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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.

jmstaller's picture

re: Augustine and Catholic Sexuality

I think a lot of valid criticism has been leveled at Augustine for frolicking in his youth and then shaming everyone like a curmudgeon when he got a little older. Unfortunately his views on sexual desire have contributed to a wider church culture of shame, misunderstanding, and utilitarianism, reflected (at least partially) in the predominantly Catholic view that the only valid function of sex is procreation; sexual pleasure with any other intention is still listed as mortal sin (e.g., as bad as murder), and the theological framework that sustains such an extremely negative view of pleasure seems essentially Augustinian.

Still, there are a couple things I try to keep in mind whenever I'm processing Augustine's thoughts on sex and theology: 1) Augustine is writing in a very different (and yet very similar) social context 2) He had a mistress and a son that he eventually shipped off somewhere in order to be more faithfully involved in the church.

    Social Context: As we were reminded in the earlier books of City of God, the Roman Empire in Augustine's day celebrated a wide variety of sexually explicit pagan rites. In Augustine's description, this is a society that literally worships exhibitionism, voyeurism, and other graphic aspects of human sexuality, sometimes in public rituals observed during city-wide holidays. I often wonder if Augustine's severity towards sexual revelry was at least in part a consequence of his official, public image as a bishop. He may have believed that the ordinary Roman citizen was so inundated with sexually charged spirituality that it was his therapeutic duty as a Christian bishop to project and ingrain an image of sexual purity as a counterweight to these cultural (and very human) pressures.
    Personal Context: Augustine doesn't hide the fact that he has a son and a mistress--he is quite open about it in Confessions, I think. And if I recall correctly he even admitted a personal fascination with pagan sex rituals in City of God. This is something I appreciate immensely, because even while advocating for holiness he doesn't really strike me as a hypocrite--he openly admits that he has fallen short and missed the mark in these areas. And we have the benefit of analyzing his thoughts because he was brave enough to write them down. This is one reason I suspect Augustine knew that there would be people reading his work the way he read the works of Clement, Gregory the Great, or other major church personalities--he knows that he is giving later generations a window into his own psychology, and that they will judge him for it, and analyze him, and he does it anyway because it needs to be done, even if he can only do it imperfectly.

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