Who Was Saint Augustine?

Who Was Saint Augustine?

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History About Saint Augustine

Augustine was perhaps the greatest Christian philosopher of Antiquity and certainly the one who exerted the deepest and most lasting influence. He is a saint of the Catholic Church, and his authority in theological matters was universally accepted in the Latin Middle Ages and remained, in the Western Christian tradition, virtually uncontested till the nineteenth century. The impact of his views on sin, grace, freedom and sexuality on Western culture can hardly be overrated. These views, deeply at variance with the ancient philosophical and cultural tradition, provoked however fierce criticism in Augustine’s lifetime and have, again, been vigorously opposed in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries from various (e.g., humanist, liberal, feminist) standpoints. Philosophers keep however being fascinated by his often innovative ideas on language, on skepticism and knowledge, on will and the emotions, on freedom and determinism and on the structure of the human mind and, last but not least, by his way of doing philosophy, which is—though of course committed to the truth of biblical revelation—surprisingly undogmatic and marked by a spirit of relentless inquiry. His most famous work, the Confessiones, is unique in the ancient literary tradition but greatly influenced the modern tradition of autobiography; it is an intriguing piece of philosophy from a first-person perspective. Because of his importance for the philosophical tradition of the Middle Ages he is often listed as the first medieval philosopher. But even though he was born several decades after the emperor Constantine I had terminated the anti-Christian persecutions and, in his mature years, saw the anti-pagan and anti-heretic legislation of Theodosius I and his sons, which virtually made Catholic (i.e., Nicene) Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, Augustine did not live in a “medieval” Christian world. Pagan religious, cultural and social traditions were much alive in his congregation, as he often deplores in his sermons, and his own cultural outlook was, like that of most of his learned upper-class contemporaries, shaped by the classical Latin authors, poets and philosophers whom he studied in the schools of grammar and rhetoric long before he encountered the Bible and Christian writers. Throughout his work he engages with pre- and non-Christian philosophy, much of which he knew from firsthand. Platonism in particular remained a decisive ingredient of his thought. He is therefore best read as a Christian philosopher of late antiquity shaped by and in constant dialogue with the classical tradition.

Translations from Greek or Latin texts in this entry are by the author, unless otherwise stated. Biblical quotations are translated from Augustine’s Latin version; these may differ from the Greek or Hebrew original and/or from the Latin Vulgate.

  • 1. Life
  • 2. Work
  • 3. Augustine and Philosophy
  • 4. The Philosophical Tradition; Augustine’s Platonism
  • 5. Theory of Knowledge

1. Life

Augustine (Aurelius Augustinus) lived from 13 November 354 to 28 August 430. He was born in Thagaste in Roman Africa (modern Souk Ahras in Algeria). His mother Monnica (d. 388), a devout Christian, seems to have exerted a deep but not wholly unambiguous influence on his religious development. His father Patricius (d. 372) was baptized on his deathbed. Augustine himself was made a catechumen early in his life. His studies of grammar and rhetoric in the provincial centers of Madauros and Carthage, which strained the financial resources of his middle-class parents, were hoped to pave his way for a future career in the higher imperial administration. In Carthage at the age of ca. 18, he found a mistress with whom he lived in a monogamous union for ca. 14 years and who bore him a son, Adeodatus, who was baptized together with his father in Milan and died a little later (ca. 390) aged 18. Ca. 373 Augustine became a “hearer” (auditor) of Manicheism, a dualistic religion with Persian origins that, in Northern Africa, had developed into a variety of Christianity (and was persecuted by the state as a heresy). His adherence to Manicheism lasted for nine years and was strongly opposed by Monnica. Though probably active as a Manichean apologist and missionary, he never became one of the sect’s “elect” (electi), who were committed to asceticism and sexual abstinence. In 383 he moved to Milan, then the capital of the western half of the Empire, to become a publicly paid professor of rhetoric of the city and an official panegyrist at the Imperial court. Here he sent away his mistress to free the way for an advantageous marriage (a behavior presumably common for young careerists at that epoch). At Milan he underwent the influence of Bishop Ambrose (339–397), who taught him the allegorical method of Scriptural exegesis, and of some Neoplatonically inclined Christians who acquainted him with an understanding of Christianity that was philosophically informed and, to Augustine, intellectually more satisfactory than Manicheism, from which he had already begun to distance himself. The ensuing period of uncertainty and doubt—depicted in the Confessiones as a crisis in the medical sense—ended in summer 386, when Augustine converted to ascetic Christianity and gave up both his chair of rhetoric and his further career prospects. After a winter of philosophical leisure at the rural estate of Cassiciacum near Milan, Augustine was baptized by Ambrose at Easter 387 and returned to Africa, accompanied by his son, some friends and his mother, who died on the journey (Ostia, 388). In 391 he was, apparently against his will, ordained a priest in the diocese of the maritime city of Hippo Regius (modern Annaba/Bône in Algeria). About five years later (ca. 396) he succeeded the local bishop. This ecclesiastical function involved new pastoral, political, administrative and juridical duties, and his responsibility for and experiences with an ordinary Christian congregation may have contributed to modify his views on grace and original sin (Brown 2000: ch. 15). But his rhetorical skills equipped him well for his daily preaching and for religious disputes. Throughout his life as a bishop he was involved in religious controversies with Manicheans, Donatists, Pelagians and, to a lesser extent, pagans. Most of the numerous books and letters he wrote in that period were part of these controversies or at least inspired by them, and even those that were not (e.g., De Genesi ad litteramDe trinitate) combine philosophical or theological teaching with rhetorical persuasion (Tornau 2006a). Polemics against his former co-religionists, the Manicheans, looms large in his work until about 400; the debate with them helped to shape his ideas on the non-substantiality of evil and on human responsibility. The Donatist schism had its roots in the last great persecution at the beginning of the fourth century. The Donatists saw themselves as the legitimate successors of those who had remained steadfast during the persecution and claimed to represent the African tradition of a Christian “church of the pure”. Since 405 the Donatists were subsumed under the imperial laws against heresy and forced to re-enter the Catholic church by legal means; these measures were intensified after a conference at Carthage (411) had marked the official end of Donatism in Africa (Lancel & Alexander 1996–2002). By way of his assiduous writing against the Donatists, Augustine sharpened his ecclesiological ideas and developed a theory of religious coercion based on an intentionalist understanding of Christian love. Pelagianism (named after the British ascetic Pelagius) was a movement Augustine became aware of around 412. He and his African fellow-bishops managed to get it condemned as a heresy in 418. While not denying the importance of divine grace, Pelagius and his followers insisted that the human being was by nature free and able not to sin (possibilitas). Against this view, Augustine vigorously defended his doctrine of the human being’s radical dependence on grace, a conviction already voiced in the Confessiones but refined and hardened during the controversy. The last decade of Augustine’s life is marked by a vitriolic debate with the Pelagianist ex-bishop Julian of Aeclanum who accused Augustine of crypto-Manicheism and of denying free will while Augustine blamed him and the Pelagianists for evacuating Christ’s sacrifice by denying original sin (Drecoll 2012–2018). Controversy with pagan traditionalists seems to have reached a peak after 400, when Augustine refuted a series of objections against Christianity apparently extracted from Porphyry’s treatise Against the Christians (Letter 102; Bochet 2011), and after 410, when the city of Rome had been sacked by Alaric and his Goths. The City of God, Augustine’s great apology, was prompted by this symbolic event, though it is by no means just a response to pagan polemics. Augustine’s life ended when the Vandals besieged Hippo; he is said to have died with a word of Plotinus on his lips (Possidius, Vita Augustini 28.11, after Plotinus, Enneads I 4.7.23–24).

2. Work

Augustine’s literary output surpasses the preserved work of almost all other ancient writers in quantity. In the Retractationes (“Revisions”, a critical survey of his writings in chronological order down to 428 CE) he suggests a threefold division of his work into books, letters and sermons (Retractationes 1, prologue 1); about 100 books, 300 letters, and 500 sermons have survived. Augustine’s literary career after his conversion began with philosophical dialogues. The first of these, written in Cassiciacum in 386/7, deal with traditional topics such as skepticism (Contra Academicos), happiness (De beata vita), evil (De ordine) and the immortality of the soul (Soliloquia, De immortalitate animae). Augustine continued to pursue these issues in dialogues on the immateriality of the soul (De quantitate animae, 388), language and learning (De magistro, 388–391), freedom of choice and human responsibility (De libero arbitrio, begun in 388 and completed perhaps as late as 395) and the numeric structure of reality (De musica, 388–390). The treatise De vera religione (389–391) is a kind of summa of Augustine’s early Christian philosophy. After the start of his ecclesiastical career he abandoned the dialogue form, perhaps because he realized its elitist and potentially misleading character (G. Clark 2009; Catapano 2013). Of the works from his priesthood and episcopate, many are controversial writings against the Manicheans (e.g., Contra Faustum Manichaeum, around 400), the Donatists (e.g., Contra litteras Petiliani, 401–405; De baptismo, 404) and the Pelagians (e.g., De spiritu et littera, 412; Contra Iulianum, 422; De gratia et libero arbitrio, 424–427; and his last and unfinished work Contra Iulianum opus imperfectum, which preserves a substantial portion of the otherwise lost treatise Ad Florum by his Pelagian adversary Julian of Aeclanum). Among the philosophically most interesting of these works are De utilitate credendi (391–392, a defense of faith/belief against Manichean rationalism), De natura boni (399, a concise anti-Manichean argument for the doctrine that evil is a privation of goodness rather than an independent substance), De natura et gratia (413–417, a reply to Pelagius’ treatise De natura) and De correptione et gratia (426/427, refuting a Christian version of the Stoic ‘Lazy Argument’ that had been put forward against Augustine’s doctrine of grace). Augustine is however most famous for the five long treatises with a wider scope he composed between 396 and 426. The Confessiones (ca. 396–400), probably his most original work, is “philosophy in autobiography” (Mann 2014) rather than an autobiography in a modern sense. It shows how an individual life—Augustine’s own—is made sense of by God’s providence and grace as well as by his creation and economy of salvation. De doctrina christiana (begun in 396/7 but completed only in 426/7) is a handbook of biblical hermeneutics and Christian rhetoric; it delineates the semiotic dichotomy of “things” (res) and—especially linguistic—“signs” (signa) and critically assesses the importance of the classical disciplines for the biblical exegete. De trinitate (begun in 399 and completed in 419 or perhaps as late as 426) has impressed modern philosophical readers by its probing analyses of the human mind as an “image” of the Divine Trinity. De Genesi ad litteram (401/2–416) is an attempt at winning a philosophically justifiable cosmology from the opening chapters of Genesis. Here as in most of Augustine’s works philosophy is inseparable from biblical exegesis. The monumental apologetic treatise De civitate dei (begun in 412, two years after the sack of Rome, and completed in 426) argues that happiness can be found neither in the Roman nor the philosophical tradition but only through membership in the city of God whose founder is Christ. Among many other things, it has interesting reflections on the secular state and on the Christian’s life in a secular society. The sermons document Augustine’s ability to adapt complex ideas to a large and not overly learned audience. Two long series on the Psalms (Enarrationes in Psalmos, ca. 392–422) and the Gospel of John (In Iohannis evangelium tractatus, ca. 406–420) stand out; a series of sermons on the First Letter of John (In epistulam Iohannis ad Parthos tractatus decem, 407) is Augustine’s most sustained discussion of Christian love. The letters are not personal or intimate documents but public writings that are part of Augustine’s teaching and of his ecclesiastical politics. Some of them reach the length of full treatises and offer excellent philosophical discussions (Letter 155 on virtue; Letter 120 on faith and reason; Letter 147 on the “seeing” of God).

3. Augustine and Philosophy

From ancient thought Augustine inherited the notion that philosophy is “love of wisdom” (Confessiones 3.8; De civitate dei 8.1), i.e., an attempt to pursue happiness—or, as late-antique thinkers, both pagan and Christian, liked to put it, salvation—by seeking insight into the true nature of things and living accordingly. This kind of philosophy he emphatically endorses, especially in his early work (cf., e.g., Contra Academicos 1.1). He is convinced that the true philosopher is a lover of God because true wisdom is, in the last resort, identical with God, a point on which he feels in agreement with both Paul (1 Corinthians 1:24) and Plato (cf. De civitate dei 8.8). This is why he thinks that Christianity is “the true philosophy” (Contra Iulianum 4.72; the view is common among ancient, especially Greek, Christian thinkers) and that true philosophy and true (cultic) religion are identical (De vera religione 8). In case of doubt, practice takes precedence over theory: in the Cassiciacum dialogues Monnica, who represents the saintly but uneducated, is credited with a philosophy of her own (De ordine 1,31–32; 2.45). At the same time, Augustine sharply criticizes the “philosophy of this world” censured in the New Testament that distracts from Christ (Colossians 2:8). In his early work he usually limits this verdict to the Hellenistic materialist systems (Contra Academicos 3.42; De ordine 1.32); later he extends it even to Platonism because the latter denies the possibility of a history of salvation (De civitate dei 12.14). The main error he faults the philosophers with is arrogance or pride (superbia), a reproach that does not weigh lightly given that arrogance is, in Augustine’s view, the root of all sins. Out of arrogance the philosophers presume to be able to reach happiness through their own virtue (De civitate dei 19.4, a criticism primarily directed against the Stoics), and even those among them who have gained insight into the true nature of God and his Word (i.e., the Platonists) are incapable of “returning” to their divine “homeland” because they proudly reject the mediation of Christ incarnate and resort to proud and malevolent demons instead, i.e., to the traditional pagan cults and to theurgy (Confessiones 7.27; In evangelium Iohannis tractatus 2.2–4; De civitate dei 10.24–29; Madec 1989). In his first works Augustine epitomizes his own philosophical program with the phrase “to know God and the soul” (Soliloquia 1.7; De ordine 2.47) and promises to pursue it with the means provided by Platonic philosophy as long as these are not in conflict with the authority of biblical revelation (Contra Academicos 3.43). He thereby restates the old philosophical questions about the true nature of the human being and about the first principle of reality, and he adumbrates the key Neoplatonic idea that knowledge of our true self entails knowledge of our divine origin and will enable us to return to it (cf. Plotinus, Enneads VI.9.7.33–34). While these remain the basic characteristics of Augustine’s philosophy throughout his career, they are considerably differentiated and modified as his engagement with biblical thought intensifies and the notions of creation, sin and grace acquire greater significance. Augustine is entirely unaware of the medieval and modern distinction of “philosophy” and “theology”; both are inextricably intertwined in his thought, and it is unadvisable to try to disentangle them by focusing exclusively on elements that are deemed “philosophical” from a modern point of view.

4. The Philosophical Tradition; Augustine’s Platonism

Augustine tells us that at the age of eighteen Cicero’s (now lost) protreptic dialogue Hortensius enflamed him for philosophy (Confessiones 3.7), that as a young man he read Aristotle’s Categories (ib. 4.28) and that his conversion was greatly furthered by his Neoplatonic readings (ib. 7.13) as well as by the letters of Paul (ib. 7.27; Contra Academicos 2.5). He is more reticent about Manichean texts, of which he must have known a great deal (van Oort 2012). From the 390s onwards the Bible becomes decisive for his thought, in particular Genesis, the Psalms and the Pauline and Johannine writings (even though his exegesis remains philosophically impregnated), and his mature doctrine of grace seems to have grown from a fresh reading of Paul ca. 395 (see 7.6 Grace, Predestination and Original Sin).

The most lasting philosophical influence on Augustine is Neoplatonism. He does not specify the authors and the exact subjects of the “books of the Platonists” (Confessiones 7.13) translated into Latin by the fourth century Christian Neoplatonist Marius Victorinus (ib. 8.3) he read in 386. In the twentieth century there was an ongoing and sometimes heated debate on whether to privilege Plotinus (who is mentioned in De beata vita 4) or Porphyry (who is named first in De consensus evangelistarum 1.23 ca. 400) as the main Neoplatonic influence on Augustine (for summaries of the debate see O’Donnell 1992: II 421–424; Kany 2007: 50–61). Today most scholars accept the compromise that the “books of the Platonists” comprised some treatises of Plotinus (e.g., Enneads I.6, I.2, V.1, VI.4–5) and a selection from Porphyry (Sententiae and, perhaps, Symmikta Zetemata). In any event, the importance of this problem should not be overrated because Augustine seems to have continued his Neoplatonic readings after 386. Around 400 he had Porphyry’s Philosophy from the Oracles at his disposal; in De civitate dei 10 (ca. 417) he quotes from his Letter to Anebo and from an otherwise unattested anagogic treatise titled, in the translation used by Augustine, De regressu animae, the influence of which some have suspected already in Augustine’s earliest works. For the philosophy of mind in the second half of De trinitate he may have turned to Neoplatonic texts on psychology. While the exact sources of Augustine’s Neoplatonism elude us, source criticism has been able to determine some pervasive features of his thought that are doubtlessly Neoplatonic in origin: the transcendence and immateriality of God; the superiority of the unchangeable over the changeable (cf. Plato, Timaeus 28d); the ontological hierarchy of God, soul and body (Letter 18.2); the incorporeality and immortality of the soul; the dichotomy of the intelligible and the sensible realms (attributed to Plato in Contra Academicos 3.37); the non-spatial omnipresence of the intelligible in the sensible (Confessiones 1.2–4; Letter 137.4) and the causal presence of God in his creation (De immortalitate animae 14–15; De Genesi ad litteram 4.12.22); the existence of intelligible (Platonic) Forms that are located in the mind of God and work as paradigms of the sensible things (De diversis quaestionibus 46); the inwardness of the intelligible and the idea that we find God and Truth by turning inwards (De vera religione 72); the doctrine of evil as lack or privation of goodness; the understanding of the soul’s love of God as a quasi-erotic desire for true beauty (Confessiones 10.38; cf. Rist 1994: 155). A distinctly Platonic element is the notion of intellectual or spiritual ascent. Augustine thinks that by turning inwards and upwards from bodies to soul (i.e., from knowledge of objects to self-knowledge) and from the sensible to the intelligible we will finally be able to transcend ourselves and get in touch with the supreme being that is none other than God and Truth and that is more internal to us than our innermost self (Confessiones 3.11; MacDonald 2014: 22–26; Augustine’s biblical proof text is Romans 1:20, quoted, e.g., ib. 7.16). Ascents of this kind are ubiquitous in Augustine’s work (e.g., De libero arbitrio 2.7–39; Confessiones 10.8–38; De trinitate 8–15). Whether the condensed versions in the Confessiones (7.16; 7.23; 9.24–26) should be read as reports of mystical experiences is difficult to determine (Cassin 2017). An early version of the Augustinian ascent is the project—outlined in De ordine (2.24–52) but soon abandoned and virtually retracted in De doctrina christiana—of turning the mind to the intelligible and to God by means of a cursus in the liberal (especially mathematical) disciplines (Pollmann & Vessey 2005). It is remotely inspired by Plato’s Republic and may have had a Neoplatonic precedent (Hadot 2005), though use of Varro’s work on the disciplines cannot be excluded (Shanzer 2005). As late as De civitate dei 8 (ca. 417) he grants, in a brief doxography organized according to the traditional fields of physics, ethics and epistemology, that Platonism and Christianity share some basic philosophical insights, viz. that God is the first principle, that he is the supreme good and that he is the criterion of knowledge (De civitate dei 8.5–8; cf. already De vera religione 3–7). In spite of these important insights, Platonism cannot however lead to salvation because it is unable or unwilling to accept the mediation of Christ. It is, therefore, also philosophically defective (De civitate dei 10.32).

Cicero is Augustine’s main source for the Hellenistic philosophies, notably Academic skepticism and Stoicism. As a part of his cultural heritage, Augustine quotes him and the other Latin classics as it suits his argumentative purposes (Hagendahl 1967). His early ideal of the sage who is independent of all goods that one can lose against one’s will is inherited from Stoic ethics (De beata vita 11; De moribus 1.5; Wetzel 1992: 42–55). Though the implication that the sage’s virtue guarantees his happiness already in this life is later rejected as illusory (De trinitate 13.10; De civitate dei 19.4; Retractationes 1.2; Wolterstorff 2012), the Christian martyr can be styled in the manner of the Stoic sage whose happiness is immune to torture (Letter 155.16; Tornau 2015: 278). Augustine’s Manichean past was constantly on his mind, as his incessant polemics shows; its precise impact on his thought is however difficult to assess (van Oort (ed.) 2012; Fuhrer 2013; BeDuhn 2010 and 2013). The claim of Julian of Aeclanum that with his doctrine of predestination and grace Augustine had fallen back into Manichean dualism has appealed to some modern critics, but Julian must ignore essential features of Augustine’s thought (e.g., the notion of evil as privatio boni) to make his claim plausible (Lamberigts 2001).

5. Theory of Knowledge

5.1 Skepticism and Certainty

Augustine’s earliest surviving work is a dialogue on Academic skepticism (Contra Academicos or De Academicis, 386; Fuhrer 1997). He wrote it at the beginning of his career as a Christian philosopher in order to save himself and his readers from the “despair” that would have resulted if it could not be proven that, against the skeptic challenge, truth is attainable and knowledge and wisdom possible (cf. Retractationes 1.1.1). The sense of despair must have been very real to him when, after having broken with Manicheism but still being unable to see the truth of Catholic Christianity, he decided to “withhold assent until some certainty lighted up” (Confessiones 5.25). His information about skepticism does not come from a contemporary skeptic “school”, which hardly existed, but from Cicero’s Academica and Hortensius. Much of the discussion in Contra Academicos is thus devoted to the debate between Hellenistic Stoics and skeptics about the so-called “grasping” or kataleptic appearance, i.e., the problem whether there are appearances about the truth of which one cannot be mistaken because they are evident by themselves (Bermon 2001: 105–191). Unlike the original Stoics and Academics, Augustine limits the discussion to sense impressions because he wants to present Platonism as a solution to the skeptic problem and to point out a source of true knowledge unavailable to the Hellenistic materialists.

Unlike modern anti-skeptical lines of argumentation, Augustine’s refutation of skepticism does not aim at justifying our ordinary practices and beliefs. To refute the Academic claim that, since the wise person can never be sure whether she has grasped the truth, she will consistently withhold assent in order not to succumb to empty opinion, he thinks it sufficient to demonstrate the existence of some kind of knowledge that is immune to skeptical doubt. His strategy therefore consists in pointing out 1) the certainty of self-referential knowledge (the wise person “knows wisdom”, Contra Academicos 3.6; the Academic skeptic “knows” the Stoic criterion of truth, ib. 3.18–21); 2) the certainty of private or subjective knowledge (I am certain that something appears white to me even if I am ignorant whether it is really white, ib. 3.26); 3) the certainty of formal, logical or mathematical, structures (ib. 3.24–29), knowledge of which is possible independently of the mental state of the knower, whereas the reliability of sense impressions differs according as we are awake or dreaming, sane or insane. Modern critics have not been very impressed by these arguments (e.g., Kirwan 1989: 15–34), and an ancient skeptic would rightly have objected that being limited to subjective or formal knowledge, they could not justify the dogmatists’ claim to objective knowledge of reality (cf. Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism 1.13). Yet this is not Augustine’s point. To him it matters to have shown that even if maximal concessions are made to skepticism concerning the unknowability of the external world attainable by the senses, there remains an internal area of cognition that allows for and even guarantees certainty. This is why Contra Academicos ends with a sketch of Platonic epistemology and ontology and with an idiosyncratic if not wholly unparalleled reconstruction of the history of the Academy according to which the Academics were in fact crypto-Platonists who hid their insight into transcendent reality and restricted themselves to skeptical arguments to combat the materialist and sensualist schools dominant in Hellenistic times until authentic Platonism emerged again with Plotinus (Contra Academicos 3.37–43; the story is still told in Letter 118 of 410, where the renaissance of Platonism is however connected with the rise of Christianity). The only realities that meet the Hellenistic criterion of truth and guarantee absolute certainty by being self-evident are the Platonic Forms (Contra Academicos 3.39; cf. De diversis quaestionibus 9; Cary 2008a: 55–60). The “objects” of knowledge that appear in Augustine’s anti-skeptical arguments thus either are the Platonic Forms themselves or at least point out the way of accessing them. This squares with the early Augustine’s tendency to interpret the Forms, or at any rate the most basic among them, as “numbers”, i.e., as the formal and normative structures and standards that govern all reality and enable us to understand and evaluate it (De ordine 2.14; 16; De musica 6.57–58; O’Daly 1987: 101–102; see also 5.2 Illumination). Strictly speaking, Augustine’s anti-skeptical arguments do not justify the claim that knowledge can be derived from the senses; having sensible and mutable objects, they cannot but yield opinion or, at best, true belief. The later Augustine, in a more generous way of speaking, widens the term “knowledge” (scientia, to be distinguished from “wisdom”, sapientia) so as to include what we learn through sense perception and from reliable witnesses (De trinitate 15.21; cf. De civitate dei 8.7; Retractationes 1.14.3; Siebert 2018; see 5.3 Faith and Reason).

Augustine’s most famous anti-skeptical argument is what is commonly called his “cogito-like” argument because it is similar to (and probably inspired) the Cogito of Descartes (Matthews 1992; Menn 1998; Fuchs 2010). Like Descartes’, Augustine’s cogito establishes an area immune to skeptical doubt by inferring from my awareness of my own existence the truth of the proposition “I exist”. Even if I were in error in uttering this proposition, it would still be true that I, who am in error, exist (De civitate dei 11.26: si enim fallor, sum; for the exact reconstruction of this argument cf. Horn 1995: 81–87; Matthews 2005: 34–42). The argument does not yet appear in Contra Academicos but is easily recognized as a development of the argument from subjective knowledge (Contra Academicos 3.26); Augustine considers it a valid refutation of skepticism from his earliest (De beata vita 7) to his latest works (De trinitate 15.21; for further attestations see Soliloquia 2.1; De duabus animabus 13; De libero arbitrio 2.7; De vera religione 73; Confessiones 7.5; 13.12). The scope of the argument in Augustine is both wider and narrower than in Descartes. The Augustinian cogito lacks the systematic importance of its Cartesian counterpart; there is no attempt to found a coherent and comprehensive philosophy on it. On some occasions, however, it works as a starting point for the Augustinian ascent to God (De libero arbitrio 2.7, where the ascent leads to an understanding of God as immutable truth and wisdom; for a condensed version, cf. De vera religione 72–73, where Augustine even makes supra-rational Truth the source and criterion of the truth of the cogito itself). The most impressive example is the second half of De trinitate. Here the attempt to reach a rational understanding of the mystery of the Trinity by means of an inquiry into the structure of the human mind starts with an analysis of the mind’s inalienable self-love and self-awareness (see 6.2 The Human Mind as an Image of God; Augustine does not, however, claim that the mind’s certainty about itself entails a similar certainty about the nature of God). Augustine’s cogito argument is not limited to epistemology but can also be employed in an ethical context because it proves not only my existence and my thinking (and, by implication, my being alive) but also my loving and willing. I am as certain that I will as I am certain that I exist and live, and my will is as undeniably mine as is my existence and my life. Therefore, my volitions are imputable to me, and it is I who am responsible for my choices (and not some evil substance present in my soul but foreign to my own self, as, on Augustine’s interpretation, Manichean dualism would have it; cf. De duabus animabus 13; Confessiones 7.5; De civitate dei 5.10).

5.2 Illumination

Augustine’s theory of knowledge—his so-called doctrine of illumination—is a distinctly non-empiricist epistemology based on a probably Neoplatonic reading of Plato’s doctrine of recollection (Burnyeat 1987; MacDonald 2012b; King 2014a: 147–152; Karfíková 2017). Like Plato and his followers, Augustine thinks that true knowledge requires first-hand acquaintance; second-hand information, e.g., from reliable testimony, may yield true and even justifiable belief, but not knowledge in the strict sense. In the case of sensible objects—which, strictly speaking, do not admit of knowledge at all but only opinion—such first-hand acquaintance is possible through sense perception. Cognition of intelligible objects, however, can be neither reached empirically by means of abstraction nor transmitted to us linguistically by a human teacher (see 5.4 Language and Signs); rather, such cognition requires personal intellectual activity that results in an intellectual insight, which we judge by a criterion we find nowhere but in ourselves. The paradigm of this kind of cognition are mathematical and logical truths and fundamental moral intuitions, which we understand not because we believe a teacher or a book but because we see them for ourselves (De magistro 40, cf. De libero arbitrio 2.34). The condition of possibility and the criterion of truth of this intellectual insight is none other than God (a view attributed, with explicit approval, to the Platonists in De civitate dei 8.7), who, in the manner of a Neoplatonic immaterial principle, is both immanent and transcendent in relation to our soul. Augustine mostly explains this Platonizing theory of a priori knowledge by means of two striking images: the inner teacher and illumination. The former is introduced in the dialogue De magistro (ca. 390) and remains frequent especially in the sermons (e.g., In epistulam Iohannis ad Parthos tractatus decem 3.13; Fuhrer 2018b); according to it, Christ is present in our souls and by “presiding over” them like a teacher guarantees the truthfulness of our understanding (De magistro 38–39, cf. Ephesians 3:17 for the image and, for the idea that truth “lives in the inner man”, De vera religione 72). The latter appears first in the Soliloquia (1.12–15) and is ubiquitous in Augustine’s writings (cf. esp. De trinitate 12.24). It is ultimately derived from the Analogy of the Sun in Plato’s Republic (508a-509b; cf. Rist 1994: 78–79). In the Soliloquia Augustine says, in a manner strongly reminiscent of Plato, that just as the sun is both visible itself and illumines the objects of sight so as to enable the eye to see them, God is intelligible himself and illumines the intelligible objects (which are here identified with the objects of the liberal disciplines and subordinated to God) so as to enable reason (the “eye” of the soul) to activate its capacity for intellection. The later version in De trinitate explicitly presents divine illumination as an alternative to Platonic recollection and situates it in the framework of a theory of creation. Here Augustine says that the human mind has been created by God in such a way as to be “connected” to intelligible reality “from below” (subiuncta) and with a capacity (capacitas) that enables it to “see” the intelligibles in the light of intelligible truth, just as the eye is by nature able to see colors in the light of the sun. Obviously, “capacity” in this case does not mean pure potentiality (as in the tabula rasa theory endorsed by Augustine’s interlocutor Euodius in De quantitate animae 34) but comprises at least implicit or latent knowledge of moral and epistemological standards. Both images, if properly read, should preclude the misunderstanding that Augustine’s gnoseology makes human knowledge entirely dependent on divine agency, with the human being becoming merely a passive recipient of revelation (cf. Gilson 1943: ch. 4 and Lagouanère 2012: 158–180 for the debates about Augustinian illumination in medieval and modern philosophy). Cognition does not simply result from the presence of Christ in our soul but from our “consulting” the inner teacher, i.e., our testing propositions that claim to convey a truth about intelligible reality (or even a general truth about sensible objects, cf. Letter 13.3–4) against the inner standards we possess thanks to the presence of Christ (De magistro 37–38; this way of “consulting” the inner truth is repeatedly dramatized in the Confessiones, e.g., 11.10; 11.31; Cary 2008b: 100). And while every human being is “illumined” by the divine light at least from behind so as to be able to pass true judgments about right and wrong or good and evil, in order to develop these natural intuitions to full knowledge or wisdom and to be able actually to lead a virtuous life, we need to convert to God, the “source” of the light (De trinitate 14.21). Thus, while all human beings are by nature capable of accessing intelligible truth, only those succeed in doing so who have a sufficiently good will (De magistro 38)—presumably those who endorse Christian religion and live accordingly. This strong voluntary element intimately connects Augustine’s epistemology with his ethics and, ultimately, with his doctrine of grace (on the parallel structure of cognition and grace in Augustine see Lorenz 1964). Like all human agency, striving for wisdom takes place under the conditions of a fallen world and meets the difficulties and hindrances humanity is subject to because of original sin.

In order to illustrate what he means by “seeing things by ourselves” “in the light of truth”, Augustine often cites the example of the Socratic maieutic dialogue (De magistro 40; cf. De immortalitate animae 6; De trinitate 12.24), and in some passages of his early work he seems to subscribe to the Platonic doctrine of recollection (familiar to him from Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 1.57) in such a way as to imply the preexistence of the soul (Soliloquia 2.35, retracted in Retractationes 1.4.4; De immortalitate animae 6; De quantitate animae 34, retracted in Retractationes 1.8.2). It is difficult to tell whether the early Augustine literally believed in recollection and preexistence (Karfíková 2017; O’Daly 1987: 70–75; 199–207), not least because he was aware that some Neoplatonists interpreted Platonic recollection as an actualization of our ever-present but latent knowledge of the intelligible rather than as a remembrance of our past acquaintance with it (Letter 7.2, cf. Plotinus, Enneads IV.3.25.31–33; O’Daly 1976). If, as in De immortalitate animae 6, recollection is taken to prove the immortality of the soul (as it did in the Phaedo), it is hard to see how preexistence should not be implied. In any event, it is imprecise to say, as it is sometimes done, that Augustine gave up the theory of recollection because he realized that preexistence was at variance with Christian faith. In De civitate dei (12.14 etc.) Augustine emphatically rejects Platonic-Pythagorean metempsychosis or the transmigration of souls as incompatible with eternal happiness and the economy of salvation, and in De trinitate (12.24) the Meno version of the recollection theory, which implies transmigration, is rejected in favor of illumination. Yet it is a fallacy to claim that recollection entails transmigration. The early Augustine may have believed in preexistence (perhaps simply as a corollary of the immortality of the soul), but there is no evidence that he believed in the transmigration of souls; conversely, his rejection of transmigration did not prevent even the late Augustine from considering preexistence—at least theoretically—an option for the origin of the soul (Letter 143.6 from 412; cf. 6.1 Soul as a Created Being).

5.3 Faith and Reason

Whereas modern discussion tends to regard faith and reason as alternative or even mutually exclusive ways to (religious) truth, in Augustine’s epistemological and exegetical program the two are inseparable. He rejects the rationalism of the philosophers and, especially, the Manicheans as an unwarranted over-confidence into the abilities of human reason resulting from sinful pride and as an arrogant neglect of the revelation of Christ in Scripture (De libero arbitrio 3.56; 60; Confessiones 3.10–12). Against the fideism he encountered in some Christian circles (cf. Letter 119 from Consentius to Augustine) he insisted that it was good and natural to employ the rational capacity we have been created with to search for an understanding of the truths we accept from the authority of the biblical revelation, even though a true understanding of God will only be possible after this life when we see him “face to face” (Letter 120.3–4). In this epistemological and exegetical program, which since Anselm of Canterbury has aptly been labeled as “faith seeking understanding” (cf. De trinitate 15.2: fides quaerit, intellectus invenit) or “understanding of faith” (intellectus fidei), faith is prior to understanding in time but posterior to it in importance and value (De ordine 2.26; De vera religione 45; Letter 120.3; van Fleteren 2010). The first step toward perfection is to believe the words of Scripture; the second is to realize that the words are outward signs of an internal and intelligible reality and that they admonish us to turn to and to “consult” inner truth so as to reach true understanding and, accordingly, the good life (cf. 5.2 Illumination5.4 Language and Signs). Philosophical argument may be of help in this process; yet as Augustine notes as early as in Contra Academicos (3.43), it needs to be tied to the authority of Scripture and the Creed to prevent the frailty of human reason from going astray (cf. Confessiones 7.13). The Augustine of the earliest dialogues seems to have entertained the elitist idea that those educated in the liberal arts and capable of the Neoplatonic intellectual ascent may actually outgrow authority and achieve a full understanding of the divine already in this life (De ordine 2.26, but contrast ib. 2.45 on Monnica). In his later work, he abandons this hope and emphasizes that during this life, inevitably characterized by sin and weakness, every human being remains in need of the guidance of the revealed authority of Christ (Cary 2008b: 109–120). Faith is thus not just an epistemological but also an ethical category; it is essential for the moral purification we need to undergo before we can hope for even a glimpse of true understanding (Soliloquia 1.12; De diversis quaestionibus 48; De trinitate 4.24; Rist 2001). To a great extent, Augustine’s defense of faith as a valid epistemic category rests on a rehabilitation of true belief against the philosophical (Platonic and Hellenistic) tradition. Augustine neatly distinguishes “belief” (fides, the word he also uses for religious faith), which entails the believer’s awareness that he does not know, from “opinion” (opinio), defined by the philosophers as the illusion of knowing what one in fact does not know (De utilitate credendi 25; Letter 120.3). Without belief in the former sense, we would have to admit that we are ignorant of our own lineage (Confessiones 6.7) and of the objects of the historical and empirical sciences, of which, as Augustine asserts in a critique of Platonism, first-hand knowledge is rarely possible (De trinitate 4.21). The belief that a person we have not seen was or is just may trigger our fraternal love for him (De trinitate 8.7; Bouton-Touboulic 2012: 182–187; conversely, Augustine asks those who are united with him in fraternal love to believe what he tells them about his life, Confessiones 10.3). And obviously, the crucial events of the history of salvation, Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection, cannot be known but only believed qua historical events, even though qua signs they may lead to understanding by prompting us to an intelligible truth (De trinitate 13.2). Thus, while no doubt faith in revelation precedes rational insight into its true meaning, the decision about whose authority to believe and whom to accept as a reliable witness is itself reasonable (De vera religione 45; Letter 120.3). Even so, belief may of course be deceived (De trinitate 8.6). In ordinary life, this is inevitable and mostly unproblematic. A more serious problem is the justification of belief in Scripture, which, for Augustine, is the tradition and authority (auctoritas, not potestas) of the Church (Contra epistulam fundamenti 5.6; Rist 1994: 245).

5.4 Language and Signs

Augustine’s philosophy of language is both indebted to the Stoic-influenced Hellenistic and Roman theories of grammar and highly innovative (Rist 1994: 23–40; King 2014b). He follows the Stoics in distinguishing between the sound of a word, its meaning and the thing it signifies (De dialectica 5; De quantitate animae 66; cf. Sextus Empiricus, Adversus mathematicos 8.11–12 = 33B Long-Sedley), but he seems to have been the first to interpret language as such as a system of signs and to integrate it into a general semiotics (Fuhrer 2018a: 1696; Cary 2008b; Mayer 1969 and 1974). In his handbook of biblical exegesis and Christian rhetoric, De doctrina christiana (1.2; 2.1–4), Augustine divides the world into “things” and “signs” (i.e., things that, apart from being what they are, signify other things) and furthermore distinguishes between “natural” or involuntary signs (e.g., smoke signifying fire) and voluntary or “given” signs (a distinction akin, but not equivalent, to the older discussion about nature or convention as the origin of language).

To read more about the article: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?

I would start out by saying what Jesus Christ would want us to do? Pray and how should we pray? The Lord’s Prayer, and how often should we pray? Continually. Why do we use the Lord’s Prayer and not some other? The Lord’s Prayer covers all the areas that is important for our spiritual being.

When we pray the Lords prayer we ask to forgive our enemies, let God’s will be done, the kingdom to come. By praying the Lord’s prayer we let go of many thoughts we have in our head and give them back to God so we can have things revealed to us.

We must overcome resentment in our heart, and in a past video I shared about Dr. Jordan Peterson talks about how resentment can destroy us and we become our own very worst enemy and Jordan goes on to say that we must talk to people what we have resentment toward to overcome that resentment. Other people who lived in the past who talked about this is Jesus Christ and someone who is living now who talks about this daily is Brother Augustine, Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. Charles Stanley, Rev. John Piper and Pastor Paul Washer.

Women are looking for a fathers love

Women are looking for a fathers love. Its important that men understand women are looking for a fathers love and not get screwed. Woman more than anything are looking for a strong spiritual man to lead the future (the family). I think in many YouTube videos on biblical teachings, how young women are being hurt by men that are just looking to get laid instead of doing right and being in christ and setting a good example of a strong man. We must be in Christ, hate no one, love all, forgave thoses we resent, love what is right and support people who are walking with God.

Women need their fathers in their lives to be strong man to be good examples and not BETA men or weak examples of what a man should be. Its important that a man leads the way as Christ leads men, we as man need to fellow Jesus Christ to keep society from going to HELL.

Every day you can see or people watch how some men and women our living in hell without the right spiritual order then you will continue your hellish way according to 2 Peter. You can also find it in Romans. God will give you over to a reprobate mind.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient. – Romans 1:28 (KJV)

In Romans 1, Paul refers to something known as a reprobate mind. If you’re not familiar with the term reprobate, the literal definition in the Greek is failing to pass the test, unapproved, counterfeit.

1 Corinthians 11:3 But I would have you know, that the mademanministries

Spiritual Order – In The Family and Church

God the father

Jesus Christ

Father (Men over women)

Mother (Women over children)

Here is Book, Chapter and Verse from the Kings James Version 1 Corinthian 11:2-16, But the main messsage is in 1 Corinthian 11:3: “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.”


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The Ten Lepers

How God Commands Us To Forgive Those Who We Have Resentment Toward.

All of us are tested everyday by our personal internal struggle coming from resentment of what happened earlier in our lives as children typically what our mother did to us, telling how our fathers were not good enough or driving us away from our fathers when we were children. We most go to the people that we have resentment against and forgive them. By forgiving our mothers or whoever we have resentment against, God will forgive us and we can return to the heavenly Father through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It was said if you don’t love everyone then you love no one. People today live like the Old Testament people did. We must forgive and love everyone as God Commanded us to do according to Matthew 22:34-40.

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After Reading The Passage I would Recommend Doing A Silent Prayer

Its is said: Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10 King James Version (KJV)

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Jesus is an example of a Fathers love

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Uniting men of good character who, though of different ethnic or social backgrounds, share a belief in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of mankind. Bring Men back to the Father and sharing the biblical view of the Heavenly Father.

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By returning to our heavenly father God thru the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we can rebuilt the family, once the man is recognized as the head of the family and household. Partner with us as we develop a community, mission, and leadership support for the men of today.

Now is the time for a new movement of men. As brothers, fathers let’s become who we’re created to be, knowing our identity, purpose, and destiny in Christ. Then let’s do, linking arms to change the world for good … and for God. Help bring transformation and revival to our families, churches, and communities.

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Hope this post was helpful to you and that you have a very successful Daily Bible Study with your friends and family!  Check out the other sections of my blog for more tips on MadeManMinistries.

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