How did Neoplatonism ruin modern Christianity

Summary of Confessions

The fall of Rome and the rise of Christianity

The fourth and fifth centuries AD were marked by two main currents. The Roman Empire, which had determined world history for centuries with its culture and military strength and, in its greatest extent, had encompassed almost the entire world known at the time, was in decline. From the outside it was threatened by the attacks of the Goths and Alemanni, from the inside by political instability. After the death of Kaiser Theodosius I. in 395 it was divided into an Eastern Roman and a Western Roman Empire. In 410 the city of Rome, considered invincible for centuries, was subjugated by the Visigoths Alaric conquered and plundered. Only a few decades later (476) ended with the emperor's abdication Romulus Augustulus the Roman Empire in the west, in the east it could hold out even longer.

The second major trend of this time was the rise of Christianity, which developed from an oppressed sect to a state and mass church. After numerous persecutions in the first three centuries AD it was under the Christian emperor Constantine the new religion recognized with the Edict of Tolerance of Milan in 313. From his successors only returned Julian the Apostate back to the ancient Roman cult; In 391 Theodosius made Christianity the state religion. As it grew stronger, the Christian religion developed into the institution of the church and dealt with various doctrines at councils. So dogmatics came to the fore, and rules of faith were defined. At the same time the influence of the church on the state grew. During this time, Church Fathers and important Christian thinkers worked like Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose, Jerome, Lactance i.a.


Augustine has his Confessions probably written in the years 397–401, ie in his early years as bishop of Hippo Regius (city in today's Algeria). In the text itself, he names several reasons that prompted him to write the text: He wanted to show people how much the encounter with God changed his life, and Christians should rejoice with him about what he has achieved and because of his weaknesses for pray him. The autobiographical part is a kind of life confession before God and man, Augustine makes a confession about his earlier sinful life, his faith and the goodness of God. Furthermore, in its thematic variety, the text reflects the challenges that Augustine faced as a bishop. Just as he had to deal with other faiths in his office and define valid rules of faith, so are his Confessions from the struggle for the truth and from the confrontation with other teachings, e.g. B. Manichaeism.

Impact history

Augustine is considered to be one of the most important doctors of the church. His influence on the theology and philosophy of Europe can hardly be overestimated, and not only in a positive sense: with his radical asceticism, distrust of science, rejection of sexuality and the subordination of human activity to faith, Augustine was the spiritual pioneer of the Middle Ages and has determined the theology of the Catholic Church up to modern times. His emotional, intimate relationship with God, on the other hand, that in the Confessions clearly expressed, shaped the mysticism of the following centuries. But not only the Catholics, also the Reformers appealed to Augustine. Martin Luther With his doctrine of the justification of man “by grace alone” he took up the Augustinian doctrine of grace.

Even during his lifetime Augustine received criticism mainly because of this doctrine of grace: the idea that it depends solely on God's grace whether a person is saved or rejected met with opposition. Friedrich Nietzsche ridiculed the "psychological falsehood" and "doggy religiosity" of the Confessions. Augustine's thoughts on the nature of time have been taken up by numerous modern philosophers, among them Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Bertrand Russell, Karl Jaspers and Ludwig Wittgenstein. In addition, they are Confessions also of importance in literary history: autobiographical texts were already known in antiquity, but in the Confessions For the first time, an author dared to present himself critically. With his openness and his concentration on his own inner self, Augustine became the forerunner of the modern autobiography and the psychological novel and a direct model for many literary works. So wrote z. B. Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1765-1770 an autobiography in the form of a life confession and published it under the title Les Confessions.