Our next discussion group will be on St. Augustine’s document called On the Predestination of the Saints, chapter four in the Matthew Levering book The Theology of Augustine. As I discussed in the last group, this is a difficult topic within Christianity and also Catholicism. So, I have included a link to Matt Fradd’s Podcast “Pints with Aquinas,” if anyone wants to get a clearer explanation of the Catholic view of predestination compared to some other protestant viewpoints, they can check out this episode via youtube, iTunes, or at www.pintswithaquinas.com
Also, fantastic discussion this last Wednesday on Augustine’s homilies on First Epistle of John. As I mentioned reading the Epistle, and comparing it to the Gospel of John, the texts platonic motifs of light and darkness mirror each other so much that for myself there is little doubt that it was written by the same author. I’ve included some examples below to compare the text:
1 John 1:5-10 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness‡ at all. 6 ¶ If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; 7 ¶ but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 ¶ If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Gospel of John: These are but a few of the many selections with light and darkness motifs in the Gospel:
Jn 1:4–9. RSV
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 ¶ The light shines in the darkness,† and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.
9 The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world
Jn 3:1–2. RSV
Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.”
Jn 3:19–21. RSV
And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.
Jn 11:9–10. RSV
If any one walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if any one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”
It’s of little surprise with the platonic themes of light and darkness in the texts of the Gospel of John and the Epistles are of interest to Augustine. In those themes, we find the interplay of neo-platonic forms of good of the revelation of light and the deprivation of the good with an absence of it. Levering explains, “Augustine comments that Christ became incarnate and endured so many humiliations in order to teach us that “God is light and in him no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5) God is utterly transcendent uncreated wisdom. We need to share in this wisdom, this light, if we are to live.”
One of the great authors of the 20th century, J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, a devout Roman Catholic, and a product of early 20th century British academia was swept up in Neo-Platonic culture that predominated many of his time including his friend C.S. Lewis. What some literary critics consider The Lord of the Rings to be a cliché story with static character is rather a story which plays on Neo-Platonic Light vs. Dark principles. As Levering explains that it is “God’s light that reveals our sin,” (Levering, 51). I am reminded of the particular scene in The Lord of the Rings where Gandalf has Frodo cast the ring into a fire. It is in the fire where heat from the burning light reveals the truth of the ring; it’s evil power that it contains. It begs the question, for all of us, when our work in the world is tested in the fire, what shall be revealed?