“The enemy had a grip on my will and so made a chain for me to hold me a prisoner. The consequence of a distorted will is passion. By servitude to passion, habit is formed, and habit to which there is no resistance becomes necessity.” Augustine, Confessions VIII.v.10
Augustine Is Amazing
For, I want to apologize for the tardiness of this post. When reading back through these books, I mistakenly read June’s book in May! But at least I am way ahead now!
Augustine was born in 354 and died in 430. Other than that, I won’t give you much biographical information. If you want to read the definitive biography of Augustine, I would encourage Peter Brown’s Augustine of Hippo. Augustine is one of my favorite people from the early church. Truly, he is one of my favorites from any era of Church History. During the Protestant Reformation, both sides – the Reformers and Catholics – appealed to Augustine nearly as much as they did the Bible! Augustine’s influence has been felt outside of classically orthodox Christian theology, into the realm of political theory, just war theory, and the philosophical and psychological discussion of the very nature of evil itself. If you want to be challenged by a profound thinker – READ AUGUSTINE!
The Confessions is essentially Augustine’s autobiographical description of his journey into the Christian faith. As a robust pagan, into a heretical sect of Christianity, into a well-founded orthodoxy, Augustine’s experience is one worth knowing. For most readers, his story resonates with us, because it is so much like our own.
There are far too many things to affirm and critique about the confessions. I will give two: one negative and one positive. Toward the end of the work, Augustine exercises a great deal of freedom in allegorizing the creation story. If I could change one thing about this work, I would leave this bit out. Not because it isn’t valuable or important, but because it feels wildly of place with the rest of the work. That’s
On a positive note, the entire work is worth the read for the story about the pears and the pear trees. Found in book 2, Augustine recounts a time when he and some friends decided to steal some pears. They didn’t need the pears; they didn’t particularly want the pears. Augustine writes, “We carried off a huge load of pears. But they were not for our feasts but merely to throw to the pigs. Even if we ate a few, nevertheless our pleasure lay in doing what was not allowed.” Want a convicting statement! “…our pleasure lay in doing what was not allowed.”
How often in my life is my pleasure found in doing what shouldn’t be done? Justifying it in some way, merely to ease my conscience? God have mercy.
So, for June we will read Anselm’s Why God Became Man. (I hope you didn’t make the same mistake I did! If so, read Augustine and hear about Anselm later this month!).