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City of God: Book Fourteen

jmstaller's picture

That the Disobedience of the First Man Would Have Plunged All Men into the Endless Misery of the Second Death, Had Not the Grace of God Rescued Many. Of Carnal Life, Which is to Be Understood Not Only of Living in Bodily Indulgence, But Also of Living in the Vices of the Inner Man. That the Sin is Caused Not by the Flesh, But by the Soul, and that the Corruption Contracted from Sin is Not Sin But Sin’s Punishment. What It is to Live According to Man, and What to Live According to God.

That the Opinion of the Platonists Regarding the Nature of Body and Soul is Not So Censurable as that of the Manichæans, But that Even It is Objectionable, Because It Ascribes the Origin of Vices to the Nature of The Flesh. Of the Character of the Human Will Which Makes the Affections of the Soul Right or Wrong. That the Words Love and Regard (Amor and Dilectio) are in Scripture Used Indifferently of Good and Evil Affection. Of the Three Perturbations, Which the Stoics Admitted in the Soul of the Wise Man to the Exclusion of Grief or Sadness, Which the Manly Mind Ought Not to Experience. Of the Perturbations of the Soul Which Appear as Right Affections in the Life of the Righteous. Whether It is to Be Believed that Our First Parents in Paradise, Before They Sinned, Were Free from All Perturbation.

Of the Fall of the First Man, in Whom Nature Was Created Good, and Can Be Restored Only by Its Author. Of the Nature of Man’s First Sin. That in Adam’s Sin an Evil Will Preceded the Evil Act. Of the Pride in the Sin, Which Was Worse Than the Sin Itself. Of the Justice of the Punishment with Which Our First Parents Were Visited for Their Disobedience. Of the Evil of Lust,—A Word Which, Though Applicable to Many Vices, is Specially Appropriated to Sexual Uncleanness. Of the Nakedness of Our First Parents, Which They Saw After Their Base and Shameful Sin. Of the Shame Which Attends All Sexual Intercourse.

That It is Now Necessary, as It Was Not Before Man Sinned, to Bridle Anger and Lust by the Restraining Influence of Wisdom. Of the Foolish Beastliness of the Cynics. That Man’s Transgression Did Not Annul the Blessing of Fecundity Pronounced Upon Man Before He Sinned But Infected It with the Disease of Lust. Of the Conjugal Union as It Was Originally Instituted and Blessed by God. Whether Generation Should Have Taken Place Even in Paradise Had Man Not Sinned, or Whether There Should Have Been Any Contention There Between Chastity and Lust. That If Men Had Remained Innocent and Obedient in Paradise, the Generative Organs Should Have Been in Subjection to the Will as the Other Members are. Of True Blessedness, Which This Present Life Cannot Enjoy. That We are to Believe that in Paradise Our First Parents Begat Offspring Without Blushing. Of the Angels and Men Who Sinned, and that Their Wickedness Did Not Disturb the Order of God’s Providence.

Of the Nature of the Two Cities, the Earthly and the Heavenly.

tomgroeneman's picture

Procreation and Catholic Sexuality

And therefore that marriage, worthy of the happiness of Paradise, should have had desirable fruit without the shame of lust, had there been no sin. But how that could be, there is now no example to teach us. Book 14, Chapter 23

Augustine has a good grasp of the nature of lust after the Fall but as he states here we have no way of knowing for sure what marriage was like before the Fall. I have heard many people comment over the years that Catholics suffer from too much guilt especially around the area of sexuality. One Evangelical Pastor I know has said that when married, a couple can enjoy all the pleasure that human sexuality provides without negative feelings being associated with it. As a virile young man growing up Catholic, I struggled for years with the shame Augustine describes so well. His point that the shame that coincides with Lust cannot be gainsaid because it is evident in all cultures that the private parts are covered. The guilt and shame that people have over illicit sexuality is not only Catholic but universal however much today that point is diminished by the blatant immorality of modern entertainment. So the charge that Christians are prudes will go on unanswered and who among us in the Church really cares what the world says and thinks about us; we are not of the world. Where I would critique Augustine is when he views sexuality as strictly utilitarian for the purposes of procreation. Just because Augustine cannot get past the shame and guilt he feels around his own sexuality should not consign the rest of us to live in a desert of sexual pleasure. I have always wondered why Christians are so uptight about sex and now I know one of the sources of this anxiety. I am convinced that if two people are genuinely married before their Creator like Adam and Eve were, then they should enjoy their conjugal union and all the physical experience that it provides. I agree with Augustine that before the Fall, the first couple could have born offspring but I disagree with his view that the sexual act that is necessary to produce children is sinful in and of itself. I imagine the first couple as delighting in their physical bodies in Paradise and that the awareness of their nakedness is a result of their disobedience as Augustine and the Scriptures clearly indicate. Not only was death the toll to be paid for sin but all the other negative results of the Fall include the commensurate guilt and shame of human sexuality. The union between man and woman in marriage is not only sacred and represents the relationship between Christ and the Church, but bearing children through enjoyable sex is a blessing and in keeping with God’s original design to be fruitful and multiply.

Tom Groeneman