Tuesday, August 28, 2012

St. Augustine of Hippo: 28 August 2012

St. Augustine (Nov. 13, 354-August 28, 430) was born in what is now in Algeria, in what was then Roman Africa.  His father was a pagan, and his mother was a Christian and a Berber.  He attended school and at the age of 17 went to Carthage where he studied rhetoric.   Though he was raised as a Christian, he began following the Manichaean religion.  He also fell into a hedonistic lifestyle.  Briefly he taught in Thagaste, his home town and whet on to Carthage to teach rhetoric.  Nine years later, disappointed in his students, he left for Rome, but found the students little improved.  He eventually ended up in Milan where he taught rhetoric.  Dissapointed in Manichaeism, he turned briefly to the New Academy movement, though his mother and Neo-Platonism led him towards Christianity.  Inspired by the life of St. Anthony, he had a vision and was inspired to read Paul’s epistle to the Romans.  Inapired, he accepted Christ and was baptised on the Easter Vigil of 387by Bishop  Ambrose of Milan, who had also inspired him.
In 388 he wrote on the Holiness of the Catholic Church and returned to Africa.  In Africa, he sold most of his patrimony except his fathers house which was converted into a monastery, and was ordained priest in 391.  He was famous for his preaching and fighing Manichaeanism.  In 395, he became coadjutor Bishop of Hippo  and upon the Bishop’s death, the Diocesan Bishop.  He died during an Vandal invasion of Hippo, which was completely destroyed except for the library and cathedral. 

Augustine wrote many works, many against heresies, and also the City  of God inspired by the defeat of Rome, and Confessions.  His writings influenced many theologians, both Catholic and Protestant, and are still important today.

Confession of St. Augustine is a Genre well known by many evangelicals, but forgotten by others.  The first example of this genre are found in St. Paul’s epistle, where he describes himself as the worst of all sinners, but was saved by God’s grace.  St. Augustine’s Confessions is much the same, the story of a boy raised Christian, but turning his back on Messiah, and living a dissolute life, but coming to the kingdom, and becoming an important member of that kingdom through God’s grace.  Today we can hear similar stories on Unshacked (http://www.unshackled.org/), stories which serve both to bring people to God, and to remind us not to be smug about our own faith.

The City of God, on the other hand is a document showing the constant struggle between good and evil.  The book reflects both the struggles of the church with heresies of the time, and the struggles of the Roman Empire against the barbarian invaders.  The idea of original sin is found in this book, the doctrine that was oriniated by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, indicates that all mankind is contaminated by the sin of Adam, and that because of it, we have no power in and of ourselves to be saved.  We must be called by the Holy Spirit, who changes our hearts and gives us the power to live life as God would have us live it.  
St. Augustine also originates the Christian theory of just war.  Prior to the time of Augustine, the majority of Christians were what we would call extreme pacifists.  The Barbarian invasions made this obvious that this state of affairs could not endure.  Augustine tells us, "The commandment forbidding killing was not broken by those who have waged wars on the authority of God, or those who have imposed the death-penalty on criminals when representing the authority of the state, the justest and most reasonable source of power," and again, in The City of God, “But, say they, the wise man will wage just wars. As if he would not all the rather lament the necessity of just wars, if he remembers that he is a man; for if they were not just he would not wage them, and would therefore be delivered from all wars.”  For more on the development of just war theory, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_war_theory

Father, you raised up your bishop, Augustine of Hippo in a time fraught with temporal dangers and hardships to inspire people to seek the City of God.  Help us to be seekers of that eternal city, that we may always know that our true citizenship is in heaven and that we are heaven’s ambassadors here on earth.  This we ask in the name of him whom we represent here on earth, Yeshuah, the true and rightful king.  Amen.  (white)

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