Augustine sparknotes

Augustine sparknotes - Augustine's Confessions Analysis...

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Augustine's Confessions Analysis Augustine titled his deeply philosophical and theological autobiography Confessions to implicate two aspects of the form the work would take. To confess, in Augustine's time , meant both to give an account of one's faults to God and to praise God (to speak one's love for God). These two aims come together in the Confessions in an elegant but complex sense: Augustine narrates his ascent from sinfulness to faithfulness not simply for the practical edification of his readers, but also because he believes that narrative to be itself a story of God's greatness and of the fundamental love all things have for Him. Thus, in the Confessions form equals content to a large degree—the natural form for Augustine's story of redemption to take would be a direct address to God, since it is God who must be thanked for such redemption. (That said, a direct address to God was a highly original form for Augustine to have used at the time). This idea should also help us understand the apparently lopsided and unusual structure of the text. The first nine Books of the Confessions are devoted to the story of Augustine's life up to his mother's death, but the last four Books make a sudden, lengthy departure into pure theology and philosophy. This shift should be understood in the same context as the double meaning of 'confessions'—for Augustine, the story of his sinful life and redemption is in fact a profoundly philosophical and religious matter, since his story is only one example of the way all imperfect creation yearns to return to God. Thus, the story of the return to God is set out first as an autobiography, and then in conceptual terms. This idea of the return also serves as a good access to the philosophical and theological context in which Augustine is thinking and writing. The most important influence here (besides the Bible) is Neoplatonism , a few major texts of which Augustine read shortly before his conversion. The Neoplatonist universe is hierarchical, but things lower on the scale of being cannot be said to be bad or evil. Everything is good in so far as it exists, but things lower on the scale have a less complete and perfect Being. In contrast to God, who is eternal, unchanging, and unified, the lower levels of being involve what we know as the visible universe—a universe of matter in constant flux, in a vast multiplicity, and caught up in the ravages of time. Augustine's lasting influence lies largely in his success in combining this Neoplatonic worldview with the Christian one. In Augustine's hybrid system, the idea that all creation is good in as much as it exists means that all creation, no matter how nasty or ugly, has its existence only in God. Because of this, all creation seeks to return to God, who is the purest and most perfected form of the compromised Being enjoyed by individual things. Again, then, any story of an individual's return to God is also a statement about the
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This note was uploaded on 04/02/2008 for the course RELI 300 taught by Professor Burns during the Fall '07 term at Arizona.

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Augustine sparknotes - Augustine's Confessions Analysis...

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