Saint Augustine of Hippo

Aurelius Augustine was born in North Africa in 354 AD to a pagan father and devout Christian mother. Gifted with a brilliant mind, he enjoyed academic success and worldly pleasures at Carthage until he became restless for truth and virtue. Successively disappointed by Platonic philosophy and Manichaen theology, he found his rest in the God of Catholic Christianity at the age of 32. Ten years later, Augustine reluctantly became Bishop of Hippo. A prolific writer and original thinker, Augustine's treatises, sermons and letters number into the hundreds. He put his gifted mind to work on subjects such as grace, the Trinity, the soul, predestination, the sacraments, sexuality and free will. Augustine's thought has had a profound impact on both Catholicism (primarily in his doctrine of the church) and Protestantism (especially in his concept of salvation). The Life of Augustine of Hippo Augustine is one of the precious few ancient figures who recorded a great deal of information about their life and times. In fact, he is one of very few historical figures to have written an autobiography, a genre that until recent centuries was rarely seen. In his Confessions, a spiritual autobiography chronicling his adventurous journey to salvation, Augustine

"I neither wished nor needed to read further. but feeling called to the monastic life. His eyes fell on Romans 13:13-14: "Not in rioting and drunkenness. he visited Hippo Regius in hopes of assisting a friend to conversion. he thought he heard a child's voice chanting. At once. Most of what follows is taken directly from Augustine's own account. as he sat tormented by indecision and powerlessness. his other writings. the Confessions nevertheless provide theologians with valuable insight into the background and influences of Augustine's thought. not in strife and envying. the newly-converted Augustine was baptized. along with his son and a friend. Augustine quickly gained a great reputation. In 391." Following a quiet winter spent at Cassiacum with family and friends. and make not provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof. where he set up a study-focused monastic community with several friends. and attended church . and modern scholarship.offers historians a detailed account of his life and experiences up to his conversion. Augustine as Bishop of Hippo After a year in Rome. Moreover. as if in a game. it was as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart. Conversion to Catholic Christianity Augustine's internal conflict came to a head in a garden in August of 386. with supplemental information provided by his contemporaries. he carefully avoided being pressured into becoming a bishop by avoiding all churches lacking such a leader. Finally. on Easter 387. average readers are often struck by how remarkably modern and relevant Augustine's story seems to be. not in chambering and wantonness. Although artistic license is certainly utilized. and historians with important information on life in the Roman Empire at the close of the 4th century. Augustine eagerly headed home to Thagaste. "Take and read! Take and read!" Understanding this to be a sign from God. with the last words of this sentence. weeping with despair and crying out to God. Augustine opened his copy of Paul's epistles and read the first thing he saw. All the shadows of doubt were dispelled. but put on the Lord Jesus Christ." Augustine later wrote of the moment.

but after only three of these Augustine fell ill with a fever. In addition to the regular tasks of administering the sacraments. Augustine's Last Days In May 429. The bishop died a year will. the bishop was looking for a presbyter. and autobiography. The church did have a bishop by the name of Valerius. The psychological awareness and self-revelation of the work still impress readers. Works of Augustine Augustine was a prolific author in several genres-theological treatises. arriving at Hippo Regius a year later. visiting the afflicted. sermons. and the meaning of grace. contending against the Manichees. a schismatic Christian group. Hippo was under siege for fourteen months. he wrote an extraordinary amount and engaged in several heated controversies.and all served to develop Augustine's thought. Augustine moves from his conception to his current (at about the age of fifty) relationship with God. with issues relating to our discussion . His Confessions is usually accorded the position of the first autobiography in history. at least in part. 430. preaching. He took on a remarkable amount of duties. baptism. Augustine devoted himself to his role as Hippo's new bishop. He spent his early clerical career in study. at the age of seventy-six. Augustine died on 28 August. . judging disputes. and Pelagianism. All three dealt. Donatism. and despite his initial reluctance. Coerced by the congregation. and ends with a long excursus on the book of Genesis in which he demonstrates how to interpret scripture. but unbeknownst to Augustine. and helping the needy. and battling with the Donatists. St. completing On Free Will. In 395 Bishop Valerius nominated Augustine as his successor. Augustine was intimately involved in three major controversies: Manichaeism. but his trust in God bore him up and he refused to flee and abandon his there. Augustine was devastated by these events. scripture commentaries. Augustine reluctantly but obediently became priest of Hippo. the Vandal army began advancing across Africa. philosophical dialogues. beginning his duties in 391. respectively .

At the end of his life (c. . Two later theologians who claimed special influence from Augustine were John Calvin and Cornelius Jansen. intellectual tradition. and subsequently the European.426-428) Augustine revisited his previous works in chronological order and suggested what he would have said differently in a work titled the Retractions. should not the Church use force in compelling her lost sons to return. and one which became a focus for later philosophers such as Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. Catholic theologians generally subscribe to Augustine's belief that God exists outside of time in the "eternal present. Heavily influenced by Platonism and neo-Platonism. Calvinism developed as a part of Reformation theology.. Also important was his early and influential writing on the human will. It is largely due to Augustine's influence that Western Christianity subscribes to the doctrine of original sin.. 22±24) St. asking "Why." with time existing only within the created universe. He also advocated the use of force against the Donatists. if the lost sons compelled others to their destruction?" (The Correction of the Donatists. but not in Protestant churches. Augustine's writings helped formulate the theory of just war. which gives us a remarkable picture of the development of a writer and his final thoughts. some Jansenists went into schism and formed their own church. and recognizes baptisms done in nearly all Christian churches). while Jansenism was a movement inside the Catholic Church. particularly by Plotinus. Thomas Aquinas took much from Augustine while creating his own unique synthesis of Greek and Christian thought. which is a central topic in psychology and ethics. and the Roman Catholic Church holds that baptisms and ordinations done outside of the Roman Catholic Church can be valid (the Roman Catholic Church recognizes ordinations done in Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. Augustine was an important part of the "baptism" of Greek thought and its entrance into the Christian. Thought and Legacy of Augustine Augustine remains a central figure both in Christianity and in the history of Western thought.

Augustine adopts a subjective view of time and says that time is nothing in reality but exists only in the human mind¶s apprehension of reality. He argues that skeptics have no basis for claiming to know that there is no knowledge. printers. Augustine says. sore eyes. humans could not be moral. and a number of cities and dioceses. by analogy. one can switch Augustine¶s ³omnipotent being´ and ³original sin´ explanation of predestination for the present day ³biology´ explanation of predestination. St. especially the belief that humans are morally responsible for their actions.Augustine was canonized by popular recognition and recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 1303. I am. the latter tendency is apparent in modern slogans such as ³biology is destiny.´ He is the first Western philosopher to promote what has come to be called ³the argument by analogy´ against solipsism: there are bodies external to mine that behave as I behave and that appear to be nourished as mine is nourished. Additionally. and thinks that original sin makes human moral behavior nearly impossible: if it were not for the rare appearance of an accidental and undeserved Grace of God. His feast day is August 28. In a proof for existence similar to one later made famous by René Descartes.´ . ³[Even] If I am mistaken. theologians.. at the end he is pessimistic. Though initially optimistic about the ability of humans to behave morally. Augustine tries to reconcile his beliefs about freewill. Augustine believes reason to be a uniquely human cognitive capacity that comprehends deductive truths and logical necessity. He is the patron saint of brewers. I am justified in believing that these bodies have a similar mental life to mine. so. He believes that time is not infinite because God ³created´ it. Augustine is a fourth century philosopher whose groundbreaking philosophy infused Christian doctrine with Neoplatonism. Augustine¶s theological discussion of freewill is relevant to a non-religious discussion regardless of the religious-specific language he uses. with his belief that one¶s life is predestined. He is famous for being an inimitable Catholic theologian and for his agnostic contributions to Western philosophy. the day on which he is thought to have died.

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