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UPDATE: “Confessions”: Book III – Chapters 7 – 12

Spirit

What do we mean when we say that God is ‘Spirit’? What is a ‘spirit’ anyway? How is it different from a soul? How do we relate with God’s spirit? Or is ‘spirit’ just a fancy way of saying ‘I have no clue what I’m talking about’?

 

So we had a very active and stimulating meeting last night and discussed a whole range of topics; a lot of it focused on the nature of God and how He relates with us.

 

Virtually all of us agreed that a theocracy was not the best form of government and disagreed that the Kingdom of God that Jesus talked about would not fall under the category of a theocracy; strains of Manichean beliefs or at least dualism within not only charismatic and fundamentalist sects of Christianity but also Catholicism; struggling to define what a ‘spirit’ actually is and what it means that God is ‘spirit’, and whether or not it differs with the concept of a soul; the eternal question of free will and God’s sovereignty (i.e. Does God have a predetermined plan for everyone’s lives or are we responsible for our own actions) and whether or not the universe might be free and open; and discussions on whether or not God suffers and if that is the case, does that mean He can change his mind or plan on things.

 

Here are our essays.

 

 

 

“Confessions” – Book III: Chapters 7 – 12

 

Saints Augustine and Monica, 1854. Artist: Scheffer, Ary (1795-1858)

Saints Augustine and Monica, 1854. Artist: Scheffer, Ary (1795-1858)

 

We will finish the rest of Book III as we go over chapters 7 – 12.

 

The more questions I think of as I go through Confessions the more profoundly impressed I am of Augustine and his thinking.

 

Please answer one of these questions and write an essay on it.

 

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‘Confessions’ – Book III: Chapters 1 – 6

 

The Mani Prayer wheel used for prayers in Tibetan Buddhism

The Mani Prayer wheel used for prayers in Tibetan Buddhism.  Augustine was a follower of Manichaeism in his early life.

 

In Book III, Augustine leaves for Carthage from his hometown of Thagaste and enters a place and a lifestyle in which “all around me hissed a cauldron of illicit loves.” This is a low point in Augustine’s relationship with God–turned almost entirely toward transient diversions, he seems to feel he could get no lower.

 

It was during this time, when he was around sixteen years old, that he hooked up with a girl and would settle down with her for the next dozen years or so. In that time, having a common-law wife or living together and even having a child together was not considered particularly immoral. The main problem would be that she had come from a lower social class that Augustine which meant that any children they had would take her lower status, not his. This would cause problems for his family who most definitely wanted him to marry a woman with a high social standing. Augustine never reveals her name, most likely to protect her from unwanted attention. As Augustine would later write, she went back to Africa and vowed never to take another man.

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Plotinus and Neo-Platonism’s Influence on Augustine

Plotinus (205 - 270)

Plotinus (205 – 270)

Before we delve into Confessions, we will start exploring the development of Augustine’s philosophy and theology.

For a while, Augustine had been influenced by Manichaeism, a Persian adaptation of Christianity, which added in Zoroastrianism, speculative philosophy and superstition.  Augustine was a Manichee for nine years.  Then during a trip to Rome in 383, due to his education in the liberal arts, he began to question Manichaeism when he saw that its understanding of the universe owed more to astrology than astronomy.

The next year, he met the formidable figure of Ambrose, bishop of Milan.  His great intellect and fiery sermons left a deep impression on Augustine.  In Ambrose, Augustine found someone who could communicate at his own intellectual level, further confirming his rejection of the Manichees and opening the way for his return to the Christian faith.

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