Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Sin of Adam and Eve According to Augustine
Augustine (354 – 430), probably the most influential Christian theologian of all time, argued that the Eden account should be taken both literally and symbolically; that is to say, taken partly as historic fact and partly as spiritual truth. Augustine has played a major role in formulating the traditional Christian doctrine of Original Sin. Augustine believed sin had its beginning in sexual desire. His description of what making babies would have been like prior to the Fall seems ludicrous to most moderns. Here are Augustine's own words:

In Eden, it would have been possible to beget offspring without foul lust. The sexual organs would have been stimulated into necessary activity by will-power alone, just as the will controls other organs. Then, without being goaded on by the allurement of passion, the husband could have relaxed upon his wife's breasts with complete peace of mind and bodily tranquility, that part of his body not activated by tumultuous passion, but brought into service by the deliberate use of power when the need arose, the seed dispatched into the womb with no loss of his wife's virginity. So, the two sexes could have come together for impregnation and conception by an act of will, rather than by lustful cravings (City of God, Book 14, Chapter 26).

Before his conversion, Augustine said he "ran wild in the jungle of erotic adventures." The problem, according to Augustine, was that his love had "no restraint imposed [on it] by the exchange of mind with mind." Hence, pure love was perverted by its misdirection toward worldly things, i.e. bodies. Ideally, according to Augustine, sex should be used only for procreation, and even then only in a relationship focused not on lust but on a loving, rational partnership. This is how he saw Adam and Eve relating before their fall. St. Augustine wrote to a friend:

What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman. I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.

Another quote from Augustine:

It is one thing to lie together with the sole will of generating: this has no fault. It is another to seek the pleasure of flesh in lying, although within the limits of marriage, this has venial fault.