TALK ONE (120m)

 

---- Picture - St. Augustine (http://www.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/~ha/augustine/)

 

Historical background

After Aristotle the circumstances of Greek life were greatly transformed. Alexander The Great led a Greek army into the Persian empire and defeated it. Large Greek kingdoms were established in the area formerly held by the Persians, including Egypt and Palestine. In Egypt the new Greek city of Alexandria became an important cultural centre, with philosophical schools as important as those of Athens. In fact Alexandria became the centre of the education industry.

When the Romans took over the Greek kingdoms the Roman empire became culturally Greek. The culture of the Mediterranean world became hellenistic, meaning Greek-influenced; Greece itself became something of a backwater. The polis or city was no longer the highest political unit. Some of the philosophers called themselves "cosmopolitans", citizens of the cosmos, the world, rather than citizens of this or that particular city. In the Roman empire cities became very large, and there was little participation by ordinary people in politics. New philosophies became current, notably Stoicism. New religions were tried out by residents of the cities, and eventually Christianity prevailed. The Christian religion began among Jews but spread among Greek-speaking people throughout the Mediterranean region and then among the Latin-speaking people of the western part of the Roman empire.

 

Patristic Period

From the first to the sixth centuries of the Christian era is often called the Patristic period -- the period of the "fathers" (patres) of the Church, writers and churchmen who helped formulate orthodox Christian doctrine, drawing not only on the bible but on Greek philosophy. The fathers of the Church include Athanasius, Chrysostom, Origen, who wrote in Greek, and Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome and Gregory, who wrote in Latin.

The beliefs of Christians during these early centuries are best summarized as an historical narrative. The world did not always exist (Aristotle and other Greek philosophers had held that it did). Before the world came into existence God existed eternally. God is a single being but is also three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God created the world, including the first human pair, Adam and Eve. He created them in a state of innocence; they were originally sinless, and lived a happy life in the Garden of Eden. However they fell from innocence by a first sin, and were expelled from the garden. From then on human beings lived in sin and misery. To one particular favoured race, the Jews, God sent prophets, i.e. messengers, Moses being the first. Eventually he sent his own Son, Jesus Christ, who was God himself become man. Jesus allowed himself to be put to death by crucifixion, but rose again alive from the dead. By his death and resurrection Christ saved mankind and made it possible for some human beings to enjoy eternal happiness with God in heaven, in the next life, after death. Christians believed that the soul is immortal (i.e. that it does not die when the body does) and that on the last day the body will rise again and be reunited with the soul. When Jesus returned to heaven he left on earth the Christian Church. Human beings are saved by being baptised as members of the Church, by participating in its worship and living in accordance with its teachings. The leader of the Church in each district was its bishop. The bishops throughout the world on occasion met in ecumenical (world-wide) or general councils to discuss common concerns and to decide disputed doctrinal questions.

 

Notice some terms often encountered in Christian authors:

*                     "The Garden of Eden", in which Adam and Eve lived before they sinned.

*                     "Our first parents": Adam and Eve, from whom all human beings are descended.

*                     "The state of innocence": their state before they sinned, and state in which their descendants would have lived in if they had never sinned.

*                     "Original sin": the first sin of Adam and Eve, transmitted to their descendants.

*                     "The fall": the loss of innocence when the first sin occurred.

*                     "Heaven": life with God after death.

*                     "The future life": life after death, in "the next world" -- life of the soul, and then of soul and body reunited.)

 

The Bible

Like the Jewish religion, Christianity had a bible, consisting of the Jewish bible, which the Christians called the Old Testament, and the New Testament. The Old Testament had been translated from Hebrew into Greek by Jews living in Egypt. This version is called the Septuagint. The New Testament was originally written in Greek. It includes the four gospels (of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), which report the words and deeds of Jesus Christ, "The Acts of the Apostles", recording the early days of Christianity in Jerusalem and the missionary journeys of Paul which disseminated it among the Greeks, letters written by Paul and others to Christians in various cities, and a book called "Revelation" or "the Apocalypse", which is a denunciation in cryptic style of the evils of the time (often in later times taken as prediction).

The bible is a collection of many books originally written separately by different authors. The list of which books are to be included in the bible is called the canon of scripture. For the Old Testament the early Christians used the Septuagint canon, which included a number of books not included in the Hebrew bible. In the 16th century Protestants adopted the Hebrew canon and referred to the extra Septuagint books as apocrypha, meaning "hidden", perhaps because their authorship is obscure. There are also some "apocryphal" books associated with the New Testament, e.g. a gospel ascribed to Thomas.

From early times and throughout medieval times Christians interpreted the bible in what might now be called a fundamentalist way. That is, they believed that each and every statement anywhere in the bible, no matter what its subject matter, was certainly true, and therefore consistent with every other statement in the bible. A text might be metaphorical or figurative, its meaning might be obscure, it might be misunderstood; but in whatever meaning was intended by its author it must be true. They believed that the Holy Spirit, that is God himself, had guided the writers so that they included no errors of any sort.

For example, in Mk. 10:46 and in Lk. 18:35:

The modern reader would hardly hesitate to say that these are two accounts of the same event. But note that in Mark it happens "as he was leaving Jericho", in Luke "as he drew near to Jericho". The modem reader's reaction would probably be to say that this is a small discrepancy, of no importance: the main thing in both narratives is the miracle.

But Augustine writes:

Now the name of the city, and the resemblance of the deed, favour the supposition that there was but one such occurrence. But still, the idea that the evangelists [gospel writers] really contradict one another here, in so far as the one says, "As He was come nigh unto Jericho", while the others put it thus," As He came out of Jericho," is one which no one surely will be prevailed on to accept, unless those who would have it more readily credited that the gospel is unveracious, than that He wrought two miracles of a similar nature and in similar circumstances. But every faithful son of the gospel will most readily perceive which of these two alternatives is the more credible, and which the rather to be accepted as true. (Augustine, Harmony of the Gospels, p. 159.)

In other words, the veracity (truthfulness) of the gospel guarantees that two similar miracles occurred, one on the way into Jericho and one on the way out. It was not enough to accept the bible as substantially true, or true on matters of religious significance; a Christian had to accept each and every statement, about no matter what, as certainly true.

But although they treated the bible as infallible the fathers of the Church did not regard it as the only source of truth on religious matters. They made much use of Greek philosophy. Their purpose was not only to formulate orthodox doctrine, but also to understand, as far as possible, and for that they found philosophy useful (though they used it critically). They also took much of their teaching about morality from the Platonist and Stoic philosophers. Their writings transmitted and disseminated many of the ideas of the Greek philosophers through the centuries and throughout the world.

 

 

 

Augustine's life and thought

Augustine was born in North Africa, then a province of the Roman Empire, in 354AD. He became a teacher of rhetoric, was converted to a religious life, and became bishop of Hippo in 395. His writings have had a great influence on Christian thought. This is especially true of his writings on grace, against Pelagius. Pelagius, a popular preacher, taught that everyone could live a good life if they wanted to -- intending this as encouragement to good living. Augustine answered that no one can live a good life, or even want to, without special help from God which he does not always give. God's help is a "grace" --that is, it cannot be earned or deserved, but is given gratuitously, and only to "the elect" (chosen), i.e., those to whom God has chosen from eternity(predestined) to give it.

Augustine also elaborated the doctrine of Original Sin, i.e., that all human beings are subject to punishment because of Adam's sin. The punishment consists in ignorance and weakness of will which result in further sins which deserve eternal punishment -- unless God gives grace. On Augustine's doctrines of original sin, predestination and grace see Kelly Early Christian Doctrines(BT/2S/.K), pp. 357-69.

 

The City of God.

In 410 the Goths burnt Rome and pagans blamed Christians for the calamity. In instalments from 413 over thirteen years Augustine published The City of God, arguing in books I-V that the pagan gods never gave Rome any protection, and in books VI-X that paganism offered no eternal salvation. The rest of the work is about the origin, development and destination of two cities, the city of God and the earthly city. Thus it includes a discussion of the relationship between Christian and non-Christian views of life, and between Christianity and secular political life.

Book I. Augustine censures the pagans, who attributed the calamities of the world, and especially the sack of Rome by the Goths, to the Christian religion and its prohibition of the worship of the gods.

Book II. A review of the calamities suffered by the Romans before the time of Christ, showing that their gods had plunged them into corruption and vice.

Book III. The external calamities of Rome.

Book IV. That empire was given to Rome not by the gods, but by the One True God.

Book V. Of fate, freewill, and God's prescience, and of the source of the virtues of the ancient Romans.

Book VI. Of Varro's threefold division of theology, and of the inability of the gods to contribute anything to the happiness of the future life.

Book VII. Of the "select gods" of the civil theology, and that eternal life is not obtained by worshipping them.

Book VIII. Some account of the Socratic and Platonic philosophy, and are futation of the doctrine of Apuleius that the demons should be worshipped as mediators between gods and men.

Book IX. Of those who allege a distinction among demons, some being good and others evil.

Book X. Porphyry's doctrine of redemption.

Book XI. Augustine passes to the second part of the work, in which the origin, progress, and destinies of the earthly and heavenly cities are discussed. Speculations regarding the creation of the world.

Book XII. Of the creation of angels and men, and of the origin of evil.

Book XIII. That death is penal, and had its origin in Adam's sin.

Book XIV. Of the punishment and results of man's first sin, and of the propagation of man without lust.

Book XV. The progress of the earthly and heavenly cities traced by the sacred history.

Book XVI. The history of the city of God from Noah to the time of the kings of Israel.

Book XVII. The history of the city of God from the times of the prophets to Christ.

Book XVIII. A parallel history of the earthly and heavenly cities from the time of Abraham to the end of the world.

Book XIX. A review of the philosophical opinions regarding the Supreme Good, and a comparison of these opinions with the Christian belief regarding happiness.

Book XX. Of the last judgement, and the declarations regarding it in the Old andNew Testaments.

Book XXI. Of the eternal punishment of the wicked in hell, and of the various objections urged against it.

Book XXII. Of the eternal happiness of the saints, the resurrection of the body, and the miracles of the early Church.

 

In the course of this long work Augustine discusses many topics of philosophy and history:

*                     freewill and foreknowledge, V.8-10, XI.21;

*                     Socrates, VIII.3;

*                     Plato and the Platonists, VI 11.4-14;

*                     ethical theories, XIX.l9;

*                     sacrifice, X.4-7;

*                     time and eternity, X.31, XI.4 6;

                               the problem of evil. XII. 1-9. XIV.l 1. XXII.l.

BOOK I

THE PAGANS ATTRIBUTED THE CALAMITIES OF THE WORLD, AND ESPECIALLY THE RECENT SACK OF ROME BY THE GOTHS, TO THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, AND ITS PROHIBITION OF THE WORSHIP OF THE GODS.

 THE glorious city of God is my theme in this work, which you, my dearest son Marcellinus, suggested, and which is due to you by my promise. I have undertaken its defense against those who prefer their own gods to the Founder of this city, a city surpassingly glorious, whether we view it as it still lives by faith in this fleeting course of time, and sojourns as a stranger in the midst of the ungodly, or as it shall dwell in the fixed stability of its eternal seat, which it now with patience waits for, expecting until "righteousness shall return unto judgment," and it obtain, by virtue of its excellence, final victory and perfect peace. A great work this, and an arduous; but God is my helper. For I am aware what ability is requisite to persuade the proud how great is the virtue of humility, which raises us, not by a quite human arrogance, but by a divine grace, above all earthly dignities that totter on this shifting scene. For the King and Founder of this city of which we speak, has in Scripture uttered to His people a dictum of the divine law in these words: "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." But this, which is God's prerogative, the inflated ambition of a proud spirit also affects, and dearly loves that this be numbered among its attributes, to "Show pity to the humbled soul, And crush the sons of pride." And therefore, as the plan of this work we have undertaken requires, and as occasion offers, we must speak also of the earthly city, which, though it be mistress of the nations, is itself ruled by its lust of rule.

 

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ST: P1, Q15, A1 - Of Ideas

Whether there are ideas?    I answer that, It is necessary to suppose ideas in the divine mind. For the Greek word {Idea} is in Latin "forma." Hence by ideas are understood the forms of things, existing apart from the things themselves. Now the form of anything existing apart from the thing itself can be for one of two ends: either to be the type of that of which it is called the form, or to be the principle of the knowledge of that thing, inasmuch as the forms of things knowable are said to be in him who knows them. In either case we must suppose ideas, as is clear for the following reason:

   In all things not generated by chance, the form must be the end of any generation whatsoever. But an agent does not act on account of the form, except in so far as the likeness of the form is in the agent, as may happen in two ways. For in some agents the form of the thing to be made pre-exists according to its natural being, as in those that act by their nature; as a man generates a man, or fire generates fire. Whereas in other agents (the form of the thing to be made pre-exists) according to intelligible being, as in those that act by the intellect; and thus the likeness of a house pre-exists in the mind of the builder. And this may be called the idea of the house, since the builder intends to build his house like to the form conceived in his mind. As then the world was not made by chance, but by God acting by His intellect, as will appear later(Question [46], Article [1]), there must exist in the divine mind a form to the likeness of which the world was made. And in this the notion of an idea consists.