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Christian History Home > 1987 > Issue 15 > And a Saint in a Pear Tree . . . ?

And a Saint in a Pear Tree . . . ?
FRANK A. JAMES III | posted 7/01/1987 12:00AM

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For Augustine, the pear tree was his parallel to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was his personal reenactment of the Fall. His conviction that all humanity participates in Adam’s sin found validation in his own experience. His orchard was Adam’s garden; his peer pressure was Eve’s seduction; his theft from a slumbering neighbor was Adam’s disobedience while God was hidden from view. His stolen pears were the forbidden fruit. His guilt was Adams’s guilt.

The heart-searching honesty Augustine demonstrates about the pear tree incident is only characteristic of the honesty seen throughout the Confessions. Even in the sections about the times after his conversion and ordination as a bishop, he is still open about struggling with sin. In volume 10 he writes:

“I cry out in joy, confessing your glory, like a man exultant at a feast. But my soul is still sad because it falls back again and becomes an abyss, or rather, that it is still a deep abyss.”

Augustine was no ivory tower theologian. He spoke as a sinner to other sinners. From adolescent pear-stealing to occasional adult abyss, his intent was to strip away the smiling facade of sin and penetrate to the naked essence of sinful man standing alone and unmasked before the piercing gaze of almighty God.

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