Augustine of Hippo
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Are the pleasures of the body to be sought, which Plato describes, in all seriousness, as “snares, and the source of all ills”? ... The promptings of sensuality are the most strong of all, and so the most hostile to philosophy ... What man in the grip of this, the strongest of emotions, can bend his mind to thought, regain his reason, or, indeed, concentrate on anything?" --Saint Augustine remembering Cicero's Hortensius, cited in Lust (2004) by Simon Blackburn
Do not wish to go out; go back into yourself.
--Augustine of Hippo
Aurelius Augustinus, Augustine of Hippo, or Saint Augustine (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430) was one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity. He framed the concepts of original sin and just war and is best-known for his Confessions. He is famously depicted in Saint Augustine in His Study by Botticelli.
At one point, Augustine's mother arranged a marriage for Augustine, for which he abandoned his concubine. It is believed that Augustine truly loved the woman he had lived with for so long and was deeply hurt by ending this relationship. In fact, there is evidence that Augustine may have considered his relationship with the concubine to be equivalent to marriage, though not legally recognized as such. In his Confessions, he admitted that the experience eventually produced a decreased sensitivity to pain over time. He had to wait two years until his fiancée came of age, and he soon took another concubine. Augustine eventually broke off his engagement to his eleven-year-old fiancée, but never renewed his relationship with either of his concubines.
Views on lust
In the Confessions, Augustine describes his personal struggle in vivid terms: "But I, wretched, most wretched, in the very commencement of my early youth, had begged chastity of Thee, and said, 'Grant me chastity and continence, only not yet.'" At sixteen Augustine moved to Carthage where again he was plagued by this "wretched sin":
- "There seethed all around me a cauldron of lawless loves. I loved not yet, yet I loved to love, and out of a deep-seated want, I hated myself for wanting not. I sought what I might love, in love with loving, and I hated safety... To love then, and to be beloved, was sweet to me; but more, when I obtained to enjoy the person I loved. I defiled, therefore, the spring of friendship with the filth of concupiscence, and I beclouded its brightness with the hell of lustfulness. --Confessions 3.1.1
For Augustine, the evil was not in the sexual act itself, but rather in the emotions that typically accompany it. To the pious virgins raped during the sack of Rome, he writes, "Truth, another's lust cannot pollute thee." Chastity is "a virtue of the mind, and is not lost by rape, but is lost by the intention of sin, even if unperformed." A history of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell
In short, Augustine's life experience led him to consider lust to be one of the most grievous sins, and a serious obstacle to the virtuous life.
- "For it was not fit that His creature should blush at the work of his Creator; but by a just punishment the disobedience of the members was the retribution to the disobedience of the first man, for which disobedience they blushed when they covered with fig-leaves those shameful parts which previously were not shameful.
- Although, if those members by which sin was committed were to be covered after the sin, men ought not indeed to have been clothed in tunics, but to have covered their hand and mouth, because they sinned by taking and eating. What, then, is the meaning, when the prohibited food was taken, and the transgression of the precept had been committed, of the look turned towards those members? What unknown novelty is felt there, and compels itself to be noticed? And this is signified by the opening of the eyes... As, therefore, they were so suddenly ashamed of their nakedness, which they were daily in the habit of looking upon and were not confused, that they could now no longer bear those members naked, but immediately took care to cover them; did not they--he in the open, she in the hidden impulse--perceive those members to be disobedient to the choice of their will, which certainly they ought to have ruled like the rest by their voluntary command? And this they deservedly suffered, because they themselves also were not obedient to their Lord. Therefore they blushed that they in such wise had not manifested service to their Creator, that they should deserve to lose dominion over those members by which children were to be procreated." --Against Two Letters of the Pelagians 1.31-32
The view that not only human soul but also senses were influenced by the fall of Adam and Eve was prevalent in Augustine's time among the Fathers of the Church. The reason of Augusine's distance towards the affairs of the flesh was different than that of Plotinus, a neo-Platonist who taught that only through disdain for fleshly desire could one reach the ultimate state of mankind.. Augustine had served as a "Hearer" for the Manicheans for about nine years, This allowed Augustine, after his conversion, to find narrow path in between of the manichean and pelagian positions. He interpreted original sin as the failure of human mind to respect the world as it was created by God, with its hierarchy of beings and values. The reason of Adam and Eve's sin was self-centredness.
In his pre-Pelagian writings, Augustine taught that Original Sin was transmitted by concupiscence, which he regarded as the passion of both, soul and body, making humanity a massa damnata (mass of perdition, condemned crowd) and much enfeebling, though not destroying, the freedom of the will. Some authors perceive Augustine's doctrine as directed against human sexuality, but in view of his writings it is apparently a misunderstanding. Augustine teaches that human sexuality has been wounded, together with the whole of human nature, and requires redemption of Christ, which will be accomplished only in the resurrection of the body.
Some attribute his insistence on continence and devotion to God as coming from his need to reject his highly sensual nature. Augustine's understanding of sin and grace was developed in the struggle against Pelagius and Pelagianism, who had been inspired by Rufinus of Syria, a disciple of Theodore of Mopsuestia. Original sin of Adam and Eve was – according to Augustine – either an act of foolishness (insipientia) followed by pride and disobedience to God or the opposite: pride came first. Adam and Eve would not have fallen into pride and lack of wisdom, if satan hadn't sown into their senses „the root of evil” (radix mali). The sin of Adam is inherited by all human beings. We are wounded in our nature by concupiscence, which affects human intelligence and will, as well as our affections and desires, including sexual desire. In terms of Metaphysics, concupiscence is not a being but bad quality, the privation of good or a wound.
Augustine's formulation of the doctrine of original sin was confirmed at numerous councils, i.e. Carthage (418), Ephesus (431), Orange (529), Trent (1546) and by popes, i.e. Pope Innocent I (401-417) and Pope Zosimus (417-418). Anselm of Canterbury established in his Cur Deus Homo the definition that was followed by the great Schoolmen, namely that Original Sin is the "privation of the righteousness which every man ought to possess", thus properely interpreting concupiscence as something more than mere sexual lust, with which some Augustine's disciples had defined it., as later did Luther and Calvin, a doctrine condemned in 1567 by Pope Pius V. Lutheran and Calvinist teachings have never been regarded as accurate interpretation of the Augustinian doctrine of the consequences of the fall on human nature. They falsely insist, that according to Augustine, human beings are utterly depraved in nature. We are spoiled by the original sin to the extent that the very presence of concupiscence, fomes peccati (incendiary of sin), is already a personal sin. Augustine's doctrine about the liberum arbitrium or free will and its inability to respond to the will of God without divine grace is mistakenely interpreted in terms of Predestination: grace is irresistible, results in conversion, and leads to perseverance. Calvinist's view of Augustine's teachings rests on the assertion that God has foreordained, from eternity, those who will be saved. The number of the elect is fixed. God has chosen the elect certainly and gratuitously, without any previous merit (ante merita) on their part.
The Catholic Church considers Augustine's teaching to be consistent with free will. He often said that any can be saved if they wish. While God knows who will be saved and who will not, with no possibility that one destined to be lost will be saved, this knowledge represents God's perfect knowledge of how humans will freely choose their destinies.
Works (books, letters and sermons)
Augustine was one of the most prolific Latin authors in terms of surviving works, and the list of his works consists of more than a hundred separate titles. Please see a near-exhaustive list below. They include apologetic works against the heresies of the Arians, Donatists, Manichaeans and Pelagians, texts on Christian doctrine, notably De Doctrina Christiana (On Christian Doctrine), exegetical works such as commentaries on Book of Genesis, the Psalms and Paul's Letter to the Romans, many sermons and letters, and the Retractationes (Retractions), a review of his earlier works which he wrote near the end of his life. Apart from those, Augustine is probably best known for his Confessiones (Confessions), which is a personal account of his earlier life, and for De civitate dei (Of the City of God, consisting of 22 books), which he wrote to restore the confidence of his fellow Christians, which was badly shaken by the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410. His De trinitate (On the Trinity), in which he developed what has become known as the 'psychological analogy' of the Trinity, is also among his masterpieces, and arguably one of the greatest theological works of all time. He also wrote On Free Choice Of The Will (De libero arbitrio), addressing why God gives humans free will that can be used for evil.
- On Christian Doctrine (De doctrina Christiana, 397-426)
- Confessions (Confessiones, 397-398)
- City of God (De civitate Dei, begun ca. 413, finished 426)
- On the Trinity (De trinitate, 400-416)
- Enchiridion (Enchiridion ad Laurentium, seu de fide, spe et caritate)
- Retractions (Retractationes): At the end of his life (ca. 426-428) Augustine revisited his previous works in chronological order in a work titled the Retractions (in Latin, "Retractationes"). The English translation of the title has led some to assume that at the end of his career, Augustine retreated from his earlier theological positions. In fact, the Latin title literally means 're-treatments" (not "Retractions") and though in this work Augustine suggested what he would have said differently, it provides little in the way of actual "retraction." It does, however, give the reader a rare picture of the development of a writer and his final thoughts.
- The Literal Meaning of Genesis (De Genesi ad litteram)
- On Free Choice of the Will (De libero arbitrio)
- On the Catechising of the Uninstructed (De catechizandis rudibus)
- On Faith and the Creed (De fide et symbolo)
- Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen (De fide rerum invisibilium)
- On the Profit of Believing (De utilitate credendi)
- On the Creed: A Sermon to Catechumens (De symbolo ad catechumenos)
- On Continence (De continentia)
- On the teacher (De magistro)
- On the Good of Marriage (De bono coniugali)
- On Holy Virginity (De sancta virginitate)
- On the Good of Widowhood (De bono viduitatis)
- On Lying (De mendacio)
- To Consentius: Against Lying (Contra mendacium [ad Consentium])
- On the Work of Monks (De opere monachorum)
- On Patience (De patientia)
- On Care to be Had For the Dead (De cura pro mortuis gerenda)
- On the Morals of the Catholic Church and on the Morals of the Manichaeans (De moribus ecclesiae catholicae et de moribus Manichaeorum)
- On Two Souls, Against the Manichaeans (De duabus animabus [contra Manichaeos])
- Acts or Disputation Against Fortunatus the Manichaean ([Acta] contra Fortunatum [Manichaeum])
- Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental (Contra epistulam Manichaei quam vocant fundamenti)
- Reply to Faustus the Manichaean (Contra Faustum [Manichaeum])
- Concerning the Nature of Good, Against the Manichaeans (De natura boni contra Manichaeos)
- On Baptism, Against the Donatists (De baptismo [contra Donatistas])
- The Correction of the Donatists (De correctione Donatistarum)
- On Merits and Remission of Sin, and Infant Baptism (De peccatorum meritis et remissione et de baptismo parvulorum)
- On the Spirit and the Letter (De spiritu et littera)
- On Nature and Grace (De natura et gratia)
- On Man's Perfection in Righteousness (De perfectione iustitiae hominis)
- On the Proceedings of Pelagius (De gestis Pelagii)
- On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin (De gratia Christi et de peccato originali)
- On Marriage and Concupiscence (De nuptiis et concupiscientia)
- On the Nature of the Soul and its Origin (De natura et origine animae)
- Against Two Letters of the Pelagians (Contra duas epistulas Pelagianorum)
- On Grace and Free Will (De gratia et libero arbitrio)
- On Rebuke and Grace (De correptione et gratia)
- On the Predestination of the Saints (De praedestinatione sanctorum)
- On the Gift of Perseverance (De dono perseverantiae)
- Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount (De sermone Domini in monte)
- On the Harmony of the Evangelists (De consensu evangelistarum)
- Treatises on the Gospel of John (In Iohannis evangelium tractatus)
- Soliloquies (Soliloquiorum libri duo)
- Enarrations, or Expositions, on the Psalms (Enarrationes in Psalmos)
- On the Immortality of the Soul (De immortalitate animae)
- Answer to the Letters of Petilian, Bishop of Cirta (Contra litteras Petiliani)
- Sermons, among which a series on selected lessons of the New Testament
- Homilies, among which a series on the First Epistle of John
- Saint Augustine in His Study (Botticelli, Ognissanti)
- Order of Saint Augustine
- Augustinian hypothesis
- Free will
- In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas
- Constantinian shift
- Filioque clause
- Incurvatus in se