Novak (novak) wrote,
Novak
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Theological Notebook/Random: Pelagius, Roman Didaskaleion, Crazy Winds, Crazy Me

While proctoring the first section's exam, (ugh--so many exams to grade over the next few days) I spent the morning reading a letter of Pelagius' to a virgin named Demetrias on how to live the perfect life. It was all brilliant, inspiring, clear and sensible; and likely almost impossible for most people to see how it really is a deathtrap. In fact, as a homily today, it would likely be unsurprising except in its high rhetorical quality. But it's such big difference, really, between Pelagius' "You can live a holy life" and Augustine's "You can live a holy life with the help of God's grace." There's a kind of rigorism to the both of them, as we discussed later in the day in Barnes' session on the Roman didaskaleion--the Christian study circle of Rom--in the early 5th century, but in Pelagius' there's no allowance for sin. And a Christian spirituality, while promoting a code of perfect morality, has to really start with the assumption of hypocrisy: that humanity is too flawed to do the good that is, or should be, natural to it. It really is, in fact, one of the most curious features of anthropology, but since it's an active "religious" idea, anthropology as a science seems to ignore it, thus, I have to assume, skewing its results all over the board.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Milwaukee is the town where winter just can't give up and keeps coming back for more. After a few days in the 70s, we've had crazy winds tonight. It's set off the car alarm below my window three times tonight, and this car just honks, and honks, and honks. It's kept me from falling asleep and I'm going crazy.

So, had some good talk with Barnes in his office after class about how to then use the Roman circle and Augustine's being drawn--via letters and books--into its concerns as an organizing principle for a class on him. The "early Augustine" is easily organized on the basis of The Confessions. One would likely be crazy to pass up the opportunity to make use of one of the greatest books and autobiographical works of all time in studying someone's life. So that's easy. But the Augustine after his conversion and return to Africa? In my necessarily brief treatment of him in my high school class, I'd use the theme of grace in his later controversial works against the Donatists and Pelagians as the theme that linked to the "Confessions years" with its treatment of grace in his own life. We were getting to something similar, but much more text-oriented. He agreed that the Pelagius letter we read would be a great intro for students to him, before introducing "Pelagianism" as a problem. Let them digest his program on his own terms before seeing Augustine's humbling critique of it.

More crazy wind, rattling my windows and turning the building's ventilation fan on and off, on and off. Crazy wind. Crazy Mike.
Tags: theological notebook
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