Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Awakening the Christ Asleep In You

Augustine of Hippo is one of my favorite people. I love the story of his life, I love his writings, and I love the way he thought. One thing I find very interesting about reading Christian thinkers from different time periods is seeing how their presuppositions determined their conclusions. We're certainly no different.

During the time when Regula Fidei was more in effect, since everyone agreed on what the correct beliefs were supposed to be, they felt free to do some creative allegorical interpretations of Scripture, as long as their conclusions remained within the boundaries of orthodoxy.

I just completed a paper on the function of the Sea of Galilee in Mark, and in researching, I came across a sermon that Augustine preached on the passage about Jesus calming the storm. He took an angle I would have never considered, and though it might not have been Mark's original intended purpose for including this story, I think his thoughts are beneficial.

I have been pondering the role of allegorical applications in preaching. On the one hand, I am very much a student of the mentality that it is our job to understand the text exactly as it was intended to be understood. On the other hand, in churches of Christ, though we don't have an official Regula Fidei for all of us, most of us know pretty well within our congregations what views are considered the orthodox ones and which would be considered heretical. I wonder if it would be helpful or hurtful to make some Scriptural applications that take more liberty with allegorical interpretations--remaining within the boundaries of orthodoxy, in the spirit of writers such as Augustine, or even philosophers like Philo, who has some fascinating ideas about the meaning of Genesis (which I may blog about at some point). I see both potential and peril. It is at least something different.

At any rate, here is part of Augustine's sermon about Matthew 8:23.

When you have to listen to abuse, that means you are being buffeted by the wind. When your anger is roused, you are being tossed by the waves. So when the winds blow and the waves mount high, the ship is in danger, your heart is imperiled, your heart is taking a battering. On hearing yourself insulted, you long to retaliate; but the joy of revenge brings with it another kind of misfortune--shipwreck. Why is this? Because Christ is asleep in you. What do I mean? I mean you have forgotten his presence. Rouse him, then; remember him, let him keep watch within you, pay heed to him....A temptation arises; it is the wind. It disturbs you: it is the surging of the sea. This is the moment to awaken Christ and let him remind you of these words: "Who can this be? Even the winds and the sea obey him."

Clearly, this story was not written as an allegory. Christ is revealing his divine nature so that the disciples will gain a deeper understanding of who he is. But the storm situation with the sleeping Christ does make a nice metaphor for relying on Christ for aid in having self-control.

What do you think?


  1. I like the metaphor and the application is very creative.

  2. I see some ups and some downs to it. Thanks for stopping by!