on ‘Augustine: Conversions and Confessions’, by Robin Lane Fox

Ae770a9d-8605-4b40-8465-ba199b650b76John Cornwell at the Financial Times:

Citing earlier Christian writers, Lane Fox quarrels at the outset with claims, controversial to this day, that Augustine “invented” original sin — the doctrine that the entire human race, with the exception of the Virgin Mary, inherited the sin of Adam and Eve and its consequences. His discussion of Augustine’s sexual exploits (“I was boiling over,” wrote Augustine, “because of my fornications”) goes beyond the standard commentaries to claim that “he has influenced our vocabulary for sexual desire ever since”. He refers to Augustine’s “flexibility” with the language of sex, and the dynamism of his metaphors. Where Augustine says that “the brambles of lust” were growing “beyond my head”, Lane Fox suggests that Augustine “actually did things, aged fifteen, and was as ‘wicked’ as possible”. In other words, his sexual sins, even at an early age, were no mere “impure thoughts”. Lane Fox is convinced, moreover, that Augustine probably indulged in same-sex liaisons as well as heterosexual ones.

With a dig at “pained modern liberal readers” who attempt to avoid the fact, he hammers home the significance of Augustine’s belief in predestination — that heaven awaits only those chosen by God, however hard the excluded try. He emphasises that Augustine was not claiming that he turned to God and thereby received God’s grace, but that God’s grace alone enabled him to turn in the first place. It is God who seeksus out.

more here.