The Augustinian Person

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Against the Pelagians , Augustine strongly stressed the importance of infant baptism. About the question whether baptism is an absolute necessity for salvation, however, Augustine appears to have refined his beliefs during his lifetime, causing some confusion among later theologians about his position. He said in one of his sermons that only the baptized are saved.

However, a passage from his City of God , concerning the Apocalypse , may indicate that Augustine did believe in an exception for children born to Christian parents. Augustine's contemporaries often believed astrology to be an exact and genuine science. Its practitioners were regarded as true men of learning and called mathemathici. Astrology played a prominent part in Manichaean doctrine, and Augustine himself was attracted by their books in his youth, being particularly fascinated by those who claimed to foretell the future.

Later, as a bishop, he used to warn that one should avoid astrologers who combine science and horoscopes. Augustine's term "mathematici", meaning "astrologers", is sometimes mistranslated as "mathematicians". According to Augustine, they were not genuine students of Hipparchus or Eratosthenes but "common swindlers". Epistemological concerns shaped Augustine's intellectual development. His early dialogues [ Contra academicos and De Magistro ], both written shortly after his conversion to Christianity, reflect his engagement with sceptical arguments and show the development of his doctrine of divine illumination.

The doctrine of illumination claims that God plays an active and regular part in human perception as opposed to God designing the human mind to be reliable consistently, as in, for example, Descartes' idea of clear and distinct perceptions and understanding by illuminating the mind so that human beings can recognize intelligible realities that God presents. According to Augustine, illumination is obtainable to all rational minds, and is different from other forms of sense perception.

It is meant to be an explanation of the conditions required for the mind to have a connection with intelligible entities. Augustine also posed the problem of other minds throughout different works, most famously perhaps in On the Trinity VIII. Augustine asserted that Christians should be pacifists as a personal, philosophical stance. Defence of one's self or others could be a necessity, especially when authorized by a legitimate authority. While not breaking down the conditions necessary for war to be just, Augustine coined the phrase in his work The City of God.

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The Benedict Option or the Augustinian Call?

Included in Augustine's earlier theodicy is the claim that God created humans and angels as rational beings possessing free will. Free will was not intended for sin, meaning it is not equally predisposed to both good and evil. A will defiled by sin is not considered as "free" as it once was because it is bound by material things, which could be lost or be difficult to part with, resulting in unhappiness.

Sin impairs free will, while grace restores it. Only a will that was once free can be subjected to sin's corruption. The early Christians opposed the deterministic views e. The Catholic Church considers Augustine's teaching to be consistent with free will. Augustine led many clergy under his authority at Hippo to free their slaves "as an act of piety".

Christian emperors of his time for 25 years had permitted sale of children, not because they approved of the practice, but as a way of preventing infanticide when parents were unable to care for a child.

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Augustine noted that the tenant farmers in particular were driven to hire out or to sell their children as a means of survival. In his book, The City of God , he presents the development of slavery as a product of sin and as contrary to God's divine plan. He wrote that God "did not intend that this rational creature, who was made in his image, should have dominion over anything but the irrational creation — not man over man, but man over the beasts". Thus he wrote that righteous men in primitive times were made shepherds of cattle, not kings over men.

Saint Anselm and the Augustinian Doctrine of the Human Person as Imago Dei.

He wrote: "Slavery is, however, penal, and is appointed by that law which enjoins the preservation of the natural order and forbids its disturbance. Against certain Christian movements, some of which rejected the use of Hebrew Scripture , Augustine countered that God had chosen the Jews as a special people, [] and he considered the scattering of Jewish people by the Roman Empire to be a fulfillment of prophecy. Augustine, who believed Jewish people would be converted to Christianity at "the end of time", argued that God had allowed them to survive their dispersion as a warning to Christians; as such, he argued, they should be permitted to dwell in Christian lands.

For Augustine, the evil of sexual immorality was not in the sexual act itself, but rather in the emotions that typically accompany it. In On Christian Doctrine Augustine contrasts love, which is enjoyment on account of God, and lust, which is not on account of God. Therefore, following the Fall, even marital sex carried out merely to procreate the species inevitably perpetuates evil On marriage and concupiscence 1. For Augustine, proper love exercises a denial of selfish pleasure and the subjugation of corporeal desire to God. The only way to avoid evil caused by sexual intercourse is to take the "better" way Confessions 8.

Sex within marriage is not, however, for Augustine a sin, although necessarily producing the evil of sexual passion. Based on the same logic, Augustine also declared the pious virgins raped during the sack of Rome to be innocent because they did not intend to sin nor enjoy the act. Before the Fall, Augustine believed that sex was a passionless affair, "just like many a laborious work accomplished by the compliant operation of our other limbs, without any lascivious heat"; the penis would have been engorged for sexual intercourse "simply by the direction of the will, not excited by the ardour of concupiscence" On marriage and concupiscence 2.

City of God After the Fall, by contrast, the penis cannot be controlled by mere will, subject instead to both unwanted impotence and involuntary erections: "Sometimes the urge arises unwanted; sometimes, on the other hand, it forsakes the eager lover, and desire grows cold in the body while burning in the mind It arouses the mind, but it does not follow through what it has begun and arouse the body also" City of God Augustine believed that Adam and Eve had both already chosen in their hearts to disobey God's command not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge before Eve took the fruit, ate it, and gave it to Adam.

The Life of an Augustinian during the Theologate at St Augustine Friary

In his Tractates on the Gospel of John , Augustine, commenting on the Samaritan woman from John —42, uses the woman as a figure of the Church in agreement with the New Testament teaching that the Church is the bride of Christ. Augustine is considered an influential figure in the history of education.


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A work early in Augustine's writings is De Magistro On the Teacher , which contains insights about education. His ideas changed as he found better directions or better ways of expressing his ideas. In the last years of his life Augustine wrote his Retractationes Retractations , reviewing his writings and improving specific texts.

Henry Chadwick believes an accurate translation of "retractationes" may be "reconsiderations". Reconsiderations can be seen as an overarching theme of the way Augustine learned. Augustine's understanding of the search for understanding, meaning, and truth as a restless journey leaves room for doubt, development, and change.

Augustine was a strong advocate of critical thinking skills.


  • Augustine: Political and Social Philosophy.
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  • Because written works were still rather limited during this time, spoken communication of knowledge was very important. His emphasis on the importance of community as a means of learning distinguishes his pedagogy from some others.

    Become An Augustinian (Vocations) - The Augustinian Friary, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, Ireland.

    Augustine believed that dialectic is the best means for learning and that this method should serve as a model for learning encounters between teachers and students. Augustine's dialogue writings model the need for lively interactive dialogue among learners. If a student has been well educated in a wide variety of subjects, the teacher must be careful not to repeat what they have already learned, but to challenge the student with material which they do not yet know thoroughly. With the student who has had no education, the teacher must be patient, willing to repeat things until the student understands, and sympathetic.

    Perhaps the most difficult student, however, is the one with an inferior education who believes he understands something when he does not. Augustine stressed the importance of showing this type of student the difference between "having words and having understanding" and of helping the student to remain humble with his acquisition of knowledge.

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    Under the influence of Bede , Alcuin , and Rabanus Maurus , De catechizandis rudibus came to exercise an important role in the education of clergy at the monastic schools, especially from the eighth century onwards. Augustine believed that students should be given an opportunity to apply learned theories to practical experience.

    Yet another of Augustine's major contributions to education is his study on the styles of teaching. He claimed there are two basic styles a teacher uses when speaking to the students. The mixed style includes complex and sometimes showy language to help students see the beautiful artistry of the subject they are studying.

    Step 1: Discernment

    The grand style is not quite as elegant as the mixed style, but is exciting and heartfelt, with the purpose of igniting the same passion in the students' hearts. Augustine balanced his teaching philosophy with the traditional Bible -based practice of strict discipline. Augustine was one of the most prolific Latin authors in terms of surviving works, and the list of his works consists of more than one hundred separate titles. Apart from those, Augustine is probably best known for his Confessions , which is a personal account of his earlier life, and for De civitate Dei The City of God , consisting of 22 books , which he wrote to restore the confidence of his fellow Christians, which was badly shaken by the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in His On the Trinity , in which he developed what has become known as the 'psychological analogy' of the Trinity , is also considered to be among his masterpieces, and arguably of more doctrinal importance that the Confessions or the City of God.

    In both his philosophical and theological reasoning, Augustine was greatly influenced by Stoicism , Platonism and Neoplatonism , particularly by the work of Plotinus , author of the Enneads , probably through the mediation of Porphyry and Victorinus as Pierre Hadot has argued. Although he later abandoned Some Neoplatonist Concepts, some ideas are still visible in his early writings.

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