Augustine\'s Confessions are built upon the twin poles of a search for God and a search for self. These twin poles are also twining poles because Augustine proclaims that one can only understand self in light of God and that one can only find God through self-knowledge. In one of his sermons, Augustine described the act of confession as, "accusation of oneself; praise of God." This act of confession results from the search. The search itself, as I have described elsewhere , is descent to an interiority of unfathomable depth and discovery of a God of incomprehensible immutability. In this essay, I will examine the part of confession involving "accusation of oneself" by analyzing the origins, development, nature, and implications of Augustine\'s self-accusation.
[...] It is a terrifying thought to our self-indulgent culture to imagine dealing with temptation not by attempting again and again to do the activity or seek the object that we sin in doing or seeking but to actually remove ourselves from that activity or object. Augustine's seriousness about seeking righteousness as part of his search to know and experience God necessitated realism concerning his own susceptibilities. In other words (in regard to his sexuality at least) he saw his commission as a redeemed, new creation of God to be in some ways superseding the commission of mankind originally in Eden. [...]
[...] All of these things, by necessity, Augustine must consider from the perspective of a creature. Augustine's appreciation, and praise for, his own creatureliness must be carefully noted—later on, when I come to examine the accusation that his ethics are little more than a Neoplatonic journey out of the creaturely bondage of body to the divine vision of intellect, his true attitude toward creatureliness must be kept in mind. Augustine approaches the chief end of man, in the Confessions, from the interesting direction of happiness. [...]
[...] Yet this was not a manifestation of the nature of an alien mind but the punishment suffered in my own In a sense then, Augustine looks upon accusation as “punishment.” Augustine's life as a Christian was both life after accusation and a life of accusation. First, Augustine lived after accusation in that he changed the way he lived because of accusation. The changes in Augustine's life, as I described in the first essay of this series, are both changes from his sinful nature and toward his godly nature. [...]
[...] Sometimes, as Augustine concludes in the case of the pears, the intention of sin is simply sin. Of that crime, he writes, pleasure was not in the pears; it was in the crime itself.”[?] The basis for self-accusation then, according to Augustine, lies in man's improper response to his own nature. Man is a creature aspiring to deity; man finds his happiness in God but seeks it in lesser things without reference to God. The Life of Accusation Self-accusation requires either self-transcendence or memory. [...]
[...] For example, in book II of the Confessions, Augustine describes a pear he stole when he was an adolescent and he attempts to analyze the reasons for this sin. In the midst of his analysis, we find the following passage: There is beauty in lovely physical objects, as in gold and silver and all other such things. When the body touches such things, much significance attaches to the rapport of the object with the touch. Each of the other senses has its own appropriate mode of response to physical things. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee