Thursday, April 19, 2012

Plundering the Egyptians?

For the next meeting of the fortnightly theology reading group ("the Volfians") we are reading an article "Christian Poetics, Past and Present" by Donald T. Williams. It is reprinted in a volume, The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Learning.

I am still reading and digesting the article, but I found interesting the quote below from Augustine, who seems to have had ambivalent views towards literature.
 Any statements made by those who are called philosophers, especially the Platonists, which happen to be true and consistent with our faith should not cause alarm, but be claimed for our own use, as it were from owners who have no right to them. Like the treasures of the ancient Egyptians, who possessed not only idols and heavy burdens. . .but also vessels and ornaments of silver and gold, and clothes, which on leaving Egypt the people of Israel, in order to make better use of them, surreptitiously claim for themselves (they did this not on their own authority but at God’s command).... - similarly the the branches of pagan learning contain not only false and superstitious fantasies... but also studies for liberated minds which are more appropriated for the service of the truth, ans some very useful moral instruction... The treasures.. which were wickedly and harmfully in the service of demons must be removed by Christians... and applied to their true function, that of preaching the gospel.
Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana

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