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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.

christopherdorn49's picture

Augustine and sex

I appreciate your attempt to give a balanced appraisal of Augustine's views on sex. In the Confessions he suggests that his mistress with whom he seemed to be in a quasi-permanent relationship was not suitable because she belonged to a different social class. I don't recall reading that it was to dedicate himself more completely to the work of the church that he sent her away. Rather, it seemed that the move was instigated by his mother who had in mind to find him a wife more suitable to his social station now that he was at a place in his career in which he would have enjoyed social prestige. One thinks here of the med student whose wife sacrifices for him as he labors through med school only to be abandoned for a younger more attractive woman once he has attained the status of "doctor." And was it not the case that Adeodatus, Augustine's son, died as an adolescent? In this case his freedom from the bonds of family was thrust upon him.

Augustine's views on sex, however, are more problematic than what your post suggests. For him sexual desire expressed in a spontaneous erection is a symptom of original sin, because of which man loses control over the members of his body, which in his original upright state were subjected to his will. For Augustine there can be no sexual act, carried out in this fallen world, that is without concupiscience, or inordinate desire that presses towards sin even if it is not sin itself. Augustine postulated that if man had remained upright, his organ would be at his conscious command, so that he could will it erect for the sake of engaging in relations with his wife. It is not hard to see that one is but a short step away from identifying the sexual act with a sinful act. Indeed it is debatable whether Augustine escapes the charge of traducianism, that is, the idea that sin is transmitted through the sexual act.