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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.
Yes, we’re back from a month long hiatus. We will finish Book V of Augustine’s Confessions.
In 383, at the age of 29, Augustine sailed from Carthage with his partner and their son, along with his two close friends Alypius and Nebridius, to Rome for a teaching position where he hoped to engage with better behaved students. By that time, Rome was no longer the center of the western empire; the emperor resided in Milan.
The next year, after winning a competition for a post as public teacher of rhetoric, he moved to Milan. It was there that he first encountered the formidable figure of Ambrose the bishop of Milan. He was to have a profound influence on Augustine’s life and thought.
Hi everyone, we will be covering Book I, chapters 1 – 10.
Augustine titled his deeply philosophical and theological autobiography Confessions to implicate two aspects of the form the work would take. To ‘confess’, in Augustine’s time, meant both to give an account of one’s faults to God and to praise God or to speak one’s love for God. These two aims come together in the Confessions in an elegant but complex sense: Augustine narrates his ascent from sinfulness to faithfulness not simply for the practical edification of his readers, but also because he believes that his narrative itself is really a story about God’s greatness and of the fundamental love all things have for Him. Thus, in the Confessions form equals content to a large degree—the natural form for Augustine’s story of redemption to take would be a direct address to God, since it is God who must be thanked for such redemption. (That said, a direct address to God was a highly original form for Augustine to have used at the time).
We had a very good opening session last night to start the new semester.
We delved into Plotinus’ general philosophy and how it influenced Christian philosophy. We can see its legacy even to this day in Christian circles.
It’s been a while since I last posted here, but we’re ready to kick things off with our new semester.
As stated, before heading straight into Augustine’s Confessions it is highly beneficial to understand where Augustine is coming from. Before coming to the Christian faith, he was heavily influenced by the philosophy of Plotinus and Neo-Platonism. You’ll find echoes of Plotinus and Neo-Platonism laced throughout Confessions.
In order to really get a good understanding of Christian theology and Christian philosophy, you first need a solid foundation of understanding Plato’s philosophy.
There’s just no way around it. Even Paul’s writings contain Platonic thought and ideas.
Plato’s philosophy still heavily influences Christianity today as well – for instance, our ideas about body/soul dualism, the afterlife, the spiritual being greater than the flesh/material, repentance, conversion, etc.
Here are some summaries we wrote about Plato’s and Greek philosophy’s impact on Christian thought here in terms of church history.
Here is Prof. Andrew Davison of St. Johns College, Nottingham, UK, talking about how Plato influenced Christian philosophy – especially that of Augustine, who was heavily influenced by Plotinus and Neoplatonism.