Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"City of God" XIV.5-7

Chapter 5:
Again, we see that the true view of the human being is not that flesh = bad and spirit = good, but rather that "The flesh, in its own kind and order, is good. But what is not good is to abandon the Goodness of the Creator in pursuit of some created good, whether by living deliberately according to the flesh, or according to the soul, or according to the entire man, which is made up of soul and flesh."

Any other view of man or morality, Augustine says, comes from "human vanity and not from divine Truth." The Platonists understand this to some point, though again they confuse their categories and still fall short of the full truth. They know enough to condemn fully, but not enough to save.

Chapter 6:
The conclusion, then, is that the faculty of man which binds body and soul together must be of the highest importance. This is the will. Rightly oriented, "the emotions will not merely be blameless but even praiseworthy." If wrongly oriented, "the emotions will be perverse." Here we can see that Augustine agrees with Edwards (or perhaps Edwards agrees with Augustine, though from what I can tell Edwards had never read him) that the will and the affections are functionally indistinguishable and reveal which way our beings are oriented. Pursuing God, for example, results in delight in the good and true joy. Likewise, a properly oriented will enables us to engage with other men the way we ought--we become able to distinguish what God has done in creating them good from what they have done to themselves in rebelling against Him. We become able, as Augustine famously notes, to "hate the sin but love the sinner." To that end, it is our responsibility to encourage our fellow men to turn to God "for, once the corruption has been cured, then all that is left should be loved and nothing remains to be hated."

Chapter 7:
This rightly oriented will is what Scripture means when it talks about the right kinds of "love" or "charity." We don't need to get hung upon on the various words used for "love" in the Bible [and we certainly don't need to get hung up on them in Latin]. We need only to see that "the right will is, therefore, well-directed love, and the wrong will is ill-directed love." Augustine then gives several examples of how Scripture unites these two ideas--of the will and of love.

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