A Brief Review
In my last post, I mentioned Augustine and how reading was instrumental in his own coming to faith in Jesus Christ as his own Savior and Lord (or to call those roles something less familiar - his Rescuer and his King).

I mentioned how at first, Augustine had turned his back on God (and that according to his own acknowledgement, this had resulted in part from reading authors like Cicero.  Apparently, Augustine's self-serving ego and arrogance inflated as he acquired knowledge from them).  But later, Augustine was brought by God to pick up a book by Cicero that is now lost to antiquity...Cicero's Hortensius, which was essentially a work that praised and encouraged people toward the discipline of philosophy, since philosophy is by its very etymology and definition the love of wisdom.  Suddenly, Augustine found within himself a desire to know real wisdom, to be taught truth, to personally love wisdom intensely enough to pursue it as a prize.  Augustine also said that he knew that to acquire real wisdom, he would have to travel in the direction of understanding the scriptures that he had grown up with, but had eventually neglected and scorned.  As Paul stated, in his letter to the Colossians, Augustine was well aware that "in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (2:3).  Or to state it yet another way, Augustine knew deep within himself that to get to truth, he would have to be moved closer toward The Truth, Christ Himself, the God of the Bible, Ultimate Reality.  

More to the Story
But I also mentioned that there was more to the story.  There is a second major way that Augustine's conversion was tied to the discipline of reading.*  He tells us of it in Book VIII of his Confessions.

    Through a continual lifelong series of events and experiences--an experience reading Cicero in the midst of his very rigorous academic pursuits, encounters with Christians, exposure to the scriptures, through the constant prayers of his faithful Christian mother, through the influence of Ambrose, and much more--Augustine reached a personal crisis of sorts.  He had to wrestle with his will.  He was divided within himself.  On the one hand, he wanted to retain his own selfish pleasures and ungodly habits.  On the other hand, he was increasingly unable to resist the persistent calling of God unto Himself.  
     Eventually, Augustine claims that God allowed him to see himself clearly and become aware of his own sinful and wicked condition.  Distraught, Augustine retreats to a garden and the tears start pouring.  As Augustine pours his heart out to God in agony, he asks the Lord how long he will be torn between belief and unbelief, how long will he remain a miserable slave to his own evil desires.  
    But I can summarize no longer.  Augustine must share it with you himself:
      As I was saying this and weeping in the bitter agony of my heart, suddenly I heard a voice from the nearby house chanting as if it might be a boy or a girl (I do not know which), saying and repeating over and over again 'Pick up and read, pick up and read.' At once my countenance changed...I checked the flood of tears and stood up. I interpreted it solely solely as a divine command to me to open the book...So I hurried back to the place where...I had put down the book of the apostle when I had got up.  I seized it, opened it and in silence read the first passage on which my eyes lit: 'Not in riots and drunken parties, not in eroticism and indecencies, not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in its lusts' (Rom. 13:13-14). 
      I neither wished nor needed to read further.   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 [VIII.XII].**
      The Latin phrase "Tolle Lege, Tolle Lege" (Take up, Read!  Take up, Read!) continues to resound for those who would seek to know Christ and follow after him. 


      *Certainly there were other ways that reading influenced his conversion and faith.  For example, Augustine speaks of he and his friends' experiences watching (and intruding upon) Ambrose's very disciplined reading habits. 

      **Translation is Chadwick's.
      This entry was posted on 3/16/2011 and is filed under , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.