My classes are now in full swing, one of which is my class on Augustine. Each week I will write some reflections on a couple points of interest to me in that week’s reading. I offer these extemporaneous reflections for your consideration, beginning with this:
Throughout books 1-10 in Augustine’s Confessions he repeatedly emphasizes the importance of one’s intention in actions. One can perform a good task or kind act and still be completely disobedient to God’s desire. Furthermore, Augustine writes that “things liable to corruption are good . . . therefore, as long as they exist, they are good (124; see footnote 24).” These two points when taken together make sense of how Augustine could see evil as the privation of good, and how the best thing anyone can do is love and obey God. I wonder though if Augustine has inadvertently made it harder to follow God by making everything physical a constant source of temptation. Shouldn’t the truest expression of love and obedience to God come in the way we act in our homes, jobs, etc., in the very physical lives we live? I greatly appreciate Augustine’s wariness of idolatry, but how exactly can we honor God with our bodies if we are constantly on guard from temptation, as it seems he is in book 10? This seems to have a very practical import on daily Christian living. If we spend much of our time focusing on not letting ourselves become too attached to anything in this world, this could easily become a new type of bondage, and ironically a serious distraction from focusing on God. I am still learning what a proper balance between alertness and freedom is, and while I respect Augustine’s desire for purity, I think he is too sensitive to the potential for idolatry, which leaves him wary and anxious, presenting at times a less than helpful model for discipleship.