Theology

St Augustine on Blogging

February 4, 2011


When reading from Augustine’s The Trinity I was struck by his introduction to the book. It seemed to me a good preface to any writing that one may produce, specifically when the subject is of such weighty matters as the Trinity. It also seems, as it were, to be the proper preface to my blog that I should have posted when I first began writing. Since I did not know about it back when I started, I will thus add a belated preface to my blog based on what Augustine might have written in his blog, were he to have one.

I recognize that not everyone will want to read the whole of the quote from Augustine’s work, but rather just have the basic points he made laid out clearly. For those people, I will give a short list of his main points and some comments – a reader’s digest version, or cliff notes, if you will. For those, like myself, who enjoy all the detail and would want to read the entirety of the quote as Augustine put it, I will place the entire thing (unedited) at the end of this post.

Basically, Augustine makes three points to the reader about his writing, which can be transposed over to my blog posts:

1) If you read my writing and don’t understand what I am saying – that’s OK, that doesn’t mean that what I am saying is wrong. It may just meant that I haven’t stated it best or clearest, since “no one has ever expressed himself well enough to be understood by everybody on everything.” So try and see if someone else has said it better or in a way that you can understand and “lay my book [or blog] aside (or throw it away)” and put your time and effort into ones you understand.

2) If you know of others that have expressed what I have written better than me – that’s OK, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I should have kept quiet and not written anything. Not everyone has access to everything that has been written in the world, and not everyone understands everything written. So “it is useful to have several books by several authors, even on the same subjects, differing in style though not in faith.” So perhaps my writing will be helpful to someone else who hasn’t read the writers you’ve read.

And finally, the point that struck me most from Augustine, and which I hope is my attitude in writing this blog:

3) If someone reads what I wrote and understands it, but thinks it is not true – that’s OK, you’re free to have and express your own opinion and try to prove me wrong. If you can show me my error “charitably and truthfully…(if I am still alive), then that will be the choicest plum that could fall to me from these labors of mine.” In other words: I am after the truth first and foremost, so please let me know if I am saying anything wrong! I won’t be offended. If I am wrong in writing something, the best thing that can come from me writing (or blogging) about it is to have someone correct me and show me the error. Finding the truth will be worth the labor of writing and then being corrected.

Then Augustine concludes by sharing his heart in writing, which I think is really honest and (again, I hope) is true of my heart in posting on this blog:

“All I am concerned with is to meditate on the law of the Lord, if not day and night, at least at whatever odd moments I can snatch (Ps. 1:2), and to prevent forgetfulness from running away with my meditations by tying them down to paper; trusting in God’s mercy that he will make me persevering in all truths I am sure of, and that if in anything I am otherwise minded he will reveal this also to me himself (Phil. 3:15).”

That’s the primary purpose of me writing on this blog – to “prevent forgetfulness” of the things God is teaching me, my “Thoughts & Meditations,” by “tying them down to paper” as Augustine so eloquently puts it. My hope also is to meditate on God’s word “if not day and night, at least at whatever odd moments I can snatch” and share the truths I am learning while at here at seminary with others.

So there it is – a belated preface to why I’m blogging by way of what Augustine wrote.

For those who think that Augustine will say what I’ve said above more eloquently (which I will easily and readily admit), below is the unedited quote from his work for you to read:

“So whoever reads this and says, “This is not well said, because I do not understand it,” is criticizing my statement, not the faith; and perhaps it could have been said more clearly — though no one has ever expressed himself well enough to be understood by everybody on everything. The person then who feels this grievance against my discourse should see if he can understand others who have busied themselves with such matters and such questions, when he fails to understand me. If so, let him lay my book aside (or throw it away if he prefers) and spend his time and effort on the ones he does understand.

“However, he has no grounds to consider that I should have kept quiet, simply because I have not been able to express myself with such facility and clarity as those whom he can understand. Not everything, after all, that is written by anybody comes into the hands of everybody, and it is possible that some who are in fact capable of understanding even what I write may not come across those more intelligible writings, while they do at least happen upon these of mine. That is why it is useful to have several books by several authors, even on the same subjects, differing in style though not in faith, so that the matter itself may reach as many as possible, some in this way others in that. But if the person who complains that he has not understood this book has never bee able to understand anyone else’s painstaking and penetrating investigations of such subjects, he should set about improving himself with serious study, instead of trying to silence me with querulous abuse.

On the other hand, if anyone reads this work and says, “I understand what is being said, but it is not true,” he is at liberty to affirm his own convictions as much as he likes and refute mine if he can. If he succeeds in doing so charitably and truthfully, and also takes the trouble to let me know (if I am still alive), then that will be the choicest plum that could fall to me from these labors of mine. If he cannot do me this service, I would be only too pleased that he should do it for anybody that he can. All I am concerned with is to meditate on the law of the Lord, if not day and night, at least at whatever odd moments I can snatch (Ps. 1:2), and to prevent forgetfulness from running away with my meditations by tying them down to paper; trusting in God’s mercy that he will make me persevering in all truths I am sure of, and that if in anything I am otherwise minded he will reveal this also to me himself (Phil. 3:15), either by hidden inspirations and reminders, or by his own manifest utterances, or by discussions with the brethren, That is what I pray for, that is my deposit and my desire, placed in the keeping of one who is a sufficiently reliable custodian of goods he himself has given and redeemer of promises he himself has made.”

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1 Comment

  • Reply Christina Shippey February 5, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Love this!! Makes me want to write down my thoughts more!!

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