Monday

Augustine and "depravity"

Augustine views human nature as depraved and this affects his attitude toward his sins and his natural development as a human. Because of his view of human nature, he equates the foolishness of childhood with sin and depravity. Using a quote from Job, he equates original sin found in an infant with known transgressions of the law of God: “Who shall remind me of the sins of my infancy: for in Thy sight there is none pure from sin, not even the infant whose life is but a day upon the earth?” by comparing an infant’s squalling for its mother’s milk to adult gluttony. He qualifies this by saying that no one holds an infant responsible because he or she will grow out of this behavior. “As we grow older we root out such ways and cast them from us … for no man engaged in removing evil would knowingly cast out what is good” But comparing the acts of an infant with an adult is, in my opinion, overdramatic.

Indeed, anyone who raises a two-year old finds the carnal nature alive and well; however, this view of ultimate depravity makes me wonder why Augustine bemoans the sins of his youth. If we are completely depraved then we will sin and sin gloriously. We cannot help it. If that is our nature why worry about it? Is God fair in expecting us to be good if we are depraved by nature?

Infants who seem self-absorbed and carnal, are really subject to the inbred will to survive. As we grow as humans this inbred will must be shaped into a will to do what is right rather than always looking after self. A human becomes accountable once he or she realizes the difference between right and wrong. Augustine does not seem to distinguish the difference because he states that his immoral acts continue through his childhood. As he grows we see childhood foolishness equated with sin. This is evidenced by his unwillingness to listen to his elders in school because he wanted to play: “But You, Lord, by Whom the very hairs of our head are numbered, used for my good the error of those who urged me to study; but my own error, in that I had no will to learn you used for my punishment—a punishment richly deserved by one so small a boy and so great a sinner”

I guess I have trouble with this because I am a parent who really tries to evaluate the motive behind my child’s behavior. If it is a first time offense then the disciplinary action and my opinion of my child is not as severe as it would be with a second offense. Augustine does not seem to factor in maturity or growth in grace.