Conversion To Christianity (Paul, St. Augustine, And Martin Luther) Essay

Conversion To Christianity Paul St Augustine And Martin Luther Essay

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Philosophy of Religion Paul the Apostle, Saint Augustine, and Martin Luther have been three very important figures in the Christian church. Each went through a unique personal experience that changed the course of their lives. Those experiences were important to them and they should be important to anyone of the Christian faith. In this research paper I will explore these experiences and how they do and do not relate to each other. Paul the Apostle Paul was born with the
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name of Saul, in Tarsus of Cilicia, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. He was born both a Jew and a Roman citizen. He grew up in Tarsus and became a tentmaker like his father and grandfather before him. He was taught to be an orthodox Jew. He later journeyed to Jerusalem and attended the Pharisaic school. He did not become a rabbi, but became a member of the temple police. He then set about persecuting the followers of Jesus with unequaled religious zeal. "His orthodoxy, and it alone, was the reason for his hostility to Christ and his zeal as a persecutor" (Bornkamm 15). He attempted to do what he could to destroy the church of God. It was on a journey to Damascus to arrest followers of Christ that Paul's life was changed forever. He experienced an intense light that blinded him, and he heard a voice that said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Saul asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." (Acts 9:4,5) When Paul opened his eyes he was blind. His companions, who had also heard the voice but had not seen the light, led him into Damascus. There a man named Ananius, a follower of Jesus, placed his hands upon Paul and took away the blindness. He was baptized into the faith immediately. The beginning of Paul's new life was at hand. He would become, arguably, the most important disciple of Jesus in the early church. Although this revelation happened immediately, it took three years for it to fully manifest itself. During this period, Paul was hiding in Arabia, reflecting on everything that had happened. When he returned, he went straight to the Apostles in order to become one of them. He never met Jesus and was not part of the group that crucified him, but he believed that because of his experience on the road to Damascus, he had been reborn under Christ. In some ways Paul was considered a mystic because he had shared a religious union with Christ and that experience changed his life forever. "Paul saw his conversion as the working out of a plan devised much earlier by God. The goal of that plan was the extension of God's grace to the Gentiles" (Murphy-O'Connor 80). The conversion was not really a conversion it was merely a revelation, a transformation. "If Paul was 'converted' 'from' something 'to' something else, it certainly was not 'from' Judaism 'to' 'Christianity'. Paul continued to be a Jew to his dying day, a fact which most Christians nowadays choose to neglect and which many Jewish scholars find exasperating" (Wilson 61). Paul didn't really completely give up Judaism, he just realized that many of the practices were wrong. "Perhaps the acrimonious sectarianism of Judaism struck Paul as foolish and nauseating" (Wilson 71). He became what some scholars call a Christian Jew. "His beliefs about Jesus were simply added to his Judaism" (Freed 9). He believed that Jesus was the Messiah not by birth, but because of "his suffering, death, and resurrection" (Freed 8). This bears similarity to the myth that he grew up with about Herakles (Hercules). In that legend of his predecessors, Herakles, a half-god, descended in to Hades to fight for them. In sacrificing himself, he became their savior. Paul would spend his remaining years attempting to teach the new Way in the synagogues of the region. He would be rebuffed, sometimes violently, and was frequently jailed. His final arrest brought him to Rome to answer charges where, after two years of imprisonment, he died about 64 AD. Saint Augustine Augustine spent most of his life searching for something to believe in. Various teachings were imparted on him. His mother, Monica, had been a Catholic, and her teachings had been deeply instilled at a young age. But his father directed his education as a pagan where he learned the love of possessions and sensual exuberance. He studied various belief systems including Cicero, the Manichee, and Platonism. He eventually came back to Christianity. He studied the works of Paul and Anthony. He studied philosophy as well. But still, he couldn't find peace. He became so frustrated that he began to question any reason for existing. He withdrew into himself, searching for an answer, looking for some direction. He wondered why he had not been baptized and rid of his sins. He began to sob uncontrollably and his heart filled with sorrow. " 'I was asking myself these questions, weeping all the while with the most bitter sorrow in my heart, when all at once I heard the sing-song voice of a child in a nearby house. Whether it was the voice of a boy or a girl I cannot say, but again and again it repeated the refrain "Take it and read, take it and read".'" (Brown 108) Augustine could not remember these words being part of a game and took them as a command to open his Scripture and read the first thing he saw, just as Anthony had. Paul's Epistles was the first thing he saw. "Not in reveling and drunkenness, not in lust and wantonness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, spend no more thought on nature and nature's appetites" was the first passage he read. In that moment, his conversion had hit its high point. "The consequence of the conversion was baptism. But with baptism the authority became unshakable for Augustine and his celibacy final" (Jaspers 67). Augustine retired to Cassiciacum because of health problems that came on in this part of his life. He began to put together the teachings of Plato with the teachings of Paul. He began to define a new way of life, similar to that of the Egyptian monks. He began to work on several personal projects. He spent the next several years in personal contemplation about his life and moving about the region. He wanted to do something more with his life. He would eventually become a Catholic bishop at Hippo. The monastery of his church would be filled with Augustine's past friends and was made permanent. "Augustine's monasterium in Hippo became a 'seminary' in the true sense of the word: a 'seed-bed' from which Augustine's proteges were 'planted out' as bishops in the leading towns of Numidia" (Brown 143). This group was the beginning of an order of monks that would span several centuries. Because of his
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