Confessions Essay, Research Paper
The content of my paper will be an analysis of Augustine’s Confessions. I will focus on the first nine chapters of the book. First, I will write an introductory page about Augustine. Second, I will explain why Augustine wrote the Confessions and the importance of the Confessions as a philosophical work. I will analyze Augustine’s view of God and show the main theme of his book, which is, the sovereign God of grace and the sovereign grace of God. I will focus on Augustine’s view of God and His grace.
Augustine was born Aurelius Augustinus on November 13, 354 in North Africa. He received a classical Latin education and went to study rhetoric at the age of twelve in Madaura. He later studied at Cathrage and became a Manichean. After reading Cicero’s Hortensius Augustine was inspired to dedicate himself to the study of philosophy. He opened a school of rhetoric in Cathrage, he later went on to teach in Milan. In 386 he had his conversion and was baptized later. In 391 Augustine was appointed Bishop of Hippo.
He is considered the greatest Church Father. He was a defender of the Catholic faith and wrote and developed many doctrines to combat the heresies of his day, including his most famous rejection of the Pelagian doctrine. Pelagianism denied original sin and affirmed the ability of human beings to be righteous by the exercise of free will. “Augustine insisted on the fallen nature of man and the need for salvation by divine grace. (592)”
Augustine was also a great philosopher. His analysis of the nature of time, skepticism, and the relationship between divine foreknowledge and human freedom are all important philosophical contributions. His two most famous writings are the Confessions and The City of God. They are both theological as well as philosophical works.
Augustine wrote the Confessions ten years after his conversion.
The Confessions is divided into thirteen books. I will focus my analysis on the first ten books, which are his autobiography. The other three books are important but they do not have to do with his life story.
The book expresses three main concerns. One is Augustine’s frank and detailed acknowledgment of his personal sinfulness and the power he came to recognize as God’s provident grace—protective, creative, salvific—in every moment of his life. He also wrote in order to confess his own Christian faith and clearly repudiate any supposed lingering connections on his part with Manichaeism. Finally, The Confessions are a heartfelt paean of praise and thanksgiving in honor of God’s glory.
Augustine begins his autobiography with a prayer and meditation. This is fitting because the main theme of The Confessions is to praise and thank God. He begins by saying that God has, “made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.” This is a very good point because it is a reflection of Augustine’s struggle to find piece with himself. Throughout the rest of the book Augustine is constantly changing his beliefs and looking for the truth, his heart is restless. And it is not until he finds the Catholic faith and has his conversion that he finds piece. Augustine like all philosophers is a lover of truth.
He is unsure how he should call upon the Lord (3). He points out that it is his faith, which is a gift, that calls upon the Lord (3). He wants God to come into his soul, yet he is afraid that there is no room and that He will be disgusted with the sins of his past (4). This is appropriate because the reader will later find out what those sins are, yet Augustine maintains that the Lord must be in his soul since, “I would not exist at all unless you were already in me (4).” Augustine asks many philosophical questions about the nature of God, however he does not once question His existence.
Augustine is considered to be one of the Catholic Church’s greatest theologians. However, he was also a philosopher. See pg 244 textb
Augustine’s Confessions is a beautiful prayer to God, it is also a philosophical work. It should be noted that while Augustine was a theo, pertaining to the philosophy of religion. Although Augustine is a saint and theologian, there is a distinct difference between religion and the philosophy of religion.
Augustine begins his autobiography praising God. He describes God as being all-powerful, everywhere, and beyond description. The reader can see how deep Augustine’s love for God is and with what reverence he praises Him. Augustine acknowledges the fact that God is in his soul, either partially or wholly. He wants the Confessions to be an example of God’s existence throughout his entire life. His soul is restless until it rests in God. He praises God for giving him the family he did.
Augustine acknowledges the fact that as an infant he was not innocent. This seems strange since babies are thought to be pure and helpless. However, Augustine believed in the doctrine of original sin. Original sin is the sin of Adam, which all human beings inherit. It can only be taken away by baptism. Augustine mentions his regret that his mother did not baptize him as a young child. In those days it was customary to wait as long as possible to receive the sacrament of baptism. This was because baptism took away original sins as well as all other sins committed up to that point.
Augustine discusses his childish sins (22), and is discusted with them. Augustine appears to be too hard on himself, however he points out that, “These same sins grow worse as we grow older:first it is offenses against pedagogues and teachers, or chearting over nuts and balls and sparrows; then later is is crimes against prefects and kings, and fraud in gold and estated and slaves (23).” Augustine ends by thanking God and again points out the power of God’s grace in every moment of his life.
Augustine is now sixteen and he has a sexual awakening. He recalls his past sins with great pain (25). He confesses that he was unable to distinguish between love and lust. He committed the sin of fornication. Augustine regrets not being forced to marry, this would have interfiered with his public life, so he did not marry. However, he feels he should have married in order to be cured of his concupiscence of the flesh.
Of special interest is his candid rememberance of stealing from a pear tree with his friends. He points out that he was not in need of the pear and he did not even eat it, but rather he took delight in the act of stealing with his friends. According to Augustine this is very important because it shows that we as humans, because of original sin are inclined towards evil. We take delight in the act of evil as evil. This is disturbing, but it shows that we have free will and with that the power to sin. Augustine says he was “in love with my own ruin, in love with decay (30).” This shows us what will happen if we do not have sanctifying grace. Augustine was looking for happiness and could not find it. He know realizes that happiness is from God and he is sorry he did not see that then.
Augustine focuses on his seventeeth year to his ninteenth year, during which he was a student at Carthage. Augustine states that he was “in love with loving (37).” He is looking despertly for something to fill the void in his heart, but it is only God who can do that. During this time Augustine takes on a mistress. He lived with her for thirteen years and they had a son Adeodatus, whom he was very fond of.
It is here that Augustin begins his philosophical journey. He is greatly influenced by Cicero’s Hertensius. This awakened in him a desire for wisdom and aroused a love for philosophy that was to culminate in his conversion to Christianity. Although, Augustine warns us that philosophy can lead one astray and away from the doctrines of the Church. We should not let this happen.
Augustine then talks about his dislike of Scriptures. And attributed this to his “swollen pride (42).” He believed the Bible to be for children, and he thought he was grown up. They were not worthy to be compared to the eloquence of Cicero. He realizes his error now and now views the scriptures with revernce.
Augustine is constantly searching for the truth and it is at this time that he believes it is found in the doctrine of the Manichees. The Manichees believe that the universe is divided into realms of good and evil. Augustine liked this theory and it would account for why he took such pleasure in committing evil. This also offered Augustine a convenient rationilization for his own behavior, which would no longer make him responsible for his actions. Although he is extremely disaapointed when he meets the bishop Faustes, who is not really a lover of truth.