St. Augustine’s Confessions
St. Augustine is a man with a rational mind. As a philosopher, scholar, and teacher of rhetoric, he is trained in and practices the art of logical thought and coherent reasoning. The pursuits of his life guide him to seek concrete answers to specific questions. Religion, the practice of which relies primarily on faith—occasionally blind faith—presents itself as unable to be penetrated by any sort of scientific study or inquiry. Yet, like a true scientist and philosopher, one of the first questions St. Augustine poses in his Confessions is: “What, then, is the God I worship” (23)? For a long time, Augustine searches for knowledge about God as a physical body, a particular entity—almost as if the Lord were merely a human being, given the divine right to become the active figurehead of the Christian religion.
Why does St. Augustine seek God? Through his Confessions we come to understand that he struggled a great deal with confusion about his faith, before finally and wholeheartedly accepting God into his life. But we never get a complete or explicit sense of what led Augustine to search for God in the first place. Did he feel a void in his life? Was he experiencing particular problems in other relationships that he thought a relationship with God would solve for him? Or perhaps he sought a sense of security from religion? A closer analysis of the text of St. Augustine’s Confessions will provide some insight into these fundamental questions.
Later, after much study and introspection, Augustine discovers that he has been mistaken in attributing a physical form to God. Yet, he still presses on to reconcile his mind to the true precepts of Christian ideology. But what does he hope to gain from this study? Once Augustine realizes that it is not a physical being he will discover, why does his practical mind still feel the need to know the Lord? One of the opening lines of his Confessions may provide a clue: “Man is one of your creatures, Lord, and his instinct is to praise you” (21). This suggests that man possesses an innate instinct to seek God and spiritual enlightenment. It implies that man, as a product of God, will inherently desire knowledge of and a relationship with his creator. Augustine continues by saying: “The thought of [God] stirs [man] so deeply that he cannot be content unless he praises you, because you made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you” (21). This suggests that though man may struggle on earth, should he decide to turn to God he will experience peace and rest in the Lord. Here Augustine also states that unless man has found God, “he cannot be content,” implying that those who have not found God will feel a constant inner void.
Despite the fact that Augustine comes to view a relationship with God as a natural and fundamental part of life, filling an inherent void, he also makes it clear that he derives great pleasure from...