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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

God, the Will Smith

Augustine, St., On Free Choice of the Will [orig. title: De Libero Arbitrio], superbly translated by Thomas Williams, Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993, pages xxi + 130

Augustine, as usual, catches the reader's attention with his deep insights, his culture, his acumen, his logical paradoxes and -- why not -- his humor, as well as with the true shocks he can create in a 21st century audience. Having to deal with an apparently specific topic, he cannot do so without setting it within a wider context, including anthropology at large, therefore Nature and the universe, angels included, therefore creation and the history of salvation starting from Adam, therefore God!

The general impression is that, nowadays, this book would much more easily understood by a traditional Hindu than by an "updated" Christian. In fact, not only Augustine's ideas but his whole worldview are hard to grasp, and even harder to accept, without being fully immersed in a vision of cosmic justice (dharma) and order (ṛta).

As to the authors to whom this blog is mainly devoted, Torquato Tasso surely drew many things from Augustine, as it was obvious, but the impact with his works is quite different. While surely De Libero Arbitrio influenced CS Lewis much, both for working out essays like A Preface to Paradise Lost and for the role of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia. Daresay that, on certain issues, Lewis' explanations are even better than Augustine's, though, vice versa, De Libero Arbitrio may have suggested the less convincing episode in all Chronicles, i.e. the reason of Aslan's sacrifice in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.