… Augustine realizes that even his own self-conception and identity is contingent on the testimony of others. Augustine notes that since he has no memory of his mother’s womb or the earliest years of his infancy, he cannot know who his own parents are without some degree of faith. This realization—that faith is the bedrock of any meaningful knowledge—helps open Augustine toward belief. But more importantly, it allows Augustine to surrender himself to the loving influence of people like Ambrose the bishop without the radical skepticism that inhibited his reasoning. In his commentary on Augustine’s epistemic journey toward faith, Smith explains that “there is a relationality to plausibility. Illumination depends on trust; enlightenment is communal.” Smith thus connects Augustine’s maxim of “I believe in order to understand” to his equally important maxim that “I love in order to know.” There is a stunning degree of contingency in all of this. Smith holds up Augustine’s life as a narrative of radical dependency, first and foremost on the grace of God, standing over and against what he calls “an epistemic Pelagianism” that pictures salvation as the product of our human will and intellect.
Tuesday, October 08, 2019
… A Bundle of Hopes and Hungers. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)