The Complicated Psychology of Augustine

Complicated Psychology of Augustine, City of God, XIV.9:
 
Yes.
“But so long as we wear the infirmity of this life, we are rather worse men than better if we have none of these emotions at all. For the apostle vituperated and abominated some who, as he said, were “without natural affection. ” [713] The sacred Psalmist also found fault with those of whom he said, “I looked for some to lament with me, and there was none. ” [714] For to be quite free from pain while we are in this place of misery is only purchased, as one of this world’s literati perceived and remarked, [715] at the price of blunted sensibilities both of mind and body.”
 
But…
“And therefore that which the Greeks call apatheia, and what the Latins would call, if their language would allow them, “impassibilitas,” if it be taken to mean an impassibility of spirit and not of body, or, in other words, a freedom from those emotions which are contrary to reason and disturb the mind, then it is obviously a good and most desirable quality, but it is not one which is attainable in this life. For the words of the apostle are the confession, not of the common herd, but of the eminently pious, just, and holy men:” If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. ” [716] When there shall be no sin in a man, then there shall be this apatheia. At present it is enough if we live without crime; and he who thinks he lives without sin puts aside not sin, but pardon.”
 
And yes.
“And if that is to be called apathy, where the mind is the subject of no emotion, then who would not consider this insensibility to be worse than all vices? … if by apathy a condition be meant in which no fear terrifies nor any pain annoys, we must in this life renounce such a state if we would live according to God’s will, but may hope to enjoy it in that blessedness which is promised as our eternal condition.”

Augustine on Christian Perfection

These passages from Augustine came up in our recent discussion of John Wesley’s ideas of perfectionism.

Augustine, On Nature and Grace

Chapter 68
“If, therefore, we feel rightly on this matter, it is our duty at once to be thankful for what is already healed within us, and to pray for such further healing as shall enable us to enjoy full liberty, in that most absolute state of health which is incapable of addition, the perfect pleasure of God. For we do not deny that human nature can be without sin; nor ought we by any means to refuse to it the ability to become perfect, since we admit its capacity for progress—by God’s grace, however, through our Lord Jesus Christ. By His assistance we aver that it becomes holy and happy, by whom it was created in order to be so.”

Chapter 70
“Now, whether there ever has been, or is, or ever can be, a man living so righteous a life in this world as to have no sin at all, may be an open question among true and pious Christians; but whoever doubts the possibility of this sinless state after this present life; is foolish. For my own part, indeed, I am unwilling to dispute the point even as respects this life.”

Augustine: on Faith

“From now on I began to prefer the Catholic teaching. The Church demanded that certain things should be believed though they could not be proved, for if they could be proved, not all men could understand the proof, and some could not be proved at all. I thought that the Church was entirely honest in this and far less pretentious than the Manichees, who laughed at people who took things on faith, made rash promises of scientific knowledge, and then put forward a whole system of preposterous inventions which they expected their followers to believe on trust because they could not be proved. Then, O Lord, you laid your most gentle, most merciful finger on my heart and set my thoughts in order, for I began to realize that I believed countless things which I had never seen or which had taken place when I was not there to see — so many events in the history of the world, so many facts about places and towns which I had never seen, and so much that I believed on the word of friends or doctors or various other people. Unless we took these things on trust, we should accomplish absolutely nothing in this life. Most of all it came home to me how firm and unshakeable was the faith which told me who my parents were, because I could never have known this unless I believed what I was told. In this way you made me understand that I ought not to find fault with those who believed your Bible . . . but with those who did not believe it;”

Augustine, Confessions, VI.5.