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In a state of anticipation—that is how Augustine says the Christian must now experience this triumph of good. He affirms that God does not save us by good works, but that good works are always present in those who believe. Referring to Ephesians —10, he insists that God is now creating us anew not merely as people, but as good people, so that good works are now necessary.

Consequently, he says, cultivating good works in our present lives is an essential aspect of the divine triumph of good. Human free will by itself is prone to error, he says; thus it is no surprise that mankind fell. Augustine wisely concludes that genuine faith requires good works now, and says this is especially accomplished in the giving of alms. Of course, continuing sin is not excused by regular almsgiving; almsgiving can never purchase for us a license to sin.

The only special merit that Jesus will attribute to those who are eternally blessed, says Augustine, is that they abound in almsgiving—but not almsgiving in the conventional sense.

Enchiridion: Faith, Hope, and Love | Monergism

For Augustine, almsgiving is a multi-faceted virtue. For example, one way he suggests of giving alms to others is to give forgiveness. Concerning almsgiving, Augustine teaches us that it also means giving alms to ourselves!

We, too, are wretched and in great need of help, he suggests. Our greatest need is for the cleansing of our inward parts, which we obtain only if we give the gift of Christ to our own selves. This need is especially shown in the example of the Pharisees, he says. They certainly gave material alms on a regular basis.

But their mistake was to give alms only externally. They did not give to themselves what their own inward parts needed most: Christ himself. One of the greatest benefits of reading Augustine is catching the fresh realism and honesty of his highly Christian perspective.

He does not pretend to be unaffected by sin; he is an earthy theologian. His writing does not smack of excessive self-confidence; he is honest about the doubts and uncertainties that infest the finite and fallible minds even of Christians. The mercy of God, he insists, is necessary to convince us even of our need for repentance. He points out that before Peter wept bitterly, it was necessary for the Lord to turn and look upon him. Unfortunately, we are not often convinced of the seriousness of our own sins and the sins around us.

We tend to be blase Augustine points out, because we have been exposed to these sins for so long. Quite aware that ambiguous ethical choices often exist, and often because of human ignorance, Augustine is no perfectionist. In particular he suggests that while all lies are wrong, varying intentions make some lies worse than others.

Handbook on Faith, Hope and Love

In fact, he argues that if a person lies to save another person from injury, that person could be justly commended. This deceit is still wrong, and it needs to be forgiven; Augustine never makes deceit morally right. In a similar way, Augustine recognizes the challenging complexities of the problem of abortion. With his typical candor, Augustine admits that he cannot assuredly say at exactly what point human life begins.

He seriously questions whether any human has the power to decisively say.


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Nevertheless, he asserts that any one who looked at the cut-up remains of an aborted baby would have to recognize that this had been a human life. Although Augustine apparently had a firm belief that a developing fetus participates in human life, he argues equally strongly here that a conclusive proof is outside our human ability.

We need patience with our ignorance of our world and with the difficulties of discerning correct interpretations of Scripture, he suggests. Sep 29, ISBN In this strikingly concise book, he breaks down Christian life to its most basic elements—faith, hope, and love—and by examining these central commitments he provides one of the most accessible and direct introductions to Christianity and to his thought. Augustine writes with an unmatched range, drawing from classical scholarship, Christian scripture, and his own experiences to address the key issues in Christian faith, including the creation of the world, evil, original sin, Jesus and the incarnation of God, justification, baptism, the Church, faith and works, salvation, and the destiny of man.

He presents a fully formed vision of Christianity in a clear and pastoral form that keeps the reader always engaged in the practical applications of faith and leaves little doubt as to why his work continues to be read and appreciated in the present day. In the years between, he devoted himself to… More about Augustine of Hippo. Category: Religion. Ebook —. Also by Augustine of Hippo. See all books by Augustine of Hippo. Product Details.

Free eBook: “Handbook on Faith, Hope and Love” by Saint Augustine

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