God and the Cause of Evil According to Saint Augustine
Saint Augustine’s belief that God is not the cause of evil is a claim that I am unable to completely agree with. This is simply because St. Augustine leaves the answer to what is the cause of evil, if not God, open-ended. Augustine strongly rejects the idea that the divine Creator could be at all responsible for evil. This raises questions as to why humanity, rationally endowed by its Creator, would choose evil. What is the cause of perversion of the will?
Manicheism and Free Will
When coming across St. Augustine’s philosophy, many have a difficult time justifying his ideas because of his own contradiction throughout his years as a philosopher. Initially his ideas were framed around the “Manichean propaganda”. St. Augustine was fascinating with their liberty to criticize Scriptures, like the Old Testament, with such freedom “..they held chasity and self-denial in honor”. In later years, “..Its feeble cosmology and metaphysics had long since failed to satisfy him, and the astrological superstitions springing from the credulity of its disciples offended his reason” (Augustine (354-430 C.E.). When alleviating himself from the influence of Manicheism this oppose his past actions and reason for scorning the Church and disputes with Catholic believers.
In early years when he had been heavily influenced by Manicheism, Augustine seems to have been optimistic the belief of free will. He used free will as reasoning to reconcile his belief that God did not cause even. “Unlike other aspects of creation, which followed God’s plan without fail, human beings were allowed to determine their own actions..he allowed human beings freely to choose to believe in Him.. because human beings have free choice.. The possibility of evil, but He was not and is not Himself the cause of it” (A Short History of Philosophy). In other words, God gave humans the gift of free will, meaning free choice and therefore God himself cannot be responsible to have caused those to sin.
Happiness and the Connection to the Divine
Augustine’s position in God’s role in human beings achieving happiness is clear. “The end, the goal of human existence, he tells us, is contemplation of God in awe and reverence. This and this alone, he insists, will make us happy” (A Short History of Philosophy). Basically Augustine is stating that as long as you give recognition and have a connection to the divine you will be guaranteed happiness.
One criticism of Augustine here would be the need for a fuller clarification from him on what his thought process was concerning the more controversial aspects of Manichean doctrine, in particular since he states in various works that he never fully assented to Manichean teaching and was waiting for fuller truths to emerge from their initial presentations of doctrine (Saint Augustine). However, despite that lingering drawback the considerations in this critique are recognition of some of the interesting questions that this part of Confessions has stimulated and can bring to the forefront to the observant reader.
The Causes of Sin
Augustine strongly rejects the thought that God could be responsible for evil. He believes the sole cause of evil is simple “the created” which freely turns away from the immutable good. The question then arises, why a rational will endowed by its creator with all its natural capacity should choose evil, preferring the lesser good to eternal perfection? Thinking carefully, it seems that we can find no cause of sin, All explanation by causality would integrate the evil will into metaphysical structures of the universe and bring us to the first cause as the ultimate explanation of evil (Does evil have a cause?)
A similar problem emerges in connection with God’s unlimited power and the idea that evil wills have no cause. Even the sin of fallen humans and those sinners themselves add in some way to God’s perfectly ordered universe, and yet, in no way does this perfect order depend on the existence of those sins or sinners whatsoever (Does evil have a cause?). Augustine’s claim that there is no cause of an evil will since it is “nothing” seems clearly false in view of Augustine’s earlier insistence in the same work that God is in total control of everything, a position that includes all beings and events. Therefore, Augustine cannot successfully claim that God possesses both great power and perfect goodness, and when there is a turning point, great power is the doctrine that Augustine will maintain at all costs. In conclusion, Augustine’s determination not to bend the belief of God’s absolute control over the universe left him in a position of subsequent difficulties with the idea of God’s perfect goodness.
The Battle Between Faith and Desire in the Confessions of Saint Augustine
The Shift of Augustine’s Faith
In the Confessions of Saint Augustine Book VIII begins with an immediate praise and worship to God thanking him for allowing Augustine to be converted. Throughout the book we see a major shift of Augustine’s faith, where all doubt of God’s work has been completely stripped and Augustine is fully ready to be devoted to the Lord. In his confession, it is mentioned that God does have “a spiritual substance”. This means that unlike everything on Earth God is not limited and never will be. Finally realizing this, Augustine is now able to sacrifice not only his ambitions but his desire to marry in order to fully commit to God as well as improve his practices.
The Visit of Ponticanius
For a while Augustine struggled to fully embrace the fact that he wanted to convert to God. When both him and his friend Alypius was visited by an African man named Ponticanius, Ponticanius told them about the officials in the Emperor’s court who’s scrolls caught on fire while reading them. Ponticanius decided to tell his friends that he will be converting to the Lord. His friends decide to support him in this decision, congratulating him. Meanwhile Augustine while hearing this story felt great uncomfort because he is still conflicted in his relationship with God. After Ponticanius visits him, Augustine looks back on his prayers, disgusted by the fact that his desire for lust is what is stopping him from fully committing. He says ” Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet” (145). This shows that Augustine is still fighting between himself ; fighting between his devotion of God and his ambitions.
A Walk in the Garden
Clearly upset with his own reactions, Augustine turns to Alypius and shouts ” What is wrong with us?….. Is it because they are ahead of us that we are ashamed to follow?” (146). To where Alypius responds in complete silence. Deciding to cool off, Augustine takes a walk in the garden. Like most, he begins to cry out to God, questioning where he was when he needed him the most. His “madnesses” got so bad to the point where he began not only tear at his clothes but rip his hair and beat himself up. He begins to use a paradox of will to will, mind to body. He indicates that by beating himself up, his body follows the will of his mind even though his own mind does not even obey itself. Augustine begins to get haunted by his inner voice nagging that continued to hold him back asking the daunting question “Do you think you can live without them?” (151). Agustin is then “approached” by Lady Continence who stretched out her hands and embraced him with knowledge. There she talks to him about the many women and men who are virgins. She encourages him to take a chance and put his trust in the Lord for he “will catch you and heal you” (151).
Reading the Book of Paul
Feeling overcomed, he decided to weep on the bench when suddenly he hears a child’s voice who says “pick up and read, pick up and read” (152). Opening his bible, beginning to read the Book of Paul. As he begins to read his eyes quickly to a passage that says “Not in riots and drunken parties, not in eroticism and indecencies, not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provisions for the flesh in its lust” ( Romans 13, 13-14). In this passage Paul encourages those to change the way we live. He begins to go on about human appetite and desire to get what we want. Though these things are not wrong, if not careful these “cravings” can become sinful. We must follow Jesus’ footsteps and not only put our trust in God but put others first.
After reading the text, a great deal of emotions washed upon Augustine, one of these is feeling at peace with himself. After calming down he decided to share everything he went through with his friend Alypius, who also decided to join Augustine in converting. Filled with great joy Augustine decides to tell his mother about his decision for she expressed great joy and triumph. In the end Augustine is fully converted and willing to put all his trust in God as well as give up his desires to marry.
Augustine who is deeply admired today is a prime example that he too is like many of us who battle between faith and desire. Before him converted, he constantly questioned God and went out his way to search for answers on his own despite the nudges that encouraged him to convert in the first place. Today, Augustine is greatly admired for his integrity for his process along the way was genuine and relatable to many.
Sin, Time and Pursuit of Truth and Wisdom Through Knowledge in the Augustine’s Confessions
Saint Augustine focuses on three major themes in his autobiography Confessions: sin, time, and the pursuit of truth and wisdom through knowledge. I believe that all three come hand-in-hand throughout this book. According to Augustine, one has to have a clear understanding of them all to somewhat understand God and the world. First, evil does not define God, God does not experience time as we do, and lastly, how to discern truth in a sinful world.
God and Evil
According to Saint Augustine, God cannot be the cause of evil. For God, he says, “evil does not exist.” Evil happens in the absence of good. Evil has no substance, therefore it cannot be good because anything good has substance. Furthermore, anyone who finds a problem with any part of God’s creation is lacking reason. They cannot understand that evilness is not a substance, but the perversion of a perfect creation.
For Augustine, there are many, many more than seven deadly sins. A good portion of Confessions is not only about the sins of humanity, but also about asking why people sin, to begin with. Why does Augustine get a rush from stealing rotten fruit? Why does he like winning prizes for speaking? By definition, sin confines all of the bad things that someone could possibly do. But, at the same time, sin is what ultimately drives Augustine to pursue God. “Who shall remind me of the sins of my infancy: for in Thy sight there is none pure from sin, not even the infant whose life is but a day upon the earth (8).” We tend to think of children as innocent, however, according to Augustine, ignorance is not an excuse for iniquity. As he points out later, the fact that it would definitely not be acceptable for a full-grown adult to throw temper-tantrum shows that tantrums must be sins for kids as well. The bigger point here is that no human on earth can escape sin, which means that everyone, no matter how good, needs to seek out God’s mercy.
God and Time
Saint Augustine addresses the nature of time because in the Bible the concept of creation out of nothing is revealed. This, some have said, raised the issue of an absolute beginning, something that human experience simply could not conceive. Augustine responded by explaining that time does not have the same kind of being as events that occur in time. “How can the past and future be, when the past no longer is, and the future is not yet? As for the present, if it were always present and never moved on to become the past, it would not be time, but eternity (246).” It is appropriate to ask particular questions about a sequence of events but not what happened before all events. Time, he observed, has no substantiality outside of its relation to temporal events. Time is nothing except our relation to temporal events. God exists outside the realm of what we call time, and it does not affect him for he is eternal.
Pursuit of Truth and Wisdom Through Knowledge
Much of Saint Augustine’s life was involved in what he saw as a search for “the wisdom of eternal truth.” He spends years pursuing this wisdom while encountering doubt and temptation. He also is disappointed by the Manichaeans, whom he regards as lacking in wisdom. Gradually, he comes to the understanding that faith is wisdom, and all values stem from God.
Knowledge is the one thing Augustine cares most about, even more than ambition, or fame, or wealth, maybe even more than sex, though we can’t say that for sure. In fact, it seems like there would be very little driving Augustine toward Christianity were it not for the fact that he really, really wants to know the ‘right answer’ of the universe. Yes, his quest for truth in the Confessions also drives him to dabble in obscure sects and philosophical texts. And in the end, he seems to do a complete 180 in his stance toward knowledge, and his outlook on the world.
Saint Augustine: an Important Figure of Religion and History
Saint Augustine also known as Saint Augustine of Hippo is one of greatest Christian philosopher of Antiquity. Most of his opinion base on sin, grace, freedom and sexuality on Western culture. He is a true lover of God. 1000s upon 1000s of pages have been published on saint and his views. Had his effect, he is frequently canvassed for his judgment on controversies (from this Immaculate Conception of Mary to the philosophies of contraception) that he hardly thought or would have spoken to. But the ideas of imperial God and contingent ego work deeply and take far to justify his refusal to accept Manichaean philosophies of the strong demon in war with God, Donatist particularism in the face of universal religion, Or Pelagian claims of being independence and trust. His views on gender and the area of females in community have been searchingly proven and discovered wanting in new year, but they, also, may take origins in this loneliness of a man terrified of his father — or his God.
The Beginning of the Medieval Worldview
Firstly, Saint is one of the most significant figures in the process of Western religion. Saint was radically worked by Platonism. He framed the concepts of first sin and only conflict as they are interpreted in the region. When Rome broke and the religion of some Christians was shaken, Augustine developed the idea of the religion as the sacred City of God, different from the physical City of Man. Saint’s study defined the beginning of the medieval worldview, the attitude that was subsequently firmly demonstrated by Pope Gregory the Great. Augustine had a very different view on faith compared to his mom, God Monica. He led the Christian faith to join the Manichaean religion, the following that combined some faiths. Saint’s mother was very troubled by the decision but she proceeded to influence her son towards religion and steadfastly begged for him. Augustine lived a crazy and wicked life; wasting money, getting to parties, and drinking before his dramatic transformation to religion at 386 AD. Saint Augustine’s transformation is a really impressive event in history. When he saw the news of the life of God Antony; he was confused and resentful. Augustine threw himself down and screamed out in distress, “How much further, O God? Why does not the time put the end to my sins?” Augustine said he then saw the person speak “get up and say” and he thought it was a command from God to read the Word.
True Lover of God
Secondly, Saint Augustine is a true lover of God. In the City of God, Saint Augustine learnt that those “son of God” at generation 6 were just being ancestors of Seth and that they bred with these wicked daughters of men/Cain. This turned into the accepted practice in This post Augustinian Christian region. It’s noted, However, that his intellectual Saint Ambrose thought that those “son of God” were actually saints that copulated with humans. This answer here is to say “son of God” not as “angelic beings” but as blessed humans. It’s convincing and it has turn into the accepted practice in Christianity. Yet, ever since this Flood, great people have been interbreeding with wicked people. And we know that the person of the blessed mother and the evil parent will go out either good or bad. There are none “wicked genetics.” Nevertheless, Saint Augustine took a different view of evil. Saint Augustine linked bad with Gods creation by explaining that bad was transgressing against God’s purpose. He explained that God was this Supreme Being dominant of all animals and was that only one available of bad. Saint Augustine further elaborated that all humans are created better but not given ideal, and thus gives humans susceptible to committing sin which sometimes satisfies the purpose of God. Although both philosophers shared several views, philosopher and Saint Augustine had it in mind to preserve righteousness and morality in this world. Finally, Christian philosophers had the idea of Greek physical philosophy, while the Muslim philosophers did not. Maybe the fact that religion philosophers had Greek natural belief was that religion is established within the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, so that Christian philosophers grew accustomed to Greco Catholicism culture. Unlike religion which was established outside this Greco-Roman world. Make the example of Saint Augustine who converted to religion after being influenced by the story of the time of God Antony.
The Influence of Augustine
Lastly, Augustine has a lot of remarkable opinions that created a lot of extraordinary for what he wrote about. He said “Whatever I may experience with my bodily senses, such as this air and earth and whatever corporeal matter they contain, I cannot know how long it will endure. But seven and three are ten, not only now, but forever. There has never been a time when seven and three were not ten, nor will there ever be a time when they are not ten. Therefore, I have said that the truth of number is incorruptible and common to all who think. (FCW 2.7.82–83). Augustine’s influence on the dark ages will not be overestimated. Thousands of manuscripts exist, and some important medieval libraries—possessing no more than a couple of hundred volumes at all—had more works of saint than of any other author. His action is paradoxical inasmuch as—like the contemporary creator who does more wealth posthumously than at life—most of it was attained after his death and at kingdoms and societies far removed from his own. Augustine was seen avidly in a world where Christian orthodoxy ruled in a sense he might hardly have dreamed of, thus the reality unlike this to which his books were intended to apply. According to chapter 13: Augustine: God and the soul, page 270, Plotinus blends mystical insight and rational elaboration, the latter largely dependent on Plato. Mystical experience, which Plotinus is clearly familiar with, has certain characteristics that reappear in all ages and cultures. It is an experience of a particularly powerful and persuasive sort in which the focus is an absolute unity. The multiplicity of things disappears; one is no longer able even to distinguish oneself from other objects.
In short, Augustine is a famous philosopher who inspired the next generation about life style and thinking in God and soul. He has his own opinion and always trust in that. Saint’s political and cultural views flow directly from his study. This historical context is important to understanding his intentions. Saint, more than any other figure of recent antiquity, stands in the mental convergence of religion, philosophy, and politics. As the Christian cleric, he makes it as his job to protect his congregation against the unremitting attack by heresies spawned at the era uninformed by the direct, glorious revelations which had characterized the apostolic age. As the scholar, he situates his arguments against the background of Greek belief in the Platonic practice, especially as developed by the Neo-Platonists of Alexandria. As the large European citizen, he interprets the European monarchy to be the divinely-ordained medium through which the truths of religion are to be both moved and safeguarded.
The Life of Augustine in the Confessions
Saint Augustine was born on November 13, 354 CE. As a child he grew up in Roman North Africa, now as an adult he lives in eastern Algeria, where he’s peaking Latin, both at home, and in school as well. Augustine’s father Patricius used to be a landowner, and Augustine’s mother, Monica, appears to be larger in the Confessions than Augustine’s father Patricius does, the reason why is because she has been a Christian her whole life, she has always hoped that Augustine would become a Christian believer. His father Patricius remained a Pagan (O’Donnell, 2019).
Book one of Augustine’s Confessions talks about Augustine’s life as a child, from him being an infant, all the way up through his days as a young schoolboy. Augustine wasted no time getting into the philosophical content of his autobiography, Augustine talks about how the early years of his life lead him to reflect on human origin, will and desire, language, and memory. Augustine begins Book one of the Confessions, with a prayer in praise of God, The first question that Augustine raises is the concerns on how one can seek God without yet knowing what he really is, and what he even looks like, and is God even a he? In other words, how can we look for something or someone, if we don’t know exactly what we are looking for? Augustine starts to talk about a brief discussion of God’s attributes. Asking God to go into him. “And how shall I call upon my God–my God and my Lord? For when I call on him I ask him to come into me. And what place is there in me into which my God can come? How could God, the God who made both heaven and earth, come into me? Is there anything in me, O Lord my God, that can contain thee? Do even the heaven and the earth, which thou hast made, and in which thou didst make me, contain thee?” (Augustine p.22) God cannot be restrained by what he has created, so he can’t go into Augustine. At the same time, God is the existence of anything, so he is actually in Augustine already. This shows that is doesn’t make any sense for Augustine to ask for God to come into him. Augustine then re-words his question about God’s nature, asking “What, therefore, is my God? What, I ask, but the Lord God? “For who is Lord but the Lord himself, or who is God besides our God?” (Augustine p.23). This direct approach generates images that concerns God. For example, “Most high, most excellent, most potent, most omnipotent; most merciful and most just; most secret and most truly present; most beautiful and most strong” (Augustine p.23). This list develops no reasonable argument about God–it just introduces the mysteries of the question. Augustine then turns to the story of his childhood, beginning with his birth. Augustine then hypothesizes, on how the soul can join the body which in orders you to become an infant. Augustine then writes, “For what do I wish to say, O Lord my God, but that I know not whence I came hither into this life-in-death. Or should I call it death-in-life? I do not know” (Augustine p.25). Augustine then leaves an open possibility that life is just really some kind of death. Also true life is enjoyed by the soul. Another huge issue Augustine had growing up as a young child, was to consider what is religious status was going to be. Born to a Catholic mother, and a pagan father. Meanwhile, the foolishness of school for Augustine continues. The rest of Augustine’s Book one is dedicated to the problems of Augustine’s early education teachers, they had no knowledge of the proper purposes of education. Augustine was very unhappy with his teachers, he was forced to read a language, that he was supposed to learn from them but they didn’t know how to teach it. Augustine was against fiction, he sees it as a waste of time, he argues, that he shouldn’t have to read of other people’s sins while remaining ignorant of one’s own.
In book two Augustine talks about, how he has finished grade school, and he was preparing to leave for Carthage for further study. Augustine’s father Patricius actually raised enough funds in order for this to happen, Augustine was so happy, Augustine then praised his father thanking him for trying so hard, in order to educate his son. His mother Monica on the other hand didn’t feel the same, as Augustin’s then says,”But in my mother’s breast thou hadst already begun to build thy temple and the foundation of thy holy habitation–whereas my father was only a catechumen, and that but recently. She was, therefore, startled with a holy fear and trembling: for though I had not yet been baptized, she feared those crooked ways in which they walk who turn their backs to thee and not their faces” (Augustine p.45). Augustine’s mother Monica who was catholic often informed Augustine about being against sexual encounters, which also meant that no one can be married to each other, which now made him recognize that God was speaking right through his mother. “These appeared to me but womanish counsels, which I would have blushed to obey. Yet they were from thee, and I knew it not. I thought that thou wast silent and that it was only she who spoke. Yet it was through her that thou didst not keep silence toward me; and in rejecting her counsel I was rejecting thee– I, her son” (Augustine p.45). After Augustine decided to go against all of his mother’s rules, of being catholic, as well as possibly still wanting to have a family, which go completely against being catholic. Monica still had no choice but to let Augustine do what he thought was the best for his life, his mother still feared that having a wife at this stage would ruin Augustine’s chances for having a good career. Later into book 2 Augustine kept on thinking about his early teenage years pranks that he used to do. One was about being peer pressured into stealing some pears. What disturbs him about doing this is that he did this as a prank, and he did it for no reason at all, other then the want to do wrong. Augustine then says, “For had I at that time loved the pears that I stole and wished to enjoy them, I might have done so alone, if I could have been satisfied with the mere act of theft by which my pleasure was served. Nor did I need to have that itching of my own passions inflamed by the encouragement of my accomplices. But since the pleasure I got was not from the pears, it was in the crime itself, enhanced by the companionship of my fellow sinners” (Augustine p.51). Augustine then again concludes that his actions were simply because of God-given goodness. After reading on with Augustine’s books, Augustine, catches a passion for the search of Philosophical truth, learning all of the beliefs of Manicheism, skepticism, and Neoplatonism. This shows that the Confessions are the most powerful expression of his complex combination of Catholic theology with Neoplatonic ideas. After reading on with Augustines books, the last few books talks about how he also continues to pursue his career as a teacher of rhetoric, Augustine also deicedes that it is okay to have sex when you are married but only when you are married. This causes Augustine to finally decided that being Catholic was the way to go in his life. Even though he went against his mother, as a young child, and did not agree with her at first, and didn’t obey any of her rules.
I think overall that Augustine is a good man, yes maybe he should of listened to his mom after all especially that he decided that being catholic was the right road to go down. Also I like that he wanted to live his life without any help from his parents, yes his father Patricius did save up money for Augustine, in order for him to continue his life, and follow the path in order for him to figure out what he wanted to really believe in, but Augustine was going to do no matter what, no one was going to stop him, and the end result to this was him becoming a teacher, and growing up, and becoming a very happy Catholic man as well. If people were to argue, and say that he changed his mind on what he wanted to be, and or do, to many times, and that he was wrong for that, I would say to those people that they are wrong because everyone has had times in there life that they changed what their overall big picture will be on what they want to do with there life. I know that I have, not just once but multiple times as well from when I was a young boy to now. So many times in my life that I kept on changing, what the big picture of my life will actually be, what do I want to do with my life, or what do I want to be, and to be honest I still don’t really know right now. I can also see myself being friends with Augustine, it seems like we have a lot in common with each other, the biggest thing would be wanting to do things for ourselves, and not having anyone take that away from you.
The Confessions of Augustine. Allegorical Interpretation of the Psalms
Augustine’s extensive employment of the Psalms is seen right from the first sentence of Confessions, and as the text progresses, readers notice that there is hardly a single page where such a reference does not occur. The narrative autobiographical voice seems to be regularly harmonized with the voice of the psalmist. Augustine makes use of the Psalms to probe the range of his own emotional experience: pain, pleasure, confusion, anxiety and gratitude. The influence of the Psalms on Augustine is evident when he says, “As I read, I was set on fire” (9.11). As the Psalms express a spiritual history of humanity, their use by Augustine to depict the emotions he felt during his own spiritual journey is fitting. Using God’s words through Psalms is considered by Augustine to be a sign of humility and an acceptance of the human condition. It also serves an analogical function – it depicts the binding of a human life to God through faith. Thus, the traditional focus of allegorical interpretation of the Psalms has been inverted by Augustine in Confessions from an objective viewpoint of the life of Christ and turned inwards to provide models of subjective experience.
Augustine’s understanding of himself and his existence depends to a large extent on his connection with God, as depicted through his statement, “Our heart is restless until it rests in you” (1.1). By using God’s words through the Psalms as his own, Augustine is depicting the unity between God and humanity and the residence of God within human beings. Augustine wants to find God because being at one with God will enable him to be at one with himself. Augustine’s spiritual journey is from God to God. He says that, “You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to you”. (8.4) Thus, Augustine attempts to return to God by bridging the gap between himself and God.
One of the ways in which Augustine links himself to God is by making an analogical use of the Psalms in the analysis of the incident of the pear theft in Book 2. This example is striking because a seemingly minor prank evokes strong feelings of repentance within Augustine. He says that he failed to stop himself from committing such a sin because of his ‘’iniquity’’ (2.8), which were as if it had ‘’burst out from [his] fatness’’ (Ps. 72:7). Here, the Psalm implies that immoral behavior stems from greed and temptation. However, in the text, Augustine makes clear that he did not steal the pears to eat them himself, but rather to throw them to the pigs. Thus, his use of this Psalm holds a deeper, alternative meaning. By using the language of the Psalms, he is viewing the incident from a religious, particularly Christian, perspective. He is thus linking this incident to that of the Fall, a story of much significance for Christians, which led to the development of a sinful predisposition in all human beings. He found validation of this idea in his own experience – the pear tree could be compared to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the peer pressure he faced could be compared to Eve’s seduction. Augustine is employing the concept of suctus biblicae, relating a biblical story to his own life. By using the objective story of the Fall as a premise for analyzing his subjective experience and as a way to understand his behavior, Augustine is trying to inspire his readers to also connect with faith in the same way that he does.
Other than using the words of the Psalms to confess his sins, Augustine also makes use of them for redemption. In Book 9, Augustine employs Psalm 4 in the context of when he first encountered Psalms. This occurs when he, with his mother and a few friends, has retired to the country estate of Verecundus at Cassiciacum. When he encounters the Psalms for the first time, they provide Augustine with a new voice. He claims that initially he learnt to speak so that he could “excel in the arts of using [his] tongue to gain access to human honors and to acquire deceitful riches” (1.14). Thus, his purpose of learning how to speak, or rather how he would use this knowledge, was flawed. However, following his reading of the Psalms, Augustine says, “My God how I cried to you when I read the Psalms of David… I was fired by an enthusiasm to recite them, were it possible, to the entire world in protest against the pride of the human race (Ps. 18:7)” (9.8). Examining the passages before and after this lends more evidence to this idea – we can interpret that Augustine had relinquished his old voice when he was “liberated from the profession of rhetor” (9.7). Just as Augustine has redefined the use of the Psalms, he has also redefined the purpose of his voice – to teach the Psalms to all of humanity.
In seeking to disseminate the Psalms to humanity, Augustine is using them as an antidote to pride. The humble word of God offsets pride. This is also examined in Book 7. Augustine claims that “Christian faith cannot be understood without humility since Christ himself is only encountered when we come down to the level at which he has chosen to live, the level of ruined and scarred humanity”(7.18.24). Thus, the humility implicit in making the language of the Psalms our own symbolizes the acceptance of the human condition that Christ embraced in his incarnation. As readers subsume the identity of the psalmist as an archetypal human struggler, we understand the identity of Christ who chooses those same words as his own. Thus we are given to speak the words that Christ speaks to the Father, because the humility that grounds his acceptance of our condition is the expression of the eternal love that unites him with the Father. Just as Augustine takes up the Psalms and embodies their meditative reading in Confessions, finding his own place within the Body of Christ, similarly readers are invited to follow Augustine’s example.
The incident of the pear tree mentioned above shows Augustine’s acceptance and understanding of his sin. The parallel he draws between his sin and Adam’s, serves as a platform for his readers to also understand and interpret their sins in a similar way. Augustine’s use of the words of the Psalms for redemption beckons the readers to follow in his footsteps so that they too can rediscover themselves through faith. Thus, the use of Psalms by Augustine is not only restricted for use in confession of sin, but also for redemption and the development of humility and gratitude within readers. This view is clearly stated by St. Augustine in the beginning of the text when he says, “Man… carrying with him the witness of his sin and the witness that you resist the proud”(1.1). Augustine’s employment of the Psalms in the text is proof of the fact that he has developed a new voice towards the end of his spiritual journey. Ultimately, readers must remember that this autobiography has an ulterior motive different from simply just discussing Augustine’s journey of self-discovery or rediscovery – it aims to promote Christianity. Thus, by embedding Psalms in his text, Augustine is familiarizing readers with an important holy text from the Christian religion, and is using his new voice in order to spread his faith. Through Augustine’s use of an objective text, the Psalms, for subjective reflection, Augustine sets an example for his readers to also form their own significance from the text and relate to it in a way that best suits their own circumstance. Since readers can then connect to the Psalms, which are considered to be the words of God, they can in turn connect with God and thus a connection between God and humanity is established.