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We had our first meeting back from over a month this past Sunday. We were a bit rusty in the beginning but we quickly picked up from right where we were before.
We went over Book V: Chapters 8 – 13 of Augustine’s “Confessions.” We discussed about whether or not we should read the Bible literally, if Christianity is meaningless without an afterlife, the role of doubt and skepticism in matters of faith, whether or not your sincerity and way of living affects answers to prayer, how we “picture” God when we pray, and whether or not the concept or reality of evil has relevance only in human terms.
You can find 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.
We will be having our next meeting on Tuesday, August 12.
Please read the first two sections of Chapter 21: Natural and Unnatural Philosophy (1492 – 1700) and Judaism, Skepticism, Deism (1492 – 1700), and please answer one of the following questions:
- What are the origins and purposes of Freemasonry or Masonic practice? What attitudes of the Reformation did they inherit? What connections did they have with more esoteric sources of sacred literature like hermetic books, Neoplatonic writings, and the Jewish Cabbala?
- Describe the impact of the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries. How did the study and progress of science (or ‘natural philosophy’) impact theology during this time? What were some of the religious ideas of Sir Isaac Newton? What was the primary focus of Francis Bacon’s project in extending human knowledge through empiricism and how did it relate to the story of Adam and Eve?
- Describe the impact the 1492 expulsion of the Jewish population in the Iberian peninsula had upon Europe as they spread to other territories. How did they view the Reformation? How did the culture of doubt and skepticism of religion come about as a result of oppressive Church practices like the Iberian Inquisitions? How did the religiously tolerant atmosphere of places like Amsterdam foster religious skepticism?
- Discuss the impact of the thoughts and works of Baruch de Spinoza. What were some of his beliefs about God and religion that many found so dangerous? Describe his two important works Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670) and Ethics (1677). Why were these works banned?
- Discuss how the Huguenots were behind many of the anti-religious writings during the Enlightenment. Explain how the historical criticism of the Bible during this time led to serious doubts about its divine inspiration.
- How did the observations of Pierre Bayle, Thomas Hobbes, early Quakers, Isaac La Peyrere, and the discovery of other races of people in the Americas affect thought about the authority of the Church and the authority of the Bible?
- What is deism and how did it gain prominence during the Enlightenment? How did Protestant Evangelicals and Pietist counteract deism?
I know some are really excited to read this part of history and the importance of the Enlightenment, so it should be fertile ground for some interesting discussions and insights in the upcoming weeks ahead. Really looking forward to our discussions.
Please submit your essays by Monday, August 11.