CHURCH FATHERS DO YOU FIND THE MOST INSPIRING AND WHY? THE COURSE IS NAVIGATING CHURCH HISTORY. Cairns, Earle. E. (1996). Christianity Through Centuries: A History Christian Church. (Third edition).
Saint Augustine of Hippo
The majority of people have a tendency to perceive a church father as being a person obsessed with religion and dedicated to promoting God's words regardless of the fact that they agree to them or not. However, there are some influential individuals in the history of Christianity who actually went much further than to act in agreement with stereotypes and who challenged most people's understanding of Christian thinking. Augustine of Hippo is one of the most influential characters in the history of Western Christianity and he is largely responsible for thinking in a series of modern-day Christians, taking into account that he made it possible for people to employ rational thinking when coming across Christian ideas.
Aurelius Augustinus was born in the Roman Empire and lived there from 354 to 430, his main influences being Roman thinking and the Roman society as a whole. While he was attracted to religious ideas throughout his life, it was not until 386 that he converted to Christianity. He focused on Macheanan religious thoughts until that time, but the fact that this was a pagan religion influenced him to express interest in other ideologies. He became the Bishop of the City of Hippo as a result of his extensive work in interpreting and producing Christian ideas and thus came to be known as Augustine of Hippo (Augustine).
In addition to being a passionate Christian, Augustine was also concerned about other domains and his writings reflect the complex nature of his thinking. "Augustine's work in metaphysics, ethics, and politics remain important today. Key among these accomplishments are his metaphysical analysis of time, his ethical analysis of the evil, and his examination of the conditions for justified war" (Augustine). This makes it possible for people to understand that this person is not only important because of his contribution to Christianity, as he also played an important role in assisting humanity experience progress by introducing a series of ideas that motivated the masses to become active members of the social order.
The fact that Augustine had a complex background in analyzing moral and rational theories meant that he would be especially proficient in interpreting Christian thinking. This was something very important, given that Christianity was a young religion in the fourth century and that society had a limited understanding of what it was meant to represent exactly. "Augustine produced a sophisticated interpretation of Christian thinking by merging it with the philosophy of Plato and Neoplatonism" (Augustine).
While Christianity had already gathered a significant number of followers until that time, very little of them were actually capable to produce complex thinking with regard to this religious ideology. Augustine virtually managed to take Christianity to a whole new level by introducing ideas that reinforced most of its theories and that enabled people to gain a better understanding of the concepts that the religion was meant to put across (Augustine). Considering this, it only seems natural for someone to consider that this person is one of the most inspirational characters in all of history and that he is largely responsible for changing society's tendency to discriminate Christians. The fact that the social order came to acknowledge the positive ideas present in Christian thinking practically fueled the masses in expressing more and more interest in the religion.
In spite of the fact that he was named a Bishop in the African town of Hippo, Augustine did not think of himself as of a person who knew all there was to know about Christianity. He actually considered that one should never stop learning and that it was essential for him to dedicate a significant amount of time to studying the Bible. This was not something surprising when coming from him, as he was accustomed to portion his time with the purpose of having a lot of time for learning (Green vii).
III. Three of his principal theories
One of the main reasons for which Augustine abandoned Manicheanism in favor of Christianity was the fact that he did not believe that there was an evil God. Instead, he believed that immoral things happened because people wanted them to and that Adam was the perfect example of a person making a bad choice on account of his thinking. Augustine provided a theory regarding how each person is capable to control his or her own life and that his or her life experiences reflect the nature of his or her choices (Von Dehsen 16).
Augustine often came across the presumption that the moral nature of priests made it impossible for them to be able to enact God's words. As a consequence, many believed that priests were not capable to administer sacraments because were sinners and thus unworthy to pose in extremely religious persons. According to Augustine, "the Church would always be a "mixed" community, composed out of the righteous and repentant sinners" (Von Dehsen 16). The Saint largely believed that the masses needed to concentrate on the purpose of the Church rather than to focus on the people who administered it.
Another idea that Augustine focused on regards the inherent sinner attitude present in all people. He considered that it was absurd for people to think that they could actually contribute to their own salvation and that humanity simply needed to accept that everyone is a sinner, regardless of their background or other factors that might be associated with them. He lobbied with the purpose of having people accept that there was much more to religion than they were inclined to think and actually felt that individuals needed to employ open-minded thinking in trying to interpret Christian ideas (Von Dehsen 16).
IV. His thoughts into writing
"Confessions" is an autobiographical text that is composed out of thirteen books and is meant to provide readers with information regarding how Augustine did not want the rest of the world to perceive him as being a saint. This is largely considered to be among the first Western autobiographies and displays a great deal of ideas that Augustine accumulated before he converted to Christianity. Although it is obvious throughout the manuscript that the Saint was determined to have readers understand that he had a troubled past that was practically in disagreement with many Christian concepts, he emphasized that it was wrong for someone to take on such attitudes, as employing Christian thinking was apparently much more beneficial for an individual.
When analyzing this text, it becomes obvious that Augustine was, in point of fact, more concerned about explaining his past than in speaking with regard to the factors that influenced him to take on Christian thinking. The Saint was not necessarily interested in Manichean thinking or in any other religions before he became a Christian. It was rhetoric and skepticism that actually dominated his thinking during that period.
The fact that Augustine had a complex background and that he was well-acquainted with the material aspect of society makes this person even more intriguing when regarding things from the perspective of someone interested in Church Fathers. This individual did not attempt to portray himself as a pious person and his writing of "Confessions" demonstrates that he wanted people to be familiar with his past. He was more concerned about teaching people concerning moral and rational thinking rather than to influence them in believing that he was a saint and that everything he said was true. He wanted the masses to be actively involved in interpreting Christian ideas.
"Confessions" is the story of a man who could achieve success in a series of fields, but focused on acting in agreement with Christian thinking in order to do so. His background in rhetoric was especially important when considering that it prepared him to deal with all sorts of situations. However, he abandoned rhetoric in favor of Christianity and started to focus on helping people help themselves rather than on influencing the masses in believing that it was only normal for them to act in accordance with his thinking. Augustine practically wanted people to be capable to interpret theories on themselves instead of to believe what other people are saying simply because these individuals have a higher social status.
Throughout "Confessions" it is visible that Augustine considers rhetoric to be immoral in character and that he is apparently sorry to have been a fan of the domain for a significant part of his life. However, it appears that he is not necessarily interested in criticizing the domain as a whole, as he really wants to address particular aspects of the concept. He acknowledges that rhetoric can influence people to lose touch with themselves and with moral thinking. As a consequence, he feels that it is essential for individuals to be capable to filter information in order to only adopt rhetorical attitudes that reflect positively on…