On Christian Doctrine

On Christian Doctrine

by Augustine of Hippo

On Christian Doctrine is an introduction to the interpretation & explanation of the Bible which exerted an enormous influence throughout the Middle Ages.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Religion
  • Rating: 4.01
  • Pages: 191
  • Publish Date: January 11th 1958 by Library of Liberal Arts/Bobb-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN)
  • Isbn10: 0024021504
  • Isbn13: 9780024021502

Read the Book "On Christian Doctrine" Online

A fascinating little book for all kinds of people: late antiquity buffs; philosophers; hermeneuts; and of course, Christians. Augie usually manages to find his way to a reasonable middle position: against biblical literalism, also against waiting for a direct experience of God. Book one describes 'things' rather than signs, and we get some of Augie's less up to date opinions: you shouldn't love people for themselves, but for the sake of God, and the same thing goes for one's self. There are some things you have to know in order to interpret words: languages, for instance, institutions, general facts, logic, rhetoric.

As teacher of Christian doctrine and a teacher of such teachers, St. Augustines classic work by this name seemed like something I ought to read. Why does he not rather send them direct to God that they too may learn by the inward teaching of the Spirit without the help of man? Just so, the man who explains to an audience the passages of Scripture he understands is like one who reads aloud the words before him. Augustine continues with his very basic explanations of terms, leading the reader carefully through examples, illustrations and quotes from Scripture. Ecclesiastes 1:8-9 >>< In chapter 29 I love St. Augustine's example of 'the man in the theatre who is fond of a particular actor, and enjoys his art as a great or even as the very greatest good, he is fond of all who join with him in admiration of his favorite, not for their own sakes, but for the sake of him whom they admire in common; and the more fervent he is in his admiration, the more he works in every way he can to secure new admirers for him, and the more anxious he becomes to show him to others; and if he find any one comparatively indifferent, he does all he can to excite his interest by urging his favorite's merits: if, however, he meet with any one who opposes him, he is exceedingly displeased by such a man's contempt of his favorite, and strives in every way he can to remove it. Now, if this be so, what does it become us to do who live in the fellowship of the love of God, the enjoyment of whom is true happiness of life, to whom all who love Him owe both their own existence and the love they bear Him, concerning whom we have no fear that any one who comes to know Him will be disappointed in Him, and who desires our love, not for any gain to Himself, but that those who love Him may obtain an eternal reward, even Himself whom they love?' Nowadays of course, we have our college (or pro) football teams, movie and music stars. Indeed, we live like human celebrities are the greatest good imaginable.

Augustine's book aims to contain a general view of the subjects treated in the Holy Scripture. It is the general view of the subjects found in scripture that bothered me. Here he says, For if he takes up rashly a meaning which the author whom he is reading did not intend, he often falls in with other statements which he cannot harmonize with this meaning, And if he admits that these statements are true and certain then it follows that the meaning he had put upon the former passage cannot be the true one: and so it comes to pass, one can hardly tell how, that, out of love for his own opinion, he begins to feel more angry with Scripture than he is with himself. Although Augustine does not become angry, I think he does force some ideas in order to fit them in with his original interpretations. Another bothersome thing he says is this: And thus a man who is resting upon faith, hope and love, and who keeps a firm hold upon these, does not need the Scriptures except for the purpose of instructing others.

In contrast to the unwieldy and meandering City of God, Augustines four books On Christian Doctrine are notably focused in comparison. Interestingly, Augustine speaks little of morality in his books On Christian Doctrine. However, all builds upon that faith in biblical authority.

His writings were very influential in the development of Western Christianity. When the Western Roman Empire was starting to disintegrate, Augustine developed the concept of the Catholic Church as a spiritual City of God (in a book of the same name), distinct from the material Earthly City. In the Eastern Orthodox Church he is also considered a saint.