Michael Foley’s new translations of Augustine’s Against the Academics and On the Happy Life are brilliant. Every feature that I want in a translation appears here. [Read more…] about Reviewing Michael Foley’s New Translation of Augustine’s “Against the Academics” and “On the Happy Life”
We often define ourselves by what we desire most. Be yourself. Fulfill your dream. I can love who I want. But it is not always right to be yourself, nor to fulfill any dream, nor even to love who you want. God cares about how you define yourself, what you dream of, and even whom you sexually desire.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes this last point clear when he names looking after someone with lustful intent as the equivalent to adultery. Here, Jesus warns us against following certain desires. He tells us that desire can become sin.
While these words may be commonplace to many Christians, we sometimes struggle to grasp the difference between good desire and bad desire as in looking at someone with “lustful intent.” The Holy Spirit has gifted the church with many gifted teachers throughout the ages, and in particular Augustine of Hippo (354–430) was given insight into Jesus’ words here.
So below, I offer a brief overview of Jesus’ words followed by Augustine’s pastoral reflection to help us understand how our desires can turn into sin so that we can know what is good (good desires) and avoid what is not (sinful desires). [Read more…] about How Desire Becomes Sin (according to Augustine)
The apostle Paul declares that “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14). So unlike the spiritual person (1 Cor 2:13), the natural person does not accept nor is able to understand spiritual truths.
So that’s what Paul says. But what does he mean? Surely, natural people have something to say when it comes to grammar, maths, sciences, or even giving directions to the local market! So what is it that natural people do not accept or understand? [Read more…] about What Can Spiritual People Understand That Others Cannot? (Or Can the World Teach Christians Anything?)
When Augustine wrote his manual on biblical interpretation, he observed that reality is made up of signs and things. Here’s an illustration to explain what he meant. A wedding ring signifies a promise of marital union. So a wedding ring is a sign. Yet it also a ring, which means that a wedding ring both signifies and is a thing. While such a distinction might seem pedantic or obtuse, it provides easy categories to explain why I am suggesting that we sometimes misunderstand the Bible’s meaning.
To understand the importance of signs and things, we first need turn to the Bible to see how it talks about heaven and earth and the Bible. [Read more…] about How to Read the Bible to Know What It Means by What It Says
The Psalms also teach us to talk to God, to pray. They teach us how to complain to God and to praise God. How to accuse God, how to honour God. How to lament to him, how to thank him.
Many of us probably feel comfortable praising and honouring God, but it feels intuitively wrong to complain, accuse, or lament to him, and yet the Psalms often teach us to do just that.
We need to be very careful here, because simply telling God how you feel in all its ugliness can be a recipe for darkness, despair and God’s displeasure. The Psalms avoid these dark paths, and they instead lead us down a road of sorrow, reconciliation, and praise. They supply divine words to our distasteful experience. By speaking the words of the Psalms to God, we are really using words supplied by the Holy Spirit to work through our relationship with our Father. [Read more…] about How to Complain Christianly