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UPDATE: “Confessions”: Book IX – Chapters 7 – 13

Clergymen bow and touch relics of Lebanese St. Rafqa as they are displayed for visitors on Nov. 6, 2014, at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Easton.

 

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.

 

 

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Plotinus – The One, The Mind, and the Soul and Christian Theology

 

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.

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Plotinus – Ennead IV: The Immortality of the Soul

Diagram of Plotinus's philosophy.

Diagram of Plotinus’s philosophy.

We will have our first meeting tomorrow on Thursday as we discuss Plotinus’ philosophy on the immortality of the soul.

Reading Plotinus is not an easy task and his philosophy takes some taking used to, but you’ll begin to see traces of him as we go through the Confessions and the topic of the immortality of the soul will come up again as we go through Augustine’s work.

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Plotinus and the Immortality of the Soul

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.

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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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Plato and Theology

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.