Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More from Augustine of Hippo...

Each morning I am presently reading from Augustine's Confessions as part of a time of devotion. To sound very 21st-Century, he is blowing me away. Or to sound like Howard Hendricks, "he is blowing every circuit in my brain," and I would add in my heart. Listen to this prayer from our 4th-Century brother. "What a wretch I am! In your mercies, Lord God, tell me what you are to me. 'Say to my soul, I am your salvation' (Ps. 34.3). Speak to me so that I may hear. See the ears of my heart are before you, Lord. Open them and 'say to my soul, I am your salvation.' After that utterance I will run and lay hold on you. Do not hide your face from me (cf. Ps. 26.9). Lest I die, let me die so that I may see it."

This last line puzzled me for some time until I read the translator's notes where Exod. 33.20 is referenced. "But he said (Yahweh to Moses), 'you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live'" (ESV). You see Augustine is praying that God will not hide his face from him, and he feels that he will die if he does not enter the divine presence (cf. Ps. 26). However, he knows his Hebrew Bible because he knows that if he sees the face of God he will not live (Exod. 33). Augustine's response: "Let me die so that I may see it." Do we desire God that much. Are we willing to die in order to see the face of God? Am I willing? Are you willing?

Monday, August 13, 2007

God as Mystery: Part 2

The more I read from my Christian brothers and sisters who are not laden with albatross of modernity and postmodernity, the more I hang my head in shame at how we evangelicals just don’t get it. As many of us explore the discipline of theology, the Godhead is nothing more than a specimen that we put in the Petri dish; that we analyze with our own theories for what we can learn and then share our findings with the world of scholarship. Furthermore, all this arrogant experimentation is rarely done with any desire to actually serve the wider Christian community.

My head was hanging in shame this morning as read from the prayers of Blessed St. Augustine of Hippo. Did anyone pray or hear a pray such as this on Sunday?

"...Most high, utterly good, utterly powerful, most omnipotent, most merciful and most just, deeply hidden yet most intimately present, perfection of both beauty and strength, stable and incomprehensible, immutable and yet changing all things, never new, never old, making everything new and leading the proud to be old without knowledge; always active, always in repose, gathering to yourself but not in need, supporting and filling and protecting, creating and nurturing and bringing to maturity, searching even though to you nothing is lacking: you love without burning, you are jealous in a way that is free of anxiety, you repent without the pain of regret, you are wrathful and remain tranquil. You will a change without any change in your design. You recover what you find; yet you have never lost. Never in any need, you rejoice in your gains; you are never avaricious, yet you require interest. We pay you more than you require so as to make you our debtor, yet who has anything which does not belong to you? You pay off debts, though owing nothing to anyone; you cancel debts and incur no loss. But in these words what have I said, my God, my life, my holy sweetness? What has anyone achieved in words when he speaks about you? Yet woe to those who are silent about you because, though loquacious with verbosity, they have nothing to say" (Confessions, IV. [4]).

All us evangelical preachers should likely being hanging our heads at this point. May we press on to find language such us this to praise and cry out in love to our Most Holy God, always remembering that when we speak about God, we really have nothing to say.