Augustine: a guide for the perplexed

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Above all, those who reject predestination have been motivated by concerns about the doctrine's implications for human free will and divine responsibility for evil. The book concludes with a constructive chapter in which Couenhoven defends predestination as a doctrine of hope.

Augustine on the priority of grace. Anselms libertarian alternative. Destiny and freedom in Aquinas. Luther and Calvins divine determinism. Barths hopeful universalism. The problem of assurance. Copyright Jesse Couenhoven All rights reserved. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Jesse Couenhoven. The full text of this chapter is only available to members of institutions that have purchased access. If you belong to such an institution, please login or read more about How to Order.

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Go Pages Front matter unlocked item Dedication. The real perplexity runs deeper than this. If I am to be grateful for every aspect of my being that can be considered, however meagerly, to be good, what of me is left over to express the gratitude? If the grace of God preempts my freedom even to express my gratitude, I will not thereby be diminished or repressed: I simply never will have been.

Augustine becomes Augustine, a religious genius, when he shifts his manner of struggle with the great perplexity of being a self-conscious but wholly derived being. There is no contradiction between having a personality and revering oneness, not if this paradox is only apparent. But there is a fearsome struggle in human life—Augustine calls it the struggle of sin against grace—to hold onto the appearance and resolve personality into the oneness that is either jealously one or guardedly other same difference.

He does not always succeed in this, but he never fails to remind us that the temptation to live in that impossible pocket of God-free initiative i.

James R. Wetzel, PhD

Expect the church, mortal as we are, to falter. I call him a genius not to praise him but to signal my intent to engage him where truth and force of personality are distinct but inextricable. The two ideally conjoin to reinforce and amplify one another, but their conjunction can also be a confusion that conspires with bad faith and self-deception. It is impossible, he thinks, to escape the confusion, or even to want to escape it, apart from first being claimed by the ideal. That realization will always be a cause of gratitude, and in that gratitude there is both the beginning and the end of a life.

More often than not, confession connotes an admission of wrong-doing. When Augustine thinks of confession, he does have sin in mind, but where confession of wrong-doing subjects a person to censure or prosecution, confession of sin liberates a person from self-inflicted punishment. The more we learn to speak with God, this being the root meaning of confession, the less we will be tempted to belittle our lives and stuff them into tiny boxes of false security. The philosophical life, as Augustine conceives of it, is a lesson from life in how to petition for life.

I lack the skill and the inspiration and frankly the nerve to write philosophy in the form of a prayer, but I think I understand the impetus to do so. In this guide to Augustine, the most confessional of philosophers, I will give you my best sense of this impetus and what actively resists it. He is harder to follow, but still good company, when it comes to unmasking sexual desire. I will not shy away from using his best inspiration not only to clarify but also to challenge some of the things that he says. I do not do this out of any sense of having wisdom superior to his.

I respect and share his view that philosophy is not about gaining the upper hand in an argument. It is about risking self for the sake of truth and a more generous self. I correct expecting to be corrected.

I trust that I will expand rather than wither. My guide falls into four chapters. The first two take up illusions of selfhood that he struggled to combat. One of the illusions is about self-sufficiency. Is it a reasonable wisdom to want to live outside the shadow of loss? You know that you and yours are mortal, but you work to become sufficiently secure in your self-conception to be able to accept mortality and not feel diminished.

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The philosophy that Augustine inherits, especially in its Romanized version, encourages him to embrace this path, but he finds himself hoping more to grieve well than not at all. The latter is an ideal, but not for this life. The other illusion of selfhood, and it has a much deeper bite for Augustine, concerns responsibility for sin. He is very tempted to embrace the notion that sin is his one absolute initiative as a human being in a God-governed world.

It is a perverse initiative, to be sure—a self-defeating form of self-assertion—but it seems nevertheless an initiative that speaks to the essence of his individual responsibility. Augustine finds it much easier to share his virtue with God than share his sin. The sin-sharing seems to him disreputable for both parties.

It makes him irresponsible, and it makes God out to be corrupt.

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Augustine will have to think very differently before he can learn to subordinate his responsibility for sin to his more fundamental responsiveness to God. Augustine uses this story to illustrate, but not derive, his version of the doctrine of original sin.

The Augustinian Endowed Chair in the Thought of St. Augustine

I criticize the part of his doctrine that has sin being transmitted from parent to child by way of sexual reproduction. But I do this by way of immanent critique. His reading tells us other things as well: about the nature of his conversion, his torment over his sexual desire, his ambivalent love of an incarnate God. This chapter is really the heart of the guide. The last chapter, Almost an Epilogue, is a necessarily inconclusive meditation on the radicalization of grace.

Augustine: A Guide for the Perplexed - eBook -

Augustine generally gets pegged as an eschatological thinker. This means that he expects the last things about human life—the final perfection of its form in some, its ultimate corruption in others—to happen outside the purview of historical time. In terms of what we can foresee, we can reasonably expect a lack of resolution. The play between grace and sin, like light and shadow, infuses the time-defined world, in some sense creates it.

Augustine: a guide for the perplexed Augustine: a guide for the perplexed
Augustine: a guide for the perplexed Augustine: a guide for the perplexed
Augustine: a guide for the perplexed Augustine: a guide for the perplexed
Augustine: a guide for the perplexed Augustine: a guide for the perplexed
Augustine: a guide for the perplexed Augustine: a guide for the perplexed

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