Friday, 28 August 2009

Augustine of Hippo

"My heart is restless, until it finds its rests in you"

He is one of the bogeymen of modern theology. If it wasn't St Paul's fault, it was his! No self respecting lesbian/gay feminist liberal inclusive theologian type goes for long without having a pop at Augustine of Hippo. The forefather of the Inquisition, bad news for women, dreadfully stuffy about sex etc, etc, etc.

And also the author of this:

"Too late have I loved you, O beauty so ancient and so new, too late have I loved you! Behold, you were within me, while I was outside; it was there that I sought you and, a deformed creature, rushed headlong upon these things of beauty which you have made. You were with me, but I was not with you" (The Confessions, Book 10)

Why do we want theologians of their time to think exactly as we do? Augustine was a child of his time and situation as we are today. Can't we see some of his attitudes which we regret as the products of a time and place and a context and instead of writing him off completely, deploy our critical faculties and work round them? His writings on grace and faith, his reflections on the dynamic between Church and state and the honesty and passion of his autobiography give him an abiding value.

God of love and compassion,
stir up in your church the spirit you instilled in St Augustine.
Then we shall thirst for you alone,
the fountain of true wisdom,
and seek the heavenly love that only you can give.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen


  1. Fr. Dougal,
    I am one who has had to struggle with some aspects of Augustine's theology. I think that if people did as you say, and consider his time and place, we can draw good things from his writings. I also see that he himself had great struggles and fears, and understanding that is also useful in understanding his theology.

  2. Yes, his experience of struggle and fear and enlightenment and growth is what makes him a relevant thinker for today.