Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Augustine on God: "Thou changest thy ways, leaving thy plans unchanged"

Image: St. Augustine, limestone, with paint and gilding, French. c. 1450. The Cloisters Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

I’ve started reading Augustine’s Confessions (trans. Albert C. Outler) and was taken by his meditation on God in Book I, chapter IV. It seems especially striking in light of recent challenges by some to classical theistic views on the sovereignty and impassibility of God. Augustine ably upholds the classical view of God, while also upholding the richness of Scripture’s revelation of who he is:

Most high, most excellent, most potent, most omnipotent; most merciful and most just; most secret and most truly present; most beautiful and most strong; stable, yet not supported; unchangeable, yet changing all things; never new, never old; making all things new, yet bringing old age upon the proud, and they know it not; always working, ever at rest; gathering, yet needing nothing; sustaining, pervading, and protecting; creating, nourishing, and developing; seeking, and yet possessing all things. Thou dost love, but without passion; art jealous, yet free from care; dost repent without remorse; art angry, yet remainest serene. Thou changest thy ways, leaving thy plans unchanged; thou recoverest what thou hast never really lost. Thou art never in need but still thou dost rejoice at thy gains; art never greedy, yet demands dividends. Men pay more than is required so that thou become a debtor; yet who can possess anything at all which is not already thine? Thou owest men nothing, yet payest out to them as if in debt to thy creature, and when thou dost cancel debts thou losest nothing thereby.


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