Augustine: faith is like learning to play piano (via Wilken)


Augustine, of course, is thinking about how one comes to know God in Christ, but he realizes that there are similarities between learning a trade or raising children and knowing and loving God. If faith in authority is necessary to learn to plow a field, ‘how much more so in religion.’ By bringing up these kinds of examples, Augustine wishes to say that the knowledge acquired by faith is not primarily a matter of gaining information. The acquiring of religious knowledge is akin to learning a skill. It involves practices, attitudes, and dispositions and has to do with ordering one’s loves. This kind of knowledge, the knowledge one lives by, is gained gradually over time. Just as one does not learn to play the piano in a day, so one does not learn to love God in an exuberant moment of delight… The knowledge of God sinks into the mind and heart slowly and hence requires apprenticeship. That is why, says Augustine, we must become ‘servants of wise men.’

Faith, as Augustine understood it, is an affair not only of beliefs, but also of things that rouse the affections and move the will to act, with real… assent.

From The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God by Dr. Robert Louis Wilken.

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