Augustine of Hippo was one of the first Christian ancient Latin authors with very clear anthropological vision.
Anthropology for Augustine was based on the truth that humanity was created in the image of God. Augustine affirms that the world was created by God out of nothing, through a free act of God. He then affirms the absolute unity and the spiritual nature of the human soul. He affirms that the soul is simple and immortal. The soul has three functions: being, understanding, and loving, corresponding to three faculties: intellective memory, intelligence, and will.
The primary place among these three faculties is given to the will, which in a human being signifies love. The will of a human person is free. Even with free will, the soul is restless. This prompts the soul to search for meaning, and ultimately for God. This divine spark in the human race is the source of a spiritual unease (restlessness) that will remain until a person returns to God after death. The opening lines in his Confessions announce the world view and his anthropology of Augustine to all who read his words: "You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You." After his search through various philosophies and theologies, Augustine came to a view of human nature (an "anthropology") that was thoroughly Christian. For Augustine, therefore, anthropology had a spiritual role.
It was meant to discern way of using basic human nature most profitably in accord with what God intended. He stated that by its own power the human species could not arrive at a correct insight into human life because this required the light of Christian belief. Augustine accepted a fallen and flawed human nature that was without hope if it did not have the grace of God. The tolerance of Augustine for the weakness of human nature contrasted sharply with the Stoic puritanism of Pelagianism which allowed no excuse for personal sin. For Augustine, true freedom was achieved only through a long process by which the knowledge and will of an individual are healed by the grace of God (gratia Dei, in Latin). This conforms to the world view of Augustine regarding how the human race fitted into the Divine Plan.
In comparison with the times of Augustine and the other early Church Fathers (scholars), people today can have an increasingly clearer perception of individual rights, and of the autonomy of the created world from its Creator. In the time of Augustine it was impossible for him to speak of the human race or of a world view in any other way than by placing God at the centre of the discussion. And such an anthropological view, which was common to all early Fathers (scholars) of the Church, cannot be taken in isolation from Christian theology. This is because it both colours and is coloured by the Christian doctrine about creation, original sin, the relationship of soul and body, the grace (gratia) of God, sexual relationships, everyday living, and death - to name but a few key areas.
In his anthropology Augustine could not "leave religion out of it" because for him there was no division between natural and supernatural reality. There was no "natural" human being devoid of a religious sense or of connections with supernatural reality. One of the best-known consequences of the anthropology of Augustine is his notion of interiority. (What is here called interiority in English is interioridad in Spanish, and interiorita in Italian.) Interiority means a search of the heart, of the interior of self, of the life and consciousness of a person. It is the nature of the human species to need consciously to tap into the presence of God within the human soul in order to understand as fully as possible what it most truly means to be human. In the anthropology of Augustine, therefore, what sort of beings are we? What is our basic human nature? Augustine is most probably unique among the classic philosophers in the Western tradition by beginning to examine this question by observing babies.
By watching babies he determined that they are always in a world of flawed interpretation. Before they learn language, babies make signs in an attempt to convey meaning, but this is not perfectly understood by older persons watching them. The baby becomes frustrated and begins to cry. Once children acquire the power of speech, Augustine says they enter the "stormy life of human society" where we are forever trying to signify meaning and finding that communication is always flawed. Augustine proposed that there is no way to fix this flaw, as we are limited creatures. Nonetheless, we can make progress. The heart can transform itself through love, and the mind can open to the workings of grace. Using himself and his Confessions as an example, Augustine tells us that he struggled with and against belief on his journey to become a Christian. And then his heart went into labor and gave birth to humility.
He came to understand that even as Christ entered the world "in the form of a Servant," it is only through servanthood that we, too, attain whatever understanding is granted to us. The creature can never aspire to the standing of the Creator. Augustine understands that if we make ourselves the centre point of our own identity, the result will be an impoverished view of self, and one that is exaggerated and irresponsible. We need to accept our nature as creatures who are less than perfect, and to recognise that it is love alone that sustains us. In the plan of God for each of us, we need to accept what Augustine prayed in his Confessions, "Lord, are hearts are restless until they rest in You." Scholars note, however, that the voluminous writing of Augustine contains at its chronological extremes two quite dissimilar portraits of the human condition. In the beginning, he adopts a largely classical Greco-Roman portrait, one that is notable for the optimism that a sufficiently rational and disciplined life can safely escape the adversity that continuously seems to endanger us from various quarters.
Nearer to the end of the life of Augustine, however, there emerges a considerably grimmer portrait, one that emphasizes the impotence of the unaided human will. The older Augustine presents a moral landscape populated largely by damned souls (City of God 21, 12). Augustine has a huge moral objection with the human person. The objection is not with the soul of the person, which is eternal and will eventually join God. His objection, rather, is with the finite body — "the flesh" — and its desires. He held that the desire for material possessions and worldly pleasures was addictive, and led to excess, and so forth. "Indeed, vice is never not present; for, as the apostle says, ‘The flesh lusts against the Spirit.’" This chain reaction, sparked by an unconscious wanting, leads to an constant spiritual unease ("restlessness"). There is the absence of satisfaction, and ultimately unhappiness and turmoil. Justice, which to Augustine was a very theological reality, is moderation and the control of bodily desire, the control of greed.
According to the anthropology of Augustine, therefore, a great majority of persons are justly sent to eternal punishment by an omnipotent God. They are mixed with a small minority whom God, with a mercy not merited, has consciously chosen to be saved. In conclusion, the anthropology of Augustine matches his Christian theology in placing God centrally. As dramatically evidenced in his Confessions, Augustine used examples from his own life to sing his praise of the mercy of God that Augustine has received, although not worthy of it. Thereby he revealed to his readers his anthropology, in which the same beneficent God is also prompting them to seek Truth and to accept conversion and eternal life. In the first paragraph of his Confessions Augustine had written: "You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." This is the truth upon which Augustine bases his anthropology. Human beings can only define their nature and find their fulfilment and peace in fellowship with God.
Christian Anthropology. This is a Wikepedia website, and Augustine’s anthropological thought is included. It states that Augustine of Hippo was one of the first Christian ancient Latin authors with very clear anthropological vision. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_anthropology Augustine’s Anthropology. A comprehensive article of sixteen printed pages by Charles T. Mathewes on the Villanova (Augustinian) University website. (PDF file: AM720) http://www51.homepage.villanova.edu/joseph.l.farrell/THL3100/Mathewes.pdf AN2302