Wednesday, September 25, 2019

September 10th, Adult Ed Series on City of God, Session 7 of 16, Original Sin and Death (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi)

In this series, which will continue for about six months, we are discussing the City of God by St Augustine - one of the most influential books in human history, a book that formed Western Civilization.

In Session 7, we conclude our discussion of the creation and fall of the angels and more forward with the state of man before the Fall, the Fall itself and the reality of Sin, and the effects of the Fall.

Listen online [here]


The City of God
By St Augustine of Hippo
Session 7, Original Sin and Death

The gods of the nations are demons. (Ps 95)
Glorious things are said of thee, o City of God! (Ps 86)

Note on schedule: A break for a few weeks until October, then continuing every week until Advent. In our next series of classes through October, we will study Books XV-XVIII: the story of the Scriptures from Adam to Abraham to Moses to David and finally to our Lord.

I. Review of the Fall
A. Angels and men created in the state of grace
B. The Fall

II. Sin and death
A. The nature of the first sin
1. Consider St Augustine’s discussion of the theft of the pear in Confessions
2. Man does not choose evil in itself, but only some lesser good in a disordered way

B. The perplexity of death
1. The death of the soul through loss of grace, then of the body through loss of life.
2. There is the “first death” which is bodily death, and there is the “second death” which is hell. But for the redeemed, the first death leads to eternal life.
3. As man rebelled against God, so too the body/passions rebel against the soul – concupiscence

III. Original Sin, propagation, polygenism
A. What is original sin? “The hereditary stain with which we are born on account of our descent from Adam.” (Catholic Encyclopedia)  “The deliberate sin of the first man is the cause of original sin.” (St Augustine in De Nupt. et Concup.)
Had Adam not sinned, he would have passed down grace and the preternatural gifts to all his children – there would have been no death.  But, losing grace and the gifts, and punished with death, he passes down a wounded nature without grace – and death enters the world.

B. How is original sin passed down? The Catholic Church has no official teaching on the specifics of how original sin is passed down, except that it is by propagation and not merely by imitation. St Augustine emphasizes the sin and concupiscence involved in even marital relations, St Thomas will refine this – original sin is not passed merely because of lust in sexual relations but because of “the active power in generating”.

C. Supplement: Why can’t we believe in polygenism? Death came through one man, Adam; redemption came through one man, Jesus Christ. All were present in Adam, all sinned in Adam – but if there were multiple first parents, then this would seem to challenge the doctrine of original sin.

IV. Why doesn’t God take away the punishment for sin after baptism? Why do babies die after baptism?
A. Even after baptism, men still die – thus the effects of baptism are known only by faith and not by sight.

B. St Augustine’s meditations on how death and sin, and how in the New Law death leads to eternal life. See Book XIII, chapters 3-8.
“For then [under the Old Law] it was proclaimed to man, ‘If thou sinnest, thou shalt die;’ now [under the Gospel] it is said to the martyr, ‘Die, that thou sin not.’” (XIII, 4)
“Not that death, which was before an evil, has become something good, but only that God has granted to faith this grace, that death, which is the admitted opposite to life, should become the instrument by which life is reached.”  (XIII, 4)
“And regarding what happens after death, it is no absurdity to say that death is good to the good, and evil to the vil. For the disembodied spirits of the just are at rest; but those of the wicked suffer punishment till their bodies rise again – those of the just to life everlasting, and of the others to death eternal, which is called the second death.” (XIII, 8)

V. Recommended reading for Books XV-XVIII  (about 101 pages)
A. Book XV – From Cain and Abel to the great Flood  (26 pages)
Chapters 1-10, Of the two Cities, Cain and Abel and the Giants before the Flood
Chapters 12, 14-16, Of the great ages of the early men and the question of marriage of relatives
Chapter 22, The “sons of God” and “daughters of men”
Chapters 26-27, The Ark

B. Book XVI – From Noah to Abraham and down through the Judges (22 pages)
Chapters 1-4, From the Flood to the Tower of Babel
Chapters 7-9, Various questions about the natural world in relation to the Creation and the Flood
Chapters 16-21, The three promises God made to Abraham
Chapters 22-26, 31-32, Various moments in Abraham’s life
Chapters 35-37, 39, Jacob and Esau
Chapter 43, Moses

C. Book XVII – From David through the Kings and Prophets  (23 pages)
Chapters 1-3, Of the prophecies of the Old Testament
Chapter 4, Samuel the Prophet
Chapter 6, King Saul
Chapter 8, King David
Chapter 14-17, Of the Psalms
Chapter 20, King Solomon

D. Book XVIII – Comparison of Sacred History with World History, the Gospel and Age of the Apostles  (20 pages)
Chapter 1, Summary of the preceding books
Chapters 28-30, 34-35, Prophecies about Christ and the Church
Chapters 42-43, Of the Hebrew and Greek versions of the Old Testament
Chapters 46-53, Of the Birth of Jesus, his Gospel, the preaching of the Apostles and the spread of the Church until the final great persecution at the end of time

V. Recommended listening on LibriVox for Books XV-XVIII  (about 6 hours)
Book XV, Chapters 1-7, 8-14, 22-27 
Book XVI, Chapters 1-8, 21-31, 32-43
Book XVII, Chapters 1-4, 5-8, 9-16
Book XVIII, Chapters 32-39, 40-47, 48-54


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