At 05:19 PM 1/28/02 -0600, you wrote:
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
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
please cite me some passages here. this sounds more like
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
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
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
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
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
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
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