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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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“Confessions” – Book VIII: Chapters 7 – 12

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.

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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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Questions for ‘Confessions’ Book I: Chapters 1 – 10

 

Infant sinner

Don’t let this baby’s unbearable cuteness deceive you. She’s a helpless, natural born sinner according to Augustine.

 

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).

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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 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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Neuroscience of Memory and Salvation (Soteriology)

Scientists watch glowing molecules morph into memories in real time

Memory-forming molecules traveling around the brain to form new memories.

 

Came upon this site about the latest research on how memory forms in the brain.

This relates to some articles I wrote about pertaining to cognitive neuroscience and theology.  (The summaries on Peterson and Rev. Choong in particular.)

The key point to understand is that when memory forms, or when new memories form in your brain or when you learn something new (like I hope you’re doing now), there’s a physical change that’s occurring in your brain – i.e. your brain changes.

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New Submissions for Chapter 13: “Hagia Sophia” & “Byzantine Spirituality”

Hi all,

New updates and submissions about the reign of Justinian I (aka Justinian the Great), the Byzantine Empire, Hagia Sophia, and the Orthodox theology of theosis.  You can find them here.

Tonight, there were interesting talks about what constitutes theosis and how it perhaps relates to the more Reformed understanding of sanctification.

Also, to clarify some points on terminologies that often confused us tonight:

  • Dyophysitism –  the Chalcedonian position that full deity and full humanity exist in the person of Jesus Christ as two natures without confusion or change.
  • Monophysitism – states that in the person of Jesus Christ, his human nature was absorbed into the divine nature like a cube of sugar dissolves in a cup of water. Therefore, Christ was left with only one nature, the Divine (Greek mono- one, physis – nature). (i.e. Christ had only a Divine nature.)
  • Miaphysitism –  holds that in the one person of Jesus Christ, his Divinity and Humanity are united in one “nature” (physis), the two being united without separation, without confusion, and without alteration.  This is the position of the Orthodox and Coptic Churches.

It was also interesting to see tonight how hard it is for most Christians to articulate very basic terminologies we use all the time like:

  • What is a spirit?  How is it different from the soul?  What is a soul anyway?  After death, how exactly does the soul or the spirit separate from the body?
  • How is a soul saved by God?  Saved from what ?  It’s saved from Hell?  What is hell exactly and where exactly is it located within the known universe?  If it’s outside the universe, how do know that?  (Same questions apply to the notion/concept of heaven.)
  • What is the nature of a “resurrected” or “spiritual” body?  What type of matter will it consist of?

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