March 9, 2009

Confessions of Augustine

My classical studies group is reading through The Confessions by St. Augustine this term. We are in Book 4 and after reading this week's selection, this passage struck me:

"O Lord our God, under the shadow of thy wings let us hope--defend us and support us. Thou wilt bear us up when we are little and even down to our gray hairs thou wilt carry us. For our stability, when it is in thee, is stability indeed; but when it is in ourselves, then it is all unstable. Our good lives forever with thee, and when we turn from thee with aversion, we fall into our own perversion. Let us now, O Lord, return that we be not overturned, because with thee our good lives without blemish--for our good is thee thyself. And we need not fear that we shall find no place to return to because we fell away from it. For, in our absence, our home--which is thy eternity--does not fall away."

One of the things I have been thinking on lately deals with the idea of God as "the good." The very fact that God's glory is revealed in scripture as His GOODNESS leads me to think this way. The truth of scripture tells us that God is GOOD. His creation is GOOD. His mercy is GOOD. God's essence and truth are wrapped up in His goodness. He is GOOD.

Another thing that I have been thinking about lately deals with man's relationship to God. I am saved, have been since a child, and am in a delightful relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Just the other day, while praying, I was thinking about what it means to be "made whole" or "complete." The Bible often speaks of this, especially in the light of salvation, that we are no longer incomplete, but that we are "whole" now (post-cross).

Augustine writes about this very thing when he speaks of being "filled up." To him and his 3rd century counterparts, this idea is part and parcel to the writings of Plato and deals much with the concept of the universe as a whole. Many eastern religions focus on this idea as well -- that we are all part of the microcosim of the Universe. Of course, they leave out the input of a personal and rational Godhead, and instead focus, on a general "force" or movement of "oneness" within the vastness of space. To a Christian, however, this concept of becoming whole or becoming one with the Creator is foreign. It is not something previous theologians contemplated because it can easily lead one astray and into the realm of heretical teachings.

In my view, though, I am not considering "oneness" in the sense of the universal whole, but rather a completion of what was designed to be whole, but was instead fragmented into sinful lust and deviated behaviors at the time of our first fall. Yes, thanks to the first sin of our original parents, our nature, once designed to be whole and made complete by that of the Triune Godhead, was left shattered into a million splintered pieces. There was and is nothing man can do to become "whole" again. Only the Creator, the One, who made us can put us back together and "fill" us up to completion.

I have found my "filling up" in Him alone. He has completed me and made me whole. It is an amazing thing to experience this "filling up." It is not a one-time, Spirit given filling, like some charasmatics might believe. It is a daily "filling up" of myself with the One who lives and loves me and designed me to be made "whole." It is God's design that I be made complete and the only way to do that is to allow Him to complete me.

God is so good. Augustine understood this and wrote his life altering Confessions as an expression of his knowledge and completion by Him who made life, itself.

1 comment:

Phyllis said...

Thank you so much for sharing this!