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St. Augustine and His Age Paperback – November 1, 2015
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p. 8. At the beginning of the fourth century Christians made up only about two and a half percent of the population in Roman Africa. They were only marginal Christians, more interested in Roman festivals than Church. Augustine complained even at the height of his popularity in the early fifth century that his basilica “was mostly empty.”
p. 15. Latin was the every-day language of the pupils; Punic was confined to the poorer classes.
p. 17. Augustine “admits in his De Trinitate that he is quite unable to read the works of the Greek Fathers on the Trinity.”
p. 28. In the city of Carthage “The Temple of Saturn (formally Baal-Hammon or Molech) was rebuilt though it contained no longer the cruel image that had once received the babes of the citizens into its furnaces.” This was late BCs (122-29 BC) I assume.
p. 30. Rome had suppressed the earlier features of the cult of Astarte… But it did not interfere with the practices of the eunuch priests who worshiped Cyble, or “the mother of God’s”.
p. 32-33. When Augustine was asked to preach in Carthage on the day of the gladiator spectacles, Augustine notes that there were hardly any Christians in attendance. That’s how popular the displays were considered.
p. 35. Carthage was the cesspool of Africa when Augustine was introduced.
p. 36-37. There was a vague belief that sins committed before baptism were minor and therefore baptism was postponed. A second difficulty was that the “Christians fully shared the typical Roman notion of sexual morality.” Violation of a free-woman was considered criminal, but Extra-matrimonial intercourse was disregarded, as well as all intercourse with slaves. “Augustine argues passionately and painfully with his hearers on the point… But his arguments must have been entirely unconvincing to such an audience.” around 370-400 AD
p. 39-40. at the age of 17Augustine took a mistress. He is faithful to her for 14 years. Such fidelity was almost unknown even among the Christians at that time in Africa.
p. 45-46. “Augustine plunged deeply into astrology and divination soon after his arrival at Carthage, and retained his belief in it until near the time of his conversion.” Divination was a popular practice and permeated the whole public and private life of the Empire and Christians willingly admitted to it.
p. 68-70. McCabe writes of Augustine’s affection for a youth he grew up with and later helped him convert to Manichaeism(belief in two deities). The youth died of a fever and 30 years later Augustine writes in his Confessions of the unendurable torture and how he was afflicted by losing his friend. McCabe quotes Augustine’s words and says that “no one can read without deep respect and sympathy Augustine’s eloquent claim that even this human love must be sanctified in God and supported by the clear vision of immortal life.” He goes on to say that there are some who think the “violent phrase implies that this friendship was not even humanly holy. I am confident Augustine never meant that. It is only a part of the contempt which he pours out on all things human — love, joy, pleasure, science, art — from the attitude of his new position.” McCabe goes on to claim that the “intensity of his affection” led Augustine to speculate on the nature of the beautiful”—Augustine’s three volume writings On The Fit and Beautiful. [Considering Augustine’s associating his lost friend to be that of beauty, and from the speculation of others as McCabe offers, it seems like Augustine’s relationship to his friend of his youth could have been more than platonic, especially in view of how he can write about such affection and loss after 30 years, yet write about considering marriage in “purely formal and calculating” manner (wanting a woman who could monetarily support him) while ignoring the girl he had a 14 year relationship with and how he writes of their separation in such a “heartless” way (p. 143-144). But yet when his mother found him a girl of 10 years old to marry (she had a large dowry), Augustine, who was 32 years old at the time, “procured another” until she would be eligible at the age of 12 (p. 147). For Augustine’s exact words relative to his male relationship: Ref: www.sergioarevalo.net/what-saint-augustine-was-homosexual/; and also possibilities of his sexual orientation: Ref: www.faithinamerica.org/christian-and-homosexual/]
p. 78. No longer a Manichean at age 29, Augustine is still yet repulsed by Christianity. [Manichaeism was a dualistic religion based on pagan ideas of “light” eventually being victorious over “darkness.”]
p. 165. Augustine’s study of St. Paul convinces him that marriage is for the “weakly” and that “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”
p. 166. McCabe writes it is the giving up “all love of women” what is continuous in his writings, Augustine’s major struggle.
p. 196. Augustine wrote his Confessions he says to moderate the enthusiasm of his admirers. At the time of writing his Confessions (400 AD) he was considered the leading theologian, having been converted 13 yrs before and receiving ordination 8 yrs before.
p. 200-201. By 382 AD most of the temple cults of old Roman deities were destroyed except for the Manicheans, against which Augustine wrote his City of God. This became his “lifelong campaign [against] on his old religion,” McCabe writes.
p. 208. The intolerance of Augustine was shown in his belief that “the love of woman or child, the breath of wine, even the perfume of the rose or the gladness of song (Confessions, x) were snares cunningly set” against Christians.
p. 211. Yet Augustine’s ascetical ideas were moderate, being more on the line of philosophical. He encouraged monasteries to accept all who wanted to enter, whether they were converted or not.
p. 243. In early years of Augustine’s writings he emphasizes freewill, as opposed to later years where he emphasizes grace.
pp. 250-270. Surprisingly, Augustine was poor at sermons, attendance was modest at the Roman port of Hippo, and Augustine spent a lot of time officiating over court cases brought to the church by members instead of them going to secular courts, per 1 Cor 6. He was also a poor judge of character and many took advantage of the grace afforded to those in need. He became known as a sympathetic judge. This was even the case of priests in attendance and those fleeing from slavery. (Constantine gave privilege, “manumission,” to freed slaves in 401 AD.) When unable to collect sufficient funds, Augustine melts down the sacred vessels of his church to pay the ransom for some of his congregation held by an African tribe. But even with all this work, he makes the time to defend the faith in his letters and voluminous writings, especially against heresies. He was a great debater and was considered arrogant due to his “intolerance of heresy and zeal for conversion” (p. 270).
p. 356. Orosius, a Spanish priest is assigned to write a history of the world by Augustine to explain that it was not Christianity’s fault that Rome fell and along with it Paganism during the end of the 4th century. Orosius’s work had little effect upon Augustine and his ideals which he started writing of (410 AD) in his “City of God” ---a 22-book work. P. 358, Orosius is with him in 416 when Augustine is starting his 11th book (he completes the work in 427).
p.359. In a theodicy vain in his first book, Augustine writes that bad Christians suffer due to their sin; good Christians suffer for purification and trial.
p. 362-363. In the “City of God” (books 11-16) he argues that the giants in Gen 6 are likely mammoths that the angels hid on a far island during the flood; that Abraham did not lie about Sera being his wife; that the patriarchs were indifferent to sexual pleasure and only procreated to expand their race out of social duty. In the concluding books on “last thing” he uses the life of the salamander to illustrate the eternal fire of hell in rebuking the misericordes nostri (tender hearted) who claimed otherwise. [Note that St. Paul tells the church to be “tender hearted,” kind and forgiving just as God in Christ has forgiven them (Ephe 4:32).] McCabe does not mention that Orosius tried to convince Augustine that the “eternal” in the Greek meant “age-long,” as Hanson mentions on p. 273 of his book: Universalism, The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years. (Augustine was not convinced by Orosius, which is not surprising since Augustine himself says he couldn’t read Greek (p. 17).) However, McCabe does write of the consensus of Augustine’s book on last things: “the general feeling amongst historical writers that the work cannot have had a great influence on its age, though it became the chief monument of Augustine’s learning and power in after years” (p.363). McCabe continues by saying it was a “great work” and “remarkable achievement,” even though “Augustine had little leisure for sustained reflection, and even less opportunity to complete his faulty erudition.” Here it seems McCabe is referring to Augustine’s faulty theology relative to “eternal fire.” This seems to me to have crippled the actual “good news” gospel by the sixth century, for the teaching became that of an “eternal” hell instead of an “age-long” hell determined by the grace and acceptance of the true gospel in Christ. This “age-long” truth is describe at length in the book: God’s Great Scheme; All Creation for Christ, Christian Holism (2015).
p. 380-392. In one of his commentaries, Augustine writes that he cannot understand the reason for women other than procreation, claiming they are res perforanda, “things boring.” Augustine claimed that intercourse should only be for procreation and not include sexual pleasure, that being sinful. He was opposed to divorce and considered it okay for a husband to impregnate a concubine to rear children if his wife could not produce. Remarriage by a widow was worse than adultery for Augustine, and his overall view of women was that they were inferior to men. He believed sexual feelings a result of original sin and if Adam and Eve had not sinned, procreation would be as tranquil and of “mechanical smoothness of respiration,” so writes McCabe.
p. 395. In his little book On the Care of the Dead (421 AD), Augustine commends the practice of prayers for the dead, “though he thinks the prayers will only be of service to them---he does not, unfortunately, develop this hint at a purgatory, and we know he maintains the eternity of hell---in proportion to the righteousness of their conduct on earth,” McCabe writes. I take this to mean that Augustine believed prayers for the dead would lessen the level of wrath for those in an eternal hell.
p. 400. In early years Augustine repudiated the worship of the saints, but in latter years “yielded largely to the growing popular feeling.”
p. 401. McCabe quotes M. Nourisson, a French writer who critiqued Augustine for being opposed to the liberty of conscience, private property, toil and the love of glory, the march of civilization and science, while enthrones theocracy and justifies slavery. McCabe then justifies all these harsh words by noting Augustine’s early and later life issues.
p. 406-407. In early life Augustine was for reason over faith, but after having to defend the church against so many intellectual heretics bent on reasoning ideal, he changed to prefer “faith goeth before understanding,” especially when it came to the masses.
p.448. It is interesting that the theological aspects of predestination versus freewill began by the end of the fifth century, an outcome of the controversy between Pelagian and Augustinian ideas. Cassian tried to harmonize their opinions into a more “cooperative” understanding between God’s unmerited grace and individual acceptance.
p. 500. The only noted miracle Augustine performed was of a man’s ailment by the laying on of hands. Augustine had a fever at the time and was reluctant to oblige the man’s request until the man told him of his dream to go see Augustine. (Augustine was first thinking if he couldn’t cure himself how could he cure another.) McCabe writes that Possidius does “vaguely refer to some cases of the expulsion of devils, but that could scarcely be accounted a miracle in the early centuries of the Christian era.”
p. 501. Augustine died on August 28, 430 AD at the age of 76, with good eyesight and hearing, his slight frame sustaining his 60 years of untiring exertion for the church.