Saint Augustine: How He Fused Classical Culture (I.E., Both Stoicism and Platonism) with Christianity

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Saint Augustine:
How he fused Classical culture (i.e., both Stoicism and Platonism) with Christianity

In Augustine’s day there were many religions available to choose from some of which had many gods. St. Augustine was born to a pagan father and a Christian mother. He lived a life of immorality until his early thirties when he suddenly took a new path. During his upbringing his parents began to instill their beliefs and way of living which he later began to question. Though his mother taught and raised him as a Christian he did not fully accept the faith. Instead, during his education, he became fascinated with the writings of the great philosophers such as Plato. The ideas expressed in the writings of the great philosophers, such as Stoicism and Platonism, would leave a lasting impact on Augustine. In trying to search for answers to his questions he came across untruths which made him more confused yet motivated him to delve even further in seeking the truth. His journey was a long but fulfilling one where he eventually found solace and true happiness in Christianity. The Confessions of Saint Augustine is an autobiographical tale in which St. Augustine tells the story of his life through the view of a devout convert. Saint Augustine’s incorporation of both Stoicism and Platonism into his Confessions fused the gap between Classical culture and Christianity.

Stoicism was a school of philosophy where those who practiced it believed that it was wrong to show any kind of emotion in any circumstance. Even in times of death, as Epictetus stated in the Enchiridion “for the opinion about death, that it is terrible is the terrible thing.”1 It was acceptable to feel some sympathy for someone else’s emotions, just not empathy, “Do not be unwilling to show him sympathy, and even if it happens so, to lament with him. But take care that you do not lament internally also.”2 Basically Stoicism is guarding your emotions and viewing everything with a passive mindset.

Augustine repeatedly fused Stoicism into his Confessions to show how it incorporated into Christianity and how it was instrumental in helping him arrive at his own Christian faith. The problem with Stoicism is that there is no constant. To look at everything and say that it is this way just because it is provides no resolution which results in a problem because of the absoluteness that results from things just being the way they are. This very idea is easily incorporated into Christianity. If you replace the absoluteness of everything just being the way it is just because that’s the way it is with the absoluteness that everything is the way that it is because God intended it to be that way this provides a solution to the problem. Augustine is able to fuse Stoicism and Christianity when he says, “for you evil does not exist, and not only for you but for the whole of your creation as well, because there is nothing outside it which could invade it and break down the order which you have imposed on it.”3 Augustine further reinforces this view when he says, “O Lord, Ruler of all thing in heaven and on earth, who make the deep rivers serve your purposes and govern the raging tide of time as it sweeps on, you even used the anger of one soul to cure the folly of another. Let this be a warning, so that none of us may ascribe it to our own doing if we find that others, whose ways we wish to see reformed, are corrected by the words we speak.”3 In this statement Augustine uses the idea of nature, time, and human experience to reinforce the concept that all things come through God. He also goes on to say that even the negative side of human experience is an aspect that is controlled by God which is demonstrated when he stated, “With all my heart I begged you to heal my sorrow, but you did not grant my prayer. I believe that this was because you wished to press upon my memory, if only by this one lesson, how firmly the mind is gripped in the bonds of habit.”5 By saying this in...
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