Moving from East to West, our analysis must shift accordingly to reflect the thought of Augustine of Hippo (354–430 CE). Though preceding Maximus (580–662 CE), in my view Augustine is better understood on the themes of nature and self when treated after him, because his universe is best seen as a de-allegorized and de-ritualized one and thus as natural, material, and standing on its own. This Augustinian universe, which takes up its own place, is fully embodied and separate from any human need to make it mean anything beyond this embodiment. This is what I call nature taking place. As we will see, Augustine’s creation (the term he prefers over cosmos or nature) and its attendant terms form a complex cluster of their own in which the incision of incarnation features no less prominently than in Maximus’s cosmos, though it does so differently. Rather than attributing their difference to the indomitability of Augustinian grace at the expense of nature, a standard argument, I attribute it to distinct intellectual postures toward nature itself. While for Maximus the rhythm of life is set in a hymnodic, prayerful key, Augustine combines liturgical and secular life into the reality of ordinary existence. What remains true for both Augustine and Maximus is that nature, though placed under a differently conceived aegis in each, unfurls its own course. Far from being simply the inveterate opponent of Pauline grace,1 Augustine’s nature is a spiderweb of fine threads that weave subtle and unique connections between God and self. In what may be the most conspicuous difference with Maximus, the onwardness of temporality rather than any sense of hierarchy defines the gossamer of nature’s web.
The core difficulty plaguing Augustine’s deritualized, yet equally dynamic, nature is no doubt its distance from the divine, to which the term creation testifies and which its presumed opposition to grace further enhances. As the object of God’s creative act, Augustine’s nature is at constant risk of objectification, a threat that is held effectively at bay in Maximus’s cosmos because of its liturgical flow, in which the divine stooping that is incarnation meets with the prayerful response of the agential human being. Augustine’s embrace of material creation is problematic in this regard, as if, by demanding a place for itself separate from the divine creator, creation risks leading to fixation. His embrace of biological procreation as the sole purpose of marriage, having provoked stinging criticism from feminists and other cultural critics alike, further exacerbates the impression of a crude naturalism tending less and less to the spiritual and the grace-filled.2
While such criticism must surely be addressed, treating Augustine after Maximus gives us the freedom to approach things from a different perspective. By mitigating the superiority of the ascetic life and rehabilitating marriage, Augustine’s approach is not one of reconciling humanity to bodily life as a second-best option but rather of placing the human being squarely in the arena of politics and history. In The City of God he presents the idea of life as pilgrimage, extending the meaning of incarnation as much to political as to ecclesiastical citizenship.3 Thus, he recalibrates the role of the human self—included in, but not defined by, ecclesiastical structure—as first and foremost a sojourner whose life displays significant horizontal thrust.
This makes clear that the Augustinian self is always a temporal self.4 Without liturgy (ascetic liturgy especially) defining the essential rhythm of cosmic life, freedom and individual choice take center stage in Augustine’s nature. The premise of human agency, it seems, is that it operates to move us forward, even as we are impacted by what I will call nature’s “taking place,” by which I refer to the vagaries of creation’s own course as relatively independent from the divine.5
Even the most careful extraction of nature, conceived in the dynamic way my earlier chapters set up, from Augustine’s wider thought can easily give rise to misunderstandings. Thus, further obstacles will need to be cleared before we can relate Augustinian creation in detailed fashion to the self’s forward motion. These obstacles include the opposition of nature and grace, as mentioned, and the Platonic contrast between natural (material, corporeal) and spiritual (intellectual, divine) realities, both of which are present as threads in Augustine’s spiderweb of creation. The reason that naturalism—and one may include here embodiment, especially insofar as it extends to sexuality—is a special burden to Augustine cannot solely be explained by these tensions but may well be attributed in large part to what I would like to call his restlessness. Rather than being exclusively definable in psychological terms, this restlessness covers each and every manifestation of created life for Augustine. Thus, if, on the one hand, Augustine can be called the champion of desire, whether he is focusing on the desire for God or using the term in a broader sense, which places focus on the forward movement of the human being, on the other, he often expresses frustration at being entangled in the opposing movements of memory and expectation, pulling him in different directions and thereby rocking him forward and backward. The latter tension projecting what I see as an arc of retardation, a kind of endemic inertia, these movements somehow never quite congeal but slowly undermine the self’s thrust as it tries to move forward. In the process Augustinian creation comes to be seen as a weight and an obstacle.
Theologically, it is tempting to attribute the retardation resulting from the self’s restlessness—its slow moving forward and backward without delineated order and without the self securing a firm grasp on itself—to the derailing effect of sin. Indeed, sin and evil are more undermining in Augustine than in Maximus, who, not unlike Augustine’s predecessor Ambrose, placed more trust in the stabilizing powers of ecclesiastical liturgy than Augustine ever would. Moreover, however we want to assess Augustine’s extension of sin to original sin, the latter certainly cast a long shadow over the theological tradition after him, causing him to be blamed for weakening the integrity of human free will and corporeal existence alike.6 Through their paradigmatic misstep, Adam and Eve seem to have contaminated all of creation in one sweep. To take a fresh look at creation and corporeality in Augustine as the implications of “nature taking place” is all the more important, therefore, as it allows us to pare down the oversized proportions of original sin. Rather than attributing the effect of original sin to the moral motif of distentio animi7—which locates sin’s main effect in the torn nature of the soul and thereby tends to overtheologize it—I prefer to employ phenomenological notions like restlessness, temporal unease, and disorientation to help us better delineate the precarious and specifically Augustinian connections among nature, time, and the self. Far from taking sin out of the picture, this enables us to better track its subtle encroachment on these connections.
There is a further reason to move away from the consideration of original sin as the stereotypical culprit in Augustine. As I have mentioned, sin damages the originary temporal relationship between nature and self through its injection of retardation, causing created reality to be seen as a weight and a burden. Sin undermines humanity’s ability to move forward, thereby throwing its future in the balance. This problem becomes shaded differently, however, if we approach original sin not as a derailing device but as a prism. Instead of an obstacle to be removed, original sin sets the conditions for Augustine’s rewiring of the triad of nature, self, and time into a fragile and never quite stable order, one that, on the right cultivation, can perhaps point a way for humanity to return to the divine.
As one part of the above triad, nature clearly plays a key role in all of this. No longer a burden, creation is invited to assume its own place, even if that place is within the context of Augustinian restlessness. It is to this process that I refer as creation’s taking place. Insofar as Augustine considers the account of creation in Genesis’s hexaemeron a case of “nature taking place,” I submit that the mere facticity of nature propels him to interpret nature in such a way that he can stake out a new horizon for the human self. In this thereness of nature, this weight granted to its facticity, and by extension opening up a new horizon for human selfhood, he sidesteps both ecclesial liturgy (which might instrumentalize the ascetic human self) and Platonic cosmology (which might seek to overspiritualize creation). Moving from experiencing temporal events as jolts of moral lapse to seeing them as meaningful insights into the intertwining of creation and incarnation, Augustine’s vision of nature as “taking place” allows him to fully embrace both materiality and embodiment without relegating either to an inferior position.
For Augustine, a restored connection of time, self, and nature is the remedy for the undermining of both the self’s stability and its precarious ability to move forward through temporal unease and disorientation. In order for this restored connection between time, self, and nature to act as remedy for the destabilizing effects of sin, the self must become reattuned to God by traversing a forward-moving path through the created cosmos. A key reason not to assume that the contrast between material reality and divine transcendence in Augustine objectifies the former is that any permanent separation between them would not be able to accommodate the discretionary shifts of movement that such reattuning requires. This forward-moving path, by contrast, ties in directly with time as the prime mover of creation.
It appears that Augustine sharpened his thinking on time—and thereby on shifts in the human being—most pointedly in the Pelagian debate. Throughout this debate the concern to forgo circularity, rooted in Pelagius’s idea that Christ’s redemption returns us to paradise, makes Augustine increasingly aware that salvation leads us onward rather than backward—in personal life as well as in world history, in church as much as in society. Prior to Augustine the generally held sense was that the removal of Adam’s guilt would restore paradisiacal conditions for all, and Pelagius’s dramatic radicalization of this notion dispensed not only with the need for grace but especially with the relevance of time and history.8 By extinguishing Adam’s sin almost as if it never happened,9 Christ’s redemption in Pelagius may seem to pave the road to paradise for all, but in reality it secures entry only for those militant ascetics strong enough to avoid repeat offenses. The vast majority of Christians, meanwhile, are tricked into a mirage or fata morgana, as paradise sets them adrift in what is, in effect, a postlapsarian nature without goal or meaning. More than anti-Pelagian strategy alone, Augustine’s definition of salvation as distinct from the return to paradise bears out his underlying pastoral concern. By cutting through soteriological circularity and dispensing with any mirages,10 he protects the self from wandering about aimlessly in an ever more disordered universe.11 His is an attempt to rethink creation in terms of ordinary, sinful life: that murky and imperfect whole that is yet the only reality in which the temporal self will ever find itself. In this same reality the temporal self must find its way back to God.
For both Augustine and Pelagius baptism washes away sin—that part of the Christian heritage they share in common—but for Augustine it does not thereby fully expunge the staining of Adam’s originary sin. Ordinary life remains fraught, therefore, as the luster of salvation inevitably fades. While restlessness can make the self indolent—its resolve languishing as it oscillates between expectation and memory—Augustine’s acute awareness of temporality gives him the tools to frame life as a series of temporal incisions and movements deeply animated from within. Through predestination and perseverance—predestination as the divine gift of time, and perseverance as the self’s affirmation of it—memory and expectation need no longer be considered distractions but can become newly coordinated with the divine. It is misguided to think that predestination turns the divine into a control freak or that perseverance forces human beings to run their lives as an austere celestial marathon, as if divine governance by definition detracts from the enjoyment of ordinary life. It is equally untrue that God is sitting back watching with relish sin’s destructive impact on human life. As much as the self’s endemic restlessness precludes any moment of triumphant restoration, death for Augustine is not ever natural or timely. In the newly configured view of time, self, and nature, however, the arc that connects memory and expectation, predestination and perseverance, can now lift up rather than press down the burdensome weight of time.
How to assess Augustine’s respect for everyday, individual ordinariness—what Robert Markus has called his embrace of Christian mediocrity,12 which I see not as a bishop’s compromise but as reflecting the self’s deeper defiance of resignation in the face of life’s ever falling short—is a crucial question. Also crucial is how to evaluate the directional impact of time on the status of creation and createdness, for it is under the same arc of predestination and perseverance that nature takes its place alongside the self. In the next segment I will focus on Augustine’s exegetical reflections and their correlation of nature and self.
One reason that creation and createdness impede easy analysis is that creation in Augustine’s oeuvre is such a pervasive theme. Presenting itself even when one does not expect it, its most notable surprise occurrence is no doubt in the Confessions’ last three books. While Augustine is given to cosmological musings earlier as well, here, creation comes into full view, drawn as it is into the ambit of Augustinian selfhood. While creation’s role in the last books of Confessions has been duly noted, its corollary—namely that Augustine’s careful ordering of the Confessions means that creation is fully integrated with the perceived dynamic of the entire work—is generally underestimated. This dynamic is perhaps best summed up in the famous outcry, “I have become a problem to myself.”13
To forge a connection between creation’s pervasiveness and Augustinian selfhood, the apt description of his becoming a problem to himself found in Conf. 10.33.50 is revealing. Troubled by the impact of church music, whose seductive effect may distract him from concentrated attention to God, Augustine addresses God and his readers alike with the following lament: “See my condition! Weep with me and weep for me, you who have within yourselves a concern for the good, the springs from which good actions proceed. Those who do not share this concern will not be moved by these considerations. But you, ‘Lord my God, hear, look and see’ (Ps 12:4) and ‘have mercy and heal me’ (Ps 79:15). In your eyes I have become a problem to myself, and that is my sickness.” Augustine’s famous theme of “I have become a problem to myself” emerges here at a particular moment of self-examination as we find him prostrating himself in biblical fashion before the eyes of God (in conspectu Dei), having arrived at an emotional low. With God and the self intimately connected—not just because Confessions is a dialogue in need of an addressee but also because since the early Soliloquies, God and the soul are all Augustine ever desired to know14—creation seems like der Dritte im Bunde (the third player), a concept for which there seems to be no specific, guaranteed place. Creation is mostly just there, without a clearly assigned place or well-defined role, neither thematized nor particularly problematized.
Pervasive but undertheorized, creation has a translucent quality in Augustine, causing it to be either overlooked or subsumed under the more central rubrics of God and the self, both of which feature in Augustine’s most prominent monographs, De trinitate and Confessions.15 As if unable to account for its translucence, scholarship on Augustinian creation often subjects it to standard treatment whereby, amid the usual tally of creatures passing review from animals to angels, attention to Augustine’s framing of creation is strikingly absent. This is the case, for example, in Simo Knuuttila’s article “Time and Creation in Augustine,” where the author’s comment early on that “there was nothing radically new in Augustine’s conception of the creation” sets the tone. Knuuttila makes a few relevant cosmological and philosophical points, focusing especially on the concept of creatio ex nihilo, but thereafter dwells mostly on the notion of psychological time, evoking points not unlike my above connection among time, self, and nature but without analyzing them further.16 Similarly, in his aforementioned Drama of the Divine Economy, Paul Blowers gives us a summary of Augustine’s views that predicates creation on familiar ideas of time and evolution.17
Inspecting some of Augustine’s more salient comments on the topic, with or without explicit ties to the self, may offer us better access to the specifics of Augustinian creation. Right at the beginning of Confessions we have an interesting case of creation’s thrownness, its simply being there. After first introducing humanity as “a part of your creation” (aliqua portio creaturae tuae), Augustine next states that “you, God, have directed us towards you” (fecisti nos ad te) and only thereafter, referencing humanity a third time, employs the first-person language that has so come to identify the work.18 But when we look at Augustine’s description of Confessions in his Retractations—his not-to-be-underestimated annotated autobibliography—the difference is striking. Using first-person language without any qualms here, Augustine boldly states that “the first ten books are written about me” (de me scripti sunt), only to continue by stating that “the other three are about the holy scriptures” (de scripturis sanctis), by which he means Genesis’s hexaemeron “beginning with what is written (ab eo quod scriptum est): ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth,’ until the Sabbath’s rest.”19
Exhibiting deeper insight than is customary, this brief entry from Retractations reveals a subtle but daring parallelism between what Augustine writes about himself and what he writes about the holy scriptures—that is, Genesis. Aided by what I consider a parallelism of texts (about self and about the hexaemeron) rather than objects or themes, Augustine directs creation away from its translucence whereby it is either overlooked or contracted with humanity or God. He thus unlocks an altogether different and deeper dimension, one in which creation and createdness are interwoven with everything Augustine says. This interwovenness does not only affect, in thematic or topical fashion, what Augustine says about the self. If we go straight to the heart of the matter, this interwovenness marks all his speaking and writing—which are, as they are in God, inseparably connected—as fundamentally creative. Thus, not only is it true that when Augustine references himself as aliqua portio creaturae tuae, creation is speaking in and through him, but his very speaking (and writing) is itself also to be considered a kind of creating.
The latter point has been teased out by Sabine MacCormack in her 2007 Saint Augustine lecture “Augustine Reads Genesis.”20 When first reading her lecture, I worried that it shortchanged scriptural exegesis, as MacCormack focuses on Augustine’s manner of reading Genesis rather than on what he actually read there. What, if anything, I wondered, could Augustine’s mode of reading Genesis reveal programmatically about his view on creation’s materiality? As it turns out, a great deal, especially if we factor in Augustine’s statement in De Genesi ad litteram 1.15.29, which lies at the basis of MacCormack’s analysis. In an attempt to grasp the intertwining of the mode of creation and the matter (the literal “stuff”) of creation, Augustine compares divine creating to human speaking. Just as humans do not first emit sound and later fashion words from it, he argues, so God also did not first create a kind of primeval matter from which later to finesse individual beings. He formed and fashioned all things at once (omnia simul), preventing any hierarchy between the spiritual and the corporeal from taking root:
Just as a voice, after all, is the basic material for words, while words are what a voice is formed into, but the speaker does not first give vent to an unformed voice which he can later gather up and form into words, so too God the creator did not first make formless material and later on form it, on second thoughts as it were, into every kind of nature; no, he created formed and fashioned material. If the question were asked, I mean, whether we make a voice from words or words from a voice, it would not be easy to find anyone so slow of wit as to not answer that it is rather words which are made from a voice. So too, although the speaker makes them both simultaneously, it is clear enough, on a moment’s reflection, what he makes out of which.21
MacCormack’s conclusion that “just as human speakers form words out of sound, which is the matter of language, so God the creator formed the visible universe out of inchoate primeval matter,”22 is hence fully justified. But if we elevate her topical analysis to a programmatic level by deploying the parallelism of speaking and creating, it appears that the issue of materiality—the sound of speech, the matter of creation—may not be what is ultimately at stake for Augustine. Perhaps out of an intuition that the best way to cope with creation’s pervasiveness is to break it down for the purpose of understanding, what Augustine appears most keen on detecting through reflecting on creation’s matter and mode is a tangible principle of order and organization. Hinting at the notion of order, the above passage from Gen. litt. 1.15.29 distinguishes between a priority in time and a priority in origin, with primeval matter pertaining to the latter but not laying claim to the former, since everything is created all at once. Human intellect and speech inevitably fall short in their attempt to express the simultaneity of creation. For this reason Augustine considers scripture an indispensable tool that can lead us out of this impasse. Creation is called into being by God’s very Word. Scripture, understood here as God’s words, is a divinely sanctioned compensation for humanity’s inability to understand and express the all-at-once-ness of the creation of all things. Scripture helps us in this regard by unfolding over time, according to the days of creation.23
Thus, Augustine states the following: “It is not because formless matter is prior in time to things formed from it, since they are both created simultaneously together (utrumque simul concreatum), both the thing made and what it was made out of; but because that which something is made out of is still prior as its source (origine), even if not in time (tempore), to what is made from it, that scripture could divide in the time it takes to state them what God did not divide in the time it took to make them.”24 That scripture could divide in the time it takes to state them what God did not divide in the time it took to make them. . . . Mark how in this terse comment, which in fact precedes the earlier quotation, Augustine does not go so far as to say that God could not have divided things at the time of creation by creating primeval matter before forming individual creatures, only that he did not do so. By asserting that scripture could separate them out, he emphatically suggests—even though he does not spell it out—that it did indeed do so, containing ample wisdom to help us unpack the proper meaning of creation and createdness.
If my interpretation is correct, Augustine’s parallelism of the projection of creation and speech, premised, as MacCormack highlighted, on the interrelation of their matter and mode, reveals a deeper underlying asymmetry between them; for creation is God’s to fashion and speech humanity’s to shape. Affecting both spheres, the problem of human inadequacy looms large, even if in rather different ways: in creation we are faced with a God who acts without stooping to explain himself, aligning creation with predestination; in language humanity lacks the capacity to ever rise above its created status and accurately express the towering majesty of the divine. With divine creation projecting a sense of divine omnipotence, and human speech hamstrung by the inability to do justice to the divine (whether sin-induced or not is inconsequential here), Augustine unfolds Genesis’s hexaemeron as a scriptural pedagogy that can effectively mediate between these two spheres. While scripture conveys divine omnipotence, it does so in a way that allows for human insufficiency.
Situating scriptural narrative on a mesolevel between God’s actual creation and humanity’s flawed understanding allows Augustine to bypass (but not erase) their ontological asymmetry. To do so, he seizes on the hexaemeron as a channel, separate from either God or humanity but connected to both, through which the events of creation can be passed truthfully and effectively from their divine givenness into workable human understanding. If Augustine ever embraced any epistemological principle, it would be that of scripture’s tertiary nature, by which he straddles divine majesty and human inadequacy in a way that is peculiarly his own.
Augustine’s pledged return to God through scripture ultimately means that henceforth the human self can only come closer to the reality of the divine by working in and through creation.
1. Of course the nature-grace opposition is a staple of scholarship on Augustine, with known highlights in the Pelagian debate (discussed below), as well as in the Jansenist controversy. For a different take on grace see Phillip Carey, Inner Grace: Augustine in the Traditions of Plato and Paul (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
2. See E. A. Clark, “‘Adam’s Only Companion’: Augustine and the Early Christian Debate on Marriage,” Recherches augustiniennes 21 (1986): 139–62. See also my essays “Augustine on Marriage, Monasticism and the Community of the Church,” Theological Studies 59 (1998): 385–405; and “The Long Shadow of Human Sin: Augustine on Adam, Eve, and the Fall,” in Out of Paradise: Eve and Adam and Their Interpreters, ed. B. E. J. H. Becking and S. A. Hennecke (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2010), 29–49.
3. For the impact of Augustine on political thought see Arjo Vanderjagt, “Political Theology,” in The Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine, ed. K. Pollmann and W. Otten (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 3:1562–69. For the ramifications of Augustinian thought for modern politics and citizenship see Jean Bethke Elshtain, Augustine and the Limits of Politics (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 1995); and Eric Gregory, Politics and the Order of Love: An Augustinian Ethic of Democratic Citizenship (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).
4. Augustine’s important treatment of time in Conf. 11 is analyzed in P. Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, trans. Kathleen MacLaughlin and David Pellauer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984–88), 1:5–30 (“The Aporias of the Experience of Time: Book 11 of Augustine’s Confessions”). For a critique of Ricoeur that applies Augustinian temporality to the reading of Confessions, see M. B. Pranger, Eternity’s Ennui: Temporality, Perseverance and Voice in Augustine and Western Literature (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 38–54.
5. With this chapter’s focus on the notion of “taking place” I intend both to invoke and criticize Jean-Luc Marion’s In the Self’s Place: The Approach of Saint Augustine, trans. Jeffrey L. Kosky (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012). While I applaud the way in which Marion’s study pivots on the relation between God and self, my concern is that in doing so, he fails to make adequate room for creation. See my review of the French original in Continental Philosophy Review 42, no. 4 (2010): 597–602.
6. A cautionary note is sounded by Christopher Kirwan, who sees Augustine as defending free will to vindicate God as just punisher and caring creator and holds that, unlike Luther and Calvin, he maintained belief in the free decision of the will and never concluded to the bondage of the will. See Christopher Kirwan, Augustine (London: Routledge, 1991), 82. On sin and will see also James Wetzel, Augustine: A Guide for the Perplexed (New York: Continuum, 2010), 44–76 (“Sin and the Invention of Will”). On the complex role of corporeal existence and desire in Augustine see Virginia Burrus, Mark D. Jordan, and Karmen MacKendrick, Seducing Augustine: Bodies, Desires, Confessions (New York: Fordham University Press, 2010).
7. Found throughout Conf. 11, as in 11.23.30 (“I therefore see that time is some kind of extension”) or 11.29.39 (“Look, my life is a stretch”). See note 4 above for Ricoeur’s treatment of time and Pranger’s critique.
8. On Pelagius and Pelagianism see Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography (London: Faber and Faber, 1967), 340–52. Brown fittingly describes Pelagius as emancipatus a Deo (352), no longer dependent on the pater familias, with reference to Augustine, Contra Iulianum opus imperfectum 1:78.
9. I see this as the consequence of the radicality of Pelagius’s sense of emancipation, which I connect here with Peter Damian’s later treatment of the question of whether God cannot just destroy what has been created but actually undo what has been done, for example, that Rome was never founded, in his De divina omnipotentia (1064 CE). I do so in part to point out that such debates occur in an ascetic context. On Damian’s tract see Toivo J. Holopainen, Dialectic and Theology in the Eleventh Century (Leiden: Brill, 1996), 6–43.
10. What I describe here as Pelagius’s circularity may on a different level explain Augustine’s difficulty in extracting himself from the Pelagian debate, which took up all his intellectual energy in the last decades of his life.
11. See E. Gilson, “Regio dissimilitudinis de Platon à Saint Bernard de Clairvaux,” Mediaeval Studies 9, no. 1 (1947): 108–30. The point I want to add is that in Augustine there is a certain convergence of place and time in concepts like distentio animi and regio dissimilitudinis that should not be overlooked. Rather than seeing these terms only in terms of sinfulness, I see them as his markers of a pressured ordinary life. Augustine’s preference for ordinary life is the reason why, despite his focus on a historical paradise, he does not wax nostalgic about humanity’s stay there prior to its ejection. If Augustine’s rendition, say, of sex in paradise is stilted, it is in part because the exercise of a hypothetical reflection on utopian paradise is itself stilted.
12. Robert A. Markus, The End of Ancient Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 45–62. Markus defines mediocrity in the context of Augustine’s anti-Pelagian stance.
13. Augustine, Conf. 10.33.50; Chadwick transl., 208. The phrase mihi quaestio factus sum occurs with some frequency in Confessions.
14. Per the famous exchange in Solil. 1.2.7: scire cupio Deum et animam. See Saint Augustine, Soliloquies and Immortality of the Soul, with an introduction, translation, and commentary by G. Watson (Warminster UK: Aris and Phillips, 1990), 30–31.
15. Mark Vessey, ed., A Companion to Augustine (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), lacks a chapter on creation, while Scott Dunham, The Trinity and Creation in Augustine: An Ecological Analysis (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008), subsumes creation under God. I have discussed Dunham in W. Otten, “Nature as a Theological Problem: An Emersonian Response to Lynn White,” in Responsibility and the Enhancement of Life: Essays in Honor of William Schweiker, ed. G. Thomas and H. Springhart (Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2017), 265–80.
16. Simo Knuuttila, “Time and Creation in Augustine,” in The Cambridge Companion to Augustine, ed. E. Stumpf and N. Kretzmann (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 103–15.
17. Paul M. Blowers, Drama of the Divine Economy: Creator and Creation in Early Christian Theology and Piety (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 153–59.
18. Augustine, Conf. 1.1.1; Chadwick transl., 3:
“You are great, Lord and highly to be praised (Ps. 47:2): great is your power and your wisdom is immeasurable” (Ps. 146:5). Man, a little piece of your creation (aliqua portio creaturae tuae), desires to praise you, a human being, “bearing his mortality with him” (2 Cor. 4:10), carrying with him the witness of his sin and the witness that you “resist the proud” (1 Pet. 5:5). Nevertheless to praise you is the desire of man, a little piece of your creation (aliqua portio creaturae tuae). You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself (quia fecisti nos ad te), and our heart is restless until it rests in you. “Grant me Lord to know and understand” (Ps. 118:34, 73, 144) which comes first—to call upon you or to praise you and whether knowing you precedes calling upon you.
19. Augustinus, Retract. 2.6.1, ed. Almit Mutzenbecher, CCSL 57 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1984): “a primo usque ad decimum de me scripti sunt, in tribus ceteris de scripturis sanctis, ab eo quod scriptum est: ‘in principio fecit deus caelum et terram,’ usque ad sabbati requiem.”
20. Sabine MacCormack, “Augustine Reads Genesis,” Augustinian Studies 39, no. 1 (2008): 5–47.
21. See Augustinus, The Literal Meaning of Genesis 1.15.29, in Saint Augustine, On Genesis, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P. (New York: New City Press, 2002), 181. I have consulted the following Latin text: La Genèse au sens littéral en douze livres: De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim, traduction, introduction et notes par P. Agaësse et A. Solignac, vol. 1 (bks. 1–7); vol. 2 (bks. 8–12), Œuvres de St. Augustin 48–49 (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1972).
22. MacCormack, “Augustine Reads Genesis,” 35.
23. For a fuller treatment of Augustinian exegesis prior to De Genesi ad litteram, see Michael Cameron, Christ Meets Me Everywhere: Augustine’s Early Figurative Exegesis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). On the diverse aspects of Augustinian exegesis see P. Bright, ed. and trans., Augustine and the Bible (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999).
24. Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, 181. For the Latin text of the latter half of this quotation, see Augustine, Gen. litt. 1.15.29; Agaësse-Solignac edn.: 1:120: sed quia illud, unde fit aliquid, etsi non tempore, tamen quadam origine prius est, quam illud quod inde fit, potuit diuidere scriptura loquendi temporibus quod deus faciendi temporibus non diuisit. MacCormack (34–35) translates the passage slightly differently: “But that from which something is made, even if it is not prior in time to that which is made from it, is yet prior in some manner of origin; therefore Scripture in the time of its speaking could separate what God in the time of his making did not separate.”