Augustine claims that believing God changes and acts in Sequence is Childish

Augustine loves to override the text of the Bible with philosophers’ ideas – see especially the last footnote – that God lives outside of time, is unchanging and created everything at the same time, using Sirach 18:1 – which seems to be a Hellenist rendition of creation, incompatible with the creation story as found in Genesis 1 – as his proof text. He looks down on Christians who would differ from his opinion – which is not found in the Bible – calling them “carnal and little ones”. Augustine believes he has risen beyond that stage:

<<'Let no carnal image creep into the mind and disturb the pious spiritual understanding. For it is rash and foolhardy opinion that something begins or ceases in the nature of God, if that [becoming] is understood in a proper sense. Yet we should in all humanity permit this to the carnal and little ones, not as if they were going to remain in that state, but as to ones who will rise up from it.' [1]

'Although God, who has the power when he wills, makes without a length of time, natures still produce in time their temporal motions. Hence, Scripture may have said, "and evening came and morning came, one day," [2] as it is foreseen in reason [3] that it ought to or can take place, not as it does take place in stretches of time. For he who said, "He who remains for eternity created all things at once," [4] contemplated the very idea of the works in the Holy Spirit. But in this book the account of the things that God made is broken down most conveniently as if in periods of time so that the very arrangement which weaker souls could not look upon with a firm gaze could be discerned as if by these eyes when it is set forth through the order of such a discourse.' [5]

'(...) we have to hold to the words, "And God made all things at the same time." [6] (...) there are no intervals of time in God's working, although they are found in his works.' [7]

'We have often said that this should not be understood [to have been done] in periods of time, lest the ineffable power of God as he works should be involved in some slowness.' [8]

'For Scripture is now speaking of these times that by their distinct intervals convey to us that eternity remains immutable above them so that time might appear as a sign, that is, as a vestige of eternity.' [9]>>

 

It’s up to the reader to honestly look into which position is most childish: the Greek philosophers’ contradictory opinions or the inspired words of the Bible. “For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Luke 11:10, NLT).

[Quotes taken from Augustine’s On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis: An Unfinished Book, 157, 164-165, 167-168, 170. Translation and excerpts from the footnotes taken from Roland J. Teske, Saint Augustine on Genesis – Two Books on Genesis against the Manichees and On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis: An Unfinished Book.]

Footnotes:

[1] (…) the “little ones” should not be disturbed despite their thinking of God as changing, for they would grow and become adults.

[2] Gen 1:5.

[3] (…) in ratione (…) can refer to the divine idea in which the order of things exists timelessly. (…) Augustine distinguishes the timeless activity of God and the timeless knowledge of how things can be or ought to be – as they are in the divine art – from the temporal existence of things.

[4] Sir 18.1. (…) Later (cf. DGnL 4.33.52; 5.3.6.; 5.17.35) Augustine will use this text to ground the doctrine of the simultaneous creation of all things. (…)

[5] Weaker souls cannot gaze upon the arrangement of things in the divine art; hence, Genesis presents God’s works in a temporal sequence.

[6]  Cf. Sir 18.1.

[7] Augustine seems to restrict the simultaneity of creation to the divine activity, while God’s works are produced earlier and later in time. The narrative account demands their temporal extension, even if God could make them all at once (…).

[8] Augustine is quite clear that God’s activity is not temporally extended, but he does not seem to rule out a temporal sequence in the works produced.

[9] For time as a vestige or image of eternity, cf. Plato, Timaeus 37d7; Plotinus, Ennead 3.7.1; and DMu 6.11.29.

Read also “Augustine & Time” (by David Mathison) and “Augustine denied that God could speak” (by Christopher Fisher).

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