Friday, April 01, 2005

Christian approach to stuff

I found an old draft here in my blog collection that never got posted; having been thinking about it for a month, I've probably changed my mind about a fair amount of what's in here, but please feel free to comment nonetheless.

What is the proper relationship between a Christian and his stuff?

The early church and early medieval response tended to be (heretically) gnostic and (less heretically) monastic. The material world is equated with evil, and the spiritual realm with the good: to reach the good, one must mortify the physical flesh. Even among the non-heretical, there was a distinct anti-stuff sentiment. Saint Anthony, the first real hermit, felt called upon to sell all his stuff (and his orphaned sister's stuff), dump her with some Christian virgins, and go live in the desert for the rest of his life.

Saint Augustine started out buying into the flesh = evil thing, but then he got converted and repudiated it. I can't quite figure out his position. Or--well, here, let me quote.

[B]ut it is to be asked whether man is to be loved by man for his own sake or for the sake of something else. ...If, therefore, you should love yourself not on your own account but on account of Him who is most justly the object if your love, no other man should feel angry with you if you love him also on account of God.

Between temporal and eternal things there is this difference: a temporal thing is loved more before we have it, and it begins to grow worthless when we gain it, for it does not satisfy the soul, whose true and certain rest is eternity; but the eternal is more ardently loved when it is acquired than when it is merely desired.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Listen to Dr. Esolen. You might perhaps find the Medieval view attractive. At least, I like it. Of course, there's a great deal sensible about the early view too, so....

-|--- Firinnteine