Saint Augustine was the most important philosopher of the earlier Christianity and the leading figure in the church of North Africa. He was born at Thagaste, in Numidia (modern Souk Ahras, Algeria) in 354 and died in 430, in Hippo Regius (modern Annaba) on the Mediterranean cost sixty miles away. He is known for his famous works; Confessions and The City Of God. He was a medieval philosopher and he had a profound impact on the subsequent development of Western thought. In my essay, I am going to deal with St. Augustine’s biography and his ideas about God.
First of all, I am going to explain St. Augustine’s life story. He was born on 13 December, AD 354 in Thagaste, which was a large enough town to have its own bishop but too small for a college or university. His parents belonged to the financially imperiled middle class. They were not wealthy enough to finance the educational ambitions of their son. We know a few things about Augustine’s childhood. All our knowledge came from his masterpiece Confessions. He was a good student and he hadn’t got any problem to create friendships. He studied Greek and Latin but he never loved Greek. The education system was forcing him to educate Greek. In his Confessions, he also said that the Roman Empire’s education system was very authoritarian (We can find some similarities between Sumerians’ education system and Roman Empire’s education system; both were very authoritarian). He was beaten in the school and it was a real bad memory for him. Augustine’s African homeland had been part of Roman Empire since the destruction of Carthage five hundred years before his birth. The Roman Empire as the metropolis of Roman Africa had rebuilt Carthage. At that time, the dominant language of this area was Latin and the dominant religion was Christianity that was violently opposing with the traditions of old Rome. His father, Patricius (died about 371) was a pagan (later converted to Christianity like his son) but his mother, Monica was a Christian. As a child he was schooled in Latin and Greek literature and later went to Carthage to study rhetoric, where he became a teacher. After the death of his father, his mother left Thagaste. Augustine himself quickly set up housekeeping with a young woman he met in Carthage, by whom he had a son after a short while. The woman stayed with him during a decade. However, after a decade she went off to Africa to enter a convent. The son, Adeodatus stayed with his father until his premature death that took him in later adolescence. The education that Augustine had at Thagaste and Madaura had made him a typical late Roman pedant. He was mostly impressed by Cicero and Virgil. With the love and the enthusiasm of wisdom, he joined a religious cult from Persia that had planted itself in the Roman world as a rival of Christianity: Manichaeism. Manicheans were on the side of the good spirit and they believed that they would be rewarded for their allegiance with eternal bliss. They believed in a torn between two contrary powers: the perfectly good creator and the perfectly evil destroyer. Augustine was too clever to settle for vague theology for long. Augustine associated with Manicheans who thought that he was one of them as late as 384, more than a decade. Augustine decided to move to Rome which was no longer a city with political or military significance for Roman Empire. It took Augustine a few months but, finally he found a good job as a professor of rhetoric for the imperial court at Milan. In these years, Christianity began to appear to him in a new, intellectually way. He gave up his academic position and spent his days in philosophical and religious debates, researches with his family, friends and some students. After the death of his mother, he went back to Thagaste and formed a monastery with his friends. There, he totally concentrated on Christianity and started to write. His ability and knowledge quickly recognized by people and he was asked to preach sermons in place of his bishop. In 395, he assumed responsibility for the church at Hippo. (He would remain at this post until his death thirty-four years later) We know Augustine for his controversial writings. There were three great battles in his writings; the first was an ecclesiastical struggle for the very life of his community, the second was the philosophical battle to affect the Christianization of Roman culture and the last one was the theological quarrel of great subtlety over the essentials of faith and salvation. After the death of Saint Augustine, Vandals captured his city Hippo. After, they captured Carthage and established a kingdom that lasted a century.
Secondly, I will deal with Saint Augustine’s ideas about the God and the religion. Augustine was a pagan. However, he later became a Christian and developed the principles of Christianity. His principles are extremely important because in my opinion, his ideas prepared the convenient conditions for a religion dominant society during the Middle Age in Europe. When we look at Augustine’s works, we can easily find a search for the truth like Islamic philosophers Farabi and Gazali (Islamic philosophers’ searches are more painful). In his works, he explained his process of Christianization. Augustine thought that God must be everywhere and he referred everything to God in some of his texts. He believed that he can find peace by thinking of God. In his works, like Plato and many other philosophers, he asked questions and tried to answer them honestly. Augustine’s God is very similar to Islamic belief’s God because God represents the truth. Also, he explained that the God is a supreme being who determines everything. He wanted to learn the origin and the meaning of existence. He established a dogmatic view on the basis of his own ideas, belief. In addition, he believed in salvation which means believing in Christianity and going to paradise or hell after the death. He claimed that the Church must have a power upon the state. With the help Saint Augustine’s works and many other reasons, Church became the dominant power during the Middle Age (It lasted nearly 1000 years). People had a religious life and Church became very rich. People were very poor and uneducated. They were given a life full of difficulties and forbiddens. Church convinced people to forget about this life and told them that the real life is on the other side. Also, some scientists and philosophers were killed because the Church wanted to maintain its power and the scientists were dangerous for religious men. From my point of view, Augustine didn’t want a religion pressure like that because he was a philosopher too. However, his ideas affected people in a negative direction and helped the Church.
Finally, in my opinion Saint Augustine positive or negative had a distinct impression on the religious belief of Europe during the Middle Age. Maybe, he didn’t want to create a totally religion dominant society but his ideas helped to the Church and the Europe stayed in obscurity for 1000 years. In contrary, maybe if there wasn’t a man like him, there wouldn’t be a Renaissance period and the Europe would never be developed.