At the Heart of Our Questionings

Many seem to work from the principle that questions are more important that answers. St Augustine is one of these people. He never misses an opportunity to ask questions. In his attempt to answer a question, he asks more questions. Thus, in this post, I am going to consider two of the many questions he asks in the Confessions. The first questions deals with what it means to ask God to come into us. He wants to know what comes first— to call upon God or to praise God and whether knowing God precedes calling upon God. The second question has to do with how to use the gifts bestowed on us by God. For Augustine, all talents/gifts must be used as a mean to come closer or to give glory to God. So, he questions: what advantage to have a good thing and not to use it well? I want to show that questioning leads him to find the truth— God, and that truth must be given priority over everything.
In answering the first question, he believes first of all that we must know God in order to call upon him. As he puts it, we must know something before we can call on that something; otherwise, we may end up calling on the wrong thing. However, there is no knowing God unless we call him in prayer. So, before we start calling, we need to have faith. In order for faith to grow, preaching is necessary. Unless the message is preached to us, faith cannot be developed (Confessions book I, I, 1). In summary, the message is heard through preaching, then that gives rise to faith. Through faith, we beg God to make his dwelling in us. When he does that, we truly know him. Then, he delves into a series of rhetorical questions about what it means to call God to ‘come into me’. How is he coming in us? He creates heaven and earth, and they cannot contain him. How can he come into us small as we are? Whatever exists has existence because God sustains it into being. So God is in everything (II, 2). How? Is he in everything as a whole or does each thing contain some parts of God? Is God in heaven and earth or is heaven and earth in God? (III, 3) Are we in God or is God in us? Why call on God if he is already in us? He wrestles with that question back and forth. He then concludes that God is incomprehensible and immutable (iv, 4). That tells if a person cares about finding the truth and lets himself be led by reason, he can come to know some of the attributes of God even before he hears the message of the gospel.
The next question that I find interesting is Augustine’s personal reflection of how poorly he had used the immensity of his talent. He realizes he was gifted in the art of speaking and disputing, incisive in the liberal arts, and well versed in music and numbers without the need of a teacher. However, instead of using them to come closer to God, he used them to travel away from God. He feels his capacity causes him more harm than good (book IV, 30-31) because he did not dedicate the vastness of his knowledge to God. In hindsight now, it is clear to him that knowing all these things without knowing God was worthless. A person who knows God is happier than a person who has all the knowledge of the world and yet is ignorant of God. It is infirmity to rely on one’s own strength. The good life is to be in the bosom of God. No knowledge of the sciences and the liberal arts are needed for that(iv, 31). If we do have them and fail to use them for the honor and glory of God, what advantage is that?
Each one of us has an Augustine in us. Deep down, we are all looking for answers. We are all seekers of the truth. Although it would take long period of frustrations and incalculable amounts of time to find, the truth can be found in philosophy, philology, mathematic, physics if we carefully look. But I shall show you an even shorter and more excellent way— Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth and the life. He is the answer to your questions. Give him a chance. He is looking for you even more than you are looking for him.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s