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Life of St. Augustine

Life of St. Augustine - History
The life of St. Augustine began in 354 AD, the son of a Roman official in North Africa. When he was 19, he read an essay by Cicero on the meaning of “truth,” and it was then and there that Augustine dedicated himself to pursuing such an intriguing, yet illusive notion.

During his philosophical journey, Augustine experienced a great deal of pain and suffering in his life. He went through phases of severe depression and debilitating grief. He witnessed things that just couldn’t be reconciled with theological doctrine. It was this irreconcilable tradeoff between truth and evil that kept Augustine jumping from philosophy to philosophy for over a decade.

At the age of 31, Augustine had a supernatural experience “as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart.” It was then that “all the shadows of doubt were dispelled” and he accepted God as part of his life.

Life of St. Augustine - Struggles
Although Augustine would become a great man of faith, he continued to struggle with the obvious pain, suffering and evil allowed by God. In his first book, On Order (386 AD), Augustine wrote:

    “There is nothing that even the most gifted people desire more than to finally understand how, taking into account the amount of evil in this world, one can still believe that God cares about human affairs.”
For the next forty years, Augustine grappled with the reality of this paradox. He focused on God’s nature in scripture and God’s apparent desire for humanity. He determined that God created us for a relationship with him, and that authentic relationship is impossible with puppets. Apparently, God wanted us to have the capacity to freely choose or reject him. Of course, if we have free will, we have the capacity to choose love or hate -- good or evil. After four decades of writing on the subject, Augustine concluded that “God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil at all.”

Life of St. Augustine – In his words
After hearing a child say, “pick up and read,” St. Augustine opened the Bible and read Romans 13:13-14. As a result, he wrote, “at once, with the last words of this sentence, it was as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart. All the shadows of doubt were dispelled” (Confessions 8.12).

On nature and God -
“...all of nature, therefore, is good, since the Creator of all nature is supremely good. But nature is not supremely and immutably good as is the Creator of it” (Handbook 4.12).

“In their perverted way all humanity imitates you [God]. Yet they put themselves at a distance from you and exalt themselves against you. But even by thus imitating you they acknowledge that you are the creator of all nature and so concede that there is no place where one can entirely escape from you” (Confessions 2.6).

On his journey –
“Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee [God]” (Confessions 1.1)

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Portions of this article are compliments of THE GREAT PURSUIT: The Message for Those In Search of God, by Eugene H. Peterson and Randall Niles (NavPress 2007).

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