Saint Augustine (IPA: [ɔˈɡʌstɪn] or [ˈɔɡəstɪn]) (Latin: Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis;) (November 13, 354 August 28, 430), Bishop of Hippo Regius, was a philosopher and theologian. Augustine, a Latin church father, is one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity. Augustine was heavily influenced by the Neo-Platonism of Plotinus. He framed the concepts of original sin and just war. When the Roman Empire in the West was starting to disintegrate, Augustine developed the concept of the Church as a spiritual City of God, distinct from the material City of Man. His thought profoundly influenced the medieval worldview.
Augustine was born in the city of Tagaste, the present day Souk Ahras, Algeria, to a Catholic mother, Monica of Hippo. He was educated in North Africa and resisted his mother's pleas to become Christian. Living as a pagan intellectual, he took a concubine and became a Manichean. Later he converted to the Catholic Church, became a bishop, and opposed heresies, such as the belief that people can have the ability to choose to be good to such a degree as to merit salvation without divine aid (Pelagianism). His works—including The Confessions, which is often called the first Western autobiography—are still read around the world.
In Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, he is a saint and pre-eminent Doctor of the Church, and the patron of the Augustinian religious order; his memorial is celebrated 28 August. Many Protestants, especially Calvinists, consider him to be one of the theological fathers of Reformation teaching on salvation and divine grace. In the Eastern Orthodox Church he is blessed, and his feast day is celebrated on 15 June, though a minority are of the opinion that he is a heretic, primarily because of his statements concerning what became known as the filioque clause. Among the Orthodox he is called Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed.
The young provincial won the job and headed north to take up his position in late 384. At age thirty, Augustine had won the most visible academic chair in the Latin world, at a time when such posts gave ready access to political careers. However, he felt the tensions of life at an imperial court, lamenting one day as he rode in his carriage to deliver a grand speech before the emperor, that a drunken beggar he passed on the street had a less careworn existence than he did.
It was at Milan that Augustine's life changed. While still at Carthage, he had begun to move away from Manichaeism, in part because of a disappointing meeting with a key exponent of Manichaean theology. In Rome, he is reported to have completely turned away from Manichaeanism, and instead embraced the skepticism of the New Academy movement. At Milan, his mother Monica pressured him to become a Catholic. Augustine's own studies in Neoplatonism were also leading him in this direction, and his friend Simplicianus urged him that way as well. But it was the bishop of Milan, Ambrose, who had most influence over Augustine. Ambrose was a master of rhetoric like Augustine himself, but older and more experienced.
Augustine's mother had followed him to Milan and he allowed her to arrange a society marriage, for which he abandoned his concubine (however he had to wait two years until his fiancée came of age; he promptly took up in the meantime with another woman). It was during this period that he uttered his famous prayer, "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet" (da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo).
In the summer of 386, after having read an account of the life of Saint Anthony of the Desert which greatly inspired him, Augustine underwent a profound personal crisis and decided to convert to Catholic Christianity, abandon his career in rhetoric, quit his teaching position in Milan, give up any ideas of marriage, and devote himself entirely to serving God and the practices of priesthood, which included celibacy. Key to this conversion was the voice of an unseen child he heard while in his garden in Milan telling him in a sing-song voice to tolle lege ("take up and read"). He grabbed the nearest text to him, which was Paul's Epistle to the Romans and opened it at random to 13:13-14, which read: "Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. He would detail his spiritual journey in his famous Confessions, which became a classic of both Christian theology and world literature. Ambrose baptized Augustine, along with his son, Adeodatus, on Easter Vigil in 387 in Milan, and soon thereafter in 388 he returned to Africa. On his way back to Africa his mother died, as did his son soon after, leaving him alone in the world without family.
Upon his return to north Africa he sold his patrimony and gave the money to the poor. The only thing he kept was the family house, which he converted into a monastic foundation for himself and a group of friends. In 391 he was ordained a priest in Hippo Regius (now Annaba, in Algeria). He became a famous preacher (more than 350 preserved sermons are believed to be authentic), and was noted for combating the Manichaean religion, to which he had formerly adhered.
In 396 he was made coadjutor bishop of Hippo (assistant with the right of succession on the death of the current bishop), and became full bishop shortly thereafter. He remained in this position at Hippo until his death in 430. Augustine worked tirelessly in trying to convince the people of Hippo, who were diverse racial and religious group, to convert to the Catholic faith. He left his monastery, but continued to lead a monastic life in the episcopal residence. He left a rule (Latin, regula) for his monastery that has led him to be designated the "patron saint of regular clergy", that is, clergy who live by a monastic rule.
Much of Augustine's later life was recorded by his friend Possidius, bishop of Calama, in his Sancti Augustini Vita. Possidius admired Augustine as a man of powerful intellect and a stirring orator who took every opportunity to defend the Catholic faith against all detractors. Possidius also described Augustine's personal traits in detail, drawing a portrait of a man who ate sparingly, worked tirelessly, despised gossip, shunned the temptations of the flesh, and exercised prudence in the financial stewardship of his see.
Shortly before Augustine's death, Roman Africa was overrun by the Vandals, a warlike tribe with Arrian sympathies. They had entered Africa at the instigation of Count Boniface, but soon turned to lawlessness, plundering private citizens and churches and killing many of the inhabitants. The Vandals arrived in the spring of 430 to besiege Hippo and during that time, Augustine endured his final illness.
Possidius records that one of the few miracles attributed to Augustine took place during the siege. While Augustine was confined to his sick bed, a man petitioned him that he might lay his hands upon a relative who was ill. Augustine replied that if he had any power to cure the sick, he would surely have applied it on himself first. The visitor declared that he was told in a dream to go to Augustine so that his relative would be made whole. When Augustine heard this, he no longer hesitated, but laid his hands upon the sick man, who departed from Augustine's presence healed.
Possidius also gives a first-hand account of Augustine's death, which occurred on August 28, 430, during the siege of Hippo by the Vandals. Augustine spent his final days in prayer and repentance, requesting that the penitential Psalms of David be hung on his walls so that he could read them. He directed that the library of the church in Hippo and all the books therein should be carefully preserved. Shortly after his death, the Vandals raised the siege of Hippo, but they returned not long thereafter and burned the city. They destroyed all of it but Augustine's cathedral and library, which they left untouched.
Tradition indicates that Augustine's body was later moved to Pavia, where it is said to remain to this day. Another tradition, however, claims that his remains were moved to Cagliari (Karalis) in a small chapel at the base of a hill, on the summit of which lies the sanctuary of Bonaria. The chapel bears an ancient, weathered stone plaque with an inscription leading to St.Augustine's remains.
Augustine was one of the most prolific Latin authors, and the list of his works consists of more than a hundred separate titles. They include apologetic works against the heresies of the Arians, Donatists, Manichaeans and Pelagians, texts on Christian doctrine, notably De doctrina Christiana (On Christian Doctrine), exegetical works such as commentaries on Book of Genesis, the Psalms and Paul's Letter to the Romans, many sermons and letters, and the Retractationes (Retractions), a review of his earlier works which he wrote near the end of his life. Apart from those, Augustine is probably best known for his Confessiones (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 410. His De Trinitate (On the Trinity), in which he developed what has become known as the 'psychological analogy' of the Trinity, is also among his masterpieces, and arguably one of the greatest theological works of all time.
Augustine was a bishop, priest, and father who remains a central figure, both within Christianity and in the history of Western thought, and is considered by modern historian Thomas Cahill to be the first medieval man and the last classical man. In both his philosophical and theological reasoning, he was greatly influenced by Stoicism, Platonism and Neo-platonism, 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 Neo-Platonism some ideas are still visible in his early writings. His generally favorable view of Neoplatonic thought contributed to the "baptism" of Greek thought and its entrance into the Christian and subsequently the European intellectual tradition. His early and influential writing on the human will, a central topic in ethics, would become a focus for later philosophers such as Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. In addition, Augustine was influenced by the works of Virgil (known for his teaching on language), Cicero (known for his teaching on argument), and Aristotle (particularly his Rhetoric and Poetics).
Augustine's concept of original sin was expounded in his works against the Pelagians. However, Eastern Orthodox theologians, while they believe all humans were damaged by the original sin of Adam and Eve, have key disputes with Augustine about this doctrine, and as such this is viewed as a key source of division between East and West. His writings helped formulate the theory of the just war. He also advocated the use of force against the Donatists, asking "Why... should not the Church use force in compelling her lost sons to return, if the lost sons compelled others to their destruction?" (The Correction of the Donatists, 22–24). St. Thomas Aquinas took much from Augustine's theology while creating his own unique synthesis of Greek and Christian thought after the widespread rediscovery of the work of Aristotle. While Augustine's doctrine of divine predestination and efficacious grace would never be wholly forgotten within the Roman Catholic Church, finding eloquent expression in the works of Bernard of Clairvaux, Reformation theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin would look back to him as the inspiration for their avowed capturing of the Biblical Gospel. Bishop John Fisher of Rochester, a chief opponent of Luther, articulated an Augustinian view of grace and salvation consistent with Church doctrine, thus encompassing both Augustine’s soteriology and his teaching on the authority of and obedience to the Catholic Church. Later, within the Roman Catholic Church, the writings of Cornelius Jansen, who claimed heavy influence from Augustine, would form the basis of the movement known as Jansenism.
Augustine was canonized by popular acclaim, and later recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 1303 by Pope Boniface VIII. His feast day is August 28, the day on which he died. He is considered the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, sore eyes, and a number of cities and dioceses.
The latter part of Augustine's Confessions consists of an extended meditation on the nature of time. Even the agnostic philosopher Bertrand Russell was impressed by this. He wrote, "a very admirable relativistic theory of time. ... It contains a better and clearer statement than Kant's of the subjective theory of time - a theory which, since Kant, has been widely accepted among philosophers. Catholic theologians generally subscribe to Augustine's belief that God exists outside of time in the "eternal present"; that time only exists within the created universe because only in space is time discernible through motion and change. His meditations on the nature of time are closely linked to his consideration of the human ability of memory. Frances Yates in her 1966 study The Art of Memory argues that a brief passage of the Confessions, X.8.12, in which Augustine writes of walking up a flight of stairs and entering the vast fields of memory clearly indicates that the ancient Romans were aware of how to use explicit spatial and architectural metaphors as a mnemonic technique for organizing large amounts of information.
Augustine's philosophical method, especially demonstrated in his Confessions, has had continuing influence on Continental philosophy throughout the 20th century. His descriptive approach to intentionality, memory, and language as these phenomena are experienced within consciousness and time anticipated and inspired the insights of modern phenomenology and hermeneutics. Edmund Husserl writes: "The analysis of time-consciousness is an age-old crux of descriptive psychology and theory of knowledge. The first thinker to be deeply sensitive to the immense difficulties to be found here was Augustine, who laboured almost to despair over this problem. Martin Heidegger refers to Augustine's descriptive philosophy at several junctures in his influential work, Being and Time. Hannah Arendt, the much appreciated phenomenologist of social and political life, began her philosophical writing with a dissertation on Augustine's concept of love, Der Liebesbegriff bei Augustin (1929): "The young Arendt attempted to show that the philosophical basis for vita socialis in Augustine can be understood as residing in neighbourly love, grounded in his understanding of the common origin of humanity. Jean Bethke Elshtain in Augustine and the Limits of Politics finds likeness between Augustine and Arendt in their concepts of evil: "Augustine did not see evil as glamorously demonic but rather as absence of good, something which paradoxically is really nothing. Arendt ... envisioned even the extreme evil which produced the Holocaust as merely banal [in Eichmann in Jerusalem]. Augustine's philosophical legacy continues to influence contemporary critical theory through the contributions and inheritors of these 20th century figures.
According to Leo Ruickbie, Augustine's arguments against magic, differentiating it from miracle, were crucial in the early Church's fight against paganism and became a central thesis in the later denunciation of witches and witchcraft. According to Professor Deepak Lal, Augustine's vision of the heavenly city has influenced the secular projects and traditions of the Enlightenment, Marxism, Freudianism and Eco-fundamentalism.
On the topic of original sin, Aquinas proposed a more optimistic view of man than that of Augustine in that his conception leaves to the reason, will, and passions of fallen man their natural powers even after the Fall.
A more clear distinction between "metaphorical" and "literal" in literary texts arose with the rise of the Scientific Revolution, although its source could be found in earlier writings, such as those of Herodotus (5th century BC). It was even considered heretical to interpret the Bible literally at times
In "The Literal Interpretation of Genesis" Augustine took the view that everything in the universe was created simultaneously by God, and not in seven calendar days like a plain account of Genesis would require. He argued that the six-day structure of creation presented in the book of Genesis represents a logical framework, rather than the passage of time in a physical way - it would bear a spiritual, rather than physical, meaning, which is no less literal. Augustine also does not envision original sin as originating structural changes in the universe, and even suggests that the bodies of Adam and Eve were already created mortal before the Fall. Apart from his specific views, Augustine recognizes that the interpretation of the creation story is difficult, and remarks that we should be willing to change our mind about it as new information comes up.
In "The City of God", Augustine rejected both the immortality of the human race proposed by pagans, and contemporary ideas of ages (such as those of certain Greeks and Egyptians) that differed from the Church's sacred writings:
Augustine viewed that a major result of original sin was disobedience of the flesh to the spirit as a punishment of their disobedience to God:
This view that sex was an evil was prevalent in Augustine's time. Plotinus, a neo-Platonist that Augustine praises in his Confessions, taught that only through disdain for fleshly desire could one reach the ultimate state of mankind. Augustine, likewise, had served as a "Hearer" for the Manicheans for about nine years, and they also taught that the original sin was carnal knowledge.
In his pre-Pelagian writings, Augustine taught that Original Sin was transmitted by concupiscence (roughly, lust), making humanity a massa damnata (mass of perdition, condemned crowd) and much enfeebling, though not destroying, the freedom of the will. In the struggle against Pelagianism, the principles of Augustine's teaching were confirmed by many councils, especially the Second Council of Orange (529). Anselm of Canterbury established the definition that was followed by the great Schoolmen, namely that Original Sin is the "privation of the righteousness which every man ought to possess", thus separating it from concupiscence, with which Augustine's disciples had often defined it, as later did Luther and Calvin, who instead of seeing concupiscence, like Augustine, as a vehicle of transmission of Original Sin actually equated the two, a doctrine condemned in 1567 by Pope Pius V.
Augustine's formulation of the doctrine of original sin has substantially influenced both Catholic and Reformed (that is, Calvinist) theology. His understanding of sin and grace was developed against that of Pelagius. Expositions on the topics are found in his works On Original Sin, On the Predestination of the Saints, On the Gift of Perseverance and On Nature and Grace.
Original sin, according to Augustine, consists of the guilt of Adam which all human beings inherit. As sinners, human beings are utterly depraved in nature, lack the freedom to do good, and cannot respond to the will of God without divine grace. Grace is irresistible, results in conversion, and leads to perseverance. Augustine's idea of predestination rests on the assertion that God has foreordained, from eternity, those who will be saved. The number of the elect is fixed. God has chosen the elect certainly and gratuitously, without any previous merit (ante merita) on their part.
The Roman Catholic Church considers Augustine's teaching to be consistent with free will. He often said that any can be saved if they wish. While God knows who will be saved and who won't, with no possibility that one destined to be lost will be saved, this knowledge represents God's perfect knowledge of how humans will freely choose their destinies.
Augustine's ecclesiology was more fully developed in City of God. There he conceives of the church as a heavenly city or kingdom, ruled by love, which will ultimately triumph over all earthly empires which are self-indulgent and ruled by pride. Augustine followed Cyprian in teaching that the bishops of the church are the successors of the apostles.
In addition, he believed in papal supremacy.
Against the Pelagians Augustine strongly stressed the importance of infant baptism. He believed that no one would be saved unless he or she had received baptism in order to be cleansed from original sin. He also maintained that unbaptized children would go to hell. It was not until the 12th century that pope Innocent III accepted the doctrine of limbo as promulgated by Peter Abelard. It was the place where the unbaptized went and suffered no pain but, as the Church maintained, being still in a state of original sin, they did not deserve Paradise, therefore they did not know happiness either. The Church of England disavowed the state of original sin in the 16th century. Non-conformist religions such as the Unitarians and the Quakers never held to the concept. The Eastern Orthdox position is that Original Sin does not carry over the guilt of Original Sin (which only Adam himself is guilty of) but only the consequences of Original Sin. For this reason, they disagree with Augustine's belief that unbaptized infants will go to hell or to even a state of limbo as advocated by Anselm.
Augustine taught that the eternal fate of the soul is determined at death, and that purgatorial fires of the intermediate state purify only those that died in communion with the Church. His teaching provided fuel for later theology.
In the Confessions, Augustine describes his personal struggle in vivid terms: "But I, wretched, most wretched, in the very commencement of my early youth, had begged chastity of Thee, and said, 'Grant me chastity and continence, only not yet.' At sixteen Augustine moved to Carthage where again he was plagued by this "wretched sin":
For Augustine, the evil was not in the sexual act itself, but rather in the emotions that typically accompany it. To the pious virgins raped during the sack of Rome, he writes, "Truth, another's lust cannot pollute thee." Chastity is "a virtue of the mind, and is not lost by rape, but is lost by the intention of sin, even if unperformed."
In short, Augustine's life experience led him to consider lust to be one of the most grievous sins, and a serious obstacle to the virtuous life.
Augustine also quotes part of the same prophecy that says "Slay them not, lest they should at last forget Thy law" (Psalm 59:11). Augustine argued that God had allowed the Jews to survive this dispersion as a warning to Christians, thus they were to be permitted to dwell in Christian lands. Augustine further argued that the Jews would be converted at the end of time.
In the summer of 2008, this aspect of Augustine's thought (i.e., the gravity of abortion vis-a-vis the ensoulment of the fetus) was used by the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, in defence of her pro-choice political stance. She quoted one of his works, in which he wrote:
"The law does not provide that the act [abortion] pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation.'
In the week following her comments, she was corrected by numerous American bishops, such as Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver, who wrote: "In the absence of modern medical knowledge, some of the Early Fathers held that abortion was homicide; others that it was tantamount to homicide; and various scholars theorized about when and how the unborn child might be animated or "ensouled." But none diminished the unique evil of abortion as an attack on life itself...
Of all the fathers of the church, St. Augustine was the most admired and the most influential during the Middle Ages... Augustine was an outsider - a native North African whose family was not Roman but Berber... He was a genius - an intellectual giant.