04. Saint Augustine-old


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A quick look at the life of Saint Augustine of Hippo and some of his thoughts.

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  • Carthage had a major empire around the same time as early Rome, and it was the Carthaginian threat (the Punic Wars) that largely created the Roman Empire. General Hannibal (of elephant fame) was from Carthage.

    The map is of the Carthaginian Empire in the 3rd century BC
  • Manichaeism was one of the major Iranian Gnostic religions, and at its height was one of the most widespread religions in the world, stretching throughout the Roman Empire (including Britain) to China. Manichaeism is distinguished by its elaborate cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness.

    A major problem they addressed was “God created everything that exists. Evil exists. Therefore, God created evil.” Any Christian has to affirm the first part. And since clearly evil exists, this creates a problem. The Manichaeans “solved” this by denying that God is the only one that created things. Later, Augustine would actually challenge the assertion that evil “exists”...
  • His “concubine” , according to Augustine, was the one that had the strength to separate when he couldn’t bring himself to. Unnamed in history, legend has her going home to Carthage and joining a monastery.
    Adeodatus, his son, stayed with his father and lived with him and Monica just outside of Milan. Seeing the wonderful intelligence of his son, Augustine felt a sort of awe: "The grandeur of his mind filled me with a kind of terror." He died at the age of 16.
  • Ambrose, along with Augustine, is one of the original four “Doctors of the Church” for their preeminence in shaping doctrine and the Church.
    Besides his association with Augustine, Ambrose is most famous for fighting the Arian heresy.
  • In fact, this is such a big and important heresy, we’ll do an entire study just on this.
  • 04. Saint Augustine-old

    1. 1. SAINT AUGUSTINE The Theologian of Grace
    2. 2. QUESTIONS
    3. 3. QUESTIONS Who was Augustine and what made him “tick”?
    4. 4. QUESTIONS Who was Augustine and what made him “tick”? What doctrines did he help clarify for the Church?
    5. 5. QUESTIONS Who was Augustine and what made him “tick”? What doctrines did he help clarify for the Church? What are Sacraments and how do they work?
    6. 6. HIS INFLUENCE Saint Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430) is by far the most quoted person on the doctrines of the Church outside of the writers of the Bible Some of the things that he is most remembered for in formulating for the Church are: a more complete understanding of the Trinity the way God governs His people the “ontology” of God and the soul the efficacy of the Sacraments how we know God predestination the role of secular government and the the nature of love and (especially) loving God Christian’s place in it the nature of divine Grace defining “the inner self ” “Just War” etc.
    7. 7. He was born on a small farm in Thagaste (in modern-day Algeria)
    8. 8. BIBLE BELT Christianity had long since become established in that region of Roman Africa His mother was a staunch Catholic His father was a pagan (who was Saved sixteen years before his son)
    9. 9. In modern-American terms, he was born in Hicksville in the middle of the Bible Belt
    10. 10. STEALING PEARS At one point, he and his friends, in addition to a lot of other “normal” teenage pranks, went onto his neighbor’s property and stole pears from the neighbor’s tree The adult Augustine, when remembering this in The Confessions, seems more torn up about this than many of his other sins (like heresy and fornication)
    11. 11. THE THRILL OF SIN Why, do you suppose, would he see stealing some pears to throw to the pigs as being so bad? The fall into heresy was because he was searching for the truth, but going about it in the wrong way The fornication and the like were attempts to satisfy basic needs/ desires, though in the wrong way Stealing the pears was sin for sin’s own sake. He was not hungry, he had a pear tree of his own, etc. The thrill was in knowing that he was sinning for no other reason than to be sinning
    12. 12. BIG EMPIRE DREAMS Growing up, he was by far the smartest person around, and he knew it Ambitious and arrogant, he went into the study of rhetoric Rhetoric was a prerequisite for virtually any position of power in the Roman Empire
    13. 13. His studies take him to the major metropolitan city of Carthage
    14. 14. For historical context, the Council of Constantinople met while he was in Carthage and finally finished the Nicene Creed
    15. 15. While in Carthage, he joins the Manichaeans, a heretical group that has “answers” for many of the questions about God that nobody Augustine ever met until then could answer for him
    16. 16. LEARNING TO LOVE TRUTH While in Carthage he lead a rather hedonistic life, but he reads a great deal by Cicero, the famous Roman rhetoritician, which brought him to study philosophy As he wrote later in the Confessions, Augustine says that the study of philosophy is what created that burning passion to know Truth
    17. 17. Growing up he had indulged in many “youthful indiscretions,” but now he started to settle down He lived with his girlfriend and was faithful to her, and she soon bore him a son
    18. 18. GETTING ENGAGED When his mother, Monica, joins him much later, she makes arrangements for Augustine to become engaged to a wealthy Christian girl The girl was underage for marriage, but Augustine had to send away his “concubine” – whom he had loved and been faithful to for over 12 years – which broke his heart (read Confessions 6.15) While waiting for his fiancé to be “of age” (thirteen), he couldn’t stand being alone any more and took another lover for a while. He never reestablished his relationship with his fiancé.
    19. 19. After over a decade in Carthage, he moved to Milan as professor of rhetoric at the imperial court there.
    20. 20. BOOKS OF THE PLATONISTS Augustine read “books of the Platonists” and finally got the answers to some of the questions that had been plaguing him This was good because it gave him many of the intellectual tools that he was able to use in defending the Christian Faith and made him the single most influential of the Church Fathers The negative consequence was that Plotinus had a very allegorical way of reading the Bible, which Augustine also adopted, paving the way for over a thousand years of absolutely nonsensical interpretations of the Word
    21. 21. MEETING AMBROSE He went to listen to Bishop Ambrose speak because Ambrose is one of the best orators living, and Augustine wanted to learn his techniques While listening to Ambrose, Augustine heard an expression of Christian faith that wasn’t just for simpletons, but of a Christianity that answered the questions he had been asking all his life
    22. 22. AMBROSE OPENS THE BIBLE From the influence of Ambrose he saw that what he recognized as Truth was also what the Christian Church taught This caused him to take another look at the Bible
    23. 23. As he read the Bible and became increasingly convinced of its truths, he recognized an old and bitter conflict in his will: “as a youth … I had prayed to you for chastity and said, ‘Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.’ For I was afraid that you would answer my prayer at once and cure me of the disease of lust, which I wanted satisfied, not quelled.” (Confessions 8.7)
    24. 24. It was very much the same with his conversion: even though he willed that he could turn himself over to God and become a Christian, he also willed that he wouldn’t – and without the grace of God, his sinful nature would always have won. Augustine later makes it clear, particularly in his writings against the Palagians, that even that part of his will that wanted to become Christian was entirely the gracious gift of God, not something inherent in himself.
    25. 25. As he wrote later, the inner struggle was forcing him to the brink of madness, with his will tearing his mind and soul apart.
    26. 26. While in a garden he heard a child’s voice repeatedly saying, “Take up and read.”
    27. 27. He rushed and grabbed a Bible from his friend and read the first passage he came across: Let us pass our time honorably, as by the light of day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in lust and wantonness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ; spend no more thought on nature or nature’s appetites. (Romans 13:13-14)
    28. 28. That did it – that was when God had “flipped the switch” and Augustine finally became a Christian He was baptized, along with his brilliant son and close friends, by Ambrose the following Easter
    29. 29. LOCAL BOY DONE GOOD After his mother dies, he returned to Thagaste to found a monastic community Monasticism was a new movement, and Augustine’s monastery became one of the principle developers of the movement in the Western Church He is received very much as a “local boy done good,” and becomes tremendously popular with the Christian community
    30. 30. A few years later, while visiting Hippo, a priest begins talking in his sermon about how desperately the Church needs people like Augustine, and Augustine is grabbed by the parishioners and ordained – very much against his will – as a priest Augustine wanted to live his life as a scholar; not having to spend his time worrying about all the “trivialities” involved in running a parish and trying to teach “simple” people the deep things of God
    31. 31. After only four years as a priest, he has distinguished himself so much as a man of God that he is made the Bishop of Hippo
    32. 32. An extremely eloquent man in Rome named Pelagius started teaching what would be known as the Pelagian Heresy, which denied the doctrine of Original Sin. This was Augustine’s biggest fight, and what really earned him the title “The Doctor of Grace” for his work in showing the necessity of God’s Grace for our salvation.
    33. 33. Fifteen years after his appointment as Bishop, Rome falls for the first time in her history.
    34. 34. This sparked an enormous political and cultural crisis, and the pagans blamed the Empire’s conversion to Christianity as the reason why, saying that it was the gods’ punishment on Rome for leaving her roots.
    35. 35. This prompted Augustine to write “The City of God”, his most famous book alongside “The Confessions”, where he spelled-out the differences between the City of God and the City of Man.
    36. 36. In 430 A.D., as the Vandals are at the gates of Hippo, Augustine died.
    38. 38. THE DONATISTS During the Roman persecution there were those that caved to the pressure and made “compromises” with the government Included in the list of “not entirely faithful” were many of the leaders in the Church Because of their zeal for maintaining an “untainted” communion of believers, a group of Christians banded together, called Donatists
    39. 39. They, along with the Catholics, believed in Apostolic Succession – specifically, where new church leaders are ordained by God through current leaders, who in turn were ordained via their predecessors, etc. through to the Apostles (and ultimately Jesus)
    40. 40. The problem was that the Catholic Church had been infected with unfaithful leaders, who, the Donatists argued, had rejected their Apostolic calling when they gave in, and therefore were not true leaders of the Church – and therefore also could not ordain successors.
    41. 41. Any leader that had been “compromised” three hundred years prior had likely ordained a number of successors, and they had ordained successors, and so on But the Apostolic link had been broken with the first leader, so none of the successors had a legitimate ordination
    42. 42. By Augustine’s time, that effectively called most of the Catholic Church illegitimate.......
    43. 43. DONATIST ISSUES There were three major issues that the Donatist schism presented the Church with: Purity: Is the Church a gathering of the Pure, or something else? Unity: How does the Church stay one Church? Baptism: The Donatists said that Baptism by an illegitimate Catholic was not a real Baptism, and would therefore rebaptize people that came to them.
    44. 44. UNBAPTIZED CHRISTIANS? It was Baptism that was the real kicker, because the “working” definition of a Christian held by the Church (East and West) is that you are a Christian if you’ve been baptized into the Christian Church There are exceptions and clarifications, but that is the basic stance of all the “orthodox” churches, including Protestant So if you’re a Christian by your Baptism, and Donatists are the only ones that can properly administer that Sacrament, then only those baptized by Donatists are Christians...
    45. 45. DONATIST DILEMA Everybody agreed in the vitality of a true Baptism, which created a big problem for the Catholics: If they regard the Donatist baptism as valid, then they are essentially validating the legitimacy of the Donatists, which puts a real crimp in trying to say that they should rejoin the Catholic Church But if it is invalid, and they rebaptize people coming to the Catholic Church from the Donatists, then they are by their actions agreeing with the Donatist position on Baptism Hopefully, the resolution to the problem is obvious to you, but that’s because we’ve all learned about Baptism as Augustine defined it...
    46. 46. FIGHTING THE DONATISTS Augustine led the fight against the Donatists by providing the philosophical tools needed to clarify the issues, as well as the rationale used for the means used to suppress the Donatists We’ll talk about the way he dealt with the Sacramental issues later, so here we’ll talk about the reasoning he gives for suppression – and how to do it – since they would be used as the basis for doing so from that time forward
    47. 47. ARGUING THE CASE At the Conference of Carthage in 411 A.D., the Donatists and the Catholics debated before an Imperial official Remember, this was after Christianity had become the official religion of the Empire, and the Empire desperately wanted a united Christendom Augustine led the Catholic side and trounced the Donatists quite neatly Donatism was then declared illegal, and Augustine spelled-out how to get rid of the Donatists
    48. 48. Augustine is known as the Theologian of Grace for a reason, so he knew that you can’t force someone to become a Christian (a.k.a., a Catholic), but you could “encourage” and “discourage.”
    49. 49. With his usual clarity and zeal he laid-out the theological reasons to fine the Donatists and confiscate their property so that they would be “discouraged” from staying with the Donatists and “encouraged” to join the Catholic Church He was never so extreme as to propose torture or the like, which would be used for exactly the same reasons later – notably, during the various Inquisitions On the other side of that spectrum, we can’t not “encourage” or “discourage” because we are clearly called to do so – we do so every time we evangelize or build each other up, and when we exercise church discipline The “tough love” reasons we use for excommunication and the like are the same reasons the Church fined the Donatists Better to have people see the error of their ways during their time of grace, than to die in their sin and, at best, receive a smaller inheritance and, at worst, go to Hell
    50. 50. How hard to you “encourage” someone to follow Christ or “discourage” him from going to Hell – and possibly drag others along? Enough to use the power of the state, along with its “power of the sword”? Where is the line?
    51. 51. STILL MAJOR QUESTIONS How important is “purity” to the Church? If a lack of purity can be accepted, how much impurity, and what kinds? What is the basis for unity in the church? Is there ever a reason for Christians to not be united? If there is, then what is the effect such disunity has on the Christians involved, other Christians, and unbelievers? Can you name modern Christian groups that have separated themselves from the rest of Christendom and the reasons why? Are they right in doing so, and why or why not? What is the nature of Baptism, and what gives it power? This gets into what any Sacrament is and what it does...
    52. 52. SIGNS & SACRAMENTS
    53. 53. LEARNING FROM SIGNS Signs, to Augustine, teach things and convey information, though they carry no power in themselves to teach If you see smoke, it acts as an indicator (sign) of fire, but you have to know that “where there’s smoke there’s fire” before seeing the smoke can let you know there’s fire Words are the means by which we transfer knowledge, but you have to have knowledge of what those words mean already or those words are useless (as anybody that’s had to fight with different languages or technical jargon knows) The sight of smoke or the hearing of words don’t contain information, but they act as the conduit through which information is conveyed
    54. 54. OUTWARD SIGN OF INWARD GIFT The grace that grants faith, and therefore salvation, is an inward gift Sacraments are an outward sign that shows what God has done Symbols, since they themselves are not information, need to be “interpreted.” The same symbols can mean dramatically different things to different people The principle “interpreter” of spiritual things for the Christian is the Holy Spirit, who translates the symbols (words) of Scripture for our heart, and the symbols (rituals) of the Sacraments for our soul
    55. 55. BAPTISM
    56. 56. While every major Christian denomination agrees completely with Baptism being an outward sign that marks you as a Child of God, they have very different understandings of it.
    57. 57. DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDINGS OF SIGNS How do Catholics and Lutherans understand Baptism? Calvinists (e.g. Presbyterians)? Baptists?
    58. 58. CATHOLIC & LUTHERAN The sign is an indication of the grace that God is working in the person, bringing them to faith at that moment (though the person can then reject that grace) This view is known, formally, as “baptismal regeneration”
    59. 59. CALVINIST Calvinists view it more as a New Testament form of circumcision, whereby God is marking the person as His own and part of the Christian community The difference between it and baptismal regeneration is subtle, but best understood in light of the Calvinist doctrine of Preservation of the Saints (which says that once God has made you His own, He will ensure that you never fall completely away from Him) So God is probably infusing His grace into the person, but He may not be (just as not every Jewish boy that was circumcised was automatically saved) At the very least He is granting the person His special protection and blessings (just as every Jew was under the covenantal blessings that God gave to Abraham)
    60. 60. BAPTIST Baptism is a sign akin to a diploma, saying that you have confessed Jesus as your Savior and acting as an outward “sealing” of that declaration It is very much like the role that Confirmation serves in other denominations.
    61. 61. REBAPTIZE? In light of the different understandings of the symbolism involved in Baptism, how does that explain why Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists and the like don’t rebaptize, but Baptists do? For Baptists, since it acts as a sign that you gave a proper confession, if you weren’t baptized for having given the proper confession you need to receive a “proper” baptism for your proper confession But for those following in the Augustinian tradition, Baptism is an indelible mark on the soul placed there by God
    62. 62. Baptism caries with it power that is dependent upon what God has done for the person, not what the person has said or done. In other words: The power comes from God, not us.
    63. 63. LORD’S SUPPER
    64. 64. “THIS IS MY BLOOD...” In light of this definition of signs and what we know about the major sacramental division in the Church, how does this explain the differences in understandings of the Lord’s Supper?
    65. 65. CATHOLIC & LUTHERAN Christ is physically there and conveys the forgiveness of sins through the administration of the body and blood It’s not a magical incantation or anything, but a medium through which God graciously promises to increase faith
    66. 66. CALVINIST Christ’s body and blood are there symbolically (not physically) and the blessings of the sacrament are conveyed through that medium Note that saying that Christ’s body and blood are “merely” there symbolically is like saying that Baptism is “merely” symbolic or that the inferno of a star is “merely” a flame. There’s nothing “merely” about it.
    67. 67. BAPTIST The Lord’s Supper acts as a symbol along the lines of a memorial Focus is less on “This is my body” and more on “Do this in remembrance of me” Similar to how we celebrate Christmas and Easter and other church “remembrances,” the Lord’s Supper serves the same purpose It’s an extremely important symbol of what Christ has done for us and is therefore should be practiced with the honor that is due such a memorial
    68. 68. SIGNS OF LOVE For Augustine, the goal of all of our interpretations should be to grow in our love for God (which then extends to our neighbor) All of the symbols that God gives us show His love for us (directly or indirectly), and when we interpret them we must do so in that light so that we love Him more