Monday, October 30, 2006

Augustine on self-criticism II

‘We, who preach and write books, write in a manner altogether different from the manner in which the canon of Scriptures has been written. We write while we make progress. We learn something new every day. We dictate at the same time as we explore. We speak as we still knock for understanding. … I urge your charity, on my behalf and in my own case, that you should not take any previous book or preaching of mine as Holy Scripture. … If anyone criticises me when I have said what is right, he does not do right. But I would be more angry with the one who praises me and takes what I have written for Gospel truth (canonicum) than the one who criticises me unfairly.’

- Augustine, Sermon 347.62.

Notice his assumption that it is wrong to criticise him when he is right, though worse to fail to criticise him when he is not. An interesting conundrum for his congregation.

7 comments:

byron said...

Just noticed that the internet monk is having a rant on a similar theme (though about Spurgeon and US Southern Baptists).

meredith said...

Hi Byron, i like the idea of writing as progress - or at least as process. I hope yours (on your project) is both at the moment!

Deep Furrows said...

Since you connected the begging on my blog with the gesture of knocking, I thought I should share a favorite quote of mine by Balthasar on Augustine:
Why is standing still already a going back? For the simple reason that all perfection consists in the very act of walking, in the movement toward. In Philippians 3:12ff., Paul says it clearly enough. In the language of Gregory of Nyssa and Augustine: since the creature is extension, a "tending- from- and- toward," its "perfection" must consist in the realization of this very "tending." With only slight exaggeration Augustine affirms: "Our perfection consists in knowing that we are not perfect." Grain of Wheat, p39.

A priest I know put it another way: our perfection consists in begging to be perfected ...

byron said...

Thanks for those quotes, they're excellent. An illustration I've heard (in relation to Phil 3:12ff. actually) compares an arrow hitting a bullseye and an arrow in flight; our maturity/perfection is the latter.

byron said...

(And here's the link to the Pope Gregory the Great quote we're also talking about.)

Anonymous said...

I know from personal experience that everything I write is a work in progress. Rarely do I finish an essay without thinking "but there's more I could add, parts I could clarify, or areas where I know I've not lived up to my hopes." Often I go back to things I've written earlier and recoil in horror.

The problem with the written word is that it is final and therefore dangerous.

byron said...

That's the wonderful thing about blogs - you can keep updating your thoughts...