African Christian Ethics (Hippo)

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Though Manichaeism was already on its way out, it still had a sizable following. Augustine, who knew its strengths and weaknesses, dealt it a death blow. At the public baths, Augustine debated Fortunatus, a former schoolmate from Carthage and a leading Manichaean. The bishop made quick work of the heretic, and Fortunatus left town in shame. Less easily handled was Donatism, a schismatic and separatist North African church. They believed the Catholic church had been compromised and that Catholic leaders had betrayed the church during earlier persecutions.

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Augustine argued that Catholicism was the valid continuation of the apostolic church. He wrote scathingly, "The clouds roll with thunder, that the house of the Lord shall be built throughout the earth; and these frogs sit in their marsh and croak 'We are the only Christians!

In the controversy came to a head as the imperial commissioner convened a debate in Carthage to decide the dispute once and for all. Augustine's rhetoric destroyed the Donatist appeal, and the commissioner pronounced against the group, beginning a campaign against them.

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It was not, however, a time of rejoicing for the church. The year before the Carthage conference, the barbarian general Alaric and his troops sacked Rome. Many upper-class Romans fled for their lives to North Africa, one of the few safe havens left in the empire. And now Augustine was left with a new challenge—defending Christianity against claims that it had caused the empire's downfall by turning eyes away from Roman gods. Augustine's response to the widespread criticism came in 22 volumes over 12 years, in The City of God.

He argued that Rome was punished for past sins, not new faith. His lifelong obsession with original sin was fleshed out, and his work formed the basis of the medieval mind. There, instead of victory, is truth. One other front Augustine had to fight to defend Christianity was Pelagianism. Pelagius, a British monk, gained popularity just as the Donatist controversy ended. Pelagius rejected the idea of original sin, insisting instead that the tendency to sin is humankind's own free choice.

Following this reasoning, there is no need for divine grace; individuals must simply make up their minds to do the will of God. The church excommunicated Pelagius in , but his banner was carried on by young Julian of Eclanum. Julian took potshots at Augustine's character as well as his theology.

With Roman snobbery, he argued that Augustine and his other low-class African friends had taken over Roman Christianity.

Augustine argued with the former bishop for the last ten years of his life. In the summer of , the Vandals invaded North Africa, meeting almost no resistance along the way. Hippo, one of the few fortified cities, was overwhelmed with refugees. In the third month of the siege, the year-old Augustine died, not from an arrow but from a fever.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

Miraculously, his writings survived the Vandal takeover, and his theology became one of the main pillars on which the church of the next 1, years was built. Sections Home. Prayer Abortion Fatherhood. Subscribe Subscriber Benefits Give a Gift. The teacher, thus, must welcome students' questions even when they interrupt his speech. He must listen to his students and converse with them, and question them on their motives as well as their understanding. He saw education as a process of posing problems and seeking answers through conversation.

Further, he saw teaching as mere preparation for understanding, which he considered an illumination of the "the teacher within," who is Christ. Augustine, then, thought teachers should adapt their teaching to their students, whom he distinguished into three kinds: those well educated in the liberal arts, those who had studied with inferior teachers of rhetoric and who thought they understood things they did not actually understand, and those who were uneducated. The teacher needs to begin with all students by questioning them about what they know.

African Christian Ethics

When teaching well-educated students, Augustine cautioned teachers not to repeat for them what they already knew, but to move them along quickly to material they had not yet mastered. When teaching the superficially educated student, the teacher needed to insist upon the difference between having words and having understanding. These students needed to learn docility and to develop the kind of humility that was not overly critical of minor errors in the speech of others.

With regard to the uneducated student, Augustine encouraged the teacher to be simple, clear, direct, and patient. This kind of teaching required much repetition, and could induce boredom in the teacher, but Augustine thought this boredom would be overcome by a sympathy with the student according to which, "they, as it were, speak in us what they hear, while we, after a fashion, learn in them what we teach" , p. This kind of sympathy induces joy in the teacher and joy in the student. All three of these kinds of teaching are to be done in what Augustine called the restrained style.

This style requires the teacher not to overload the student with too much material, but to stay on one theme at a time, to reveal to the student what is hidden from him, to solve difficulties, and to anticipate other questions that might arise. Teachers also should be able from time to time to speak in what he called the mixed style —using elaborate yet well-balanced phrases and rhythms—for the purpose of delighting their students and attracting them to the beauty of the material.

Teachers should also be able to speak in the grand style, which aims at moving students to action. What makes the grand style unique is not its verbal elaborations, but the fact that it comes from the heart—from emotion and passion—thus moving students to obey God and use his creation to arrive at full enjoyment of God.


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This hoped-for response is wholly consistent with what is probably the most famous quotation from Augustine's autobiography, The Confessions: "You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you" b, p. Of the two great traditions in liberal education, the oratorical and the philosophical, Augustine is distinctly an orator. He believed more in imparting the truth to students than in supporting the individual student's quest for truth.

He used the dialogical mode as one who knows the truth, unlike the Greek philosopher Socrates, who used dialogue as one who does not know anything.

Lecture 1: Issues in Christian Ethics - Dr. John Feinberg

He thus established a Christian philosophy, which has influenced scholars and educators throughout the history of the West. Home Ethics African Christian Ethics. African Christian Ethics Softcover. Samuel Waje Kunhiyop. Quantity must be 1 or more. Sold out. Mail to a friend Share by mail. Facebook Share on Facebook.