Augustine and Reading (Part 3 of 3)
3/09/2012 | Author: RCW
Last year, I was doing a series of entries on reading. Several entries were about Augustine and Reading. Here's another installment. Just read Augustine's Egyptian Gold Analogy. It can be found in both De Doctrina Christiana (In English that title means On Christian Doctrine or Teaching Christianity) as well as The Confessions. In it, Augustine shares an analogy that allows us to answer the question "Is there some sort of value for Christians to read pagan works or works that are written either by non-believers or from a non-Christian perspective. He writes:

If those, however, who are called philosophers happen to have said anything that is true, agreeable to our faith, the Platonists above all, not only should we not be afraid of them, but we should even claim back for our own use what they have said, as from its unjust possessors.  It is like the Egyptians, who not only had idols and heavy burdens, which the people of Israel abominated and fled from, but also vessels and ornaments of gold and silver, and fine raiment, which the people secretly appropriated for their own, and indeed better use as they went forth from Egypt; and this not on their own initiative, but on God’s instructions, with the Egyptians unwittingly lending them things they were not themselves making good use of.

In the same way, while the heathen certainly have counterfeit and superstitious fictions in all their teachings, and the heavy burdens of entirely unnecessary labor, which everyone of us must abominate and shun as we go forth from the company of the heathen under the leadership of Christ, their teachings also contain liberal disciplines which are more suited to the service of the truth, as well as a number of most useful ethical principles, and some true things are to be found among them about worshiping only the one God. All this is like their gold and silver, and not something they instituted themselves, but something which they mined, so to say, from the ore of divine providence, veins of which are everywhere to be found. As they for their part make perverse and unjust use of it in the service of demons, so Christians for theirs ought, when they separate themselves in spirit from their hapless company, to take these things away from them for proper use of preaching the gospel. Their fine raiment too, meaning, that is, what are indeed their human institutions, but still ones that are suitable for human society, which we cannot do without in this life, are things that it will be lawful to take over and convert to Christian use.

So what does it mean? Click this link for some great insights from Dr. Naugle of Dallas Baptist University distributed at his summer institute in Christian scholarship.

As a Christian, don't be afraid to read a different perspective.  Read Oscar Wilde or a Hindu text or The Celestine Prophecy.  You'll find falsehoods.  But you might find something useful and true as well.  Search for the truth as for gold and silver, harvest it wherever it may be found, sanctify it unto God, and put it in service to Christ--for it is there that it finds its true value.

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