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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.
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.
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.
Before mentioning the questions, please read Michael’s submission from last session here at the end.
We will begin Book VII: Chapters 1 – 10 of Confessions.
Although Augustine has been using Neoplatonic terms and ideas throughout the Confessions it’s here in Book VII that he reaches the point when he first reads Neoplatonic philosophy. This is a pivitol moment for the young Augustine, who finds in Neoplatonism a way of reconciling his long pursuit of philosophy with his new and serious faith in Christianity. The union of this philosophy and this theology will guide his work (including the Confessions) for the rest of his life.
Today, we discussed whether or not the Bible allows co-habitation between couples, especially among Christians (as is most often the case, theology/religion cannot compete with personal sexual desires and urges – physical desires will almost always win); the theology of death; and then whether or not we can be “friends” with God.
Our essays are here.
At the start of this book, Augustine had returned home to Thagaste only to be kicked out by his mother for his Manichaen beliefs and less so for his mistress. However, he was able to launch his career as a professor of rhetoric due to his patron, Romanianus, who had provided liberally towards his education. Augustine would stay with him after his mother had kicked him out.
We will go over all of Book II of Confessions for our next meeting.
In this Book , Augustine describes the onset of adolescence (he was around sixteen at the time – c. 370-371 AD) and enters what he seems to consider the most lurid and sinful period of his life. He describes how he returned home after having spent a year in Madaura, a nearby city where he had gone to study rhetoric. His parents had now expended their meager resources for his schooling, which led the young Augustine to take a year off and give him the opportunity to get into some trouble. He “ran wild,” he writes, “in the jungle of erotic adventures…and became putrid in [God’s] sight.”