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Today, we concluded the autobiographical portion of Augustine’s Confessions. Most colleges courses covering this book would normally stop here, but we will continue with the rest of the books.
It is interesting, as one person put it, that when he went seminary in his late 30’s, he was surrounded by young 20-year olds straight out of college. When it came to reading Augustine’s Confessions, many of the young people found it a bit boring and less applicable; however, the handful of older people in the class felt a deeper connection while reading the book because they went through the same struggles, experiences, and questions as Augustine had but afraid to share them with others. So I guess when you re-read Confessions later on in your life, the deeper the connection you feel with Augustine.
We discussed whether or not traditional “biblical” gender roles still apply till this day, as well as how Protestants uphold the doctrine of Sola Scriptura and some problems it has in today’s context; the use and abuse of relics in the Church in history; Augustine’s Neoplatonic view of the afterlife after his vision or epiphany with his mother Monica; and Mike (not written here) talked about whether or not salvation was conditional or unconditional – the Bible seems ambivalent in some respects with the issue.
Our essays can be found here.
We conclude Book IX of Confessions as Augustine describes his time in the seaport of Ostia, near Rome, around 387 AD.
He had been baptized in the spring and headed south in the summer with a small company of friends and family. They had intended to return to Africa and form a community for prayer, study, and the service of God. But when they arrived, the Mediterranean Sea was sealed off as both the Eastern and Western emperors fought one another and the usurper Maximus.
Here, in the latter half of the book, he recounts his last memories of his mother Monica.
Here are our essays for the first half of Book IX of the Confessions.
We covered the role emotions play to religious and spiritual practices; how conversion changes our view of others and the world around us; the use and place of the Bible in a believer’s life; and whether or not non-believers will be rewarded for good works in the afterlife.
For this Sunday we will cover Book IX Chapters 1 – 6 of Confessions.
In this book he ties up his autobiographical story by telling the aftermath of his conversion, in particular, the events leading up to his baptism.
He describes his stay in the fall and winter months of 386 at the country estate of his friend Vercundus at Cassiciacum near Milan. This provided Augustine and his friends a quiet place of withdrawal as they prepared for baptism that coming Easter. While there, Augustine wrote a series of dialogues based on the conversations he was having with his friends there. These writings (On the Happy Life, Against the Academics, On Order, Soliloquies) show that he was working out some of the solutions to his theological problems.
By the end of Chapter 6, he, along with his son Aeodatus and friend Alypius get baptized together.
In the latter half of Book VIII, Augustine wrote a lot about free will, however, everyone in the group decided not to write about it (I was betting someone was bound to) surprisingly. We did come around to discussing free will in the beginning and was equally surprised to learn that a majority of our group thought that free will was more or less an illusion and that everything was deterministic, even from a theological standpoint.
Anyway, here are our essays about whether or not conversion to Christianity limits your options and freedoms; thoughts about original sin; the role of shame and repentance prior to conversion (whether it’s necessary or not); and bibliolatry and the Barthian or “encounter” view of Scripture.
A clip from the movie “Restless Heart: The Confessions of Augustine.” Bishop Ambrose is depicted here embracing Augustine and later baptizing him.
This week, we will finish the rest of Book VIII – chapters 7 – 12 of Augustine’s Confessions.
In these final chapters, we encounter the monumental moment when Augustine finally devotes himself to the Christian faith as he recounts in great detail in these writings.
Here are our essays on Book VIII – Chapters 1 – 6 of Augustine’s Confessions.
We discussed the implications of delayed gratification, the pagan elements and origins of the Catholic Mass and Protestant services, the life of Anthony the Great and whether or not Christ calls us to a life of asceticism.
This past week we concluded Book VII of “Confessions” by covering chapters 11 – 21.
We had good conversations about human reason and the (Neoplatonic) discipline of focusing on spiritual things to draw closer to God; is Jesus the only way? and religious pluralism; the nature of Jesus; the nature of evil; the distinction between Creator and creation; the influence of Platonic thought on Christian education throughout the centuries and its problems.
We also had a stimulating discussion centering around the questions, “Who is Jesus?” One can easily spurt out, “Oh, he’s my Lord and Savior.” But if you trip away the “churchy” language everyone uses and really, really ask yourself who he is to you and what he really means to you (if anything), it might be harder than you think it is. One reason I believe that it is so hard is because that question is also a very personal question as well.
You can read our essays here.
Here are our submissions from last week on Confessions: Book VII – Chapters 1 – 10. We wrote on the topics of the philosophy and theology of evil, God’s relation to his creation, questions on whether or not God still speaks to us today, an overview of Manichean theology and how its views are still present in some way in today’s church.
Here is a late submission from the last book by Doris that you will find at the very end of the page.
We will finish up Book VII next week.