Monday, October 11, 2010

Augustine and the Search for Truth

Human being habitually search for truth, and this essential feature creates the possibility for cross-cultural communication. Specifically, Augustine was able to show his Roman readers that they what they valued in Greek philosophy was the same quest for ultimate realities that we find in Augustine's explanation of theology.

Augustine found some key links between the ideas of classical thinkers and Christianity. “Augustine sought to carve out a space for Christianity that was both dignified and classical on the one hand and unyielding on the other.” And both he and the classical philosophers were on a quest for truth. By seeking truth through both philosophy and religion, he appealed to a whole new group of individuals. Christianity was completely foreign to many Romans. They could not relate to the concept of Jesus as savior, the trinity, or ideas of Original Sin. To make Christianity more comfortable for the Romans, there needed to be some commonalities to their previous culture. Augustine provided this link. He was able to show the Romans, through his dynamic sermons, teaching and writing that the two cultures were not so different. Albert Outler, a historian, wrote, “He is misunderstood, however, unless his reader realizes that, in his own eyes, Augustine saw himself as an heir to the tradition of classical culture, as one vitally concerned to appropriate its values and to measure its claims by the norm of Christian truth,” By connecting his Roman culture to classical culture and Christianity, Augustine was doing something that previous Christian thinkers were unable to do. “Augustine deserves to be known on his native ground as a late Latin author whose Christian faith transvalued the classical tradition which formed the nucleus of his culture.” And by doing this, he made Christianity more comfortable to the Romans, especially the intellectuals.

Augustine enabled Roman readers to see that what they found in Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle was linked to what they found in the New Testament: the human mind exercising its rational powers to explore meaning and existence.