Chapter

Ascent (and Descent)

Carol Harrison

in Rethinking Augustine's Early Theology

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780199281664
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603402 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199281661.003.0003
 Ascent (and Descent)

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The ‘revolution’ in Augustine’s thought effected by his reading of the Platonists in 386 led to two seemingly antithetical emphases: a philosophical emphasis on the immutable, eternal, incorruptible God who must be sought by moving away from bodily, temporal, mutable reality on the one hand; and a thoroughly Christian emphasis on the Creator God who has drawn human beings from nothing, and upon their absolute contingency upon Him on the other. It is argued that Augustine’s early thought can only be rightly understood when it is seen within the creative tension set up by these two apparently polarized ideas, and that it is here that his characteristic theology of a transcendent Creator and of fallen humanity’s complete and absolute dependence upon Him emerges. This chapter focuses on the ‘philosophical emphasis’ by elucidating Augustine’s early arguments for Christianity as the ‘true philosophy’, the various ways in which Augustine describes the ascent of the soul to God, the relation between faith (authority) and reason, and by comparing the early Soliloquia and Confessiones 10. It demonstrates that his ‘philosophical’ reflection is fundamentally and intrinsically Christian.

Keywords: ascent; soul; liberal arts; virtue; true philosophy; faith; authority; reason; Soliloquia

Chapter.  19750 words. 

Subjects: Early Christianity

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