Today I’m going to have a quick look at Confessions Book 2. It’s a short one – only 8 pages in my edition – so it shouldn’t take long. If you haven’t already, I’d recommend checking out my thoughts on Book 1 first.
Confessions Book 2: Chapters 1-3 – Teenage Augustine
Augustine opens his Confessions, Book 2 by writing, “Arrived now at adolescence I burned for all the satisfactions of hell, and I sank to the animal in a succession of dark lusts.” In Book 1, Augustine argued that he was sinful even as an ignorant infant. Here, he proves he was sinful by his will and actions.
Chapter two begins with the declaration, “My one delight was to love and to be loved.” And yet, he goes on to describe how his love was bent toward lust. He tells how it left him “half drowned in a whirlpool of abominable sins.” Augustine carries this thought throughout the Confessions. In fact, it’s something we see him reflect on in his greatest work, The City of God. There, he describes virtue as “ordered love” and sin as “disordered love” (City of God 15:22).
For nothing is more surely heard by Thee than a heart that confesses Thee and a life in Thy faith.
With this thought in mind, Confessions Book 2 really comes alive. We can see how the teenage Augustine’s disordered love of pleasure led him to fulfill his every lust. He tells how his mother’s disordered love for her son’s future caused her to downplay the importance of marriage as a guard against immorality. Likewise, he notes that his father’s love of ambition made him neglect the moral cultivation of his son.
Confessions Book 2: Chapters 4-10 – Stealing Pears
But Augustine doesn’t stop there. He spends the last half of Book 2 examining a particular sin (probably one of the most famous sins in all of literature): his theft of pears from a neighbor’s tree.
Yet in the enjoyment of all such things we commit sin if through immoderate inclination to them – for though they are good, they are of the lowest order of good – things higher and better are forgotten, even You, O Lord our God and Your Truth and Your Law.
After describing his sin – a seemingly tame one – he goes on to say that they didn’t even eat the pears. They didn’t sin out of any need. Instead, “our only pleasure in doing it was that it was forbidden…The malice of the act was base and I loved it – that is to say…I loved the evil in me.”
Talk about a disordered love!
Near the end of the book, Augustine reflects on the fact that he probably would not have committed his crime if not for the presence of his friends. And with this thought, he returns to the idea of disordered love. How many crimes have been committed because of an inordinate love for the praise of others? A love for others’ approval? A love for admiration?
O how disordered love can lead to our undoing!
Thus the soul is guilty of fornication when she turns from You and seeks from any other source what she will nowhere find pure and without taint unless she returns to You.
Search Me, O God
Throughout this book, Augustine calls us to examine our hearts.
With David, we ought to cry, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Do I have disordered love in my own heart?
I pray that you’ll ask God this question – and listen for his answer. Then, work alongside him to root out the disordered love and plant ordered love in your heart.
These are hard questions. But real spiritual growth comes as a result of facing questions like this head on and allowing the Spirit of Christ to answer for us.
Don’t Forget to Comment with Your Own Thoughts!
Once you’ve read, I’d encourage you to comment with any of your favorite passages or quotes. Did Augustine say anything that rubbed you the wrong way? Did he provide any insights you hadn’t thought about before?
I can’t wait to hear what all of you are thinking about the Confessions!
Oh, and by the way, there’s currently a digital, modern language edition of Augustine’s Confessions available from Amazon for only $0.99! Get it while you can!
Continue reading our summary of Book 3…
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