In the Book Saint Augustine Confessions, Augustine, the author, uses Augustine the character to drive some basic concepts and themes that have to do with confessions in religion. Majorly, the book revolves around confessions which are the major ways of sanctifying oneself from sin and evil, that are key concepts of the Confessions of Saint Augustine. On confessing one's sins, one is at higher stakes of initiating a healthy spiritual life and a pure life free of doing evil. In this case, the major themes of Saint Augustine Confessions of sin and evil are widely explored within the book. For this reason, this analytical paper will focus on the two mentioned themes; sin and evil. Nevertheless, as will be noted in the course of the paper, most of the discussion will dwell on the theme of sin since it is also a portrayal of the theme of evil within the specific book. In other words, the paper will intertwine the themes of sin and evil due to the fact that without evil there is no possibility of sin and vice versa. Therefore, this paper will explore sin and evil as they are discussed in Saint Augustine Confession book from which a generalized conclusion that links between the normal man's life and Augustine's life in sin and purity (free from sin) through confession will be drawn.
What Does “Confession” Mean? Why Does Augustine Write the Confessions? What Is He Confessing?
It is important to begin with the analysis of the word or the act of confession as portrayed within the Saint Augustine Confessions book. As it is used within the book and in the title of the book, the term confession can be taken to refer to the repentance and/or recounting of one's sin(s). The repentance of sin is the most used meaning and form of the word by Augustine there are a number of instances where he uses the term confession in the process of repentance, for instance:
Before you, then, Lord, whatever I am is manifest, and I have already spoken of the benefit I derive from making confession to you. I am not doing this merely by physical words and sounds, but by words from my soul and cry from my mind, which is known to your ear. When I am evil, making confession to you is simply to be displeased with myself. When I am good, making confession to you is simply to make a claim on my behalf, for you, Lord, confer a blessing on the righteous (Ps. 5.13) but only after you have first justified the ungodly (Rom. 4:5).
As can be gathered from the above quote, the two major reasons for confession are due to doing evil, which can be related to doing sin and due to doing good. Now we get to introduce the minor aspect of evil in this paper. According to Matusek 2011, Augustine has had major experiences and encounters with evil since he was born. There are experiences with evil during his childhood and during adolescence which constitutes his early boyhood. The experiences he has, are all but a basis of the later experiences of evil he has in his adulthood. The pride of life is a major showcase of the evils he gets to experience as a young boy. He opts for shows and games which are a clear depiction of him pursuing vain desires which are reinforced by his urge to go venture into public speaking and also to work for excellence in classical studies competitions. As portrayed in the book, the parents are so much into seeing that he succeeds in his academics which leads to them applying so much pressure on him to excel. However, they miss even to notice that what they are pressuring him to pursue is all but vanity. In the process, he gets to generate an uncontrollable urge of sexual pleasures which cause a form of rebellion in the spiritual realm of his being especially in the pear theft episodes of the book. As Matusek 2011 puts it:
... his parents unwittingly reinforce his move toward vanity as they also expect his success in those studies. At the same time, they fail to address adequately a different, growing temptation in his life, that of his sexual struggles, which leads to spiritual rebellion.
Saint Augustine Confessions Reference to Parents and Their Children
In as much as Matusek talks about the failure of the parents, it is evident that Augustine was advised against fornication and adultery by his mother, whom he (Augustine) believed was a holy servant of God. For instance, Augustine writes:
But nothing of that went into my heart to issue in action. Her concern (and in the secret of my conscience I recall the memory of her admonition delivered with vehement anxiety) was that I should not fall for fornication, and above all that I should not commit adultery with someone’s wife.
As can be noted from the quote of Augustine Confesses, his mother warned him against the evils, yet sins, of fornication and adultery. Following the context of the quotation from the book, it can be found that Augustine believed that God used his mother to warn him of the evils that surround the involvement in sexual pleasures.
In contrast, Augustine saw his dad as the main instrument of leading him to do and embracing evil. For instance, Augustine talks about his father as not an instrument of the Lord's spirit; not the Lord's temple. This is well illustrated by the fact that when Augustine was sixteen years of age and living with his parents, his father was overjoyed by the fact that his son was displaying cyphers of virility and stimulations of adolescence:
The thorns of lust rose above my head, and there was no hand to root them out.
To him (Augustine's father), the signs and changes were a display of a potential for them as the parents to have grandchildren. The father never showed any efforts to advise his son against the evil and sins that accompanied lust and such. In fact, his father is seen to embrace this evil as he even goes ahead to tell his wife of the chances of bearing grandchildren but his wife gets chills by the thought of that since she is aware that that is a form of evil that is pursuing her son and would make him sin against the creator.
The Problem of Evil in Augustine Confessions
The next illustration of the theme of evil is the fact that Augustine commits or does evil for the sake of evil without any perceived or expected good from what he does. In this case, Augustine does evil deliberately and does not seem to even consider the fact that it is against the will of his creator. The rebellion he develops in his adolescence stage is the major illustration of his evil doing. In this period of rebellion, one of the games he and his were involved in was that of stealing. As a matter of fact, stealing though evil, the group (including Augustine) was just doing it for the sake. Even though the subjects know that theft is an evil that is punishable by law even in the law of God, they still go ahead and engage in it by stealing pears:
There was a pear tree near our vineyard laden with fruit, though attractive in neither collar nor taste. To shake the fruit off the tree and carry off the pears, I and a gang of naughty adolescents set off late at night (in our usual pestilential way) and we continued our game in the streets. We carried a huge load of pears. However, they were not for our feasts but merely to throw to the pigs. Even though we ate a few, nevertheless, our pleasure lay in doing what was not allowed.
Evidently, Augustine was involved in doing evil so that he could just fit in. He would establish a tendency to do evil for the sake of fitting in with his gang friends. This is a clear illustration of evil that he was engaged in with no good result expected from the whole ordeal. His pleasure lay in doing what was not allowed which portrays a clear perpetration of evil within the book.
Augustine goes on to confess his urge to become evil and do evil. He had no reasons nor did he have any motive when he practiced wickedness except for wickedness itself. He confesses to having loved evil and would seek to gain the shame that evil had to offer just for the sake of it. This clearly depicts how much evil has been outlined and embraced in the book especially as a way of departing from the Lord in pursuance of self-destruction. All the evil was just, but a means of straying away from the creator knowingly and the author really brings out this fact.
Augustine Confessions Origin of Sin
Insofar, the theme of evil has really pointed towards the prominence of sin within the confessions of Augustine. As closely as sin is related to evil, it would be right to say that sin also began when Augustine was an infant. In this case, it would be wise to explore the acts of sin that Augustine was engaged in as an infant and as a child and through to adolescence. As will be noted, the evils that he was engaged in are the major sources of sin that he was engaged in.
To begin with, Augustine was very disobedient when he was growing up. Disobedience is especially linked to oneself. As an example, Augustine talks of the disobedience that sexual impulses breed towards the mind and the heart of the subject. In a more personal scenario, Augustine confesses of his disobedience to his parents. He says:
Lord my God, I sinned by not doing as my parents and teachers told me. Later I was able to make good use of letters, whatever might be the intention of my adult guardians in wanting to learn them. I was disobedient not because I had chosen higher things, but from the love of sport. In competitive games, I loved the pride of winning. I liked to tickle my eyes with false stories which further titillated my desires.
As can be gathered from the quotation above, disobedience had born many roots in Augustines heart. What is even worse, the disobedience was coupled with a great deal of pride which bloomed in his heart. This definitely cites another strain of sin that Augustine was struggling with. Pride made him love the praises of men rather than those of God. He ventured into competitions and public speaking simply because he was a person full of himself and would very much love to be in the spotlight. Pride is a sin that breeds to disobedience and can never be satisfied unless one chooses to confess and live it behind by only following God.
Augustine Confessions Childhood Baptism
During his childhood also, Augustine was sick as a child and required baptism so that he could be right with God in case he died. However, after he had requested baptism, he was suddenly healed. After his healing, he was never baptized but was feared that he would later soil himself with sin. As is evident here, there was an association of baptism with the remittance of sin. Which means that baptism was a sort of cleansing from sin which stresses on the theme of sin within the book. The theme of soiling oneself is used to illustrate the theme of sinning, which is a form of defilement. In other words, baptism would better be carried out at a later age in Augustine rather than during his childhood since:
...if I lived, I would be sure to soil myself
Sexual Morality in Saint Augustine Confessions
As already hinted out in the theme of evil, sexual desire was a major source of sin for Augustine. Augustine refers to his sexual desires as insatiable sexual desire that which made him captive. The sexual desires, in this case, had a vehement intensity which tortured him to the extent of developing a habit of finding means to satisfy the desires.
According to a publication by DarwinCatholic (2011), Augustine clearly illustrates the selfishness associated with sin especially for children and those in adolescence. The publication mainly dwells on the much-discussed sexual sin that engulfs Augustine. The publication reads:
For as I grew to manhood I was inflamed with desire for a surfeit of hell's pleasures. Foolhardy as I was, I ran wild with lust that was manifold and rank. In your eyes, my beauty vanished and I was foul to the core, yet I was pleased with my own condition and anxious to be pleasing in the eyes of men.
In the publication and this paper so far, there is an aspect of sin being related to what one finds satisfying even though it clearly is against what the law requires. The good to once thoughts is not necessarily the good to the community nor God. This is what motivated Augustine and his gang towards stealing...
Cite this page
Confessions Saint Augustine Analysis. (2021, Mar 30). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/an-analytical-paper-example-based-on-the-book-saint-augustine-confessions
If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the ProEssays website, please click below to request its removal:
- The Contemporary Cave Essay
- Analysis of Ethics and the Fundamental Ethical Principles Applicable in Auditing
- Most Convincing Account of Morality in Normative Ethics
- Kingdoms and Cultures - Essay Sample on Religion
- Article Analysis: Existentialism: Basic Reading
- Ethical Case: Provisions on Accepting Gifts
- Morality of Suicide: The Divergent and Convergent Views