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At 05:19 PM 1/28/02 -0600, you wrote:
medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

I must add that I think it a calumny on Augustine to claim that he deferred any theodicy to the end of time. 

don't you think that some of your language is a bit inflammatory?  dehumanizing, calumny.  why can't it just be a misunderstanding?  where do you find augustine arguing that any of god's justice or will is evident in the saeculum.

That the fallen world would endure to the end of time and be reborn and recreated of course--that's the New Testament claim. 

no it isn't.  or it isn't the only possible reading.  but never mind.  and the fallen world, acc to augustine would not be recreated at the end of time.  resurrection of the dead, perhaps, but no redeemed/reborn saeculum.

But the possibility of individual conversion and re-creation, or re-formation of the deformed imago Dei, going even beyond the original state of paradaisiacal innocence, and of doing so in societies of individuals, indeed in Christian societies, mixed as they were with hypocrites and secret sinners, that he believed all that was possible is evident. 

possible, but invisible, even to those who were so lucky as to be so transformed.  societies were not, nor cd be, transformed, no matter how xn, out of their opaque state of a corpus permixtum.  if i'm wrong here, please cite the passages you have in mind.

Would everyone be converted and society be totally perfect before the Eschaton? Of course not.  But is a Christian society impossible for Augustine?  Certainly not--why did he bother with writing the _City of God_ if he thought it impossible until the end of time? 

to make that precise point, to wean his contemporaries of their ("now" evidently) disastrous belief that the xn roman empire had made/should make things better.  have you read robert markus, saeculum?  the saeculum is opaque.  one cannot even speak of relative "improvement."  the earthly city is precisely where one cannot discern with any consistency or pattern what the will of god (ie theodicy) is.

The consummation and perfection awaits the end of time, yes, but what can be accomplished and built in the intervening time, long or short though it may be, is not insignificant for Augustine--he devoted his life to it's furtherance.

please cite me some passages here.  this sounds more like orosius.

Perhaps you assimilate Augustine to Hobbes because you read him through Hobbeseian (and Calvinist and Jansenist) eyes--you will, of course, insist they are Landesian eyes and of course they are. 

i actually read and digested augustine before i read and digested hobbes, who has never appealed to me even as a high schooler.  (he defines a smile as a grimace.)

But there are "pessimistic" and "optimistic" readings of Augustine throughout the centuries.   Which of them  is the most accurate one?

well, i think arquillere wrote a book on "augustinisme politique" which he argued was a systematic (and optimistic) misreading of augustine to say that the heavenly city can be brought to earth.  obviously someone whose work is a large and complex and in many ways unsystematic (cf aquinas) as augustine's permits later thinkers to draw on those passages that permit them to express an optimism that may or may not be there.  and one wd expect such readings in a world where as much "progress" has been made in cleaning up the behavior of authoritarian elites.  but augustine lived in a pretty nasty world and engaged in some pretty nasty politics which he justified with a pretty pessimistic theology of original sin.  i don't have a need to see augustine as a socio-political pessimist (just as i don't have a problem seeing orosius as an optimist). 

 Calvin's reading of Augustine or Jansenius's or Hobbes's or Landes's may indeed be more accurate than Martin's.   Is one forbidden to argue that one or these is superior without being accused of thinking all others "invalid"? 

well, if you really hold that perspective, you wdn't accuse me of calumny for my reading, no?

I do believe that a "hope-filled" reading of Augustine is more valid than a "pessimistic" one. 

it's certainly more "hope-filled".  and it's certainly better as a theology for today.  but one of my gripes with medievalists is that they too often read augustine as theologians than as historians (eg he carried the day among contemporaries when he argued that the sack of rome was not the end of the world).

But I do not assume that my views invalidate all others when I propose as more accurate this reading.  I assume that anyone who proposes readings of historical characters or movements on this list proposes them as superior without assuming they invalidate all others.  This was Augustine's point in Book VII of the Confessions: that merely establishing that some things are better and some worse, some higher and some lower does not "invalidate" anything.   When we propose a way of understanding someone from the past we implicitly claim it is superior to other ways, for, otherwise, why propose it for consideration by others? 

how about maybe it's more accurate.

Why would I hold a view, an interpretation if I did not believe it superior in interpreting the evidence than other views are, at least in some degree?   Why would Richard Landes hold a view and set it forth and seek to convince me of its truth unless he thought it a more true interpretation of Augustine than mine?

to find out if there's something i've overlooked, to find out if my reading of augustine/markus has major flaws?  i actually think that, esp on issues of optimism and pessimism (which are primarily emotional stances), people change.  there may be earlier (i don't think later) augustines that are more optimistic.  in fact from pastoral perspective, your reading of augustine is probably "better" than mine (i'd certainly want to use it if my tradition revered his writings and i wanted to invoke him to help people).  i think from an historical perspective mine's more accurate.  but i'm not an augustine expert and i am willing to receive instruction.

Let a thousand views be set forth. 

and only really bad and negative ones that distort the evidence be called calumnies.

But don't ask me to accept them all and please don't say that if I choose not to be persuaded by them and set forth another I am assuming them all invalid, unless by "invalid" one means in the root sense of the word, "weak" or "weaker."   But of course, we all believe that the interpretations we arrive at by our examination of evidence, to the degree we hold them to be stronger than the alternatives, are stronger and the others weaker.  And if we truly aren't sure whether view X is stronger than view Y, then we would say so to ourselves and refrain from putting it forward for the convincing of others.

the definition of an intellectual is someone who can be convinced by evidence and argument to change his opinion.  let's engage in these matters as intellectuals.  what passages do you have in mind to support an optimistic augustine about the improvability of xn society?

richard