Hunter, and Robin Darling Young. Augustine never rejected marriage or sex or pleasure. This might work for some people, but for others it does not. In this context Augustine stated explicitly that the pleasure that accompanies natural acts, such as eating and sex, is something to be enjoyed, as long as it does not lead to excess. Many of you are familiar with Augustine's description of his adolescent adventures early in the Confessions. Led by bishops such as Ambrose and Pope Siricius, who were not coincidentally strong proponents of the new discipline of clerical celibacy, Jovinian and his followers were condemned by local synods at Rome and Milan. In Christian times, by contrast, the primary sacrament in marriage is an indissoluble unity, a unity that will be realized only at the end of time in the City of God. Although he was a celibate monk himself, Jovinian was concerned that the enthusiasm for celibacy then sweeping through western Christianity had gone a bit too far. Augustine called this a venialis culpa, that is, a "venial" or a "forgivable fault.
It is significant that Augustine chose to portray sexual activity in marriage, when motivated by the virtue of fidelity, as an act of love, mercy, and even self-control. Therefore, to engage in sex out of duty and obedience to God was completely compatible with receiving the grace of self-control. As Augustine saw it, marriage would have provided a disciplined way of life in which the vagaries of sexual desire could be directed towards the laudable task of producing and raising children. Augustine also recognized the intrinsically social character of human nature and linked procreation to the formation of human community. In a similar vein, in book 6 where Augustine described conversations between him and his friend Alypius on the topic of marriage, he noted that at the time he failed to appreciate the true value and significance of marriage: It is true that Augustine did warn his listeners not to take these sins lightly simply because they were so numerous ser. This idea of the pendulum swinging can be seen throughout time. Augustine captures this dynamic beautifully, saying: It might seem surprising that Augustine had to face the problem of too many people avoiding sex, but this was not an uncommon phenomenon in his day and he had to deal with it in several letters, as well as in his sermons. He lost all modesty. In other words, Christian marriages had to be indissoluble because they symbolized the eternal union of Christ and the Church. In the early years of the fifth century, not long after completing the Confessions, Augustine undertook two new writings in response to a pressing issue of his day: A second feature of Augustine's discussion of sex in the Confessions is the connection he drew between the habit of his sexual activity and the freedom of his will. The main theme of this sermon, which was composed around the same time as The Good of Marriage, was to dissuade married persons from undertaking vows of celibacy without the consent of their partners. In his grace, God rescued Augustine from his sinful squalor. Reader response to this candor has varied over the centuries. A special note must be made here; Augustine did not condemn sexual activity, but he did condemn the reasons why people did it. The heroes of Augustine's Christian contemporaries were spiritual athletes like St. In his autobiographical masterpiece Confessions , Augustine chronicles the intensity of his struggles, providing us with a probing analysis of the human heart, the nature of sin, and the grace of the gospel. Did he believe that "the locus par excellence of sin is sex"? He no longer wanted people to find their own path in life; he wanted to guide them down the path he took after he found God. As Robert Markus once eloquently argued, Augustine staunchly defended the value of "Christian mediocrity" against the ascetic elitism of his day. Augustine was not unique in his negative attitudes toward sexuality. It was a commonplace in antiquity that the household should serve as the foundation of the city, while the city in turn served as the foundation of the empire. I will focus on three distinct contexts in which we see an Augustine who is rather different from the Augustine of the Pelagian controversy.
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