Augustine

The Views of St. Augustine on Human Nature

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Augustine’s view of human nature is deeply pessimistic Discuss.

St. Augustine’s view of human nature is primarily based on St. Paul in Romans 7, which states, ‘for I have a desire to do good, but I cannot carry it out’, suggesting that we are weak creatures that need saving by God’s forgiveness and salvation. His theodicy attempts to solve the Inconsistent Triad (originally conceived by Epicurus), and hypothesises that following the fall (Post-Lapsarian), implying that our human nature is inherently corrupt- which is a similar viewpoint to Scholars such as: Swinburne and Nuihbur, and arguably pessimistic due to the fact that they are saying that we are constantly ‘dragged down’ by sin. However, this viewpoint is in stark contrast with Dawkins and Irenaeus for example.

On the one hand, Augustine’s view of human nature is deeply pessimistic because he argued that before the Fall (Genesis 3), there was a ‘time of harmony’ where Adam and Eve were completely obedient to God, but when they displayed disobedience, the rest of humanity was ‘creation ex nihilo’- meaning they were made from nothing and can either choose whether to act morally or not, which will ultimately make up our human nature and what kind of people we are. Therefore, in this sense, his view is deeply pessimistic, because Original Sin- 2nd Death (inherited death as punishment for the rebellion of Adam and Eve), means that there is a ‘chain of disasters, when compared to other views such as that of Pelagius who argues that it would be unjust for God to condemn us for something out of control- as he is omnibenevolent. This is Augustine explicitly highlighting that there is no room for exception (except for Jesus) in regard to us being predestined to be inherently sinful; so does this mean that no matter how good our human nature is; it is ultimately unavailing if (like Plato), he says that a human is nothing more than a soul in a body; being dragged down by sin (Neoplatonism)?

Conversely, perhaps Augustine’s view of human nature is fairly optimistic due to the fact that in his ‘Enchiridion’, he states that evil does not actually exist in human nature; it is simply a privation of good (‘Privatio Boni’). Taking this idea further, this is perhaps a lot more comforting for people, knowing that they are not evil in nature, but just need to try harder to increase the amount of good in their nature. Furthermore, according to Augustine, God has already predestined us through ‘election’, and shown grace to some people on Earth, which hints at quite a lot of optimism because it suggests that the good done by many is not in vain, and they will receive salvation in spite of the original sin of which they inherited. However, in contrast to the viewpoints of Irenaeus and Biblicists for example, this is deeply pessimistic due to the fact that Genesis 1 explains that ‘we are made in the image of God’, meaning that our nature must automatically be drawn towards goodness, if it mirrors that of God, as well as ‘Imago Dei’ by Irenaeus meaning that we have a positive bond with God.

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Evaluation of St. Augustine’s Works, “Confessions” and “City of God”

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Written circa A.D. 398, this work by St. Augustine serves as a spiritual autobiography, outlining the author’s life and his eventual conversion to the Christian faith. Therefore, the Confessions are really an insight into the author’s self-consciousness, which is best expressed in the statement that opens the work: “You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you”, which means humans originated from God, and human action should be ordered to God (1.1).

Therefore, in the two books detailing his early years and adolescence, Augustine is heavily critical of himself, lamenting the sins of his youth, noting that “in my misery seethed and followed the driving force of my impulses, abandoning you” (2.4). The source of his lamentation now comes from, according to Augustine, God “touching with a bitter taste all my illicit pleasures” (2.4).

After recounting the sins of passion of childhood and youth, Augustine now brings to light the sins of the intellect that manifested themselves in late adolescence and adulthood. Augustine introduces this section with a book introducing the period in which Augustine studied at Carthage, a period in which due to what philosophies the author cherished, put “[his] soul in rotten health” (3.1). There, Augustine fell into believing Manicheism, a bitheism that believes that matter was evil and spirit was good (and so a bad God created the material world and a good God created the spiritual world), and also fathered a child out of wedlock, ignoring the materiality of marriage. Augustine eventually became a professor of rhetoric at universities in Rome and Milan. Before leaving for Rome, the saint became disillusioned with Manicheism due to a visit from the Manichean bishop of Carthage. Augustine then teaches rhetoric at Rome until he is called to Milan, where St. Ambrose is the local bishop. Ambrose’s teaching moves Augustine to become a catechumen in the Catholic Church.

Augustine then encounters Neoplatonic Christianity and St. Paul’s works, further motivating the saint to convert to Christianity. After two friends talk about conversion stories of past saints, Augustine, while reflecting in a garden, hears a child chanting, “Take up and read!” (cf. 8.29) Augustine then picks up the nearest Bible, reads a passage saying that Jesus comes to redeem mankind from carnal passions, which confirms Augustine’s decision to convert to Christianity. Augustine then stops teaching rhetoric, gets baptized, and then Monica, his mother, who prayed for his conversion over many years, dies. The last four books now shift to personal introspection on the author’s new beliefs, which possibly helped Augustine minister to his congregations as a priest and bishop.

In the end, Augustine’s Confessions, especially in the last four books, which present a philosophy of the Christian religion, joins Neo-Platonism and Christianity, personalizing the ideas of St. Gregory of Nyssa in Life of Moses and Pseudo-Dionysius in The Divine Names. That means that Augustine, in Confessions, has disclosed his personal spiritual journey to God, intended to be “an ensign for the nations” as Gregory intends the example of virtue shown in Moses to be, therefore bringing other people to contemplating the mystery of God revealed in Christ as Pseudo-Dionysius marvels at, as well as the earlier Church Fathers that defended the Incarnation (Isaiah 11:10). Ultimately, Augustine’s Confessions makes the message of Christianity relevant to all people, especially during the later stages of the Roman Empire, in which Christianity was a tolerated religion, thus bearing less motivation to convert.

City of God, written between the years 412 and 426, which occur soon after the Visigoths’ sack of Rome in 410, discusses the universal application of Augustine’s conversion experience. “And now, with God’s help, [Augustine] must turn to what [he thinks] ought to be said about the origin, progress, and respective destinations of the two cities, in order to exalt the glory of the City of God, which by contrast with other cities will gleam the more brightly” (64). Therefore, Augustine is arguing that one way of life will lead to communion with God and eternal life and happiness in heaven, and that another way of life will not lead to that eternal bliss. Since he is arguing to a Roman audience once again, appealing to universality will aid Augustine’s case.

As opposed to Eusebius’s mere reporting of human history and events (which were happenings of Christianity from biblical times through the reign of the Roman Empire), Augustine supplies an interpretation of Roman history in light of Christianity, beginning the work with explaining the sack of Rome on the spiritual level.

In the first two parts, beginning with “The Pagan Gods and Earthly Happiness”, the saint seeks to defend Christianity as a whole because many Romans thought that the pagan gods were punishing Rome through the Visigoths’ sack for worshipping the false god “Yahweh”. Augustine uses historical examples to prove that Rome really suffered due to the rampant vices of its citizens. The second part, entitled “The Pagan Gods and Future Happiness”, moving these historical arguments into the abstract and philosophical, arguing that the pagan gods and therefore the “city of man” cannot provide the eternal bliss that the “city of God” does. Augustine especially critiques pagan philosophy and polytheism, soundly debunking those philosophies on the basis of the worship of pagan gods being rooted in temporal benefits, even noting the rejection of superstitious practices by even the most esteemed pagan theologians. Augustine then demonstrates that Janus, Saturn, Jupiter, and other selected gods cannot grant eternal life, and neither will Platonism, despite its strong similarities to Christianity. Augustine alsok debunks Platonism, noting its belief in witchcraft and its matter-spirit dualism that essentially denies the Incarnation.

In the next three parts of the work, Augustine presents a new vision of reality that will not lead to suffering and agony since it stems from God and his Incarnation in Christ, contrasting this new way of life with the lives and belief systems of vice that led to the fall of Rome. Therefore, Part III of City of God officially introduces the dichotomy between the “city of man” and the “city of God”. Part III describes their origin, noting distinctions of good and evil on heaven and on earth, as well as sin and its consequences (bringing the city of sinful man to clash with the virtuous city of God). Part IV describes the development of the two cities throughout biblical history, culminating in Christ, who came to fully establish the “city of God” on earth through the Church. Lastly, Part V explains the ends of both cities, exposing the pagan and Christian philosophies on man’s end and the Last Judgment, which necessarily entails the “end and punishment of the earthly city” and “the eternal bliss of the city of God” (6).

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The Logic and Metaphors in the Scriptures as Seen by St. Augustine

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

In St. Augustine’s second book, he delves into the nature of logic and symbolism in relation to the text of Scripture. Having stepped out of the relatively abstract thinking of the first book, he begins to practically break down steps to interpreting and understanding Christian teaching.

To begin his discussion, St. Augustine talks about the nature of signs, and then begins a discussion of the times when signs cause unnecessary ambiguity (Augustine 32). Augustine’s decision to open his analysis of practical Christian teaching with this topic is, in my mind, brilliant. He digs to the root of most interpretation problems, even today. We see many teachers and instructors of Scripture and Christian teaching misapply Scripture, because they are “casual readers,” rather than investing the proper time and energy (Augustine 32). St. Augustine is able to then wrestle with the intricacies of correct interpretation, and we understand exactly what he is combating.

From that opening section, St. Augustine moves on to, what I find to be the most powerful section of the book. He discusses the steps by which Solomon can claim that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Augustine 37). For much of high school and the beginning of college, the Bible genuinely scared me. I would open it up to read about the love of God, and I would instead be overwhelmed by fear of God. I would then scour the Bible, trying to find relief, and I would often give up quickly. I would keep running into fearful words of God, and I couldn’t handle it. St. Augustine, however, masterfully shows how seven steps take that fear of God and turn it into wisdom. From fear to holiness to knowledge to fortitude to compassion to purification to wisdom, the process makes sense, and it serves to explain why God allows us to experience fear of Him (Augustine 33-35). That fear genuinely leads us into wisdom and peace.

Having established the importance of studying and investing in Christian teaching, St. Augustine spends much of the rest of the book breaking down the logic and process of correct interpretation. He outlines canon, discusses the symbolism in numbers, and works through Biblical application of syllogism. In the midst of his emphasis on logic, I was surprised to find so many Platonic and Greek references in the text. He mentions “sophisms” (Augustine 58), makes use of a highly Platonic understanding of truth perceptions (Augustine 63), and uses a Greek understanding of logic (Augustine 60).

I was able to track with Augustine’s argumentation up until he went so far as to claim that Plato draws his argumentation and writing from Jewish writings and Biblical canon (Augustine 55). This theory has never appeared in any readings of mine in the past, and I find it highly unlikely. If this were the case, wouldn’t we see more emphasis on logic and truth in the works of Jeremiah? It seems to me that the idea of Plato writing out of the inspiration of Jeremiah is quite far stretched. I can imagine that influence may have occurred, but I doubt that the influence accounted for much of Plato’s writing style. Certainly, it seems the Platonic emphasis that St. Augustine uses in this book is largely unfounded in Biblical teaching. While it serves as an interesting perspective, it can hardly be claimed as a direct result of Biblical canon. On the contrary, Plato’s writings seem to move in an entirely different direction than is present in the Old Testament, or even New Testament works.

To conclude, Augustine proves that an understanding of syllogism, logic, and textual context is important for reading Biblical texts. However, he does not seem to succeed in proving that this understanding is based out of the Bible itself. Rather, it seems to be a Greek concept applied to Biblical texts. Certainly, it may be “divinely instituted,” but it did derive directly from the influence of Biblical canon (Augustine 47).

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A Comparison between the Life Goals and Missions of Saint Augustine and Socrates

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

The most interesting historical figures that have ever existed are Socrates and St. Augustine that were in the center of the spiritual life in ancient time. Their works still are the most influential all over the world. Augustine and Socrates focused on the life with God, the metaphysical analysis of time, the ethical analysis of the evil, and the examined life. Certainly, other people including Christians had expressed these things before, but Augustine and Socrates brought an intellectual account and body of reasoned arguments to ground these ideas. At that time, it was kind of a philosophical revolution. Every revolution needs heroes who are able to make sacrifices. So these heroes were Socrates and St. Augustine who continue to inspire people all around the world.

A lot of people describe the word “mission” as an important goal or purpose that is accompanied by strong conviction. On the other hand, the mission is a word often used but it is not easy to find a clear definition which describes it, even less to find one on which everyone can agree. In “The Apology” Socrates clearly describes his mission “I am that gadfly which God has attached to the state, and all day long …arousing and persuading and reproaching…You will not easily find another like me.” Socrates compares himself to a gadfly and compares society to a horse. He is a stinging insect that rouses cattle from their sleep. Socrates says that the people of Athens are asleep and neglect all the injustices going on around them. His job is to awaken the Athenians and show them what is really going on. This is the kick that people need in order to take action and bring justice to their homeland. The gadfly metaphor was true to Socrates and his role in Athenian society. Socrates states that his role as a social gadfly is not for his benefit, but for the benefit of the people of Athens. “And now, Athenians, I am not going to argue for my own sake, as you may think, but for yours, that you may not sin against the God by condemning me, who am his gift to you.” In Socrates’ opinion, part of the reason for his arrest is because the politicians in the Athenian government didn’t like Socrates going around telling the people about the corruption that is trying to be kept hidden. If the people know what is truly going on in their government, they can bring justice to Athens. This is why society needs a gadfly like Socrates. But on the other side of that, St. Augustine doesn’t mention his mission in the “Confessions” but we can read it from Enchiridion: On Faith, Hope, and Love “But we ought to know the causes of good and evil in things, at least as far as men may do so in this life, filled as it is with errors and distress, in order to avoid these errors and distresses. We must always aim at that true felicity wherein misery does not distract, no error mislead”. (p 27) Augustine made ??a long and difficult journey from childhood faith through Manichaeism, skepticism, and Platonism to mature faith with rich experience. He believes in God with all his heart and encourages us to believe in Him too. He is the source of life , the pure form , the highest beauty. God is the center of Augustine’s life. When he was young he was searching with a restless heart for meaning in life. Augustine says, “He who enters into thee enters into the joy of his Lord, and shall have no fear and shall achieve excellence in the Excellent.” He sees his mission as being a servant of God. Augustine wants to praise God by developing and using God-given talents according to God’s Will; and for God’s greater glory. He understands the human as a person who have an indivisible personality with intelligence and free will, created in the image and likeness of God. Each person is a special closed world in which there is a struggle between good and evil, spirit and flesh, mind and sensibility.

Moreover, Socrates was convinced that he was chosen by God. He says: “Be sure that this is what the god orders me to do, and I think there is no greater blessing for the city than my service to the god. For I go around doing nothing but persuading both young and old among you not to care for your body or your wealth in preference to or as strongly as for the best possible state of your soul.”. In the opinion of Socrates, people should not spend their lives thinking about their career, money and intellectual perfection. He believes that the transfer of the knowledge from one person to another is impossible and unnecessary. True knowledge is contained in a hidden form in the human soul and everyone should bring them to the light of consciousness. Likewise, the man, in Augustine’s view, created by God, who has given him body, soul, mind and free will. The main duty of human is to follow God’s commandments and to be like Christ. He says “Therefore we must return to thee in humble piety and let thee purge us from our evil ways and be merciful to those who confess their sins to thee, and hear the groanings of the prisoners and loosen us from those fetters which we have forged for ourselves.” According to Augustine, the main virtues are how to overcome selfishness and learn how to love your neighbor.

Socrates says “I thought to myself: I am wiser than this man; neither of us probably knows anything that is really good, but he thinks he has knowledge, when he has not, while I, having no knowledge, do not think I have.” On the one hand, this principle was necessary to fight against the Sophists, criticizing their teachings and statements about learning the truth. On the other hand, the adoption of this principle was to encourage people to expand their knowledge and to comprehend the truth. You can study the laws of nature, the movement of the stars, but you mustn’t go so far – find yourself and then, through the knowledge of things, you will be able to find the truth. The man for Socrates, first of all, is his soul. And the “soul” for him is the mind, the ability of critical thinking and conscience. When he opened his “narrow path” of a Christian, Augustine knew the most important thing – God is Love. Love of God is immeasurable to man. He clearly says, “But thou art the life of souls, life of lives, having life in thyself, and never changing, O Life of my soul”. Without this mutual love, the feeling of life disappears; there is only emptiness, pain, and death. The man is still free to choose to accept or to refuse the ultimate manifestation of divine love. He developed a deep spirituality in which love is central. God is also the most important object of cognition and perception. God brings the light in the human spirit and helps people to find the truth. Everything exists because of God and every good thing comes from God. This is only the appearance that people take their knowledge from the world, in fact, they are in the depths of their own spirit. A person cannot be a creator, he only sees the divine ideas. He believed that God not only created the world but also continues to work at the moment and will work in the future.

To make a conclusion, it should be mentioned that, Socrates’ and St. Augustine’s views on the life goals and missions are similar. They justify the importance of spiritual freedom by the example of their lives, using the gift and wisdom. For success in the search for the truth, we need to have a purpose, faith and desire. Furthermore, the humans are morally responsible for their actions. They wanted to say that God has infinite power and knowledge of every sort. God can cause you to act in particular ways simply by willing that you do so, and in every case God knows in advance in what way you will act, long before you even contemplate doing so. Socrates and St. Augustine wanted to tell and show us that we were sent to earth with a mission to fulfill. Mission – is our testimony to the world about God. We should share and obey Jesus Christ. These missions we have to do with the passion. If you want to be happy and fulfilled with enthusiasm, you have to discover what your mission is and organize your life and activities in function of your mission.

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A View on the Accurate and Effective Teaching of the Christian Doctrine in Book Four of St. Augustine’s On Christian Teaching

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Apart from Book One, Book Four was the most enjoyable read in St. Augustine’s On Christian Teaching. Augustine’s discussion of the qualities and nature of good rhetoric and exposition were enlightening. In a culture that frequently emphasizes the importance of just having the Holy Scriptures, St. Augustine seems to present a more well-rounded and educated view of what is necessary to accurately and effectively teach Christian doctrine. Beyond simply citing the word of God, St. Augustine emphasizes the need for instruction, eloquence, and restraint in teaching Christian doctrines.

Most notably, St. Augustine uses his fourth book of On Christian Teaching to emphasize the need for instruction, stating “…who could date to maintain that truth, which depends on us for its defence, should stand unarmed in the fight against falsehood?” (Augustine 101). Growing up, I was always told that the Holy Spirit would equip me to teach His word and no other instruction was needed. St. Augustine seems to contradict this idea, arguing that if the enemy trains to promote lies and untruths, we should be equally prepared to defend the words of God. “…let the person who wishes both to know and to teach…acquire the skill in speaking appropriate to a Christian orator” (Augustine 121). He does not simply say “listen to the Holy Spirit,” as is often purported by our feelings-driven church. Rather, Augustine emphasizes the need to wrestle with God and our own abilities to learn effective communication skills.

Beyond learning effective communication, St. Augustine also seems to emphasize a need for natural eloquence. As he notes, “…the person required for the task under consideration is someone who can argue or speak wisely, if not eloquently” (Augustine 104). However, it seems to me that the Bible does not agree with Augustine’s argument. While Augustine argues that the apostles used a “flood of eloquence” (Augustine 108), Paul argues that “The wisdom that wordly men esteem, is foolishness with God” (1 Cor 3:19). Augustine declares that eloquence serves to “make clear what was hidden…” (Augustine 117), but Paul does not seem remotely interested in becoming eloquent. He states that he “may indeed be untrained as a speaker” (1 Cor 11:6). He does not discuss learning to speak well or training in eloquence, but simply embraces his rough speaking style. I would like to believe that St. Augustine’s argument is accurate. It is appealing, and it inspires me to speak boldly, but the argument does not seem to have any foundation in Scripture.

After discussion of knowledge and eloquence, St. Augustine almost seems to backtrack and argue for a more “restrained style” of teaching and instruction (Augustine 125). This style, Augustine argues, is better suited for teaching and instruction (Augustine 125). While I see little basis in Scripture for the need for eloquence, the need for effective teaching seems more Scripturally sound. Looking at the teaching and instruction of the apostles throughout the New Testament, all seem to effectively showcase Christian doctrine to other believers. It just seems to me that this same level of eloquence is not needed when sharing the gospel to nonbelievers. Repeatedly, we see the untrained disciples of Jesus sharing the gospel with fervor and passion, and little learned knowledge or eloquence.

To conclude, it seems to me that much of Augustine’s argumentation relies on a faulty view of Scripture and over-emphasizes instruction and eloquence. I appreciate St. Augustine’s arguments for fluency of communication, and I really wish that I could find justification for Augustine’s arguments in Scripture, but the arguments seem largely unfounded.

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The Problem of Evil

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

One question preoccupied Augustine from the time he was a student in Carthage: why does evil exist in the world? He returned to this question again and again in his philosophy, a line of inquiry motivated by personal experience. Augustine lived in an era when the pillar of strength and stability, the Roman Empire, was being shattered, and his own life, too, was filled with turmoil and loss. First he lost his mistress, then his mother, and finally his son. To believe in God, he had to find an answer to why, if God is all-powerful and also purely good, he still allows suffering to exist.

Augustine’s answers to this question would forever change Western thought. First, he states that evil exists because we have free will. God enables humans to freely choose their actions and deeds, and evil inevitably results from these choices. Even natural evils, such as disease, are indirectly related to human action, since they become evil only when in contact with people. According to this theory, a disease spreads only because men and women put themselves in harm’s way. Augustine gave a more theological explanation later in his life: we cannot understand the mind of God, and what appears evil to us may not be evil at all. In other words, we cannot judge God’s judgment. The roots of both of these answers stemmed from two philosophies, Manicheanism and Neoplatonism, which shaped Augustine’s ideas.

FREE WILL AND RESPONSIBILITY

Before Augustine, Manicheanism was extremely influential among early Christians. Manicheanism was a cult that first arose in Roman North Africa, begun by a Persian named Mani, who died around A.D. 276. This cult combined elements of Christianity with elements of Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion of Persia, or Iran. Mani taught that the universe was a battlefield of two conflicting forces. On one side is God, who represents light and goodness and who seeks to eliminate suffering. Opposing him is Satan, who represents darkness and evil and is the cause of misery and affliction. Human beings find themselves caught in the middle of these two great forces. According to Manicheanism, the human body, like all matter, is the product of Satan and is inherently evil, whereas the soul is made of light. The only escape from evil is to free the soul from the body through the practices of asceticism and meditation. Manicheanism taught that Satan is solely responsible for all the evil in the world, and humankind is free of all responsibility in bringing about evil and misery. Augustine became a follower of Manicheanism during his student days in Carthage, but he ultimately broke with the Manicheans over the question of responsibility for evil, since he believed that human beings are capable of free will and are among the causes of suffering in the world. This disagreement led him to Neoplatonism, a system of philosophy developed by Plato’s follower, Plotinus, that would prove to be the most influential in his life and work.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE BODY AND THE SOUL

Plato’s influence on philosophy was widespread during the later Roman Empire, the time in which Augustine lived. The philosopher Plotinus (a.d. 204–270), in particular, was responsible for redefining and reshaping Platonic philosophy into a cohesive system of thought called Neoplatonism. To explain the presence of evil, Plotinus drew on Plato’s distinction between the world of physical, tangible things and a world of intangible ideas or Forms. Plato taught that the physical world is changeable, perishable, and imperfect, in contrast with world of ideas or Forms, which is constant, perfect, and everlasting. Because the physical world is marked by change and corruption, it is impossible to fully know it. True knowledge can be achieved only by thinking about the eternal and perfect forms, of which the tangible world is only a copy, just as a painting is only an imitation of something real.

The Neoplatonists used this distinction between the physical and the ideal to explain the relationship between the body and the soul. They taught that the soul is perfect but trapped in an imperfect body. Because the body belongs in the physical realm, it is the root of evil. Thus, the soul seeks to break free of the body so it can live true to its perfection, in the realm of ideal forms. In Plotinus, Augustine found the important idea that human beings are not a neutral battleground on which either goodness or evil lays claim, as the Manicheans believed. Rather, human beings are the authors of their own suffering. Plotinus carried this line of thought further than Augustine was willing to accept, asserting that the body is unimportant in defining a human being and that true human nature involves only the soul and has nothing to do with the body. Augustine disagreed, maintaining that human beings are both body and soul together. We bring evil on ourselves because we actively choose corruptible elements of the physical world rather than the eternal, perfect forms, which are spiritual. Augustine argues that God does not allow evil to exist so much as we choose it by our actions, deeds, and words. Later, he came to the conclusion that it is impossible for us to understand the mind of God, and therefore we cannot come to a proper comprehension of why suffering exists.

THE POSSIBILITY OF CERTITUDE

A number of philosophers before Augustine had argued that certainty is impossible and that the best the human mind can hope to achieve is the conviction that its conclusions are highly probable. Augustine disagreed with this premise and sought to demonstrate philosophically that certitude is in fact possible. His first argument is that if we accept the possibility of our conclusions being probable, we’ve already implicitly assumed that certainty exists, because things can only be “probably” true if truth (in other words, certainty) does in fact exist. If there is no truth, there is no probability. Second, happiness is the result of acquired wisdom, which all human beings desire. Thus, to say wisdom cannot be attained is to say that happiness is impossible—an unacceptable conclusion. Third, Augustine takes issue with the idea that the senses cannot be trusted, and he does not agree with his opponents that the mind is entirely dependent on the senses. On the contrary, our senses do seem reliable to a certain extent, and the mind can understand things independently of the senses, so therefore it must be even more reliable than the senses. Finally, Augustine points out that our mental states are beyond doubt. Whatever we may say or not say, we cannot doubt that at this moment we are thinking. We may say that we are being deceived, but this very fact of being deceived proves that we exist. These four reasons support the thesis that certitude is possible.

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Assessment of the Relationship between Depravity and Political System Based On St. Augustine’s Viewpoint

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

What is the relationship between sin and political order for Augustine?

Saint Augustine is one of the most influential and important thinkers of all time. His works influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy. At an early age, he became attracted to a dualist Christian sect known as the Manichaeans, whose theology centred on a battle of Good and Evil. After moving to Milan, he was introduced to Platoic books, in which he claimed he found that God and his words were implied everywhere. As Neoplatoism was not far from Christianity, he could focus on the soul and the intelligible world at the same time. Taking his experiences into account, his thinking was heavily influenced by Maniceism and Neoplatiosm, particularly in his early years but he provides a comprehensive account on Christian doctrine with significant differences from his influencers. This essay is going to analyse the relationship between sin and political order for Augustine, presenting the parallels and differences between earlier thinkers while focusing on two of his writings: Confessions and the City of God. In doing this, the essay will discuss separately Augustine’s reasoning on sin providing his personal experience from Confessions, and his belief on political order, examining the two cities in the City of God. Then, the essay will discuss Augustine’s explanation of the sack of Rome, which was believed to be eternal. Finally, the essay will analyse Augustine’s belief on just wars and the responsibilities of soldiers.

Augustine’s conception of sin and human nature determines his psychology, his theory of society and above all his politics. Confessions is a spiritual autobiography of Augustine’s life and explorations of alternative religious and theological viewpoints. He spent several chapters in Confessions going through an event in mind, back to his early ages when he stole pears from a neighbour’s tree. He and his friends had no interest in eating the pears but they found delight in the crime itself, the act of stealing. He concluded that there is a certain depravity in human beings, a tendency to take pleasure in actions which are wrong, by the effect of the original sin and the weakened will. Augustine explains that the weakened will is the consequence of the original sin. His thinking on the nature of the human will establishes that before Adam’s Fall, Adam was provided with a capacity to decide between good and evil and he chose to sin. Augustine regards Adam’s Fall, as people being no longer able to choose the good but motivated by their desires to choose evil. In contrast to Aristotle, who stated that one has the power to choose the means to an end, he called this power ‘virtue’, Augustine stated the motivation or loves behind the choosing. He said that people now have the freedom to exercise their choice and to act but they need to embrace God and his interior teaching to choose what is right. Also, those who are redirected in their love through God’s grace, can understand their dependence and singular love for God, while no longer suffering from self-love and the love of being master over others, so that the root of all sins is erased by the belief in God. This contradicts Plato, who stated that the rational self-love and self-knowledge is able to lead to self-mastery and the psychological harmony of justice.

Augustine declared that the need for political organisation is a consequence of sin. According to this pessimistic understanding of human nature, political life itself is grounded in sin but it is necessary to regulate peoples’ inordinate desires and maintain peace and order. Also, Augustine shared the view of Aristotle that human beings are social and political creatures with their longing for wholeness, so that they can only be satisfied in political communities. At the same time, he rejected the Platoic idea of associating politics with happiness and flourishing, but he associated the end of politics with mere order, piety and duty. To better understand his view on political order, it is essential to contemplate from within his historical context. Being a late fourth, early fifth century North African Roman, he accepted the Roman conditions of dominance and subservience as the framework of all authority. He insisted that human nature has a need for absolute and conventional authority, while implying the power of ordinary citizens was almost non-existent, which was a huge difference from the vision of earlier thinkers and travelled well beyond his own times.

The reason for this empty notion of citizenship was that one cannot attain certainty in the material world. As true knowledge comes from contemplating eternal, unchanging truths, while the knowledge of changing objects in the material world is not true knowledge. It implies that true justice is not realised at state level but as humans are not characterised as certain knowers, they need to take things on trust and follow authorities, even if aware of abuses of power. His conception of the state was defined as that which has the monopoly of coercive force and for religious purposes it is neutral. Coercive force is needed to prevent people from sinning further, like the previously mentioned tendency to commit evil actions, and does it by punishment. Augustine saw punishment to be an essential condition of fallen life, as it constrains people to obey law and maintain peace within state. However, it does not re-educate people just makes them obey the law. Embracing God is the only possibility of being teachable and perceiving the truth. This view is similar to Plato’s sun allegory, as God is like a sun which illumines peoples’ minds and teaches them. In this view, church is the only society, described as the City of God, where true justice is realised written in the Bible, and by paying worship to God instead of self. This makes church superior to the state and permeate state with its principles.

Augustine’s composition of the twenty-two books of the City of God presents the perfect and imperfect state and explains his relationship between sin and political order. The two cities have been formed by two loves: the love of self and the love of God. Augustine describes all human beings as citizens of the earthly city; only those Christian people who predestined to join God are part of the heavenly city. This distinction is explained as many people avow themselves to be Christian, but as long as the principle of their conduct is based on self-love and not the love of God, they spiritually cannot belong to the city of God. While the city of God is a perfect state, conducted by the worship of God, based on the true wisdom of Bible, the political institutions in which humans live are created by them with utility for instrumental, self-focused selves. Whilst not denying the necessity of politics but contemplating the establishment of Rome, which was founded by a fratricide, Augustine declared that politics is underpinned by fallen man’s perverse self-love with domination by force or the threat of its use. Earthly city is characterised by war, cruelty, greed and a lust for domination, which was one of the biggest reasons for the collapse of Rome.

While Rome was believed to be eternal, its collapse was blamed on Christianity but Augustine explains that the sack of Rome was to be blamed on human nature and the imperfection of the state. People believed the Roman gods that for eight hundred years had protected Rome had permitted the fall of Roma eterna because they were now neglected.[13] Although he was patriotic and proud of his cultural heritage, he saw that Rome was founded and maintained by injustice, violence, rapine and oppression and its decline into an imperialism was no more than a lust to dominate all men over the world. This lust after domination was Rome’s most serious failure, as the city was ultimately dominated by its own passion for domination. Realising those mistakes, he concluded that role of politics should be to minimize the opportunities for greed and lust for domination, to maintain humanitarian wickedness until the day of judgment by peace and order, and to maximize space for Christian love by establishing the material conditions in which church authority can attempt to break fallen man’s sinful habits.

Even though Augustine described the lust for domination or libido dominandi as sin, since no human being has natural dominion over another, but he was famous for having established that there were just wars to be fought. He stressed that wars are necessary when human conditions demand the attempt to construct impermanent moments of peace. Also, political and religious wars are just only if they are fought under the command of legitimate superior power. Otherwise, the act of violence could be considered as a gang of criminals infesting others’ lands. He goes further on thinking about soldiers’ responsibility during wartime killing, and concludes that soldiers are not regarded as either personally, nor morally responsible for the harmful acts they commit while obeying orders. He regards them as an agent of authority who acts only as a sword in authority’s hand. This conception is equivalent to the XXI century thinking on soldiers’ responsibilities. Even if he stated that there are just wars to be fought, he rejected the idea of war due to its devastating consequences and stressed that all human beings are craving peace and the highest form of peace lies in worshipping God.

To sum up, this essay’s main aim was to examine the relationship between sin and political order in Augustine’s view. In doing this, the essay analysed Augustine’s conception on sin and human nature and concluded that Augustine ranked the reason possessed by humans far below where the ancients had ranked it. This realisation was followed by the need for political order, as a consequence of humans’ sinful nature. The empty notion of citizenship and the imperfection of the earthly state was also addressed, analysing the two cities in the City of God. Finally, Augustine’s explanation of the sack of Rome and his conception on just war was discussed.

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Augustine’s Dialogue With Adeodatus

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

“Augustine starts the next part of his dialogue with Adeodatus in discussing signs that “do not signify other signs but instead things” (The teacher 8.22.25). Augustine first asks Adeodatus “whether man is man” (The teacher 8.22.64). Adeodatus responds that man is in fact man. Augustine then asks if the syllable “ho-“ means anything but “ho-“ and “mo-“ means anything but “mo-“ and that those syllables conjoined are man. Adeodatus responds that each syllable means only what they mean and that they conjoined are man. Augustine then asks then, if you are a man (homo) are you then those conjoined syllables? Adeodatus then realizes where Augustine was taking his line of questioning—drawing the distinction between sign and the signifiable.

In analyzing where Adeodatus erred in reasoning he realized that he should never had granted that “ho-“ and “-mo” conjoined are man but rather that they form the sign that represents man. Augustine reinforces the point by bringing forth an example where a comic would get a person to say lion and then couldn’t deny that lion had come out of the mouth of the interlocutor to the great taunting of the comic. Adeodatus points out that it is obvious that what we say doesn’t come out of our mouth but rather we signify things through our speech unless the “signs themselves are signified, and we discussed this class [of signs] a little while ago” (8.23.109).

Augustine continues his line of reasoning in asking whether man is a name. Adeodatus begins to accept this in light of the prior established conclusion that every word is a name. Augustine points out that the language he uses isn’t precise because, in saying that man is a name he would be saying that he himself is a name. Augustine understands how Adeodatus came to accept the conditions that would lead him to a false conclusion. “The law of reason that is implanted in our minds overcame your caution” (8.24.122-123). Augustine explains that we subconsciously make a distinction between whether we are discussing the word “man” as a sign or as a signifiable. If we understand man as a part of speech (a sign) then it is correct to say that man is a name, however if man is understood to as a reference to the signifiable—then it is correct to say that man is an animal. Augustine points out that unless someone explicitly asks about man as a sign, for example “is man a name”, then the rule of language would immediately go to what is signified by the syllable ‘man’ — for example if he asks “what is man”.

The conversation then moves on to why the rule of language is as it is, for example, why is it that saying that “Hence you are not a man” is offensive when, in context of ‘man’ being a syllable, it is true. Augustine explains that by virtue of what a sign is supposed to do, the sign points away from itself and toward the signifiable by default because it “naturally has the most power—so that once the signs are heard the attention is directed to the things signified” (8.24.150-151).

Augustine then raises the point “that the things signified should be valued more than their signs. Whatever exists on account of another must be worth less than that on account of which it exists” meaning that the word man, for example, is worth less than the concept of man itself. Adeodatus points out that in some cases, the concept is held it great disdain giving ‘filth’ as an example. In itself, the word ‘filth’ is only one letter away from the word for heaven in Latin, but the concept of filth couldn’t be farther from what heaven embodies. Augustine then asks whether the knowledge of what is filth is more valuable than the word for filth. Augustine points out that while it is true that not all concepts are to be held in as high esteem as the words that represent them, the mere knowledge of what the concept is should be held in higher esteem than the word itself because if the knowledge was absent then the word would be meaningless to the person. Augustine brings forth an example about a glutton who said that he lived to eat — a temperate man chastised him saying that one should eat to live. While the concept of gluttony is not more valuable than the word gluttony, the temperate man should be praised that for his knowledge of gluttony he was able to see the error in the glutton’s ways. The line of reasoning follows in another example, those that teach in order to talk. It makes more sense to talk in order to teach, as words are a tool to be used to teach-words exist so that we may use them. It stands to reason that what we derive from the tool is worth more than the tool itself — what we learn from speech is worth more than the speech itself. Augustine then concludes from this line of reasoning that knowledge of the things signified, regardless of the value of the actual signifiable, is preferable to knowledge of their signs.

Adeodatus brings forth his continued misgivings about the relative value in comparing the sign, the signifiable, and the knowledge of each—namely, if the name has greater worth than the thing itself, shouldn’t the knowledge of the name be greater or at least equal to the knowledge of the thing itself? Augustine responds with the example of vice. The word vice is much better than the signifiable, but the knowledge of the name ‘vice’ is far inferior to the knowledge of vices. If someone knows the name ‘vice’ but doesn’t know what they are and how to avoid them, then the knowledge of the name ‘vice’ is worthless compared to the knowledge of vices. Augustine does concede that there is a conceivable scenario where the knowledge of the sign would be preferable to knowledge of the signifiable.

Adeodatus and Augustine then come to the conclusion that the knowledge of things signified is preferable to the signs themselves, though not to the knowledge of signs. Signifiables give meaning to signs and thereby signifiables are superior to signs, but it remains debatable the knowledge of which (sign or signifiable) is preferable.”

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Synchronizing Religion and Philosophy

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

One of the most important Christian writers, St. Augustine acts as a bridge between the Classical period and Late Antiquity. His autobiography about personal struggles, conversion, and contemplation about God sheds light on both how people of Late Antiquity observed Christian traditions and how Neo-Platonism influenced Christians’ relationship with God. Augustine constantly probes the question of evil in his Confessions. To seek an answer to this dilemma, he draws upon Christian tradition and the Neoplatonist philosophy. Neither of them alone is sufficient to answer the problem of evil’s existence. Combining the two traditions, Augustine can achieve spiritual wisdom by going through Christian initiation, studying biblical texts, and contemplating inwardly and upwardly to God.

In the early part of the Confessions, Augustine is struggling to give up the temptations of the material world and become a devout Christian. He relies heavily on Christian traditions to make a decision to convert. Monica, Augustine’s mother, influences her son by her demonstration of faith and devotion. Her piety and visions inspired Augustine to convert. Like a good Christian, she obeys Bishop Ambrose’s rules and concentrates on personal worship for the saints. Augustine, seeing these actions, naturally feels guilty for not converting. An important vision he receives at the Milan Garden shows an important Christian belief that happiness and comfort is in God. Lady Continence reveals to Augustine that only believing in God can lead to true continence. In addition, following the command to “pick up and read,” Augustine finds the answer in the Bible. Afterwards, he is able to relinquish his attachment to lust and desires. These events exhibit the Christian traditions’ impacts on Augustine’s initiation process.

In addition, Augustine believes in salvation through narration and the importance of the present as a critical time for redemption. These beliefs are rooted in the Christian tradition that past sins are forgivable as long as one starts believing in Jesus and God in the present. In the Gospels, for example, Jesus reiterates that whoever believes in him will be saved and forgiven. The letter from Paul to the Romans shows that Christians should not be a slave to sin but a slave to God. After Augustine’ conversion, he no longer enslaves himself to his flesh and bodily pleasures. Instead, he looks to God for help and guidance. His idea of salvation through narration offers Christians a way to redeem themselves from sinful pasts. The Gospel teaches that one needs to submit himself to God like a child with innocence and a pure mind. Augustine, on the other hand, believes that children are essentially sinful. As a result, he advocates that Christians can gain God’s favor by reflecting on the past and by learning from past mistakes. Essentially, a person can go back to his or her childhood and repent for the committed crimes by narration and interrogation. Thus, Augustine’s conversion and recollection of the past are impacted by Christian traditions.

Augustine’s profound analysis of the biblical stories and texts draws on and reshapes Christian tradition. Instead of taking the Bible literally, Christians should have a spiritual understanding of the written text. This figurative interpretation of the Bible is not novel. The Gospel of John, for example, starts with the Word and the Word made flesh. These lines reveal that God’s words may not have a single literal meaning but represent something bigger. When Augustine discusses the line “increase and multiply,” he concludes that procreation does not only apply to aquatic animals and humans but is relevant to all creatures. Along with the study of the biblical text, Augustine recognizes different interpretations for a biblical story. The creation of heaven and earth, for example, can have ten different axioms. This transition from the literal reading of the Bible to using the text for spiritual fulfillment shows Christian tradition’s influence on the Confessions.

After he becomes a Christian, Augustine relies heavily on Neoplatonist philosophy to find a path to unite with God. In fact, the arrangement of the Confessions, represent Plotinus’ upward struggle from the Sensible Realm, to the Soul, to the Intellect, and to the One. In books one through nine, Augustine is shedding mud and material from his body by narrating his past. After book nine, he takes a semi-philosophical approach to become spiritually closer to God. By reading the philosophers’ books, he found inward contemplation as a means for transporting his mind to a higher realm. He says that he cannot understand God until he understands himself. In addition, Augustine agrees with Plotinus that the One is the source of all good. Unlike the One, however, God is a true being who can be described and sensed. Nevertheless, inspired by Neoplatonism, Augustine can look inwardly to move upwardly toward God.

Besides finding the way to God, Augustine draws on Neoplatonist tradition to find an explanation for the existence of evil and corruption. Rejecting the Manichean ideal that some evil matter opposes God in a cosmic struggle, Augustine seeks a different explanation for evil. He follows the Neoplatonist tradition that the One only emanates good. Evil cannot possibly exist because all of God’s creation is good and beautiful. This conclusion is similar to Plotinus’ doctrine that the One only produces Beauty, which may be polluted by interaction with matter. According to Augustine, God is omnipotent and only produces material that is good. The problem of evil lies in human freewill. Freewill leads to the possibility of people deviating from the true Good by their own will. This resembles Plotinus’ idea that some souls become contaminated by mingling with the body. One’s soul, once bounded by undesirable will, is stuck in the sensible and material world. For Augustine, our will has to command the soul to contemplate instead of dwelling on lust and greed. With the help of Neoplatonist philosophy, Augustine hopes to find an answer to the presence of evil. In conclusion, he manages to see evil as lacking substance and presents freewill and the conflict of interests as the two sources of evil.

Probing the past, present, and future, Augustine writes about human nature in general and humans’ relationship to God. By synchronizing Christian traditions and Neoplatonism, he hopes to gain more followers for God. Reading the Confessions is an act of transformation for the readers because we see Augustine grow from a sinful youth with internal struggles to a Catholic with a new understanding of God’s designs and creations. Both religion and philosophy shapes Augustine’s transformation from a rhetorician to a Christian, his study of the Bible, and his interpretation of evil. He reflects on Christian traditions and reshapes them, especially in the analysis of the Bible. Although following Plotinus’ argument closely, Augustine distinguishes himself from the philosopher by having a greater interest in the creator rather than the creation. Not just simply an autobiography, the Confessions exposes a man’s vulnerability, his intellectual quest, and his real concerns about the world, which aroused the empathy of generations of readers.

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Augustine with a Twist: the Similarities and Differences of the Political and Theological Ideas of Augustine and Luther

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Martin Luther, one of the foremost leaders of the Protestant Reformation, sought to reject much of the doctrine and authority of the Catholic Church, yet many of his theological and political ideas are extremely reflective of the Catholic luminary St. Augustine. While major differences do exist between Augustine and Luther in some areas, especially the areas of the authority of kings and nobles over peasants and slaves, most of Luther’s arguments can be linked to Augustine’s in some way or another. Some areas in which the two men greatly agree include their thoughts on the existence of false Christians (i.e. sinners who masquerade under the title of Christians), and their assertions that wars bring unnecessary misery to life. Even though each author discusses these themes in different ways and for different reasons, including different aspects and examples of the idea, the premises for each author’s arguments on these ideas are similar. Some topics written upon by Luther that are somewhat, though not entirely, similar to Augustine’s ideas include Luther’s assertions that true Christians do not necessitate temporal law yet thrive in it, and Luther’s insistence that man must abide by both temporal and heavenly authority in order to survive the human life and reach salvation in the eternal life.

One of the greatest parallels between Augustine’s beliefs and Luther’s writings is Luther’s echo of Augustine’s assertion that “there are false Christians within the Church” (I:35). Luther agrees on this point and further embellishes this theme by adding “The world and its masses will always be Un-Christian, even if they are all baptized and Christian in name. Christians are few and far between” (Hillerbrand, 48). The two author’s differ, however, in their methods of settling the problem of Christian imposters. Augustine acknowledges the incapability of man to always discriminate the true from the imposters and believes that those sinners who craftily label themselves Christian will only be separated from the true Christians on judgement day (I:35). Luther sees the difficulty in determining the true Christians as one reason for the necessity for both human and divine law. It is interesting to note that neither author quotes Scripture supporting their assertions that fake Christians exist; this suggests that both Augustine and Luther came to these conclusions through their life experiences rather than by their interpretations of Scripture.

Another topic upon which Augustine and Luther decidedly agree upon is the necessity to avoid war, however, both authors handle this subject in different ways. Augustine asserts that “Peace is the instinctive aim of all creatures, and is even the ultimate purpose of war” and that “there is no man who does not wish for peace” (XIX:12). Augustine makes the distinction, however, between seemly peace and real peace when he states “the peace of the unjust, compared with the peace of the just, is not worthy even of the name of peace”. Augustine Christianizes his statements on temporal peace when he concludes that “God created all things in supreme wisdom and ordered them in perfect justice” (XIX:13) and that man can achieve peace by following God’s orders such as “love thy neighbor” (XIX:14).

Augustine’s statements on peace are congruent with both the actions and writings of Luther, most specifically in his Friendly Admonition to Peace Concerning the Twelve Articles of the Swabian Peasants. Firstly, as stated in Mackenson’s introduction, this writing is Luther’s “appeal to peace” (Hillerbrand 67) in order that “if any misfortune or disaster come out of the matter, it may not be blamed on me because of my silence” (Hillerbrand, 68). In his plea for peace To the Princes and Lords Luther uses both the tactics of impending hell and gentle persuasion to persuade the nobles to gain peace with the peasants. He reminds the nobility of the passage from Psalms “He poureth contempt upon princes” (Hillerbrand 69) and advises them “You will lose nothing in kindness; and even though you were to lose something, it can afterwards come back to you ten times over in peace, while in conflict you may, perhaps, lose both life and goods” (Hillerbrand, 71). In To the Peasants Luther greatly narrows Augustine’s idea that peace is the natural goal of man by claiming that peace is a uniquely Christian goal. This is demonstrated by Luther’s claim that if neither the peasants nor the nobility allow themselves to be instructed and live at peace, neither side is Christian (Hillerbrand, 78).

Augustine and Luther’s interpretations on temporal law vary slightly from one another, with Augustine’s beliefs reflected by the passage from Corinthians “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law” (XIII:5) and Luther’s resonating in the passage from the first book of Timothy “The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless” (Hillerbrand, 46). Augustine argues that the law itself is a temptation, that the very restriction of a deed is a reason that some perform it. In this way, some who might not ordinarily commit sins may be swayed to commit them because of the stronger temptation, or as Augustine writes “when the love of righteousness is not strong enough to overcome the sinful desire by the delight it affords” (XIII:5). Luther bypasses the question of whether the law can be taken to bad account by the wicked in his writings; there is little need for Luther to consider whether laws enhance the temptation of the wicked to violate them, because Luther believes that laws are not made for true Christians anyway. He writes “If all the world were composed of real Christians, that is, true believers, there would be no need or benefits from prince, king, sword, or law” (Hillerbrand 46).

There is a similar contrast between Augustine and Luther’s interpretations of man’s obediency to temporal law. Augustine states plainly “when man lives ?by the standard of man’ and not “by the standard of God’, he is like the Devil” (XIV:4). Augustine clarifies that even though man comes from God, who is all good, he can live falsely, as in not living in a godlike manner, for “Falsehood consists in not living in the way for which he was created” (XIV:4). Luther however, in distinguishing the two options of lifestyles (to live by a heavenly government or by a temporal one) grants that the heavenly one is best, but he also adds that the temporal government is necessary: “Both must be permitted to remain; the one to produce righteousness, the other to bring about external peace and prevent evil deeds. Neither one is sufficient in the world without the other” (Hillerbrand, 48). In this way, Luther takes Augustine’s condemnation of temporal lifestyle to another level; while Luther admits that it would be best if the Christians of the world could live in peace without laws, like sheep, he admits that given the wolves or Non-Christians of the world would quickly devour them (Hillerbrand, 48). Augustine does not make this distinction, possibly because of his beliefs such as “When starvation killed…it snatched [the Christians] away from the evils of this life, as disease rescues men from the sufferings of the body” (I:11).

One substantial difference between the theological and political thoughts of Augustine and Luther is each author’s unique interpretation of the authority between kings and nobles and their respective peasants and slaves. Augustine takes a rather surprising turn on this subject when he uses a passage in Genesis to back his claim that “[God] did not wish the rational being, made in his own image, to have dominion over any but irrational creatures, not man over man…That is why we do not hear of a slave anywhere in the Scriptures until Noah…punished his son…that son deserved this name because of his misdeed, not because of his nature…” (XIX:15). Augustine goes on to clarify, however, that slavery can only happen “by the judgement of God”. Therefore Augustine is stating that man is not meant to be enslaved, but God is just when He gives man a life of slavery. Furthermore, Augustine states, “Everyone who commits sin is sin’s slave”, and thereby somewhat justifies slavery as a sin which will cause the master to be a slave because the master practices slavery.

Luther, on the other hand, spares no time in his tract On Governmental Authority in quoting Paul’s letter to the Romans: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authority, for there is no authority except from God; the authority which everywhere exists has been ordained by God. He then who resists the governing authority resists the ordinance of God, and he who resists God’s ordinance will incur judgment” (Hillerbrand, 44). As mentioned in Hillerbrand’s introduction to Twelve Articles “The Protestant Reformation…seemed to be tailor made for the peasants” (Hillerbrand 63). As Mackenson states in his introduction to Admonition to Peace, however, “Luther left little doubt that he disapproved of the peasant’s marshaling of scriptural arguments in support of their economic and social goals…Luther rejected the use of the gospel to sustain secular demands, and insisted that the laws of society must provide the answer for social amelioration (Hillerbrand, 67).

In conclusion, the similarities and differences in the theological and political thought of Augustine and Luther are caused by the correspondences and variances in the ways that each author interprets Scripture. Both authors never question the truth of the Scripture, yet it is obvious that the passages of the Bible can be construed to form two opposing political/theological views. The differences in these views reflect the differences of political motivation of each author. It is ironic that Luther, who was trying to sever himself from the Catholic Church should echo so many of Augustine’s teachings, yet it makes sense, for each author is defending an interpretation of Christianity from an outside existing force (the Romans for Augustine, the Catholics for Luther). Furthermore, when Augustine wrote City of God, the Catholic Church had not yet become the elaborate and corrupt political system, full of the “blind bishops and mad priests and monks whose hearts are hardened” (Hillerbrand, 68) of which Luther writes. It follows that in many cases the basic premises for Luther’s writings are the same as Augustine’s; it could be said that Luther is Augustine with a twist.

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