AUGUSTINE ON LOVE AND SEX
Published July 1999
St Augustine is widely known in Church History as a great theologian and scholar whose insight and knowledge of the Scriptures remain to this day as dogmas and doctrines of the Roman Catholic as well as the Protestant churches. He was one of the 3 most powerful writers of the Church in the 4th and 5th centuries, besides Ambrose and Jerome. His influence on the Church and in the world cannot be understated. They include such philosophers as Immanuel Kant and Blaise Pascal. His ideas appeared in the teachings of John Calvin, Martin Luther, and other Protestant reformers. This belief forms part of the predestination or election doctrine. His books, Confessions of St Augustine and The City of God are among the world's greatest writings studied by great and small, popes and laity. He conceptualized words like "Trinity" to explain God and his teaching dictates church sacraments. Yet his understanding on love and sex was nothing but pagan, twisted and corrupted.
Rather than doing too much rewriting, I have chosen to post in a piece of writing - a chapter, The Church's Attitude About Sex, from a book, Another Look At Sex: The Biblical Perspective. The author is Charles Phillips, who in simple terms describes Augustine's understanding of sex and how it has become the attitude of Christianity. It is also supported by some quotations from the late Lester Sumrall, a wonderful servant of God known to many around the globe. This passage itself would suffice to explain why the concepts of marriage, love and sex are so warped and erroneous in the Church of Jesus Christ. Of course, Augustine was not alone in this (perhaps unknown to the author, Phillips), for he was well backed by Jerome, who said that all sexual intercourse is unclean.
Israel CS Lim, 29 Jul 1999
Read also JEROME ON MARRIAGE AND SEX
(Chapter 6 of 'Another Look At Sex : The Biblical Perspective by Charles Phillips. ISBN-0-927936-17-8)
I want to share some information with you that is not unknown. It's just untaught. That is how and why I believe the Church has taken the position it has on sex.
The Church's attitude about sex goes back hundreds of years to one great theologian, St. Augustine, who had a strong influence on the Church in his day. I personally believe his viewpoints are one of the major reasons the Church views sex as it does today.
St. Augustine was a great theologian and scholar who did some tremendous things as it relates to bringing revelation and insight to the Scriptures. His position on sexual matters was rather basic and clear. He believed that sex was sinful. (Can you imagine God saying to Adam and Eve, "Be fruitful and multiply," and when they did, He punished them for it?)
St. Augustine believed that Adam and Eve's problem in the Garden was because of sex. "He believed that the account of Adam and Eve's sin against God in Genesis 3 uses symbolic language, that the 'forbidden fruit' actually represented sex. He thought Eve conceived and bore children in pain (Genesis 3:16) because sex is sinful, and any kind of sexual activity brings pain.
"According to St. Augustine, human beings should ask God's forgiveness for even thinking about sex and should abstain whenever possible. In fact, Augustine said, 'Men and women who want to be righteous in God's sight should live in celibacy; i.e., without sexual contact.' His adherents believed their leaders should live in church monasteries and convents without even conversing with the opposite sex." ** ( Lester Sumrall )
St. Augustine was a keen theologian, and his ideas were well respected. His understanding of sex became a standard church doctrine, and we are still feeling the effects of his teaching.
"In his book on Western sexual morality, C. W. Lloyd says: 'Augustine's writings have probably exerted more influence in the West on love and sexual practice than those of any other man. The clearest expression of the innate evil in sexual passion, even within marriage, is set forth.
Augustine's teachings gave theological structure to feelings of guilt and shame in a biological drive. However, the enforcement of the doctrine of sexual guilt was difficult. The struggle was to impose celibacy on the clergy. It was only moderately successful until well into the Middle Ages.'
"In other words, Christians had a hard time accepting Augustine's ideas about sex. They weren't certain that God wanted them to live in celibacy. The church struggled to keep its leaders obedient to this rule. In fact, sexual prohibition was one of the first doctrines that Martin Luther and the other Reformers broke away from. Luther left the monastery to marry a nun." ** ( Lester Sumrall )
It is noble and honorable to live a life of celibacy, but to apply a personal conviction to the world is unwise. I do not doubt St. Augustine's love and devotion to God. He tried to put the natural sex drive into the spiritual area. Sex is not spiritual. It is natural. The flesh is natural.
When you get married, it doesn't mean you suddenly become one spirit or one mind. As couples live together and communicate, they can develop a good relationship and become very close, but God's concept is that in the marital relationship the only way you become one is in the flesh.
It seems that the Church as a whole has adopted the basic attitude that sex within itself is evil, so they don't even talk about it. While we remain silent, fornication, adultery, teenage pregnancies and even AIDS continue to affect the Church and the community.