TheConfessions by Augustine of Hippo and its Religious Significance inearly modern England
Augustineof Hippo lived during the early modern period when the Roman Empirewas undergoing a fast decline. During this period, early Christianityhad taken over the social and political lives of the modern Englandsettlers. Despite this progress, Christians were subjected toreligious anxiety that involved high levels of political stressduring this period (Harnack90).For this reason, Augustine had his own personal and deeply religiousstruggles that explained that period’s situation. For this reason,he wrote TheConfessionsas a way of trying to overcome his own desires, to understandphilosophical and religious doctrines and find his own faith(Alexander 86).
TheConfessionswas written by Augustine during a period when he had deep personaldissatisfaction with his spirituality. It is important to note thathe held on an existing and popular religious belief that was known asManichaeism. This particular belief held that the world is ultimatelycomposed of two conflicting forces. These two conflicting forces werethe good and the bad known as Ahriman and Ormuzd (Alexander 87). Thisparticular belief stressed that these two opposing forces weresymbolically represented by the conflicts that arise in man’s soul.This is perhaps one of the most common and popular religions that hadattracted Augustine because of the account they held on evil andtheir materialistic approach (Jolly 105). TheConfessionshowever, had negative impact on this type of religion. It containsabout thirteen books most of which find faults in Manichaeism as aform of religious belief (Augustine 113).
Inthe parts of Milan, Augustine was greatly influenced by the sermonsgiven by the great Ambrose of Milan (Pusey 51). During thisparticular period, there was a sort of competition between RomanCatholic Church doctrines as well as those practiced in theManichaeism. It was during those sermons that he attended that he gotinspiration to write TheConfessions,which would help in fighting for the Catholic Church. In addition,these writings were used as instruments of interpreting the then OldTestaments that were troubling many (Jolly 112) In this regard, TheConfessionswere used as tools of fighting the Catholic Christianity againstManichaeism.
Inaddition to Manichaeism, TheConfessionshad significant impact to the practice of Platonism. This type ofreligion was mostly common in such places such as in Milan and itsreligious teachings were seen closer to those of Christianity. Thistype of religion held that evil was naturally the act of privatizingthe good (Alexander 89). However, through TheConfessions,Augustine philosophical approach differed to that of Platonism. Forinstance, the writings indicate that during creation, God created theworld starting from nothing (Augustine 42). Neo-Platonist notion heldthat the world came into being out of necessity. Through thiswritings, Augustine challenged the existing notions that hadsuggested the world being a creation as a finished product. Thinkersin that period and especially in Platonism believed that the worldwas created by God through a form of divine art with some materialsat hand (Alexander 90). However, such claims and notions were erodedin TheConfessionswhichsuggested that the world was created from nothing at all by God.
Thisdocument not only did it challenge the existing belief on worldcreation but time as well. TheConfessions in the Book XIhas a unique way and technique of treating time disregarding theteachings of both Manichaeism and Platonism (Augustine 47). Forinstance, former beliefs questioned why God chose to create at acertain time. In this regard, such teachings seemed to question whatGod was doing before the act of creation. However, Augustinereiterated in this particular writings that man was mistakenlyexcluding time from the objects of creation. By insisting that Godcreated the world from nothing, he seemed to suggest that time toowas a creation of God (Alexander 88). This means that beforecreation, time never existed as it was not created by God. Therefore,contrary to the existing believes that suggested that there wereevents before creation Augustine was able to imply that such asuggestion is meaningless.
Earlymodern England had diverse religious views regarding the human soulwere impacted after Augustine’s writings (Jolly 119). In thisparticular writing, he chose a rather theological approach inexplaining the origin of the human soul. He described the human soulas being distinctly separate from the human body and being supreme(Jolly 119). Through this approach, he explained that the human soulused the body as the tool of advocating God’s desires. The modernEngland theories that existed at that time did not clearly explainwhether the human soul is particularly unique in every individual.The religious views did not explain whether the human soul came fromthe sinful soul of Adam in the book of Genesis. However, TheConfessionindicated that the human soul was created without sin by God but waslater on made evil through the sinful actions of man. For thisreason, Augustine was able to bring about Traducianistic kind ofbeliefs regarding the human soul (Jolly 120).
Itis important to note that early modern England was characterized byviolence and religious wars. As a result, many Christians who cameafter this period regarded the Roman Empire as an evil institutionthat propagated the satanic oppressions (Alexander 93). Through TheConfessions,Augustine was able to change Christian’s views and thinking onRoman Empire’s historical significance. Through these writings,Augustine referred the Roman Empire as an earthly city that has itsown share of sins. This is opposed to the contemporary understandingthat depicted the Roman Empire as an ideal city that assumed to be anearthily city. He was able to explain carefully what distinguished anearthily city from that of an ideal heavenly city (Alexander 93). Inthis regard, he explained that the heavenly city is one which thefollowers’ actions are guided by God’s love rather thanself-love. This means that he was able to change and shape the RomanCatholic’s actions.
Ashis foremost forms of autobiography, TheConfessionsencouraged early Christians to embrace a personal relationship withGod. He carefully encouraged these early Christians the importance ofscriptures and how well to interpret them (Augustine 7). As a result,he brought about a form of psychological awareness and a sense ofself-awareness to these early Christians. These particular teachingsremain to be central figures for the existence of early Christianityas well as in their particular history. It is important to note thatthese writings were heavily influenced by such movements such asneo-Platonism as well as Platonism itself (Alexander 87).
TheConfessionsand Augustine’s actions heavily impacted the practice of baptismand its role in the early modern church (Jolly 125). However, perhapsone of the most striking details that TheConfessionshad on the early Christians is the fact that it encouraged Christiansto embrace self will. This had a significant effect on ethics andpsychology as defined by the then intellectual tradition in earlyChristianity.
AlexanderC. David. Augustine’sEarly Theology of the Church: Emergence and its Implications.Massachusetts. Hendrickson Publication. 2008. Print.
St.Augustine. TheConfessions of St. Augustine.London. A & C Publications. 2002. Print.
JollyLouise Karen. Traditionand Diversity: Christianity in a World Context to 1500.London. M.E Sharpe Publications. 1997. Print
Harnack,Adolf. Monasticism:Its Ideals and History and the Confessions of St. Augustine. Eugene:Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004, Print
Pusey,Bishop. Confessionsof St. Augustine: Spiritual Meditations and Divine Insights. London:Duncan Baird Publishers, 2012 Print