Posts Tagged ‘St. Augustine’

Who Am I to Disagree with St. Augustine?

“If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.” (St. Augustine)

portrait of St. Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne

Saint Augustine - portrait by Philippe de Champaigne

I remember the shock of my first encounter, as a fairly new Christian, with someone whose actions reflected this premise of Augustine’s.

I’m not talking about the fellow college students who shamelessly thumbed their collective noses at any kind of moral, much less biblical restrictions.  I’m talking about a refined young woman who claimed to be a Christian, read her Bible and prayed daily, and was an active member of her home church.  I took her to be a believer from her actions and words.

The aforementioned shock came when she announced that her boyfriend was coming to visit, she was planning to get a motel room and would be staying there with him.  Given that we were college students, we all assumed that what happened that weekend probably wasn’t going to be prayer and Bible study.

After our initial astonishment, my roommate and I logically and calmly challenged her thinking, saying,   “What?  Are you crazy?  Do you hear what you’re saying? Do you realize what’s going to happen??”

“Yes,” she replied calmly.

“How can you even think about doing this and call yourself a Christian?  How can you ignore what the Bible says?”

“If it’s right with my spirit, it’s not a problem.”  Those were her words.  Right with her spirit.

I told her that she couldn’t just decide what parts of the Bible she wanted to believe and pretend the rest didn’t apply to her.  My passionate argument didn’t move her.  She had made up her mind.  As Augustine described, she no longer believed in the Bible, she believed in herself.

While it might be easy for me to point a ‘holier-than-thou’ finger at her hypocrisy, I must allow my own actions to suffer the same scrutiny.  Am I anchored firmly, or have I allowed myself to drift in the tide of moral relativism and situation ethics?  I dare not compromise God’s teachings to embrace a ‘less offensive’ version of spirituality.  The stewardship of my time, talent and resources must reflect a life surrendered to God.  In reality, my daily life will reveal whether I pick and choose what I want to believe, or embrace the entire Word of God.

“All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.” Proverbs 21:2 (NIV) St. Augustine understood this.  Do I?