Augustine and human nature cram mind map

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  • Augustine and human nature
    • humans pre and post fall
      • According to Genesis , when God created humans he made them as the pinnacle of his creation in his ‘image and likeness’.
        • Pre-fall
          • The state that Adam and Eve lived in can only be described as perfect harmony. I.e. They had everything they needed, there were no threats to their lives, they were in harmony with God, etc.
            • Augustine interpreted these few verses of Genesis to say that there was perfect harmony between the human body, will and reason.
        • Post-fall
          • In Genesis 3, we read the story of the Fall. The serpent (Satan) tempts Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil; she does so and Adam follows suit. They realise they are naked, they hide from God, he finds out and they are duly punished.
            • Augustine interprets the events of the Fall in a number of ways: The shame of nakedness and the punishment to Eve of lust and subordination defines male–female relationships post-Fall, Harmony is lost (humans lose their friendship with God and are banished from the garden) and self-love and generous love separate within the will – they pull humans in opposing directions.
            • Augustine is clear that it is the will, not the body, that has been corrupted.
          • ‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do’ ( Romans 7:15).
            • Augustine interpreted this in his own life for his need to overcome his sexual desires, but adds that it applies to human nature as a whole, because we need to overrule concupiscence and take control of our desires.
    • Concupiscence: The idea that our natural perfected state has been wounded so that we are not bad, but always inclining towards sin
    • Original sin and its effects on human nature
      • Effects on free will
        • For Augustine, Original Sin , which came into the world at the Fall, characterizes human nature. In his terms, the will continues in its disharmony and therefore rebels.
          • Augustine believed that Original Sin is passed on to all generations through sexual intercourse because all humans are united through being descendants of Adam and Eve and all are conceived as a result of lust (except Jesus).
            • "And that is why original sin is called 'sin' in an analogical sense: it is a sin 'contracted' and not 'committed'. It is a state, not an act." - Catechism of the Catholic church.
      • Effects on human societies
        • Before the Fall, humanity was characterized by friendship and the leadership humans required was gentle. However, after the Fall, humans needed proper authority to control them and their rebellious wills: this is shown in the different types of leader through the Old Testament. Slavery was an example of the effect of the Fall on society.
          • Augustine said humans need to strive for 'earthly peace', which is temporary and based around material interests. They can strive for this peace by aiming for virtues such as self-control, and the church can help people on this journey.
      • Original sin evaluation
        • Augustine’s view seems to correspond with our own experiences of life – we are torn in different directions, even when they are wrong
          • Freud also said that the libido is central to the motivation of humans, therefore has somewhat of scientific support
        • The account relies on a literal interpretation of Adam and Eve's story, which can be seen as unfair to be tainted from an act so long ago.
          • Dawkins argues that Augustine's approach has led to humans negatively suffering because they try to over-oppress their sexuality
    • God's grace
      • Humans can accept the grace of God, but as they continue to sin, Augustine believed that God elects some people to go to heaven; this is a sign of God’s benevolence, that he is still prepared to let some people go to heaven. This underlines the belief that humans do not deserve grace (because of the Fall and Original Sin), but grace is the only thing that can save people from hell.
        • Inspired by Plato, Augustine talks about God’s goodness being a greatest good that is available only for some – it is part of God’s nature. Goodness in this world is always temporary, whereas the summum bonum is eternal happiness only found in the permanent presence of God. No person can buy a place in heaven, it can only be given by grace.
      • "Men are not saved by good works... but by the grace of God through faith" - The Enchiridion
    • Evaluation
      • Is Augustine right to say humans can never be truly  morally good?
        • It seems unfair for humanity to be defined almost entirely by the idea of sex. Many modern theologians see sex as a healthy part of what it is to be human and would suggest that Augustine was too consumed by his own guilt and his early life where he found it difficult to control his sexual desires.
          • I.e. it is hard to look at a new-born baby and imagine in tainted by the characteristics of original sin.
        • It may seem in-cohesive to argue that all humans can never behave morally good, but psychological experiments have shown that when placed in identical situations, humans behave differently. This shows there is not one distinctive human nature, and it is possible for some but not all humans to show immoral behavior.
      • Is Augustine's view optimistic or pessimistic?
        • Optimistic: • God’s grace is totally given to undeserving humanity. • Jesus died on the cross to save humans from sin: he redeemed humans – paid the price for their sinful natures. • The Church exists to help Christians on their journey, starting with the important moment of baptism that keeps the wound of Original Sin closed.
        • Pessimistic: We are tainted from the moment we are born. • There is little opportunity to develop away from our fallen states and no total escape from it. • Where there is such opportunity, it is only to pursue earthly peace, rather than true heavenly peace. • Concupiscence is an extremely strong force that we cannot escape. • We are not truly free beings.
      • Is Augustine's teaching wrong?
        • Augustine
          • Human nature is damaged by the fall and is sinful by nature
            • God shows his benevolence through grace. He is not to blame for evil because evil is an absence of good, not a thing in itself.
        • Pelagius
          • Humans can’t have a flawed nature. If we did, then God would be commanding the impossible when he asks humans to be holy.
            • It would be unjust of God to condemn humans for something they could not help. He would not give instructions that could not be kept.


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