St. Augustine—De Doctrina Christiana | Book 2 (Ch.19-42)
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“Whoever does not refer everything to the praise and love of the one God... may seem to be erudite, but he can by no means be considered wise.”
Where we last left off, Augustine had just finished vindicating some “pagan” forms of knowledge—such as music—as useful in the study of Sacred Scripture. He’ll go into further detail concerning what should be avoided and what embraced from among the so-called pagan disciplines.
Rejection of superstition is a major theme contained in these chapters, and Augustine provides some helpful criteria for the Christian in discerning what is superstitious from what is not.
While all superstitious human conventions must be rejected as worthless and sinful, human conventions not arranged with demons, but arranged among men themselves, can sometimes be useful—even essential. It’s here that Augustine discusses principles of logic and rhetoric—a subject he’ll return to later in Book IV.
Though much of what he discusses in these chapters may strike some as academic, Augustine is far from advocating an esoteric approach to the Scriptures. “Knowledge puffs up,” Augustine quotes St. Paul, “but charity edifies.” What Augustine accomplishes, rather, is a robust defense of the fundamentally catholic character of the truth. In so far as anything is true, it is Christ’s. Thus all knowledge must, in the end, be put to the service and love of God.
Translation courtesy of Catholic University of America Press: https://verbum.com/product/120407/saint-augustine-christian-instruction-admonition-and-grace-the-christian-combat-faith-hope-and-charity
Alternate Translation at CatholicCulture.org: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/fathers/view.cfm?recnum=3275
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