by Saint Augustine
Confessions Book VII Summary
- We're back to Augustine's old problem of not understanding that God is not made of anything. He's immaterial. Augustine imagines God as made of something like air that is able to be everywhere.
- But he reasons that this idea doesn't work because it would mean that bigger things contained more "God" than smaller things. Weird thought experiment, sir.
- Now we're getting into some alternative (read: Manichee) ways of understanding the universe, which Nebridius shuts down.
- Augustine also can't understand where evil comes from, if God is good and he made everything.
- He figures that he has a free will and therefore it's his own darn fault when he sins, but he doesn't know why God would make people sinners to begin with.
- Augustine talks about how God must be incorruptible, i.e., perfect in every way and unable to be made imperfect by anything ever.
- Jeez, Augustine, calm down with the questions.
- Now he's asking about where evil came from and why God didn't just get rid of it if he's, you know, the ruler of everything.
- Now Augustine has a go at the astrologers, i.e., the people who write your horoscopes. Augustine's friends think astrology is primarily based on chance, but he has this one friend named Firminus who is way into it. So Firminus asks Augustine to read his horoscope.
- Firminus's dad was obsessed with astrology and noted the date, time, and minute whenever anything was born.
- Augustine soon realizes that two people born at the exact same time, like Firminus and a slave, don't always live the exact same life. So astrology must be false.
- Augustine is pretty anguished by his search for truth, but his pride is preventing him from making progress.
- Don't worry, God is working on it. By which we mean, working his magic on Augustine.
- Here, Augustine compares what he reads about God in the books of the Platonists and what he reads about God in the Bible. The Word of God with a capital W, in this case, refers to Christ.
- He also mentions the story of the Golden Calf from Exodus.
- Now Augustine talks about Light-with-a-capital-L, which is special, and the "eye of [his] soul" with which he sees it. Ooh, pretty.
- Next Augustine thinks about all the things that are lower than God and how they both are, and are not, God. Yay, more paradoxes.
- The next order of thought business is things that are good. Basically all things are good, and all good things (except for the "supremely good") are corruptible, which just proves that they are good. So evil is not a thing in itself, but rather, the absence of good.
- Really, all of creation is good. Because when we think of something as evil, it's because we're comparing it to something that has more good.
- Augustine recaps what he used to believe about there being two substances and a god that literally exists in all space.
- He begins to understand how things exist in God without literally existing in Him.
- People who veer towards the "lower order" of things are turning away from God, and this is what makes them low and wicked. Were they to become more like God and stop wanting things outside of themselves, they'd become good.
- Even though it seems like Augustine has finally figured it all out, he still can't give up "the habit of the flesh," if you catch our drift.
- He also talks about the power of reason.
- Now Augustine speaks about the importance of accepting Jesus Christ, whose humbleness in coming down to earth is an important lesson about how people should submit to God.
- Augustine thinks of Christ not as God himself but as a really, really smart and perfect guy.
- Alypius thinks that Christ must have had a human mind, so he thinks that the Catholics are full of it for calling him God.
- Uh-oh, Augustine is getting proud again. He wants to be thought of as wise. The books of the Platonists can't teach him to be charitable, which is really what it means to accept Christ.
- In hindsight, he's glad that he read the Platonists before the Scriptures. Otherwise, he might have thought that the Scriptures were unnecessary.
- Paul is Augustine's favorite apostle to read, and his writings teach Augustine how to be closer to God.
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