"Thanks and thanks again to Him who offers to the man whom the sorrows of life have assaulted and left naked–offers to him the fig leaf of the Word with which he can cover his wretchedness." -Søren Kierkegaard

Good Quote

Posted in Good Quotes by matt on Monday, March 24, 2008

“Marvelous is the profundity of Thy Scriptures. Their surface lies before us, flattering us as we flatter children. But marvelous is their profundity, O my God, marvelous is their profundity. To gaze into it is a shuddering, the shudder of awe, the shudder of love. I hate its enemies mightily: O, if Thou wouldst slay them with a two-edged sword, that it might have no enemies. I should love them to die to themselves that they might live to Thee.”

-Augustine

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About Time

Posted in Philosophical, Stuff I'm Reading by matt on Friday, February 29, 2008

After a few weeks of ‘required reading’ I’m finally back to enjoying Augustine’s Confessions. Right now I’m in book eleven and he’s considering the first few words of the Bible, “In the beginning…” The guy definitely majors on the minutia. What I usually skip over, Augustine muses on endlessly in a stream of rhetorical questions and densely-written paragraphs. He definitely knew how to use his free-time. In chapter XIV he focuses on the subject of time.

Now, in order for this to even make a little sense I need to recap another issue he focused on previously, namely, the origin of evil. Put simply, Augustine asked the question, “Where does evil come from?” He obsesses over this question because he believes that if God created evil then He cannot possibly be the good God of the Bible. Our philosopher finally concludes that evil is not created. In fact, he goes so far as to say that evil has no real being, but is actually non-being or non-existence – an absence of God (makes you wanna get all cheesy and sing ‘there’s a God-shaped hole in all of us’ doesn’t it?). So sinning actually removed us from the true form of existence; a perversion of God’s initially good creation.

So, that being said, back to time. Augustine writes, “You are the Maker of all time, and before all time You are, nor was there ever a time when there was no time!” Yeah…talk about a contradictory statement. The difficulty I have with this (apart from the apparent contradictions) is the idea that God created time. Now I don’t have much (uh…any) prior knowledge of the philosophical/theological ideas about time so I’m sure this has all been hammered out by someone already, but I would still like to externalize it.

What if God didn’t create time? What if time, like the origin of evil, can be understood as something uncreated. What if it’s a result of the fall? Death entered after the fall, but before eating the fruit Adam and Eve knew nothing of death. Here may be a logical leap, but I think the word death can also be understood as ‘an end’ or ‘finality’ – we lost the potential for an infinite, timeless existence with God. And, if this is true, then time’s control over creation began when sin entered the world. To put it bluntly, before Adam and Eve there was no need for watches or calenders because they were experiencing unending bliss. No thought of tomorrow or worries about the future; A complete trust in an infinite God within an atemporal creation.

I need to think more about this. The theological implications for this could be pretty ridiculous and I could quickly end up in heresy-land. Like, what does this mean for eschatology and apocalyptic Christianity? If the beginning of time really began this way then what does that say for the “middle” and the “end”?

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Memory and Augustine

Posted in Stuff I'm Reading by mattsw86 on Friday, February 8, 2008

This semester is the first semester I’ve actually enjoyed the reading assigned to me. I’ve been taking so many ‘textbook classes’ that I’ve forgotten how much I enjoy reading. So I spent most of my time at work today reading Augustine’s Confessions and it’s phenomenal. I read it a few years ago in Penland, but it’s amazing how three years or school and an obscene amount money can improve your comprehension-level.

Right now I’m in book ten where Augustine is meditating on the idea of memory. When considering the relationship between memory and forgetfulness he asks, “Are we to understand from this that when we remember forgetfulness, it is not present to the memory in itself but by its image: because if it were present in itself it would cause us not to remember but to forget? Who can analyze this, or understand how it can be?”

He finally decides, “I am certain that I do remember forgetfulness, although by forgetfulness what we remember is effaced.”

The main idea here is paradoxical and Augustine tends to have trouble with anything that doesn’t make sense. I love the fact that he just can’t seem to shake a problem, but sometimes I wanna smack him and tell him to chill. I realize that would be total hypocrisy on my part since I tend to have a similar problem, but it’s way more fun to critique brilliant dead people than myself, right?

Anyway, the problem I have with Augustine’s question is this: I believe there is a distinct difference in memory-types. One can remember:

(a) a thing (a pencil, for example)

(b) an event (graduating high school)

(c) an action (which is a variation of (a) and (b) put together).

I think Augustine is frustrated because he’s mixing memories. All memories are obviously abstractions, but the memory of a tangible object (like the pencil) is much less abstract than the memory of graduating.

So back to the issue of forgetfulness. It’s not strange to remember your own ability to forget, but it is strange to think a person can forget their ability to forget – which is what Augustine is assuming here. I think the more challenging question is what enables us to forget? If we discipline our minds continuously is it possible for us to never forget? I doubt it. This is another way we can approach God in humility and fully embrace our own finiteness. God is incapable of forgetting and therefore greater than all of us and worthy of our worship.

Augustine concludes by emphasizing this. “So I must pass beyond memory to come to Him who separated me from the four footed beasts and made me wiser than the birds of the air. I shall pass beyond memory to find You, O truly good and certain Loveliness, and where shall I find You? If I find You beyond my memory, then shall I be without memory of You? And how shall I find You if I am without memory of You?

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