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St. Augustine

It is not easy to overlook the spiritual legacy of St. Augustine. The influence that Augustine had left was felt before and after his death almost two millennia now. His profound impact has influenced many issues in the history of the church. There are many printed journals that explain his ideas. Augustine’s philosophical arguments are also widely used in seminars, study institutes, plethora of monographs and articles that have brought considerable influence in the lives of many Christians. Augustine’s writings had a serious influence on the Christianity, particularly his argument about the confessions and the purpose of the confession. This topic is well described and discussed in a book XI of Augustine.

Augustine assessed the relation of time and eternity though he acknowledged that it is difficult to bring out the relations. Augustine first asked for God’s guidance to enable him write clearly and precisely about his philosophical ideals and wanted to ensure that he would not face many critiques. Augustine’s faith was based on the principle of the temporality of the Earth and the existence of God in eternity. His greatest worry was about the book of Genesis and how the chapter describes that God created the universe. While writing the book of Genesis, Moses puts it immensely clearly that God created the universe. This, according to Augustine, means that time existed before creation. In this analogy, it means that God existed in time and was thus limited and controlled by it. Augustine in all his arguments employed figurative and spiritual interpretations of the scriptures as he had been guided by the Bishop. Everything exists in a particular moment of time and must be defined. Augustine agrees that even the human speech only exists in time, and every word has a beginning and an end. The syllables are believed to sound and pass away. The human speech is defined in time, but God’s word cannot be defined in time. The human words cannot be like the temporal speech of God. His word is always said, and it has no beginning or end. It is believed that the word of God is always in work guiding the universe (Zaleski & Zaleski, 2000).

When writing the book of Genesis, Moses used the word “beginning” which brought up many issues in the argument of Augustine. Moses wrote what God did, starting from the time of  creation of the universe. Therefore, it was not clear what God was doing before he created the universe and how God existed. From the argument of the Augustine, it is clear that the question of what God was doing before he created heaven and earth is not a fair question. Augustine believes that God’s existence is separate from time, and the temporal thing ends up being the eternal design (Zaleski & Zaleski, 2000). God planed the creation distinct fully from time and the creation so planed existed in time, but the fact that what God planned existed in time, is not conclusive to say that God also existed in the time. The mentioning of the word beginning in the book of Genesis is not a temporal beginning point, however, the term referred to a particular point that is outside time upon which temporal things can return. This particular fixed point is the one referred as God. This argument enabled Augustine to understand why creation could take place and make God remain an eternity being contrarily to the argument of the Neo-Platonist that creation could not have happened because it would have made God exist in temporality. Augustine continued to bring the real meaning of time and the eternity and said that God did not make the world in a given moment. This was simply because for God there is no time. Therefore, the creation took place in a moment and is still happening up to eternity. The concept is hard to understand for human beings because of their existence on Earth/ in the world. Everything in the world is controlled and bound by time making it hard for us to figure out the idea of things happening outside of time. It is necessary to note that God did not start things at a certain time but rather He, himself is the point at which all things started and the point for all things to return. God does not change; He remains the same all through now and forever because He is not affected by time (Zaleski & Zaleski, 2000).

Augustine’s definition of time is that it is bound by moments and only happens on earth. Time and eternity are different and human beings are only able to define time through the use of tenses: the past, present and future to specify the occurrence of something in a time bound situations. The past and the future times for a human being are maintained by the memory and in its absence this fact would not be true. The present tense is what exists in human beings, and it does not have space and duration. This can be explained that present tense is time by itself and cannot have a duration because once it happens, it is gone into the past. From all his arguments, Augustine realized that time is difficult to define on earth and he ended up concluding that time seems not to exist, though people discuss it and even measure it. The idea of the past, present and the future concept of time is extremely necessary for the human beings to be in a position to define time (Zaleski & Zaleski, 2000). Further, Augustine did not agree with the earlier argument of some philosophers that time could be measured by the movements of the heavenly bodies like the stars or even the planets. He agrees that those heavenly bodies may move in time, but they are not time. He strongly supported his idea by the fact that even if the heavenly bodies did not exist, time could still be passing. Augustine brought the idea that time is a substance that is only measurable within the scope of our own memories. Human beings cannot be able to hold the past because it has no existence, but they can be able to figure out the images and the sensations that they had in the past. Augustine is unable to define time in a positive manner but only gives out the negative feeling he had about time. The issues of eternity only existed with God who cannot be defined with time. Augustine felt that the question of what God was doing before the creation of the universe seemed null because God himself is the point at which everything started and everything will return to that point. God exists separately from time and hence the difficulty in getting what he was doing before the creation (Zaleski & Zaleski, 2000)

In conclusion, in Augustine’s book XI time does not exist in human beings until it is defined in terms of the past, present and future. Many of the ideas brought out in Augustine’s arguments are even unknown philosophies but serve with exceptional importance to the Christianity. The distinction of time and eternity were extremely valuable in defining the nature of God. He was able to conclude that God is the only being that exists in the eternity. According to Augustine time is a distention of the soul and it is a distention away from a human being. God is the point of beginning and the point for the end. Time is the property of the mind and not the property of the world.

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