The paper focuses on the first topic which is to examine the readings of St. Augustine’s Confessions and the Genesis Creation Narratives.
The thesis statement provided for the analysis of the readings is how the human desires become a motivation for sin.
From the Confessions of St. Augustine, the paper will narrate St. Augustine’s experience of sin specifically on theft. In addition to this, his thoughts will be examined behind the purpose of committing that sin. Lastly, the analysis will proceed to relate what the experience of sin brought him.
On other hand, this paper will also delve in examining The Genesis Creation Narratives by providing a brief summary of the story. Then, the process on how the sin was committed will be portrayed. Finally, the paper will attempt to analyze the motive on why Adam & Eve have committed the sin.
To compare and contrast both readings, this paper will point out the sources where the motivations of the act of sin have come from. The analysis of both readings will provide the differences on how the sin is motivated. Determining the similarities will focus on the purpose why a sin has been committed. This will be further expanded by looking at a certain influence on how sin becomes an irresistible force despite being morally wrong.
The Allure of Sin
Sin has been traced from the earliest history of our ancestors and is prominent in every aspect of this modern time. Despite of the various existing religion that this world has, sin is a universal concept which measures what is morally wrong in the society. Though there are varying degrees as to what can be considered a sin, having committed one is succumbing to immorality. No one is exempted from committing sin no matter how petty or grave it is. People have been said to be weak when it comes to the act of sinning. Therefore, sin presents some kind of a magnet. There is a certain pull to sin why people are drawn to commit it.
Two notable works in the literary field depicted how sin is being committed and its consequences after the deed. The Confessions of St. Augustine is a detailed autobiographical account of St. Augustine of Hippo. He narrated his escapades with sin during the years before he chose the path of Catholicism. On the other hand, the Genesis Creation Narratives relates the process of God’s creation of earth and man. This book from the Bible followed the life of the first man and woman living in paradise until they have fallen because of sin. These two literary classics will be the focal discussion of this paper regarding the topic of sin and why humanity commits to its act.
As previously mentioned, there is a certain attraction to sin where people are easily persuaded to do it. The act of sin may or may not be conscious within the human mind because there might be factors in which sin is forcedly committed. Basing from the two literary works, it can be determined that sin is done out of human desires. It will be discussed how the motivation of sin is derived out from people’s desire to experience the unknown turf of sin. That people are somehow intrigued by the knowledge on the perspective of sin as a forbidden unlawful deed. In this modern era, it will be pointed out that the Confessions of St. Augustine is more relevant in the society, particularly in the U.S. society. That St. Augustine’s work reflects on how the U.S. society experience sin and how they responded to it. In the following texts, the allure of sin will be further explored.
The Confessions of St. Augustine is written when the saint devoted his whole life in service to God. St. Augustine, in full honesty, revealed his rebellious and sinful lifestyle especially during his youth. The Book II of his work focused on what he considered two greatest sins that he committed: theft & lust. At the height of his blazing youth, he recalled a specific incident of him and his friends conspiring to rob a pear tree just beside their own vineyard. Augustine described himself as a “rich thief, one stealing through want” (Augustine Book II 23) because he knew he has more delicious pears in his backyard. He admitted that what gave him pleasure are not the pears but the deed of stealing itself.
For had I then loved the pears I stole, and wished to enjoy them, I might have done it alone, had the bare commission of the theft sufficed to attain my pleasure; nor needed I have inflamed the itching of my desires by the excitement of accomplices. But since my pleasure was not in those pears, it was in the offence itself, which the company of fellow-sinners occasioned. (27)
The above texts also pointed out that aside from liking the act of stealing just for the sake of it; Augustine enjoyed committing theft because he has his friends with him. The fact that the act of theft is not done alone, made the sin more thrilling instead of attaining guilt. As a youth, there is the desire for exploration and Augustine considered his experience of robbery as an excitement part of it. The sense of exploration is triggered by a curiosity to cross the boundaries beyond of what is morally correct. He stated that “curiosity makes semblance of a desire of knowledge” (25) and though he is warned by his mother, Monica, the more that it compelled Augustine to commit sin. He wants to acquire the knowledge of experiencing sin, a thirst to explore unwanted boundaries.
St. Augustine has the full knowledge that sin is a shameful act not just in the name of God but in society as well. On the contrary, the fact that he is aware of his wrong-doings made the act of sinning committed out of his free-will. He confessed that he “lusted to thieve, and did it, compelled by no hunger nor poverty, but through a cloyedness of well-doing and a pamperedness of iniquity. Nor cared I to enjoy what I stole but joyed in the theft and sin itself“(23). Augustine did not steal the pears out of need but out of his desire to do it.
To further explore the act of sin, the next account provides a clear narration of it. The Genesis Creation Narratives is the story of the first man and woman on earth. After the Lord has finished creating the Garden of Eden, he proceeded to create Adam and this followed the creation of woman out of Adam’s ribs. God made them as the caretakers of paradise, and as such Eden is all for them to have. However, the Lord has made a single condition that the fruit of the tree of knowledge should not be eaten for it will bring them to their death.
This prohibition is the only law that God bestowed upon them. Adam and Eve are free to utilize whatever the paradise could offer except for the forbidden tree. They are aware of that law and followed dutifully not until the serpent arrived.
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea Hath god said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden. But of the fruit of the tree which [is] in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. (Genesis 3:1-3)
Adam and Eve’s awareness of the forbidden tree is evident on how Eve reiterated God’s words in response to the serpent. However, no matter how aware they are of the law, the serpent managed to convince them by laying out the positive consequences of eating the fruit. The serpent said to Eve that “ye shall not surely die. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5). Seeing that the fruit from the tree appear succulent to eat, both of them committed the sin by having a bite.
The moment the serpent uttered that the fruit will open their eyes to differentiate good from evil just like God, made the final motivation to do what is prohibited. Adam and Eve might be wondering that eating might not actually do harm and there is the desire to test whether the serpent’s words are true or not. That desire dominated them to commit the sin despite of the knowledge that both of them will be punished. God immediately discovered what they have done and gave them the punishment of painful pregnancy for Eve and hard labor for Adam. The Lord declared that “the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil” (Genesis 3:22), for the death that He refer to is their innocence and when they ate the fruit, their innocence have perished.
Both stories have presented different narration of sin. St. Augustine’s act of sin is done out of his youth’s rebellion, his desire to explore. On the other hand, Adam and Eve committed sin because of succumbing to temptation. They differ in the source of motivation of sinning. While Augustine is motivated by his personal pleasures and by his close friends, Adam and Eve are forced into motivation by a creature strange and unknown to them. Augustine implies experiencing sin as an excitement part of his youth. On the other hand, Adam and Eve immediately felt the negative impact of it because of God’s punishment. Though it gives the impression that both have committed sin out of their personal discretion; the degree as to why they have participated in the act of sin differs.
This leads us to the aspect that both accounts give the implication that Augustine, Adam, and Eve have sinned because of their desires and free-will. With or without much force, they went against the warning of sin’s immorality by willingly participating. The desire, whether out of curiosity or just simple want, becomes a significant motivation why people commit sin. Just like what St. Augustine previously pointed out, he did not sin out of need. Sin is done because it is desired and he had the free-will to do it, despite the knowledge of being wrong that made sin so alluring. It gives the sinner a surge of power and courage to antagonize things which are considered right. From both stories, it can be seen that to defy what is good, is to feel the strength of control because of free-will.
Sin is an undeniable part of human life. In this modern time, the accumulation of knowledge grants humanity the capability to achieve things that seemed unimaginable before. This knowledge sometimes does obscure the line between the good from the evil. In a free country like the United States where individual choices are valued, sin is an inevitable process. Perhaps what could be more relevant in associating the moral condition of the U.S. would be basing it from St. Augustine’s Confessions.
The saint mostly debated the intention behind his act of stealing. He is aware that for every sin, there is a definite purpose of need; however his action is only derived out of pure pleasure which he does not fully understand. In a society like the United States, there is a constant debate regarding what is morally wrong or not. The liberalization of American thought delved into the possibility of justifying what used to be considered as wrong. Such example would be the issue of abortion. It is considered as a grave sin because of the act of killing a life and was therefore banned. However, there are arguments that consider making abortion as a choice and as a process to be done in case of a risk in the mother’s health. This kind of debate within the highly opinionated citizens of the United States can be compared to St. Augustine’s struggle of why he committed theft. Committing sin, in modern times, can be said to become more of a choice. For the definition of morality has greatly varied and becomes relative.
The two accounts have clearly portrayed how sin can be irresistible. Though some may view succumbing to sin as a sign of weakness, on the contrary, it gives a certain power to defy the established perspective of what is right and wrong. The motivation to commit sin basing it from the readings is derived from human desires. The desires of crossing the boundaries that are built by an authority like God and sin does not necessarily originate out of desperate needs. The natural curiosity inherent in every human prompted to experience the unknown territories of sin. The desires and free-will are the very reason why God told Adam and Eve that eating the fruit will result to death. The innocence of man and the peace that it brought is what God tried to preserve. The fruit, which embodied sin itself, appears to be deliciously tasteful and in the eyes of a human, it wouldn’t hurt to try to have a bite. In comparison to this, sin can take any form, from the most beautiful to the very ugly. Despite knowing that sin is evil, the desire to know what it is like, it can’t help but to take a plunge into it. The charms of sin have ever since been an inevitable part of human flaws.
Augustinus, Aurelius, Saint. The Confessions of St. Augustine. Trans. Edward Bouverie Pusey. London: F and J Rivington, 1853.
“The Holy Bible: King James Version.” March 2001. Hear Good News. 19 November 2008 <www.heargoodnews.org/Bible/kjvbible.pdf>.