God is Infinitely Good
Our Presbyterian churches require ordained pastors to attend a few “Continuing Education” events every year. I loved my time at the “Christian Scholars Conference” in Houston. In a sermon, I spoke of the joy of just being in the presence of renowned civil rights attorney, Fred Gray, who represented Rosa Parks and MLK; he is also a Medal of Freedom recipient, devout Christian, and 93 years old.
In addition to Gray, I heard brain scientist Sharon Dirckx explain her research from biologists, philosophers, theologians, and psychologists, all suggesting answers to the fundamental questions of our existence. What makes a human a human? and "Why am I?". I learned so much about the fast pace at which Artificial Intelligence, (AI), is moving. If you would like to check our her book, click, Link to "Am I Just My Brain?"
One of my favorite sessions at the conference was hearing New Testament scholar and Dean of Yale Divinity school, Greg Sterling, discuss with N. T. Wright, British New Testament scholar, Pauline theologian, and Anglican bishop, three of the most important books in the history of Christianity, (from their perspective). As these books keep coming up in Pastor Time at my house, I was asked to write periodically about books I would recommend. So here we go...
Sterling and Wright agreed that everyone needs to read Augustine, C.S. Lewis, and Christian Wiman. This month I recommend Augustine's Confessions. He wrote at least 100 books, 300 letters, and 500 sermons, (which can still be read). Confessions is the original "memoir"'; it tells of his spiritual journey, written late in his life. Augustine believes God was always working for good in his life even in the times when he did not know it..
Augustine’s Confessions are all about God’s grace for a soul desperately seeking peace. My favorite famous line begins the book: “For thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it rests in thee.”
Augustine thinks sin is what causes our anxiety and disturbs our peace.
Augustine does not hold a literalist approach to Scripture (that is more modern). Augustine uses the analogy of a dammed-up spring, overflowing into multiple streams and watering more of the earth than a single stream can by itself. The Bible is a bountiful spring overflowing into various streams of truth. It is possible, according to Augustine, to have multiple true interpretations of Scripture. He is not suggesting that any interpretation of the Bible is fine--he sees the Scriptuere as living.
I have not yet told you about my favoite part--Augustine's thoughts about the problem of evil. Short version: God is infinitely good--no evil could possibly come from God. As I write, I realize that I should preach a whole sermon on Augustine’s Confessions! If you would like to borrow a copy, just pick it up off the book table in the narthex. Or, if you wish to purchase your own, click a Link to Augustine's "Confessions"
For Augustine, the purpose of life is: to love God and each other.
Much love to you all!