Thursday, 13 January 2011

Summary of Book VII - Part 2

Weakness. Strength. Christology. Breakthrough.

Augustine’s enjoyment of God was not stable. He describes his sexual habit as a weight which tore him away from God. Yet he was aware that his judgments about beauty and truth were based upon something outside of himself. The power and divinity of invisible God was visible in created things. But Augustine did not have the strength to hold on to this vision and insight.

It was only in Christ Jesus that he would learn how to retain joy. Augustine had to learn that the weakness of Jesus provided strength to those seeking God. The exact nature of the union of Word with flesh was more mysterious than Augustine had assumed. But this struggle was to help in future work prepared by God. God intended for Augustine to be shaped by Platonist thinking:

“…so that when later I had been made docile by your books and my wounds were healed by your gentle fingers, I would learn to discern and distinguish the difference between presumption and confession, between those who see what the goal is but not how to get there and those who see the way which leads to the home of bliss, not merely as an end to be perceived but as a realm to live in.”

Augustine seized upon the Scriptures, especially Paul. Suddenly the problems disappeared. All the truth that Augustine knew from other places was present along with God’s grace. Only in “the sacred writings of the Spirit” did Augustine find solution and remedy to the problems of his internal conflict and his weakness. The wretched man was now close to finding the Saviour who could deliver him safely to the heavenly city.


  1. It's interesting that before he records his conversion experience he would have turned to the writings of Paul of all people for guidance. I wonder what it was about Paul that gave Augustine answers? Especially in light of his own neo-Platonism.
    Is this what some in later Christian tradition would call an "awakening"? The so-called "birth-pangs" that would lead to new birth.

  2. Ian, I'm starting to find myself out of my depth... in chapters 6 and 7 Augustine asserts that he knew a tonne of stuff, was learning and changing lots too, and yet he maintains that he was far from God. I'm not sure I appreciate or know the distinction between awakening and new birth, but, as you suggest, that could easily be seen in Confessions.


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