Augustine on the Depths of Scripture

What wonderful profundity [deep insight; great depth of knowledge or thought] there is in your utterances [in Scripture]! The surface meaning lies open before us and charms beginners. Yet the depth is amazing, my God, the depth is amazing. To concentrate on it is to experience awe—the awe of adoration before its transcendence and the trembling of love. Scripture’s enemies I vehemently hate (Psalm 138:22). I wish that you would slay them with a two-edged sword (Psalm 149:6); then they would no longer be its enemies. The sense in which I wish them ‘dead’ is this: I love them that they may die to themselves and live to you (Romans 14:7-8; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

Confessions 12.14.17

Anyone who has spent any time at all wrestling with Scripture can verify the truth of Augustine’s musings on God’s word. And wouldn’t we expect the depths of his word to be endless if indeed they come from God? When we start fooling ourselves and thinking we have mastered completely holy Scripture, we are surely succumbing to a sinful pride (not to mention delusional thinking). I love the wonderful humility expressed in Augustine’s writing here.

Notice too how Augustine expresses his love for the enemies of Scripture. He wants them dead. Not physically dead but rather for their sinful nature to die so that their eyes may be opened to the wondrous glory of God’s Scriptures so that ultimately they may live. This manifestation of real love sounds foreign to our ears today because the various enemies of the cross have misled us to believe that love always and only manifests itself in giving the beloved what it wants. However, as Augustine reminds us here, Scripture has a very different definition of love. Love indeed desires the best for its beloved and since God loves us and wants us to live with him forever, he desires that we put to death our sinful nature so that we can do so. He cannot allow the unholy to abide in the presence of Perfect Holiness (himself). He’ll help us do that, and he has solved the intractable problem of human sin through the cross of Christ, but we have to make the initial effort and keep at it our entire lives. It isn’t easy work but the reward for doing so is life forevermore. This is faith made manifest in our actions.