Given that I went to a government school, my exposure to the Catholic Education system was limited to Monday night indoctrination classes in Grades 4 and 6 at the local parish Catholic primary school, in preparation for my first communion and then confirmation.
Hence I first learned of the Church Doctor Saint Augustine when I binge read all the James Bond novels at age 14. There is a passage where James Bond wryly reflects on the famed Saint Augustine quote ‘God give me chastity, just not yet.’
Since that time, I have read Augustine’s memoir, Confessions, and I do realise that James Bond was quoting Augustine out of context.
However, I have not yet read City of God, so my direct knowledge of Saint Augustine’s theology is somewhat limited.
Whilst teaching myself theology and philosophy (subjects I did not study at university) in my early 40s, I discovered that Calvin’s ideas about predestination and the elect (ie that most of us are doomed to go to Hell and there is nothing we can do about it) were not original. They actually were based on a pessimistic passage from City of God. So we have Augustine to thank for the dark doctrines of Calvinism. Great going Gus!
I was thinking about this early this week, when I watched Bill & Ted Face The Music, a very late third film in the Bill & Ted series. Yet again, just like in the most excellent second film, Bill & Ted get killed by robots sent from the future, and yet again, they end up in Hell (although they don’t end up staying there very long).
Why do Bill & Ted keep ending up in Hell when they die? It’s not like they are bad people. Indeed, they are without a malevolent bone in their bodies, and seem to live in a perpetually childlike state of innocence. True, they are rather selfish, but in an unreflective way, and anything they do which transgresses the rules is more juvenile naughtiness than evil.
They preach their own version of the Golden Rule: Be Excellent To Each Other, and their other idea, reminiscent of Eden before the Fall From Grace is: Party On Dude!
They really do not seem like the sorts who deserve to end up in Hell, unless the scriptwriters are either using this as a theologically simplistic plot line, or have been influenced by that Calvinistic doctrine of predestination.
Personally, I hope that it is the former rather than the latter. Calvinism and the idea of identifying yourself as one of the elect through your works did contribute greatly to the Protestant Work Ethic that drove the development of Capitalism and the Industrial Revolution, but I do not think that this austere and pessimistic (dare I say misanthropic) doctrine has much more to offer us now.