – Just like lust humbles reason, so
All bodily desires are difficult to control, so when you think and discuss intellectually you present self as
free who can soar but as soon as you meet demands of body you are in the service of your body, having to
do many things to satisfy – some being private some public –all experiences that do not go with sin itself
as a God like being – If we believe we are made in Gods image it is hard to believe it is bodily – rather we
Question of: What does it mean to live a Christian Life if martyrdom is no longer required to be
defining experience of Christianity? – If before said requirement to be Christian is to die for Christ
but what happens if no one is around to kill you, then in what enterprise would you find
requirements to live in such a manner. The monks suggest you can find the edge and difficulties in
effort to acquire self-mastery and control – This is what Augustine is saying even though he says
self-control is misery…
If God allows- it is possible
Monks raise such issues – Augustine benefits from 100 years of reflection on these issues – THE
INCARNATION: Christ became man to become an exemplar to show how to do it, Egyptian father – this
is what is crucial of Incarnation, God always pedagogue, to become a teacher to show how to do it
Augustine is more interesting because he hardly mentions Christ. Thus it is not as simple as “here comes
the teacher”, it is the Trinity the divine life forever pouring self toward and in you, thus Incarnation
important, the pouring, but the first and last thing you do is to impact your heart, because an outpouring
of love happens everywhere and happens in you so that in effect the failure to convert to turn toward God,
is always a failure to pay attention to your own heart. IF you like the Confessions, this may be a reason
you like it.
Augustine- uses all reality for sake of “who am I, the history happens in here “in me” all else is
secondary, history happens as consequence of what is in your heart so all other stuff is of interest because it is often the only means you have to discern what goes on in hearts. This is where Gods work should be,
is most evident, it is surprising how surprising it can be, Christ is not mentioned but Cicero is… - I
become interested in Truths, when I read of Cicero- according to Augustine but that should not how it
should be done.
Penance becomes argument for much discussion
Augustine meets Christian proposal because mother presented it, he has the books, Father tolerates his
proposal, What about Augustine? How does he respond? He laughs at what his mother says, does not
believe… not a reaction we are familiar with.
Augustine- there is symmetry between way he responds to his mother and the way he responds to
scripture. Scripture is a set of religious books, not written well, full of contradictions, do not match up
with the kinds of books he has mastered. Augustine recognized as great of his age, rhetoric reading most
important works of arts. This is one of the important features to explain Christian accomplishments, do
not confuse with role of advertising in our age…
Greco- Roman – widely agreed citizen had responsibly to speak well – that is what justified one’s
privileges, accepted obligation to be one who could speak well.
Socrates- self-help, self-reflection, community requires those who can speak effectively allows measure
of consensus and communication
Mother wants him to do well, none say get married, because if he gets married too early it would not fit
the time, because he does not get marry by the time he has success he could marry rich roman heiress. =
when he has crisis, and converts, mothers ambitions set aside
Problem of evil? Solution = evil does not exist? – what Augustine believes and says eventually… he
suggests evil is the absence of good, and not a thing in itself…
Relationship to sin? Sin is not in existence of itself, sin is my failure to respond adequately to
Gods love and requirements of my own nature. So sin is essentially a misreading of who I am and who
God is, and if only I could read things properly I would not make that mistake
Augustine finds confirmation and emergence in gradation through his book with the question of desire.
Could he have approached someone lustfully as someone not a person, he could not.. Sins spring from a
perverted good, even the Pears, most challenging example because so senseless, because if desire to be
unbounded by limitations, that is how we would have lived if no sin.