Augustine on Appraisal of God (A Beautifully Truthful Theological Method)

Augustine is genius. I chose a translation by Garry Wills that really captures the beauty and fluidity of the thought pattern here and the motion of Augustine’s prolific verbal flourish. Here he focuses on appraisal of God, playing on the idea of the limited desiring to measure the infinite. He finds in it a beautiful irony, instead of paradox, delight.

Vast are you, O Lord, and as vast should be your praise; ‘vast what you do; what you know beyond assaying’. Yet man, a mere segment of what you made, strives to appraise you–man, ‘confined by a nature that must die,’ confined by this evidence of his sin, the evidence that you rebuff the overweening, yet man would still appraise you, this mere segment of what you made. You prompt us yourself to find satisfaction in appraising you, since you made us tilted towards you, and our heart is unstable until stabilized in you.

We have much to learn if we desire to see theology return to a beauty so moving in the future. I can only hope to take baby steps towards such beauty.

In my humble opinion, theology that is not as moving as it is True certainly cannot be very good. Truth, Goodness and Beauty belong together as the triune nucleus of wo/man’s approach to God. Faith and Reason work together as the two wings by which man’s appraisal of the Beautiful might finally grasp the Infinite, even if only in part. We have been made for this, and our hearts remain unstable until stabilized in the Triune Lord’s Goodness and Truth as apprehended by our perception of His Beauty.


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