Sunday, 15 March 2015

Paul Rigby: Augustine's Confessions as a Triple Conversion Story

The Confessions record not just one conversion but three conversions. Augustine recounts how he arrived at three levels of salvific freedom. The first freedom is moral freedom. Augustine recalls how he learned to take moral responsibility beyond Manichean dualism and fate. The second freedom is the freedom to consent to inscrutable wisdom and a learned unknowing. It implies a willingness to live in a world in which the narcissistic dimension of the complaint against suffering and evil remains unsatisfied. Here one abandons the search for a private, finite explanation. Wisdom offers only a non-narcissistic reconciliation beyond recrimination and the cycle of retribution. The third freedom is freedom to serve and even to suffer for the community bonded together in the friendship, devotion and intimacy of the resurrection. This lyrical life of surplus, as the controlling discourse, incorporates the first two freedoms-freedom to live the ethical life in just institutions and freedom from narcissism-into the freedom for Christ's selfless service-Pauline kenosis. These three freedoms are the distinctive characteristics of membership in the confessional community. The playing out of divine/human initiative (predestination) and the ineluctability of human bondage in sin and evil (original sin) across the three registers of salvific freedom (justice, wisdom, and kenosis) is instantiated for Augustine and his brethren in the narrative of Augustinian confession.
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