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Alienation and love

University of Florida Institutional Repository

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1 ALIENATION AND LOVE: CREATING A REDEMPTIVE HERMENEUTICS FROM THE WORK OF AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO By ZACHARY BECK A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007

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2 Zachary Beck

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3 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to express my a ppreciation and gratitude to Ja mes Paxson and Phillip Wegner for their guidance in this project, as well as for their counsel a nd friendship during my time at the University of Florida. I would also like to thank David Leverenz, Judith Page, Patricia Craddock, and Pamela Gilbert, whose advice greatly helped my exploration of the intersections of Christianity and literature in the projects for their seminars during my masters program. This project would not have been possible without th e intellectual and moral support of the Christian Study Center of Gainesville and its director, Ri chard Horner, who has sp ent several hours with me over the years, mulling over these issues of lit erature. Furthermore, the conversations in which I have engaged with my colleagues at the Study Centerpartic ularly Sarah Graham, Carter McCain, Trevor Richards and David Weinertwere essent ial to my visualization and articulation of this project. I w ould also like to take this oppor tunity to commend Pastor Richard Parker at Creekside Community Church in Ga inesville for encouraging those who attend the church to love the Lord with their mind, as well as with their hearts, souls, and strength, by rigorously immersing themselves in the richness of the scriptures. Finally, I would like to thank my family: Mom and Dad, Clint, Susan, Wes, Afton, and Sonnet. No words can properly express how thankful I am for thei r constant love and support.

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4 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................3 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION................................................................................................................... .7 2 ERECTING THE VAULT.....................................................................................................13 3 HUMAN TEXTS AND TEXTUAL HUMANS....................................................................29 4 REDEMPTIVE READING OR, RE ADING OF RECONCILIATION.................................47 5 CONCLUSION..................................................................................................................... ..69 LIST OF REFERENCES............................................................................................................. ..74 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................................76

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5 Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts ALIENATION AND LOVE: CREATING A REDEMPTIVE HERMENEUTICS FROM THE WORK OF AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO By Zachary Beck May 2007 Chair: James Paxson Major: English I will attempt to outline a pract icable method of literary in terpretation from a Christian perspective, using the discussi ons of writing, reading, and exeg esis put forth by Augustine of Hippo in two of his worksthe Confessions and On Christian Doctrine By practicable, I mean a method that silences both the criticism of secular academics who say that the Christian perspective in literature is limite d and obsolete, as well as the pr otests of devout Christians who renounce literature for its potential to corrupt readers. I intend to place literature in a framework that enables Christians to streng then their faith without sacrifici ng the integrity of the literary works themselves. Furthermore, competing worl dviews and literary theories that try to undermine a Christian approach will not be discar ded as enemies to the faith, but rather recontextualized and embraced as helpful tools. I have divided my essay into three parts. In the first, I will perfor m a close reading of the eleventh and twelfth books of the Confessions in which Augustine discusses memory and time in relation to the first verses of Genesis, when God creates heaven and earth. This close reading will begin the formulation of the Christian lite rary theory by explaining how God creates and then by extending the process to the human act of creation. Once this dynamic of creativity between God and humanity has been established, I will move into the thirteenth book of the

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6 Confessions in which Augustine allegorizes the six-da y account of creation in Genesis 1. The purpose of this close reading is to set up the envi ronment in which a Christian interpretation of literature can operate. The second part of my thesis refers to A ugustines account of his conversion in the sixth, seventh, and eighth books of the Confessions I will elaborate upon the effect of sin within humans and their creations, as well as the tran sformation that can occu r in both, following the redemptive act of Jesus Christ. This ability to change that exists in humans will guide my subsequent discussion of hermeneutic theory, where I will put D. W. Robertson, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Paul Ricoeur into conversation wi th one another. The conclusions drawn from this conversation will assist me in describing Augustines conversion acc ount as an interaction with texts, revealing the inescapable similari ties between the narrativ e of human life and the interpretation of texts. The bl urring of the line between human and text is essential to a Christian theory of literature. For the third part, I turn to Augustines treatise on the interpretation and instruction of the scriptures, On Christian Doctrine beginning with a cri ticism of his concept of plundering the Egyptians. By critiquing this idea, I intend to present the underlying challenge of the Christian interpreter: since we are called to be in the worl d and not of it, how does the interpreter do justice to a worldly text while maintaining focus on Gods will? In order to answ er this question, I will turn to Alain Badious ethic of truth, which I be lieve parallels the revolution that is Christian salvation. Jesus Christs commands to His fo llowers lay the groundwork for how Christians can approach literature, and Augustines understanding of love, what he terms caritas, will assist me at this culminating point in my essay, as I formulate a Christian literary ethic.

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7 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION In this essay, I will attempt to outline a practicable method of literary interpretation from a Christian perspective, using the discussions of writing, reading, and exegesis put forth by Augustine of Hippo in two of his worksthe Confessions and On Christian Doctrine By practicable, I mean a method that silences bot h the criticism of secular academics who say that the Christian perspective in literature is limited and obsolete, as well as the protests of devout Christians who renounce literature fo r its potential to corrupt readers. I in tend to place literature in a framework that enables Christians to strengthe n their faith without sacr ificing the integrity of the literary works themselves. Furthermore, comp eting worldviews and literary theories that try to undermine a Christian approach will not be discar ded as enemies to the faith, but rather recontextualized and embraced as helpful tools. My goal stems from the notion that, because of the call that God has commanded them to obey, Christian interpreters must be able to incor porate their beliefs into th eir study of literature. Fredric Jamesons assertion about the centrality of Marxism refl ects a similar perspective which this project embraces: Marxism is here conc eived as that untranscendable horizon that subsumes such apparently antagonistic or inco mmensurable critical operations, assigning them an undoubted sectoral validity within itself, a nd thus at once canceling and preserving them (Jameson 10). Although Jameson is arguing for the primacy of political interpretation, his words describe the same overarching quali ty that I argue Christianity pr ovides for the believing scholar. Within modern criticism, however, scholars who ascribe to the re ligion have debated whether Christianity (or any ot her religious or political worl dview) should influence the study and critique of literature. For example, Northrop Frye seeks to systematize criticism outside of the realm of political or religious interests. He writes, If it is insisted that we cannot criticize

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8 literature until we have acquired a coherent ph ilosophy of life with its center of gravity in something else, the existence of criticism as a sepa rate subject is still being denied (Frye 7). He claims that the field of criticism can be struct ured and organized, making inductive observations from ones encounters with literatu re, in a manner similar to science-based fields: [I]f the varied interests of critics could be re lated to a central expanding pattern of systematic comprehension, this undertow [of Christian, demo cratic, and Marxian critics] w ould disappear, and they would be seen as converging on criticism in stead of running away from it (12). Frye is considered to be a Christian scholar because of his career as an Anglican minister, but his literary work subsumes Christianity with in this literary cataloging he describes in the introduction to Anatomy of Criticism He justifies this prioritiz ation by explaining that the axioms and postulates of criticismhave to grow out of the art it deals with (6). This may evoke a feeling of objectivity, but this stance actually reveals Fryes bias, similar to the Marxian or Christian criticsif the art determines the organization of politics and religion within its own system, then the art itself merely takes the seat of honor, rather than the economy or scripture. Moreover, one might question whether science trum ps art for Frye, considering his desire to legitimize the field of criticism by applying his classifications to species of literature. Jameson assists in clarifying the uneasines s that Fryes pr oject evokes: It should not, in the present intellectual atmo sphere, be necessary la boriously to argue the position that every form of practice, incl uding the literary-criti cal kind, implies and presupposes a form of theory; th at empiricism, the mirage of an utterly nontheoretical practice, is a contradiction in terms; that ev en the most formalizing kinds of literary or textual analysis carry a theoretical charge whose denial unmasks it as ideological. (Jameson 58) In contrast to Northrop Frye s opinion that literary critic ism should not be framed by religion or politics, T. S. Eliot encourages readers of literature to have a firm grip on what Frye calls their philosophy of life when coming to a work of art: In ages like our own, in which

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9 there is no such common agreement [on ethical and theological matters], it is the more necessary for Christian readers to scrutinize their reading with explicit ethical and theological standards (Eliot 142). Eliot insists such scrutiny is necessary because, even if readers try to compartmentalize their literary opinions from their religious and ethical judgment, the separation is not, and neve r can be, complete (146). Therefore, let us not practice the denial that our past experiences a nd the formation of our spiritual commitments do not affect how we approach literature. Rather, I want to address some important issues that arise for the Christian in terpreter when he anal yzes literary works and harmonize them into a theory that will allow him to serve himself, others, and God through his interpretive efforts. Augustines me ditations on similar matters in the Confessions and On Christian Doctrine are invaluable in this pursuit becau se he thought about how to ethically interpret texts in a world very similar to ours: The world of the late Roman Empire knew the tremendous advantages of a colossal network of transportation and communication, of advanced technological achievement, of internationalism, and of cultural, intellectua l, and theological pluralism. It also experienced the concomitant disadvantages of a dislocation of values, internecine warfare and random violence, political corruption and revolution, ethnic and racial tensions, new disease, and existential despair. (McPherson 172) The conclusions Augustine made laid the founda tion for textual interp retation throughout the Middle Ages, so his reputation as a Christian theori st is certain. Although he influenced several subsequent centuries of literary thought, his judg ment of literature, combined with his focus on allegorical meaning, impose a separation betw een secular literature and the Christian community, beyond the mandate that Christians are to be set apart (sanctified) for their faith. Christian theorists find themselves isolated, protective, and irrele vant from the larger literary community, and this unfortunately in part is a consequence of Augustin es teaching. In this essay, however, I want to revisit Augustine, payi ng particular attention to passages in the two

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10 works that describe human relationships, in or der to show that, with Augustines help, the Christian literati need notand should notrem ove themselves from the larger secular field. I have divided my essay into three parts. In the first, I will perfor m a close reading of the eleventh and twelfth books of the Confessions in which Augustine discusses memory and time in relation to the first verses of Genesis, when God creates heaven and earth. This close reading will begin the formulation of the Christian lite rary theory by explaining how God creates and then by extending the process to the human act of creation. Once this dynamic of creativity between God and humanity has been established, I will move into the thirteenth book of the Confessions in which Augustine allegorizes the six-da y account of creation in Genesis 1. The purpose of this close reading is to set up the envi ronment in which a Christian interpretation of literature can operate. The second part of my thesis refers to A ugustines account of his conversion in the sixth, seventh, and eighth books of the Confessions I will elaborate upon the effect of sin within humans and their creations, as well as the tran sformation that can occur in both following the redemptive act of Jesus Christ. This ability to change that exists in humans will guide my subsequent discussion of hermeneutic theory, where I will put D. W. Robertson, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Paul Ricoeur into conversation wi th one another. The conclusions drawn from this conversation will assist me in describing Augustines conversion acc ount as an interaction with texts, revealing the inescapable similari ties between the narrativ e of human life and the interpretation of texts. The bl urring of the line between human and text is essential to a Christian theory of literature. For the third part, I turn to Augustines treatise on the interpretation and instruction of the scriptures, On Christian Doctrine beginning with a cri ticism of his concept of plundering the

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11 Egyptians. By critiquing this idea, I intend to present the underlying challenge of the Christian interpreter: since we are called to be in the worl d and not of it, how does the interpreter do justice to a worldly text while maintaining focus on Gods will? In order to answ er this question, I will turn to Alain Badious ethic of truth, which I be lieve parallels the revolution that is Christian salvation. Jesus Christs commands to His fo llowers lay the groundwork for how Christians can approach literature, and Augustines unde rstanding of love, what he terms caritas will assist me at this culminating point in my essay, as I formulate a Christian literary ethic. Before I begin my examination of Augustines works, I must offer two working definitions for problematic terms that will set the boundaries of my scope for this essay and silenceor at least postponepotential questions about the re levance of my theory. First, the term Christian or believer will be defined for this essay by the Apostles Creed,1 which affirms the Trinity (and therefore Jesus Christs divinity), the gospel account of Christs death and re surrection, the unity of the body of believers by that belief known as the Church, the si nfulness of humankind, and the judgment and forgiveness of God. Although not e xplicitly stated in th e creed, I add to my working definition that the Christian believes in the veracity of the Bible and its divine authorship. Readers may find th is definition too limiting, but it a llows for the bypass of certain controversies that make the term so troubling. Due to the nature of conflicts occurri ng in world affairs today, the term Christian tends to be associated with a particular political orie ntation or agenda. The term suffers further misappropriation when it is considered synonym ous with Western-ism. Such unfortunate 1 The Apostles Creed: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived of the Holy Sp irit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of Go d the Father Almighty, whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the b ody, and life everlasting. Amen.

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12 connotations that ultimately stem fr om issues of earthly political power obscure the fact that the term Christian labels what Slavoj iek calls the re mainder of humanity: a community of free believers that suspends all ethnic divisionst hose who have faith in Christ (iek 130). A second term, truth may cause difficulty within this di scussion. Pilate asks Jesus, What is truth? The question echoes throughout litera ture in abounding points of view and in long trails of signification. No in terpreter can claim to own truth, nor can he or she measure its dimensions; the same holds for the Christian interp reter. As Paul writes, [n]ow we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror (1 Cor. 13:12). Belief in truth distinguishes the Christian interpreter: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and cer tain of what we do not see.By faith we understand that the universe was form ed at Gods command (Heb. 11:1, 3). The formation of the universe at Gods command aptly de scribes the definition of truth used in this essay, as well as Augustines use of the term: [E]verything which begins to exist and then cea ses to exist does so at the due time for its beginning and cessation decreed in that eter nal Reason where nothing begins or comes to an end. This eternal Reason is your Word, who is the Beginning in that he also speaks to us.When some changeable creature advises us we are but led to th at stable Truth, where we truly learn as we st and and listen to him. ( C 252) According to Augustine, from truth springs tempor al creation, all that has a beginning and end; furthermore, changeable creation learns from unc hangeable truth. Finall y, his use of the pronoun he refers to Christ, which agrees with Johns re ference to God as the Word (Jn. 1:1), and Jesus proclamation that He is the way, the trut h, and the life (Jn. 14:6). Augustine writes the Confessions as a second-person narrative to God, whom he addresses occasionally as O Truth. The framework of a Christian literary theory depends upon the understanding of an eternal, immutable truth, but also a truth that is the wellspring of cr eation, a concept that I will discuss further in this essay. But because no reader or interpretive method is infa llible, I will avoid using this term as much as possible in describing my theorys dynamics.

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13 CHAPTER 2 ERECTING THE VAULT Nearly every discussion of artistic pursuits from a Christian perspective begins with the first chapter of Genesis, where God demonstrat es His own creativity in making the universe, including human beings, whom He made in His likeness. As Dorothy Sayers points out in The Mind of the Maker the main characteristic attributed to God in this first chapter is His ability to create: Looking at man, he [God] sees in him so mething essentially divine, but when we turn back to see what he says about the original upon which the image of God was modeled, we find only the single assertion, God created (Sayers 22). Augustine also devotes lengthy consideration to the creation ac count in the final books of the Confessions to assist him in thinking about memory and time, and to practice scriptural interpretati on. His examination of Genesis 1, though, will provide the first step for esta blishing a Christian lite rary theory because it establishes the space in whic h literature takes place. Augustine begins by arguing that heaven and earth show themselves to be made because they exhibit change and variation ( C 11.4.6). The act of creation effects mutability in that which is created, so that difference instantly aris es between the creator and the created. In the case of God, He is eternal and thus unchanging; His created works have a distinct beginning and therefore are not eternal. The fact that created works change from non-existent to existent engenders their changeability from the beginning. In the case of human beings, we constantly change (being creations ourselves); however, the potential for change in the created works of humanity is multifaceted. In one sense, the works change because they are made of changeab le material: paper decomposes, pigments fade, stone weathers, etc. In another sense, however artistic works do not change; the arrangement of

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14 words, the sequence of notes, the geometric proportions, or the color values remain.1 Yet one could say that human works change in that the reception of those works alters over time. As a simplistic example, let us consider Chaucers Canterbury Tales : the centuries-old Hengurt or Ellesmere manuscripts undergo the decay of pa ssing years, and although the words he wrote down (barring scribal error) have continued unchanged since he first put them on paper, our understanding and appreciation of them now is quite different from how they were perceived at any other time in history. Is this latter characteristic not the imposition of humans mutability, as created beings themselves upon the text? But let us return to the details of Gods crea tive acts. Once he establishes that God made heaven and earth, Augustine wonders what tools a nd what media God could have used to create them: You cannot have gone to work like a human craftsman, who forms a material object from some material in accordance with his imaginative decision. Whatever design his minds eye conjures up within, the mind has power to impose upon the material, but where would he get this power, if you had not made his mind? He merely stamps a form on matter already in existence and in no possession of its being, such as clay or stone or wood or gold or any other stuff of the kind. And whence would these de rive their existence, unless you had established them in being? ( C 11.5.7) This observation could explain th e perpetual elements of human creation, that is, the artists manipulation of materialsA ugustine refers to this as design Unchanging, eternal God creates human beings in His image to be creators, and along this chain of creation filters down a quality of persistence, which emerges when a human acts as a creator and imposes a design upon preexistent material. The deliberate artistic act awakens this character of immutability in the material, an echo from when God first created the material for humans to manipulate. 1 The one obvious exception to this concept would be revision, but is one version of a work, say, William Wordsworths 1790 edition of the Prelude the same as another, like Wordsworths 1850 edition? Should these revisions not be considered separate works?

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15 God did not have this material from whic h to make heaven and earth, though. If everything that exists does so as a result of Gods creative acts, then He must have created ex nihilo which Augustine argues He did. The formati on of heaven and earth had to come from within God somehow, like Athena springing from Ze us head, an analogous situation in classical mythology, or like Narnia growing from Aslans song, C. S. Lewiss modern allegorization of the idea. At this point, Augustine introduces th e W(w)ord into his disc ussion: Clearly, then, you spoke and things were made. By your word you made them ( C 11.5.7). He immediately explains that this creative word differs from th e times when God speaks to humans in Scripture, like when Jesus is baptized; such speech acts are temporal, and th ey require the material needed for the act of hearing to exist. The word Augustine describes is eternal, since it is of God, and all that the word conveys is uttered simultaneously, so that the word does not change. Just as the words that a human speaks intend to transmit thoughts or emotions, so Gods word, as Brian Stock writes, represents the eternal expression of the divine mind (Stock 195). Even though Gods word is eternal and simultaneous, things which you [God] create by sp eaking do not all come to be simultaneously, nor are they eternal ( C 11.7.9). So too can human words produce effects and meanings in the listeners mind, regardless of the tim e of the utterance. Consider also the sequence of responses a reader will have as he or she reads a book; because the words to be read are stored in one place, the book acts with a simultaneity similar to Gods word. Yet no earthly analogy will satisfactorily explain Gods act of cr eation, because human words are finite.2 So the word of God is eternal, and all that is made, from the heaven and earth in Genesis 1:1 to the infant born as I write this, originates simultaneously from Gods utterance. This idea 2 Even the term creative act erroneously implies an en d to Gods creative work.

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16 means that Gods creative mandate continuously ru les over all existent matte r. As creatures of His likeness, human beings benefit from this mandat e, in that their creativ e acts are extensions of Gods originating word. By speaking this word, God creates heaven and earth; the former Augustine distinguishes as heavens heaven (12.8.8, cf. Ps. 115:16), the dwelling God creates for Himself.3 The description of the newly created earth is formless and empty, according to the NIV translation of the scripture, and invisible and unorga nized, according to Boul dings translation of Augustine. He struggles to understand and explai n the nature of formless matter, but we can catch a glimpse of the phrases meaning if we thi nk of raw materials used for an artistic work, before humans apply a design to them. Before a writer pens the words of her story onto a page, the page has no significance outside of its being a piece of paper. The paper could sit in a desk drawer for years, or someone c ould toss it into the fi re without a second thought. Once the writer inscribes meaningful words onto the paper, it ta kes on a new significance, apart from its nature as paper. We can compare the formless and empty matter of the earth, before God fashions it into land, plants, animals and people, w ith the paper before the author writes upon it. Indeed, this analogy parallels Augustines reso lution: [Y]ou, Lord, made th e world from formless matter, and that formless matter that was almost nothing at all you made from nothi ng at all, intending to create from it all the great things which fill us humans with wonder ( C 12.8.8). Once again, Augustine uses the word intending in speaking of creation. Wh en a creator imposes a design 3 At the risk of digressing too much, I must comment upon this, for it gave me a foreboding pause. Heavens heaven leads one to question where God lived be fore He created this place. We coul d apply a human example, saying that heavens heaven is like a house an architect builds for hersel f. Before the house is built, she still exists and dwells somewhere else on earth; we must therefore have faith that God existed and dwelled in some realm while He built His house. This scheme harmonizes with scripture: in Revelation, both heaven and earth are abandoned for a new heaven and earth (Rev. 21:1).

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17 upon matter, his or her inte ntionality infused within the manipul ated material inspires wonder in the beholder, whether it be Gods works or human works. But even human works, because of their substance, are Gods works : [T]he aforementioned invisibl e earth is the matter underlying all forms ( C 12.8.8). The psalmist writes in Psalm 24, The earth is the Lords, and everything in it, / the world, and all who live in it (Ps. 24:1-2). He dis tinguishes between the ea rth and the worldhe associates every thing with the former and all who live with the latterbut the inhabitants of both realms testify to the glory of the Lord as their creator. Consider Psalm 148: Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea cr eatures and all ocean depths, / lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do hi s bidding, / you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, / wild anim als and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, / kings of the earth and all nations, you pr inces and all rulers on earth, / young men and maidens, old men and children (Ps. 148:7-12). The scope of this passage reflects the psalmists assertion that the hand of God is in the creation of every existent thing; he calls these things to praise God as their ruler and creator. Earlier in the Confessions Augustine also observes this fact : [Y]ou have made all good things, andthere are absolutely no substances that you have not made.They a ll exist because they are severally good but collec tively very good, for our God has made all things exceedingly good ( C 7.12.18; his italics). If nature po ints to God as its designer, a nd if human artists, who are part of Gods design also, manipulate the natural worl d for their own design, then the artistic works of humans also testify to God the creator.4 The so-called cultural mandate, which God declares after creating human beings in Genesis 1, reinforces this chain of creation: God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:28). Not only does this command call 4 Thanks to Ken Myers, whose lecture The Church and Cultural Discernment: Distinguishing Engagement from Captivity led me to this conclusion.

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18 humans to care for the earth as good stewards, it also suggests creativity : humans are to occupy this material world, manage it, handle it, shape it. The word subdue connotes malleability and changeability. Its very mutability, so ev ident to us, makes possi ble our awareness and demarcation of passing times, because this is what the rolling seasons arethe changes that occur in creatures as various fo rms proliferate and develop ( C 12.8.8). Time is key for Augustine in understanding change and creation: These are three realities in the mind, but nowhere else as far as I can see, for the present of past things is memory, the present of present things is attention, and the present of future things is expectation ( C 11.20.26). The past exists only in the mind as reminiscences, and the future is only a prediction based on what visibly exists at pres ent. But the present can be divided into progressively smaller durations so th at it becomes a vanishing point ( C 11.15.20). Time raises a conundrum similar to how God creates ex nihilo .5 Again, the answer lies in intentionality. Once a person translates what her mind remembers from the past or predicts for the futu re into (for Augustine) words, then these nonexistent places in time materiali ze. Of course, this materializati on has form to the extent that its creator gives it form, just as God gives being to His creations: It was you who made them, Lordyou who are, because they are. Yet not in the same way as you, their creator, are they beautiful and good, nor do they exist as you exist; compared with you they have neither beauty nor goodness nor being ( C 11.4.6). The spirit of Augustines declaration borrows from Platonism6, the idea that created things are at gradually farther removes from ideal forms. Still, when an artist creates a work, that work does not have the artists ability to remember the past 5 Paul Ricoeur examines this conundrum, what he calls an aporia, in the first chapter of Time and Narrative 6 The influence of Plotinus on Augustines thinking is well-documented. Consider his encounter with the books by the Platonists in the Confessions starting at 7.9.13.

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19 and foresee the future; its repres entation of past or future depe nds on the interpretation of the beholder. Even its representation of the present changes (recall the Chaucer example). At this point, a brief review of Augustines meditations on matter, form, and creativity will help us to the next stage. Sc ripture states that God created hu man beings in His own image, the image of a creator. Gods creative work descri bed in Genesis 1 parallel s how humans create. First, God created matter out of nothing; similarly, that which humans visualize in their minds to create does not physically exis t. God accomplishes His creation by uttering a word that expresses His creative intention. Th is word is eternal in that it is unchanging and of God, who is also eternal.7 The words eternality means that the act of creation lasts longer than the six days in Genesis; its duration continues through to this day, and beyond. In addi tion to its eternality, the word conveys all of God s creative intention simultane ouslyeven though the word rings loud and clear to this day, whatever is presentl y created was part of G ods intention, along with all other created things, from the beginning. We can imperfectly compare this concept to a book: an authors creative act is stored in the book, but its effects unfold as a reader peruses it over time. What first comes into existence with Gods utterance is heaven a nd earth, the latter of which is formless and empty. In human term s, we can imagine the raw materials before a work has been made, materials which lack signi ficance and design. The creator must impose his intention upon the material to give it form.8 Mutability characterizes Gods works, evident in a wide variety of ways, from the change of s easons to a humans change of mind. Likewise, human works of art have the ability to change in two ways: the physical material of which the 7 I have purposely avoided addressing Jesus Christ as the Word of God for now. This will be covered later in my essay. 8 Augustines scheme is an invocation of Aristotles four causes.

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20 work is made changes (which is actually the mutability of Gods original work), and the way beholders perceive or unders tand the work. Although the artis ts intention (be it memory, prediction, or observation) manifests itself in the creative act, the completed work becomes susceptible to the interpretation (intention) of anyone who encounter s it. All matter that exists, including the artists material, was created in the utterance of Gods word, so that human creationsworks of artstill bear the imprint of Gods craftsmanship. What is striking about this framework for creat ivity is that Augustine unpacks almost all of this interpretation from the first verse in Genesis, aided by the very basics of Christian doctrine, which are laid out in the Apostles Creed. The cha ngeability inherent to al l levels of the creative chain emerge out of the earlies t (biblical) account of creation, not out of the fall. In spite of the ramifications of sin, variation and multiple interpretations would always characterize creativity. The other striking aspect of Augustines concep tion of creativity is that it serves as a jumping-off point for an allegorical interpretatio n of the remainder of the creation account. His treatment of Genesis 1 benefits the Christian interpreter who can point to Gods creativity without the controversy surroundi ng a literal reading of the account. Yet Augustine does not alienate believers with his metaphor because he maintains that the account is true: [O]bserve that scripture offers us a singl e truth, couched in simple words .But is it not interpreted in manifold ways? Leaving aside fallacious and mi staken theories, are th ere not divergent schools of true opinion? ( C 13.24.36). By using the creation account to sketch the roles of scripture, reading, and interpretation, Augustine gives Christ ian students of literat ure a space of hope and vitality in which to work. I now want to focu s on three parts of A ugustines allegory that, combined with our previous discussion, set the stag e for literary interpreta tion: the second day of

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21 creation, during which God erects the sky; the four th day, when the lights of the sky are lit; and the sixth day, when God commands huma ns to be fruitful and to multiply. In Book XII, Augustine describes the order of creation as Gods spiritual house. He continues this idea of a building-like structur e in Book XIII, when he associates the skyan expanse separating the waters above from the wate rs below (Gen. 1:7) with the vault of the holy scriptures ( C 13.15.16). This scriptural ceiling is with in the spiritual house, one could say, separating two stories. He dr aws upon two biblical passages fo r this analogy: Psalm 104, which says that God stretches out the heavens like a tent (Ps. 104:2), and the prophecy of Isaiah, which says that the sky will be rolled up like a scroll at the time of Gods judgment (Isa. 34:4).9 The waters above the vault represent the im mortal, angelic peoples who behold [Gods] face unceasingly and there read without the aid of time-bound syllables the decree of [His] eternal will ( C 13.15.18). Clearly the waters below represent mortal human beings. At this point, the allegory reveals itself to be anachroni stic, in that it is predicated upon the human condition after the fall, separated from God, which does not occur until Genesis 3. Indeed, Augustine writes later in his allegory, when he speaks of the creatures of the sea on the fifth day, If Adam had not fallen away from youthere would have been no need for thewords spoken by your stewards amid the pounding waves, words and deeds material and sensible, yet fraught with sacramental power ( C 13.20.28). Rather than set up a system that would be destroyed by sin, Augustine installs the solution to the problem within the system, thereby side-stepping co mplicated (and frankly irrelevant) speculations about pre-lapsaria n life. In the use of the phrase time-bound syllables, he additionally introduces the idea that the worl d beneath the vault re lies upon the limited 9 Augustine uses the word book as opposed to scroll for his allegory. From the beginning of the Christian era, the New Testament scriptures were always transcribed by believers in codices, not scrolls.

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22 capabilities of language to gain wisdom, that is, to know God bette r. We are to contemplate the heavens, the work of [Gods] fingers, for it i mparts wisdom, evokes perfect praise, lays pride low, performs reconciling work, and induces confession, humility, and worship. Understanding the scriptures is G ods gift to earth-dwellers ( C 13.15.17). The vault of scripture is an instantiation of the word. While the sky will roll up like a scroll at the end of time, Gods word will persist, but only then will we s ee and know the word, and thus God, fully (18). Earlier we established that the creative work s of humans, because they are made of Godmade material, are subject to the order of God s spiritual house. The location of human works, including literature, is in the first story of that house, with the earth-dwellers, under the vault of scripture. Literature seems to have a special significance, since humans gain wisdom and grow closer to God by contemplating the scriptures, which are made out of the time-bound syllables of language. Literatures significance becomes clearer on the fourth day, when God spangles the expanse of sky with sources of light. Augustine interprets the stars to represent believers who, living in the firmament of the scriptures, cast the light of wisdom onto the benighted, sensual world. Each star possesses a di fferent spiritual gift, be it he aling, prophesying, discernment of spirits, etc. These stars already have somewhat interpretive tasks, in that they must reflect the light of scriptures wisdom for th e world, but the blatantly literary skills go to different members of the luminary cast. The person who speaks with wisdom is like the light of the dawn, whereas the person who can put the knowledge he has into wo rds is like the lesser light, perhaps just before dawn ( C 13.18.23). The distinction between speaking and putting into words implies that the la tter is writing. Writing might be the lesser light for Augustine b ecause speaking has a more immediate impact.

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23 Certainly, several authors, such as Brian Stock, have pointed out the centrality of reading (and therefore writing) in Augustines view of Chris tian learning; his prioritization of speaking and writing is not important at the moment, because he privileges them both, as verbal acts, above the other spiritual gifts in his allegory. Writing and speaking transf orm the obscurity of the night into the all-encompassing presence of Gods wisdom, the light of day. Like the second day, the fourth is important fo r its introduction of la nguage into the world. Even the scriptural account menti ons signs: [L]et [the lights in th e sky] serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years (Gen. 1:14). Recall that seasons exemplify the mutability of Gods creation; the lights in the sky now serve to signify that variatio n, the marking of time. Also recall that humans use their creative works in th e same way, to put into tangible form their mental perceptions of past, present, and future Thus, on the fourth da y, the creative goals of humans merge with Gods, and believers who use language as their medium stand at the point of convergence. Augustine sees a progression in the creation account, starting with the making of formless matter and culminating in the proliferation of hum an life on the sixth day. He reflects that progression in his allegory, so that the sixt h day marks the pinnacle of human creation and thereby justifies Augustines creative, interpretive act, the Confessions He interprets Gods command to increase and multiply in relation to interpretation: [W]e do not find anything able to increase and multiply in the way that one trut h may be articulated in various modes, or one articulation understood in many different senses ; this we find only amid signs displayed by corporeal things and co ncepts of the mind ( C 13.24.37). Augustine compares signs to the sea creature s made on the fifth day and concepts to human progeny. Once again, as in the case of the li ghts in the sky, he gives preference to the act

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24 with more immediacyin this case, thinking ov er writing. Why is this? Perhaps humans display their resemblance to God most when thei r creative acts parallel Gods. God creates heaven and earth by speaking a word; what comes into being as a result of this word is His creative intention, the product of His mind. Thus, human s are most like God when they articulate their creative intentions. How do we reconcile the preference Augustine gives to speaking in the Confessions with his critique of spoken word in On Christian Doctrine : [B]ecause vibrations in the air soon pass away and remain no longer than they sound, signs of words have been constructed by means of letters ( OCD 2.4.5)? Written language overcomes speechs transience, but apparently we do not find our commonality with God through th e seeming permanence of writing. Augustine provides an answer in the first book: How did He [Jesus Christ] come except that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us? It is as when we speak. In order that what we are thinking may reach the mind of the listener through the fleshly ears, that which we have in mind is expressed in words and is called speech. But our thought is not transforme d into sounds; it rema ins entire in itself and assumes the form of words by means of which it may reach the ears without suffering any deterioration in itself. In the same way the Word of God was made flesh without change that He might dwell among us. ( OCD 1.13.12) Throughout his discussion, Augustin e equates Gods creative word with Christ the Word. Christs identity as the Word allows Augustine to say that the Word is coeternal with God. Furthermore, as the Word made flesh, Christ dons the material created out of the Word, the divine instance of art an d artist becoming one. As a spoken Word, Christ came to humanity, like a spoken word comi ng to the listeners ear. After He ascends to heaven, those who hear His Word receive the tho ught (or intention) the Word means to communicate, that is, Gods orde r of creation, which comes in the form of the Holy Spirit, who is also God. Thus God em bodies all three parts of the creative dynamic

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25 Augustine describes: the creator (God the Father), th e intention (the Holy Sp irit), and the work of art (Jesus). In turn, believers who receive the Holy Spirit the intention, verbalize Him/It in earthly language. This is what occurs at Pentecost: T hey [the disciples] saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of th em. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:3-4; my italics). The disciples declare the wonders of God in these multiple languages; what are Gods wonders but His order of creation? Spee ch thus takes the place of privile ge over written language because it most closely resembles how God established the order of creation. This order is reflected in Genesis 2, when G od allows Adam to name His other creatures: Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground a ll the beasts of the fiel d and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see wh at he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name (Gen. 2:19). A synergism occurs between God and AdamGod creating the animals and Adam cr eating names for them. Adam performs his creative act upon the material provided by God, and it is a verbal act. Thus, the naming of the animals represents the harmonious order of creation. But this is an ideal from before the fall, when God and humanity were not in di fferent parts of the spiritual house. Now that humans are separated from God, thei r methods of creativit y do not mimic Gods as much as they did in paradise. An uncerta inty arises in human creativity, caused by the divisive forces of Gods order a nd human sin. Works of art seek reconciliation in this position of conflict. Whether an artist ope rates under an aesthetic of beauty or dissonance, the underlying motivation of aesthetic is that there is a p roper manipulation of ma terial that will enhance peoples understanding of the orde ring of the universe. Thus, we have in part Horaces two

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26 demands for literature, that it delight and inst ruct. One should not confuse the former with entertainment and the latter with di dacticism. Rather, literature should delight the reader in the sense that she has a clearer idea of the creative orde r, or its post-lapsarian disorder. At the same time, literature instructs the reader to work toward recapturing the order, or to continue to point out examples of the disorder. Augustines illustration of Gods command to be fruitful and to multiply to the inhabitants of the land and sea indicates the uncertainty and urgency of creativity in the fallen world: Thus the waters of the sea are filled, for it takes a variety of signs to stir them; and so too do human generations populate the land whose aridity besp eaks its thirst for knowledge, the land where reason holds sway ( C 13.24.37). Augustine uses the word stir to describe the activity of writing, which fills the allegorical se a; in his other images of the sea, he uses strong words that connote motion, including gush, stormy, pounding, fraught, a nd unstable flux ( C 13.20.28). Not only do these words point to frenetic act ivity, but also uncertainty, as if the act of writing by humans is their attempt to gain their bearings.10 Whereas the sea is enraged with numerous, co mpeting written interpretations, the land, where reason holds sway, is a stifling desert where gene ration upon generation of humans thirst for knowledge. Augustines image is st rong because it encompasses all of humanity, not merely Christianswhether they realize it or not all humans exhibit their resemblance to God in the use of their minds to proce ss symbols and search for truth ( C 13.24.37). This search incites desperation, for while their reason motivates th eir search, reason cannot give them complete 10 In his interpretation of the fourth day, Augustine comp ares sacred signs, which e ither constitute miracles and spiritual gifts or the words of scriptur e, with the waxing and waning moon. If we extend the metaphor, the evershifting signs of writing add to the move ment of the ocean of written interpre tation, like the phases of the moon controlling the tides.

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27 truth. As Blaise Pa scal writes in the Penses [r]easons last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it (Pascal 188). The vault of scripture hovers over both th e land and sea. Bria n Stock describes the scriptures as verbal signs given by God and revealed to us in the transcriptions of men (Stock 197). So the scriptural sky is similar to the oc ean of interpretations, in that the written word binds them both, but unlike the tumult of conflicting human interpretations in the sea, the sky is serene and luminous, the source of wisdom. Augustine interestingly comp ares preachers to clouds ( C 13.15.18), which can be a troublesome metaphor. He explains that, like the clouds that blow away, preachers lives come to an end, yet the Word that they preach, lik e the sky, abides. We can extend this metaphor further to understand the interrelationship of writt en works. Just as the sky absorbs water from the ocean into clouds, which rain down upon the la nd, the conflicting written interpretations of humans can interact with the sc riptures, precipitating knowledge to quench human reasons thirst for wisdom. Through his allegory, Augustine has imagin ed the foundations on which Christian interpretations of literary works can be construc ted. I will briefly recapitulate the highlights of his allegory covered above. On the second day of creation, God creates the sky, which Augustine identifies as the vault of scripture. From this anal ogy, he establishes the separation of humanity from God, the condition of the worl d after the fall. In spite of this separation, humanity exists within Gods orde r of creation, the spiritu al house. The scriptures stretch across this divide as a way for God to communicat e with humanity. Thus, humans find wisdom understanding of the order of cr eationby contemplating the scriptur es. Christian believers play the role of luminaries installed in the scriptural firmament in Augustines interpretation of the

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28 fourth day. They illuminate the wisdom of God s word and shed light upon the world darkened by sin. Believers who can utilize language, whet her written or spoken, take center stage in Augustines allegory; they represen t the light of dawn, the prelude to the full disclosure of Gods wisdom, the light of day. On the sixth day, after God has created everything, he instructs humans to be fruitful and to multiply, which fo r Augustine parallels humans ability to think and to generate interpretations. The act of interpretation occurs also in the sea, which represents written interpretation in Augustin es allegory. Humanitys proc reation takes on an incessant, insatiable quality, like the human quest for wi sdom, while the tempestuous oceans mimic the conflict of multiple perspectives put into writin g. The vault of scripture can unify the land and sea by drawing from the scribal ocean and ra ining down upon the thirst y land of human reason. The details in Augustines allegory thus descri be the environment in which a Christian literary theory can flourish. This framework benef its the Christian interpreter in that it asserts the authority of God without being divisive: all of humanity and a ll creative endeavors including literatureare include d in the created order conceive d by Augustine. We cannot end the discussion here, however. Serious questio ns about human nature, and its reflection in literature, remain.

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29 CHAPTER 3 HUMAN TEXTS AND TEXTUAL HUMANS Humans, like all of Gods creations, are change able things and change frequently in a number of ways: physically, menta lly, and spiritually. In Chapte r 2, we considered how the raw material from which works of art are made diminishes over tim ethe weathering of stone, the fading of pigments, etc. The raw material of hu mans similarly diminishes; from the point of full maturity, the body begins its withering descent: By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return (Gen. 3:19). God makes this pronoun cement as part of the curse of the fall. Our human form dissolves back into the material of the earth; not the formless matter of the abyss, though, for God created the earth out of that formless matter. Physical death is not the only consequence that followed humanitys fall. The fall itself marks a crucial change in humans, their prox imity to God. Adam and Eve enjoyed a close relationship with God, both physically and spiritu ally, in Eden, demonstrated by the creative synergy between Adam and God of naming the animal s. We receive anothe r striking picture of Gods physical closeness in Genesis 3:8a: Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day. But this intimacy is quickly lost in the second half of the verse: and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Gen. 3:8b). This moment takes place af ter Adam and Eve have eaten the fruit from the forbidden tree. As a result of their disobedient ac t, they alienate themselves from God, a concept which we will discuss further in Chapter 4. T hus, the fall from God, the great estrangement between God and His creations, occurs prior to the humans physical exile from Eden. The change in humans closeness with God st ems from another important type of change: humans change in obedience to God. But we can extend this to say that they change in

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30 obedience to their purpose, since the underlying purpose of humanity is to obey God. We need not think about this in legalistic terms; rather, the concept is easier to gras p in terms of creativity. When an artistic work veers away from the arti sts intention, the artis t might deem the work disobedient and either revise the work or cas t it aside to begin a new one. The purpose of the creative work is wrapped up in the intention of the creator. Returning to Genesis, one can see in the in teraction between God and the humans, before He banishes them from Eden, that Adam and Ev e have strayed from their created purpose. Not only do they eat the fruit they were told to av oid, but they also hide from God and wish to conceal their nakedness from Him when He finds them. God acknowledges that His creations have gone awry with His anguished question, Where are you? (Gen. 3:9). In Book VII of the Confessions Augustine meditates upon the movement of humans toward and away from God and the concomitant va riations in obedience. According to him, God is supremely good and unchanging. Everything that God create s is good, but not supremely good, since complete goodness is not prone to ch ange, which humans (and all other created things) clearly are. Thus, ever ything that He creates is prone to destruction, because if they were supremely good they would be indestructible ( C 7.12.18). Augustine defines destruction as diminishing the good. Everything that God creates also has being, but only God has complete being: [T]hey are real because they are from you, but unreal inasmuch as they are not what you are. For that alone truly is, which abides unchangingly (7.11.17). Being, substance, and existence all possess goodness then, according to Augustines thinking. Hence if they are deprived of all good, they will be simply non-existe nt; and so it follows that as long as they do exist, they are good. Everything th at exists is good, then (7.12.18).

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31 God creates nothing that has no substance and therefore no goodness. Augustine thus intuits that evil is without substance. It is an absence of goodness, a lack of being. Solomons words in Ecclesiastes come to mind: What is twisted cannot be straight ened; what is lacking cannot be counted (Eccl. 1:15). That cause of the deformity, that thief of the missing, cannot be extricatedthere is nothing to seize. Augustine refers to th is non-being or non-creation as villainy : the perversity of a will twisted away fro m you, God, the supreme substance, toward the depthsa will that throws away its life w ithin and swells with vanity abroad ( C 7.16.22). Augustines description of the pe rversion of humans by villainy illu strates humans rejection of their created purposethe life they throw awaywhi ch manifests itself as an outward distortion (note Augustines use of the word swells): because of this villainy, humans cease to understand who they are and what they are meant to do. Paul sums up this distortion in his letter to the Romans: They exchanged the truth of G od for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creatorwho is forever praised. Amen (Rom. 1:25). As a result, they move back toward the dept hs of formless matter; the imprint of God on the human material grows fainter. Augustine re minds us later in Book XII, though, that the primal abyss was almost nothingness, for it was still totally without form, although it did exist, since it had the capacity to receive form ( C 12.8.8; my italics). The inherent changeability of humans allows us to turn away from the depths and move back toward God by rediscovering the purpose with which He created us. Thus, we ha ve the two movements of human creation: the movement away from God, or sin, and the movement toward God, or sanctification. Believers can hope in a reunion with God at the end of the process of sanctification because the sinfulness that opened the gap be tween God and humanity, exacerbated by the perpetual presence of villainy in the fallen world, has been closed by the life and death of Jesus

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32 Christ. Recall from Chapter 2 that in the artistic analogue of the Holy Trinity, the Son represents the work of art,1 which is humanity in the scheme of cr eation. Jesus is both perfectly God and perfectly man, and he embodies the Word from wh ich creation was made. As such, He was able to don the worldly material and live in the fulln ess of Gods purpose for humanity: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Proph ets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (Mt. 5:17). 2 His disgraceful death to atone for all the sins of humanity means that Gods intention for humanity is restored and attainable; His resu rrection means that the physical death of the body will not impede the progress of sanctification for those who believe. In terms of humanity as Gods creative work, Jesus acts as the magnum opusHe fulfills both the inherent purpose of humanity by living perfectly, and He satisfies th e consequences for humanitys divergence from their created intention by enduring their punishment. The implications of Jesus Christs sacrifice and resurrection for humans as creative works ar e tremendous. The disfiguration of humanity due to the ravages of sin will gradually heal as th e believer clings to Gods creative intention; she will die to sin and grow in the Holy Spirit: The mind of the sinful man is death, but th e mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead w ill also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Rom. 7:6, 10-11) Once again, the Spirit is Gods inte ntion, which is now breathed into the created work that is the believer. No longer does sin make the believer the broken machine, the incomplete manuscript, or the smudged portrait. Rather, we are Gods workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good 1 The Father represents the artist, and the Ho ly Spirit represents the artistic intention. 2 At this point, we can take the Law to mean the express intentions of God for how humanity is supposed to live. We will momentarily set aside the historical context of the term, as well as its deeper implications for salvation.

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33 works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10). The redemptive work of Christ is Gods restoration project, in which the restor ed works of art take part in the process. In this part of the discussion so far, we have treated physical and spiritual changes which humans undergothe process of aging and d eath, the disobedience of humans, and the redemption of repentant believers. Another crucia l way that humans exhibit mutability will be useful to a formulation of Christian literary theory channeled through Augustine, which is the constant change of human perception. Recall fr om Chapter 2 that the reception of human works changes over time. A novel written one hundred y ears ago may have been loved by its readers when it first was published, but present-day reader s may view it disdainfully. Such a scenario exemplifies a change in the audiencedifferent groups of people reading the novel at different points in time. But a single persons reception of a work changes over time also, either from one reading to the next, or from the first reading to the read ers memory of the work. The former example, representing a change in audience, seems to be what D. W. Robertson advises about in Some Observations on Method in Literary Studies. A creative work written at one historical point will not have the same impact at another historical point because the creative works of hu mans, like any other human formulations and institutionsare contingent phenomena without any independent reality of their ow n (Robertson 77). In other words, since the world around the text changes, th e unchanging qualities of the text only reflect one point in time, and to understand that text, the reader must familiarize herself with the texts historical context, that is, what the world looked like at that poin t in time. As a result, Robertson argues, What we call the past is in effect, a series of forei gn countries inhabited by strangers whose manners, customs, tastes, and basic attitu des even partially understood widen our horizons

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34 and enrich our daily experience (82). This in terpretive visitation that Robertson describes captures the essence of historical criticism. Robertsons goal of appreciati ng a text within its historical context is admirable on some levels, but perhaps it draws too simplistic a pictur e of textual interpretation. For instance, Paul Ricoeur, in analyzing Augustines meditation on time and memory, makes this observation: In the name of what can the past and the futu re be accorded the right to exist in some way or other? Once again, in the name of what we say and do with regard to them. What do we say and do in this respect? We recount th ings which we hold as true and we predict events which occur as we foresaw them. It is therefore still la nguage, along with the experience and the action articu lated by language. (Ricoeur 9) This observation presents the problem for Robert sons goal: the way that we access the historical context in which a text was written is through la nguage. Even the experience and the action are rescued from the oblivion of an ungraspable past through language. This means, then, that the historical c ontext becomes an enveloping text around our original text. Interestingly, Robertsons metaphor of the past as a confederation of foreign countries resonates with Ricoeurs hermeneutic theory. Unlike spoken conversation, in which interlocutors share a common realit y of references to which they can point, within a written text there is no longer a situation co mmon to the writer and the reader (Ricoeur 141). In spite of this disconnection, the written text does not necessarily destroy th e world, but rather establishes a new world with its own set of refere nces, what Ricoeur calls the world of the text (140). Ferretter writes, A textfrees reference from the limits of the situation in which speech occurs, and opens up to the reader a world, which comprises the ensemble of references opened up by texts (Ferretter 121-22). This wo rld is the subject of textual interpretation: Ultimately, what I appropriate is a proposed world. The latter is not behind the text, as a hidden intention would be, but in front of it, as that which the work unfolds, discovers, reveals. Henceforth, to understand is to understand oneself in front of the text (Ricoeur 143).

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35 Thus, in our example of the cen tury-old novel, the interpreter has the option of looking at two texts: the novel itself, and th e historical circumstances one hundr ed years ago that encase the novel. In either case, the fruit of interpretation, what Ferretter refers to above as non-ostensive references, seem to be those aspects of an artis tic work that possess some immutable character. Clearly, Robertson favors the historical context, for he writes, [I]f we impose our own terms on [the text, rather than terms relative to the texts historical context], we might as well be studying ourselves rather than the past (Robertson 80).3 Ricoeur shows us that any act of interpretation, be it text or historical context, is an act of studying oneself before the text. Teresa Reed agrees when she writes, [A]ny inve stigation of the past is already tinted by present concerns.Similarly, any view of the past is bound to be tinted by every aspect of our present being (Reed 2). Let us return to the second situation, in which the individual human readers reception of a work changes over time. As Brian Stock writes, the relationship between the inner self and its outward representation is not something stable, objective, and enduring but is instead involved with changing relations between subj ect and object (Stock 4). In other words, all aspects of an individual are affected by who and what he enc ounters in the world and vi ce versa. So, not only does the significance of an artwork change with each persons in terpretation, as we established earlier, but the person changes with each encounter with a work of art. Martin Heidegger observes this dynamic between human and text, that a humans interpretation of a text is aff ected by a fore-structure, which consists of experiences, ideas, and 3 The separation of the creative text from the historical context is exaggerated here, since they rely upon each other to varying extents for their interpretive significance. The exaggeration also may result in treating Robertsons stance unfairly, since he certainly does not believe in putting the historical context in such stark isolation. When I argue that Robertson favors the historical context, I am intending to show that he believes that text and historical context are inextricably linked, so that the crea tive text loses a measure of its transcendent character. Robertson begins his essay by critiquing the tendency to universalize or trans-historicize artistic works (Robertson 74).

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36 concepts that the interpreter already possesses (Ferretter 101). Hans-Georg Gadamer embraces the notion of fore-structure, asse rting that an interpreter cannot avoid such prejudices; rather, she must try to understand them and thei r influence on the interpretation (102).4 Therefore, in the same way that Robertson argues that one cannot ex tricate a text from its historical context, so Gadamer agrees that the inte rpreter cannot remove herself from her fore-structure: We do not study a text from the past that is, as an object from which we as interpreters are independent, disinterested subjects of knowledge, but rather as a part of the very process of tradition by which our thinking, and all that which structures our interpretation in advance, is determined.It is impossible to interpret the past, in shor t, without already having been affected by it, in a way that determines both what one interprets and how. (105) Gadamer refers to this concept as the fusion of horizons: a human interp reter is constrained by her historical situation, as well as by the amount of understanding she already possesses; when she encounters a text from the past, it tests her prejudices so that she ar rives at a new point in understanding. She has not lost th e understanding she had prior to the new text; instead, the text reshapes that understanding for her next textual encounter. The prejudices of the present cannot be formed without contact with th e past. Robert Forman observes a similar theory at work in the meditations of Augustine, that of memoria oblivionis or memory of forgetfulness: This is actually memorys most valuable form since it joins some previously acquired information with a present experience to yi eld new insight. This, too, has an aesthetic application, for the satisfaction produced in en countering any work of art largely consists in recalling some aspect of ones own expe rience in terms of the work encountered. (Forman 99) Indirectly, then, Gadamer forms a link with R obertson, in that a chain of tradition joins a text from the past, complete with its historical context, to the read er of the present, complete with her own historical context and he r collective understandi ng. Ricoeur enriches this scheme by deemphasizing the linear connotation tied to phrases like historical context. His view of texts 4 Gadamers term prejudice should not come with the ne gative connotation it currently has in modern usage. He uses the term simply to mean the interpreters collective understanding with which he comes to a text.

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37 opening up possible worlds takes the retrospectiv e hermeneutic circle and redirects its view toward the future: To appropriate the meaning of a text is to act ualize in the present the possible world it proposes (123). Thus, encountering a text reshapes the read ers understanding but also reshapes the possibilities of that reade rs world. Each subsequent text also affects this metamorphosis; more interestingly still, a reader who returns to a text later in this hermeneutic circle will have a new understanding. The interpreter is no longer the same human she was when she first read the texts; other texts have since added to her understa nding; her prejudices have changed. But then the text itself will be different; it will offer a different meaning to this new reader; it will present different possibilities. We can extend this hermeneutic process to multiple readers, whose understandings are different in some way. They each respond uniquely to the text, and the text responds uniquely to th em. Augustine himself already seems to understand this plurality of interpretation. As he writes in the Confessions [a]mid this profusion of true opinions let Tr uth itself engender conc ord; may our God have mercy upon us and grant us to make lawful us e of the law for the purpose envisaged by his commandment, pure charity.But let all of us who, as I ac knowledge, discern rightly and speak truly on these texts, love one another and likewise love you, our God, the fount of truth, if truth is really what we thirst for, and not illusions. ( C 12.30.41) Augustine observes that the Scriptures speak differe ntly to different readers, and he believes that, if readers are following the Holy Spirit, upholdi ng Gods intentions, th en Truth will bring harmony among the various interpretations a nd understanding to those who seek it.5 The changeability of humans is central to Augustines Confessions ; indeed, change within himself marks the climax of the first ni ne books, his conversion to Christianity. For the remainder of this chapter, we will examine Augustines account of his conversion to see how the 5 Recall that Augustine uses Truth as another name for God (p. 11).

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38 various types of human change we have already addressed in teract to reveal important resemblances between human texts and humans as texts that will help formulate a Christian literary theory. Augustines conversion account be gins in the sixth book of the Confessions when he meets Ambrose the bishop of Milan and hears in the latters sermons frequent allusions to Pauls statement in his second letter to th e Corinthians that the letter ki lls, but the spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3:6). This he would tell [his parishioners] as he drew aside the veil of mystery and opened to them the spiritual meaning of passages whic h, taken literally, woul d seem to mislead ( C 6.4.6). Most scholars focus on this moment fo r its significance in Augustines eventual polysemous interpretations of Scri pturethe four levels of mean ing. But this initial meeting with Ambrose is significant in two other ways. Robert Forman marks this meeting with Ambrose as the moment of Augustines aesthetic conversion, when he turns from the st yles of Virgilian poetry and Ciceronian rhetoric to the deceptively simplistic style of the Scriptur es. Forman declares that this is a dramatic about-face for Augustine, the first step in a complete alteration of lifestyle for Augustine that will culminate in his theological conversion in th e garden (Forman 80-81). The second point to apprehend relates to the first. Ambrose as a catalyst for aesthe tic conversion also represents a key figure in Augustines hermeneutic circle. Augustine comes to Ambrose following his disa ppointing encounter with Faustus, the sophistic Manichaean orator. Th e two men stand in stark contrast to each other: whereas Faustus appears unavailable to his followers, is poorly re ad in the liberal arts and has only a shallow understanding of Manis writings, which he disguises under his oratorical skill ( C 5.6.10-7.13), Ambrose spends most of his time counseling his pa rishioners, encouraging them to delve deeper

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39 into the mysteries and meaning of the Scriptures ; when he is not offe ring tutelage, he reads voraciously (6.3.3). The frustration Augustine feels from his in terrogation of Faustus and his failure to reconcile the confusions within the Manichaean texts bri ng him to Ambrose, who addresses those frustrations. Ambroses teaching encour ages Augustine to grapple with issues like authority, ambition, astrology, and promiscuity as he peruses the works of the neo-Platonists and finally discovers Pauls writings. Throughout the Confessions Augustine informs his readers what he is reading at each stage of his life, offering a sort of pr ovidential canon for his journey to finding Christ. From these details, we can see th e hermeneutic circle at work in Augustine and see how his reading gathers the various strand s of his lifephysical, social, intellectual, spiritualand unifies them in his narrative of conversion. The centrality of the hermeneutic circle in A ugustines conversion is apparent also in the stories related to him by his clos e friends. Literal texts are su pplemented by humans-as-texts, beginning with Alypius, a fellow native of Th agaste and one of Augustines students in Carthage. Alypius overcame his addiction to the bloodthirsty spectacles of the circuses because he heard Augustine ridicule circus-goers as an illustration in a lesson he was teaching. Augustine was unaware that this criticism affected hi s student so strongly. From this incident, he realized that [y]ou [God] brought about his co rrection through my agency, but without my knowledge, so that it might be clearly recognize d as your work.You make use of all of us, witting or unwitting, for just purposes known to you (6.7.12). He drew from the text before him a parallel in which Gods intended meaning appears for Alypius who, responding to Augustine as if to a text, reconsiders his prior understanding and

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40 alters his behavior.6 Augustine does not realize he ha s become Alypius text; conversely, Alypius probably does not realize that he has be come a text for Augustine, revealing this lesson about Gods just purposes. Next, Augustine hears a story from Simplicia nus, Bishop Ambroses mentor, who recounts the conversion of Victorinus, a famous Roman t eacher of rhetoric. Victorinus confessed to Simplicianus that he was already a Christian, but he did not want to declare that before the church because it would enrage his coll eagues who worshipped in pagan cults. As he read he realized his prideful error, went to church with Simplicianus, and declared his faith in Christ to the parishioners and angry colleagues. Due to the emperors decree that Christians could not teach rhetoric, Victorinus willingly gave up his post (8.2.3-5.10). Simplicianus intended his story to motivate A ugustine to convert. Th e similarities between Augustine and Victorinus are striking: both are a ccomplished teachers of rhetoric, both are well read and have searched for spiritual meani ng in their research, both are ambitious men. Simplicianus saw these similarities and wanted to interpret Augustine-as-t ext in the same manner as Victorinus-as-text. But whereas pride hinde red Victorinus full conversion, lust prevented Augustine from accepting Christianity. Thus, Si mplicianus misread Augustine, but Augustine also misreads himself, as he admits later: I had grown used to pretending that the only reason why I had not yet turned my back on the world to serve you was that my perception of the truth was uncertain, but that excuse was no longer available to me, for by now it wa s certain. But I was still entangled by the earth and refused to enlist in your service, fo r the prospect of being freed from all these encumbrances frightened me as much as th e encumbrances themselves ought to have done. (8.5.11) 6 Although Alypius realizes that the circ uses are detestable, he does not become a Christian at this time. He actually converts moments after Augustine.

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41 To a certain end Augustines reading was complete , in that he was certa in of Christianitys truth, but unlike Victorin us who from his avid reading fe lt compelled to confess [Christ] before men and women, Augustine had yet to come across the te xt that would produce such a compulsion in him. He acquires the necessary motivation from th e next story. Ponticianus, a court official originally from Africa, visits Augustine and Alypius. As he speaks to the two of them, Ponticianus notices a book lying on a table. Once he picks it up and sees that it is the epistles of Paul, he remembers the story of two court offici als in Trier who similarl y discover a book sitting in the cottage of some peasants. The book they found was The Life of St. Antony the most famous of the first Egyptian monks. As one of the officials st arted to read it, a change began to occur in that hidden place within him where you [God] alone can see; his mind was being stripped of the world, as presently became apparent The flood tide of his heart leapt on, and at last he broke off his reading with a groan as he discerned the right course and determined to take it. By now he belonged to you. (8.6.15) At this point, he told his compatriot that he wa s quitting his post to devo te his life to God. When the other official heard this de claration, he too determined to give up his career to serve God. Ponticianus story sets in motion the final mo ments leading to Augustines conversion, but before we examine those moments, le t us consider the officials tale. The fact that Ponticianus is African, like Augustine and Alypius, may suggest an instant accord between the three of them they share a common background. It is important to look at similarities within this story, because they play ed a significant part in the success and failure of Simplicianus account. But unlike Victorinus Ponticianus does not seem to share many commonalities with Augustine; they seem to be of different stations. Ponticianus appears knowledgeable before Augustine because he is familiar with the story of St. Antony, as well as the proliferation of monasterie s throughout the empire, informa tion Augustine is astounded to

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42 learn (8.6.14). So the two mens origins are similar, but their opening conversation promises to move Augustine in a new direction. Ponticianus next picks up the collection of Pauls letters, of which I was applying myself to intensive study. When the offici al picks up the book, a c onvergence occurs of the written texts Augustine has studied so fervently ov er the years and the stories his friends have been telling him recently. Also, his holding the book suggests that what he tells Augustine will enable the latter to recei ve the truth of Gods purpose, which is expressed in Pauls letters. Recalling that Augustine was unaware of Gods inte ntion in his instructing Alypius, there seems to be no confusion of intention in Ponticianus regarding what he can offer Augustine. The book reminds Ponticianus of the story of the Trier officials, which he begins to relate to Augustine and Alypius. This incident parallels the events of the story: one official picking up the book, confessing his faith, and convincing hi s friend also to conve rt (although Augustines conversion does not happen during hi s conversation with Ponticianus). As the official tells this story, though, the lines between human and text b ecome blurred from the book in Trier (which is The Life of St. Antony !), to the one official convinci ng the other to c onvert through his excitement, to Ponticianus narration, to the book in his hand, to the already existent ambiguities of Augustine and Alypius as texts. Across this chain, however, the intention of its author, God, reaches Augustine, that is, to bring His creations back into His created purpose. After Ponticianus finishes his story, Augus tine is distressed. He takes leave of the official and retreats to the gard en adjacent to the house where he and Alypius are staying. His conversion to Christianity takes place in this ga rden, and the details of this profound experience bring together all the types of change we have discussed so far. First, Augustine describes changes to his physical body. Before he flees to the garden, he speaks with a crazed urgency to

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43 Alypius: [T]he cadences of my voice expressed my mind more fully than the words I uttered (8.8.19). His eyes looked wild, and his face flus hed. He enters a physical state that is simultaneously spasmodic and paralytic: While this vacillation was at its most intense many of my bodily gestures were of the kind that people sometimes want to perform but cannot.If I tore out my hair, battered my forehead, entwined my fingers and clasped th em round my knee, I did so because I wanted to. I might have wanted to but found myself unable, if my limbs had not been mobile enough to obey. (8.8.20) Although he does not physically di e, Augustine identifies his ment al and physical agitation with the death of his will: All I knew was that I wa s going mad, but for the sake of my sanity, and dying that I might live, aware of the evil that I was but unaware of the good I was soon to become. Augustine observes that his confusion of movement is his will desiring to carry out any motion except surrendering to Gods will. Corn ered in this garden by the truth of Gods intention that now faces him, his only recourse fo r staying in a fallen, disobedient state are these bodily convulsions, which themselves are s tifled as his will grows submissive. Augustine takes this opportunity to discuss the presence of conflicting urges in the mind and to reject the Manichaean th eory that two naturesgood and ev ilplay a tug-of-war in the mind. It is interesting that he chooses to argue against this during his account of conversion. He argues that the conflict is not as simple as two hostile minds at war (8.10.24), that there could be multiple evil impulses within the mind, or se veral good impulses vying for attention. Does this multiplicity of impulses within the human soul not remind one of his discussion of multiple interpretations of scriptur e in the twelfth book? Why not both, if both are true? And if there is a third possibility, and a fourth, and if someone else sees an entirely different mean ing in these words, why should we not think that he [Moses] was aware of all of them, since it was through him that the one God carefully tempered his sacred writings to meet the minds of many people, who would see different things in them, and all true? (12.31.42)

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44 Thus, his acknowledgement of multiple interpreta tions of scripture under Gods guidance echoes his meditation on the variety of impulsesboth good and evilwithin the human soul until one is chosen, to which the will, hitherto distr acted between many options, may move as a united whole (8.10.24): this is th e resolution he seeks in the garden, that he will finally answer when the joys of eternity call. Once he has solved for himself this issue of conflicting impulses, he envisions his struggle as an allegory, in which he is th e main character. The temptations of his sinful ways tug at him and whisper in his ears, but he pulls away and wa lks toward a country into which I trembled to cross, until the chaste, dignified figure of Continence stands before him, beckoning to him with her calm and cheerful although mode st, pure and honorable charm. She urges Augustine to trust in the Lord for His support an d healing (8.11.26-27). This allegory, this text, that plays in Augustines mind comes to this te nse moment of decision, where Augustine must decide to commit the endi ng of the story to God, allowing Gods authorial intention to take over. Breaking out of this allegorical vision, Augustine brings us ba ck into the garden, where he runs to a secluded spot under a tree as a huge st orm blew up within me and brought on a heavy rain of tears (8.12.28). Within this tempest of emotion he begins praying that God will forgive him his sins and end the struggle. At this point, perhaps the most famous moment of Augustines conversion occurs; he hears children nearby chan ting the phrase Pick it up and read, which he interprets to be a divine command to read the Scriptures. He admits that he does this because I had heard the story of how Antony had been instructed by a gospel text (8.12.29). By adhering to the childr ens command, he internalizes th e narrative chain that he had heard from Ponticianus; Augustine accepts his iden tity as a text, the cr eated work of God, and commits himself to the Authors intention.

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45 He finds the collection of Pauls epistles wher e Alypius had left it, opens it, and reads the first passage he comes to, Romans 13:13-147: No sooner had I reached th e end of the verse than the light of certainty flooded my heart and all dark shades of doubt fled away. It takes an act of reading to complete Augustine s conversion. In a sense, a hermeneutic circle is closed when Augustine accepts Christ, if we view the texts th at he encounters merely building to this one epiphany. Certainly, the works that he read in his life up to the Milanese garden are significant to his conversionotherwise he would not have mentioned them in the Confessions but their influence on his writi ng subsequent to the Confessions is undeniable. Thus, Augustines conversion actually reveals the hermeneutic circle of his thin king. The passage he reads in Romans opens up the new world of possibility, which Ricoeur describes as the object of interpretation. Ricoeurs hermeneutics and Augustine-as-text give the Confessions as a work a meaning crucial to the mission of the Chri stian literary interpreter. In terms of hermeneutics, Augustines writing becomes the moment of testing his prejud ices, of fusing his horizons. He looks back on the significant memories of his life with the pers pective he has gained fr om his reading history, and he makes an interpretation of those memories th at may not be historica lly accurate but useful to Augustine in the continuation of his spiritual and intellectual narrative: While most modern readers would agree that th ere is nothing of consequence that is false in Augustines account of his c onversion, it is unlikely that they would agree all of these remarkable details occurred exactly as he records them. Even so, Augustines memoria recalls the conversion as an experience in which all detail s of person, setting, and event assume the role of symbols and images. All of these, in turn, poi nt to higher meaning. (Forman 90-1) 7 Romans 13:13-14: not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves w ith the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

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46 In terms of Christian faith, Augus tine takes the opportunity in the Confessions to submit his life up to his conversion to God for revision and restoration. Augustine writes the work in the second person, as an extended prayer to God, so that the details of his life receive divine scrutiny. The childrens chant of Pick it up and read suddenly takes on another meaning; not only should Augustine go to the Scriptures, but he should also pick up and read his life with the intention and understanding that the Holy Spirit can provide. As Paul wr ites, [t]herefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, and the new has come! (2 Cor. 5:17). Brian Stock also sees this goal in Augustines writing: Our understanding of our lives is inseparable from the stories by which we represent our thoughts in words. Every understanding, ther efore, is a reading of ourselves, every genuine insight, a rereading, unt il, progressing upwards by revisi ons, we have inwardly in view the essential source of knowledge, which is God. (111)8 Having reread his life following the intenti on instilled by the Holy Spirit, Augustine now stands at the end of the Confessions with a wo rld of interpretive possibility. We now know the environment in which the Christian interpreter functions; we see the in termingling of humans, texts, and humans-as-texts; thanks to Augustine, we have a model for retr ospective analysis of ourselves as part of Gods proce ss of restoring believer s as His creative work, what we refer to as sanctification. The next step is to look at texts in this worldwhat is the role of the Christian interpreter of literature? 8 Also consider, Texts and selves interpenetrated: it becam e possible to look upon the bu ilding of a new self as an exegetical and interpretive process (Stock 54-55).

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47 CHAPTER 4 REDEMPTIVE READING OR, READING OF RECONCILIATION In the first two parts of this essay, I have focused on Augustines Confessions Chapter 2 showed the centrality of creation and interpretation in his view of how God formed the world. Chapter 3 explored the human as a creationa textfrom the perspec tives of both God and humans. The ground we have covered so far allows us to move on to Augustines later treatise on biblical interpretation called On Christian Doctrine In this final part, I will consider how the believer can extend the restoration project within himself that begins at conversion outward to texts he encounters in the fallen world. Augustine ends the second book of On Christian Doctrine with his metaphor of plundering the Egyptians. Just as the Isra elites took gold, silver, and clothing from the Egyptians before fleeing to the desert,1 so too should Christians take from the surrounding culture what is useful to building th eir faith and leave what is repugnant: When the Christian separates himself in spirit from their [pagans] miserable society, he should take this treasure with him for the ju st use of teaching the gospel. And their clothing, which is made up of those human in stitutions which are accommodated to human society and necessary to the c onduct of life, should be seized and held to be converted to Christian uses. ( OCD 2.40.60) In this militant statement Augustine moves from a spiritual segregation to a physical confiscation. He interprets the treasures of gold and s ilver to be liberal disciplines more suited to the uses of truth and some most useful pr ecepts concerning morals. The clothing on the backs of the Egyptians, which repres ents the structure of society, is to be forcefully taken (note the word seized) and altered to suit Christian purposes. 1 The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Eg yptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians (Ex. 12:35-36).

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48 This metaphor offers two troubling possibilities. On the one hand, Christians could take the treasure and run to the desert, away from th e kingdom whose inhabitant s wear the cloaks of society. Consequently, Christia ns miss out on numerous advantag es that society offers which would further their earthly mission. Their role in the world thus becomes backward and irrelevant, so that they lose their influence as Gods witnesses. Furt hermore, the question of which treasures one should take to the wilderness becomes problematicif we make the wrong choice, we could find ourselves in a slaver y worse than that endured in Egypt. On the other hand, Christians c ould strip society of its cloak and turn it into the cloak of Christian society. Each step of this process involves violence, not necessarily in physical terms, but in terms of sudden, unsolicited force, which, ra ther than nurturing th e progress of a society sincerely beholden to Christian doc trine, breeds disillusion and plan ts the seeds of a reciprocal coup. After all, a cloak, regardle ss of its material or its maker, remains a cloak, subject to the same wrinkles, tears, and misfittings. Augustines metaphor seems to advise two c ontradictory movementseither run away from society or take it by stormneither of which satisfactorily shows how the believer can grow closer to Christ in the wo rld and help to bring other people along on this pilgrimage. The prospect looks just as bleak in the secular worl d of academics, including our focus in this essay, literature. Either Christian scholars take what they can from the secular field to study a canon of literature limited by the demand that it clearly edif y the Christian worldview, or they take over the secular field and force the flow of its prog ress into a narrow channel, with the danger of losing important streams of truth along the way. Neither of these options promises a greater appreciation of literary creation or the promulgation of faith in Christ.

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49 At this point, the question that the Christian interpreter must answer becomes clear; it is a question that all believers must keep in mind, face d with two challenges of scripture. While John tells us, Do not love the world or anything in the world (1 J n. 2:15), James also urges us to look after orphans and widows in their distress ( Js. 1:27). How does the follower of Christ live in the world, to carry out th e latter command, but not be of th e world, to uphold the former? This question is hard enough to answer in terms of interpersonal relation ships; how much more so in terms of worldly texts! How does a Chris tian interpreter take her inner transformation of Christs redemption and apply it to a literary work without diminishing the integrity of the work itself or of Gods truth? Is such a ques tion worth answering in the grand scheme of sanctification, that is, ones spirit ual progress toward the holiness of Christ? I argue that it is, and, in spite of his imagery of plundering, Augustine seems to, also. In order to find the answer, let us first return to Genesis to examine the first act of human interpretation. Earlier we discussed the creative collaborat ion between God and Adam, when God created the animals and Adam named them (Gen. 2:19). S hortly before this act, God places Adam in the Garden of Eden with one ordi nance: And the Lord God comma nded the man, You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die (2:16-17). These two eventsGods commanding Adam and the creative collaborationseem intertwined: the creative order can take place as God conceived it only when Adam (repres enting humanity) lives in obedience to Gods rule. When the serpent speaks to the woman Eve, he reframes Gods command: You will not surely diefor God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (3:4-5). In his argument the serpent uses both truth and falsehood.

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50 Whereas eating the fruit will open their eyes and give the humans the godlike power of knowing good and evil, it also guarantees death for th e humans. Interestingly, Eves next act is to look, as if in response to the serpents comment that her eyes needed to be opened: When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it (3:6). When Eve looks at the fruit in light of the in formation the serpent gives her, the serpents re-contextualization of Gods command is complete as well as the separation of humanity from God. Eves gaze is an act of interpretation; ever ything that she observes about the fruit is true, and every quality she discerns makes a posit ive impression on herfood, beauty, and wisdom are all favorable things. But she has forgotten the one characterist ic of the fruit that would put her observations into perspective, that God has forb idden the fruit. Had sh e taken account of this last fact, would the other facts change? The frui t would still be edible, beautiful brain food, but the significance of those qualities would change, not to mention the other inst antiations of those qualities around her. By deciding not to eat the fruit, her eyes would be opened in a different way People often think that the Edenic tragedy is that Adam and Eve gave up blissful ignorance for knowledge. In a world where we are deluged with information, and th ere are countless things we wish we didnt know, a pristinely nave world sounds attractive. But Adam and Eve did not sacrifice ignorance to acquire the godlike ability to know good and evil. They already possessed the tools to gain wisdom and the faculties to ut ilize those tools. Ind eed, Eve correctly observed that the fruit would enable her to acquire wi sdom, but was there another way, besides heeding the serpents deception?

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51 At this juncture, a distinction arises between wisdom and knowledge. In the Confessions Augustine defines wisdom in this way: [W]isdom is known to be the eldest of all crea ted things. The wisdom here referred to is obviously not the Wisdom who is fully coet ernal with you, his Fath er, who are our God, and equal to you; no, not that Wisdom through whom all things were created, not that Beginning in whom you made heaven and earth. The wisdom of which I speak is a created wisdom, the intellectual order of being whic h by contemplating the Light becomes light itself. Wisdom it is called, but it is a crea ted wisdom, and as there is a vast difference between Light as a source and that which is lit up by another, the difference is just as great between Wisdom that creates and th e wisdom that has been created. ( C 12.15.20) Augustine uses Wisdom as anothe r appellation for the Word that creates all things, which he identifies as God the Son. This would complime nt the Book of Proverbs, in which Wisdom is personified: Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom (Prov. 4:6-7). Wisdoms supremacy would seem to point to Jesus later words, I am the wa y and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well (Jn. 14:67). Knowledge and wisdom do not appear to be synonymous; in fact, it would seem that one acquires knowledge through wisdom, as in Proverbs 1:7: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Fearing the LORD, that is, coming to the Father through Christ the intercessor, is wisdom. Once one gets wisdom, she can acquire knowledge. Applying this dynamic between wisdom and knowledge to Eves situ ation, it seems that she lacked wisdom because she did not adhere to Gods command. In spite of her efforts to know the fruit through her empirical observati ons, she could not know it fully without the wisdom of fearing God. Adam a nd Eve, then, seek wisdom by ge tting knowledge first, which is backwards to what Augustine calls the intell ectual order. The problem with gathering knowledge first is that knowledge is a heterogeneous mixture of truth and falsehood, like the

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52 serpents argument. The serpent offered Eve knowledge, but she did not employ wisdom to interpret the knowledge. Readers of Genesis often wonder why God wo uld plant a tree in the garden of which Adam and Eve, the caretakers of the garden, couldnt partake. What purpose does a forbidden tree serve? Here, Augustines discussion of things in the first book of On Christian Doctrine comes in handy. He informs us that there are two types of things: those that are to be used and those that are to be enjoyed ( OCD 1.3.3). Things to be enjoyed make the individual blessed and are characterized by their eterna lity and immutability (1.22.20). Thus, he writes, The things which are to be enjoyed are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Sp irit, a single Trinity, a certain supreme thing common to all who enjoy it (1.5.5). Humans use the things-to-be-used in order to attain those things that make us blessed, the Things-to-be-enjoyedGod. Using Augustines definitions of things, what could the forbidden tree and its fruit be except things-to-be-used? How would they be used except in order to access the Thing-to-beenjoyed? God, then, did not plant a tree that bears fruit; in that case, Eves use of the fruit would be correct and God would be the deceiver Instead, God planted a tree that bears forbidden fruit, meaning that inherent within the fruit is its fo rbidden quality. Eve misuses the forbidden fruit by treating it like any other fruit in the garden. By eating the fruit, she fails to understand the significance that God attributes to it. When the interaction be tween Eve, the fruit, and God follows the created order, Eve ac quires greater insight into all th ree; by using the forbidden fruit as a thing-to-be-used in or der to enjoy God, Eve gains wisdom. But when Eve does not acknowledge Gods intention for the forbidden fru it, the creative syner gy that existed between the humans and God is lost. Rather than trus ting Gods wisdom, Eve demonstrates bad faith by

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53 relying exclusively upon her limited, inaccurate knowledge and attributing her own significance to the forbidden fruit. Let us take to heart the lesson of Eves misint erpretation as we consider literature. First of all, using Augustines classifi cations for things, we can say th at literature is a thing-to-beused. What type of thing is literature? Apparently from Au gustines definition in the second book, literature would fall under the cat egory of conventional signs: Conventional signs are those which living creatu res show to one another for the purpose of conveying, in so far as they are able, the moti on of their spirits or something which they have sensed or understood. Nor is there any other reason for si gnifying, or for giving signs, except for bringing forth and transferri ng to another mind the action of the mind in the person who makes the sign. (2.2.3) At the most basic level, litera ture is a human creation, imbued with one humans mental action what we will tentatively call intentionso that another human can receive that intention. In addition to the writers intention, literature po ssesses a divine significance, which filters down through the created order, as we discussed in Chapter 2. Because humans, who are Gods created works, take the material of this world, which is also the created work of God, to make their own literary work, God s creative intention, to some degree, shines through. But humans and their literature live in th e world after the fall, where all information contains that serpentine mixtur e of truth and falsehood. We no longer work in creative synergy with God, so there is no certainty that our literary works are in accord with the created order. Literature thus produces a tension for the Ch ristian interpreter: on the one hand, it evinces humans divine resemblance; on th e other, it seduces with potentia l untruths that could lure the reader into disobedience. If he embraces it completely for its own sake, he makes the same mistake that Eve made; he rejects the wisdom of God and submits himself to whatever thoughts, feelings, or actions the literary work may provoke. Yet if he categ orically rejects literature for its

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54 own sake, then he also demonstrates a lack of faith in God: he assumes that Gods wisdom will not shield him from deception or that Gods trut h cannot withstand the atta cks of a critical work. In truth, God never commands humans Dont read, as He commanded Adam and Eve, Dont eat. The avoidance of literature because of its potential snares is not biblical; rather, the scriptures seem to encourage believers to meet the challenges posed by some literature. For instance, Paul writes in his s econd letter to the Corinthians, T hat is why, for Christs sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:10). Late r in the same letter, he says this: Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; te st yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in youunless, of course you fail the test? (13:5). The scriptures urge the Christian interpreter to grapple with criticism of the faith that he may encounter. At those points, he must not turn away from Gods wisdom but rather embrace it more fully, so that he may understand the critiques. Furthermore, deceptions in literatu re are moments of testing for the believer, when his faith must endure and grow stronger. The acquisition of wisdom and the strengthe ning of faith seem like worthy rewards for dealing with deceptive or critical literature, but why should the Christian interpreter come to literature looking for trouble? Why should he not find his cozy academic niche reading and analyzing literature written from a Christian perspective? In orde r to answer these questions, let us digress from literary interpretation and c onsider Augustines explanation of human love: [I]t is commanded to us that we should love one another, but it is to be asked whether man is to be loved by man for his own sake or for the sake of something else. If for his own sake, we enjoy him; if for the sake of somethi ng else, we use him. But I think that man is to be loved for the sake of something else. In that which is to be loved for its own sake the blessed life resides; and if we do not have it for the present, the hope for it now consoles us. But cursed be the man that trusteth in man. ( OCD 1.22.20)

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55 Humans, like literature, are things-to-be-u sedthey do not possess the eternality and immutability characteristic of things-to-be-e njoyed, and Augustine argues that we love humans for the sake of a Thing-to-be-en joyed (who bestows upon us the ble ssed life). He comes to this conclusion by recalling Jesus response when a Pharisee asks him which commandment is the greatest in the Law: Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it : Love your neighbor as yourself. All th e Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Mt. 22:37-40; my italics) Since the first commandment compels the believ ers entire being, th e love in the second commandment is subsumed within the first, so th at the love a human has for himself and for his neighbor is a facet of the love devoted to God. As it is true from the human perspective, so is it true from Gods pe rspective that humans are things-to-be-used. Augustine further explains the relationship between believers and God: Therefore He does not enjoy us but uses us.B ut He does not use a thing as we do. For we refer the things that we use to the en joyment of the goodness of God; but God refers His use of us to His own good.That use which God is said to make of us is made not to His utility but to ours, and in so far as He is concerned refers only to His goodness. ( OCD 1.31.34-32.35) Recall from Chapter 3 that God is complete being and supremely good ( C 7.12.18), and the being and goodness that humans possess come from God. His use of us goes to our good, in that we align more with our cr eated purpose when we are of use to Him, that is, when we are obedient. Again, obedience to God is becoming aware of His intention for us (our artistic metaphor for the Holy Spirit, who comes upon us in our conversion), listening to that intention, and acting in accordance to it. Because that intention comes from God is God, in factthe enjoyment we receive by adhering to our intend ed purpose is also His enjoyment; as Augustine observes, it is to His own good.

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56 We described this process of coming into accord with Gods in tention a restoration project, sanctification. In artistic terms, this is the effort to regain the creative synergy between humans and GodAdams naming of the animals so that the creative intention expressed by humans is synchronized with, or is provided within, Gods inte ntion. But this reunion extends beyond outward expressions of creativity; it is also the happy moment of reconnection, when Gods question in the garden Where are you? is finally answered (Gen. 3:9). This moment is described by Jesus in the parable of the good shepherd: The man who enters by the gate is the shephe rd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his ow n, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know mejust as th e Father knows me and I know the Father. (Jn. 10:3-4, 1415) This call and response that Jesu s describes between the shepherd and his sheep parallels Gods resonance within His human crea tions that becomes all-encompassing within the believer when the process of sanctification is complete. Although the process of sancti fication begins at the moment of conversion, it cannot be completed in the fallen world, like a line plotte d on a Cartesian plane that approaches an asymptote; the line will draw infinitely closer to the asymptote but will never reach it. The believer can grow ever closer to God as she beco mes more receptive to the Holy Spirit, but the sinfulness within the worldand in the members of her body, as Paul writesprevent her from embracing God with her total being. But this is why Jesus promis ed that He would return: They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other (Mt. 24:30-31). The eschatological moment of the Christian story is when the asymptotic divide be tween the believer and G od is obliterated and the

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57 Cartesian plain of the fallen worl d is rolled up like a scroll. Jesu s describes this moment in His parable of the good shepherd, when the shepherd leads the sheep out of the pen; then the intention of Gods creative wo rk will be fully realized. Until that moment of Christs returnthe arrival of which is unknown to us (24:36) we still exist in the fallen world.2 But the process of sanctificatio n is not simply an act of waiting for His return, as the apostles learned after Jesus ascended into the sky: They were looking intently up into the sky as he [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. Men of Galilee, they said, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:10-11) Prior to His ascent, when He tells the apostles that they will be His witnesses, Jesus does not intend this witnessing to be staring into the sky. If we are not si mply to wait for Christs return, and if we dont know when it will happen, our only recourse, our only way of acting as witnesses, is to go about living lif e. As Slavoj iek writes, [f] ar from providing the conclusive dot on the i the divine act stands, rath er, for the openness of a New Beginning, and it is up to humanity to live up to it, to decide its mean ing, to make something of it (iek 136). iek shortly thereafter refers to Jesus act of Redemption as the Event, a term central to Alain Badious ethic of truth. Be fore we continue our investigati on of the believer s role prior to 2 Consider a similar realization by Fredric Jameson concerning Freudian psychoanalysis and Marxism: Even the Freudian model of the unconsciousis everywhere subverted by the neo-Freudian nostalgia for some ultimate moment of cure, in which the dynamics of the unconscious proper rise to the light of day and of consciousness and are somehow integrated in an active lucidity about ourselves and the determinations of our desires and our behavior. But the cure in that sense is a myth, as is the equivalent mirage within a Marxian ideological analysis: namely, the vision of a moment in which the individual subject would be somehow fully conscious of his or her determination by class and would be able to square the circle of ideological conditioning by sheer lucidity and the taking of thought. (Jameson 282-283) The hope for a Christian that he will achieve Christs perf ection of being prior to Jesus second coming is like the terminal, Utopian moments of these other intellectual syst ems. As Solomon writes, N o one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot fully comprehend it (Eccl. 8:17).

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58 the eschatological moment, let us consider this ethic. Accordi ng to Badiou, an event is an occurrence that cannot be explained within the c ontext of the situation in which it occurred; the event is a supplement, it supplants the normal s ituation and compels us to decide a new way of being (Badiou 41). This new way of being ta kes effect when the individual decides to relate henceforth to the situation from the perspecti ve of itssupplement (41; his italic s). Badiou calls the decision to interpret the situation based on the new understanding produced from the event fidelity to the event and the process of that interpretation, op erating according to the event, truth (42). Therefore, the ethic of truth is the principle of being faithful to a fidelity (47). The truth that Badiou describes does not exist prior to the event; if the event is a break from the commonalities of a situation, it stands to reason that the events truth could only appear once the event took place. Likewise, those who pr actice the ethic of trut h in the wake of an event, whom Badiou calls the sub ject (43), were not part of the subject prior to the event.3 Badiou identifies within each individual that comprises the subjecteach some-one two components of the individual: there is the animal some-one, that is, the person himself, and the excess of himself, which exists beyond what is recognizable in one person by another. The fidelity to an event captivates this excess; it passes through him from within time, in an instant of eternity (45; his italics). Within the scheme of Badious ethic, then, th ere appear to be two simultaneous, parallel conditions: there is the known, which encompasses the banality of the situation and the animal some-one, and the unknown, the process of truth fo llowing an event that l eads the excess of self on a course of discovery (47). The ethic sets as its goal to link the known with the not-known, to subsume the interests of the animal some-one (survival, self-interest) within the perseverance 3 Badiou never refers to the subject of an event as a single individual. When he speaks of an individual who makes up part of the subject, he refers to him as a some-one.

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59 of the excess self to remain faithful to the fidel ity. Thus, the interests of the animal some-one bend to the pursuit of the fidelity in a disinterested interest: [A]s regards my interests as a mortal and predatory animal, what is happening here does not concern me; no knowledge te lls me that these circumstances have anything to do with me. I am altogether present there, li nking my component elements via that excess beyond myself induced by the passing through me of a truth. But as a result, I am also suspended, broken, annulled; dis-interested. For I cannot, wi thin the fidelity to fidelity that defines ethical consistency, take an inte rest in myself, and thus pursu e my own interests. All my capacity for interest, which is my own persever ance in being, has poured out into the future consequences of [the truth]. (49-50) Let us now return to the life of the Christia n. If Christs act of redemption is, as iek calls it, the Event, how can we view the beli ever through Badious lens? The body of believers becomes the subject; the fallen world, the situation.4 Following our conversion, our acceptance of Gods creative intention for us, we see within us the animal some-one, what Paul describes as sin living in me (Rom. 7:20), the interests of a mortal and predat ory animal. The truth of the Event passes through our excess selves, what will b ecome the resurrected self: The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised im perishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:42-44). The sinful nature that gradually dies within the believer, like the interests of the animal some-one, are suspended, broken, annulled; dis-interested. In the meantime, the excess self follows in fidelity the tr uth, discovering the process of sanc tification. We know the ultimate destination of this process of truth, but we do not know the directions it will take before then. 4 How is it that the historical event of Jesus death and resurrection can be the Event for believers today? Recall, from Chapter 2, Augustines description of Gods word th at is spoken both within time and eternally, so that His intention to form the world in Genesis 1:1 is also that which creates a newborn today. The Event of Redemption takes a similar form as Gods creating word, so that Jesus atones for the sinfulness of believers in that historical moment, allowing the conversion or rebirth of believers to th is day. So a baby is born in the hospital of a small town in Florida, to parents who conceived her nine months prior, but she was created by Gods creating word at the beginning of time. Saul of Tarsus repents of his sins because of a conversation he ha s with God on the road to Damascus and becomes Paul, but his becoming Paul happens due to Jesus redeeming work on the Cross.

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60 Which brings us back to the challenge posed by iek, that we have to make sense out of Jesus act of Redemption. Badiou frames the que stion this way: How will I, as some-one, continue to exceed my own being? How will I link th e things I know, in a consistent fashion, via the effects of being seized by the not-known? (Badiou 50). And, once again, we have the Christians puzzle, How do I be in the world, but not of it? Jesus gives us the challenge witness while you wait: It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:78). Jesus final words before going up to heaven remind the disciples of things He has said previously: the time of His return is not known, but believers are to be prepared for it (Mt. 24:3651, 25:1-13). Also, believers are to make discip les in His name and teach them to obey Gods commands (28:18-20). Thus, the waiting-game for believers is an active game: implicit in our waiting is the spreading of our faith to non-believers, and at the same time, our evangelizing brings new believers into the same game of waiting. We must examine closely what this active wa iting looks like, not only as believers but as interpreters of literature, because both waiting and w itnessing are essential to our literary theory. At one point, prior to Jesus crucifixion, th e disciples ask Him when He will return: Jesus answered: Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, I am the Christ, and will deceive many.At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (24:4-5, 10-14) Three actions characterize the waiting Christian: he watches out that no one deceives him, he stands firm, and he preaches the gospel. The la tter action describes witn essing; let us consider the first two, those that describe waiting. The believer must not be deceived by false prophets

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61 who declare they are Christ; thei r actions oppose the act of witne ssing. Therefore, the believers waiting must oppose their oppositionas charlatans cl aim, I am the Christ, believers must be able to counter, He is not the Christ. Christian waiting, th en, is a process of identifying and negating. Just as the sheep know and come to th e voice of the shepherd, so they must also know not to heed the call of the thief. By identifying these false prophets as not-God, believers re-create in their negation that same moment of wondrous watching when Jesus as cended into the sky. It creates the same void but also the same promise that Christ is returning. The belie ver must have faith that Jesus is who He says He is. If the believer is fooled into thinking that the false proph et speaks truthfully, his recognition of the truth will be de layed, but it will also spring from disillusionment, which is a further hindrance to faith. If the believer makes the negative identification as an act of faith in Christ, though, disillusionment will not result; rath er, hope will grow in the believer. This hope then inspires the believer to take action out of love ( caritas ). In addition to this identification of things as not-God, the believer is also to stand firm. He stands firm by not letting his love grow cold. Let us revisit the two great commandments that Jesus tells the Pharisee: love th e Lord your God with all your h eart, soul, and mind; love your neighbor as yourself. Gods cr eative intention for humans re sts in abiding by these two commands. To stand firm in love is to stand fi rm in ones intended purpose. The Holy Spirit, God in the form of His intention, that driving force that brings believers inexorably toward Himself, dwells within Christs followersan in ner resonance that sound s with the call of the Shepherd, that hand or whispering voice that directs you to your purpose. To stand firm in love is to stand firm in the Holy Spirit.

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62 How do these two actionsthe identification of things as not-God and the standing firm in loveplay out in the life of the believer? We now shall consider as an example one of Jesus commands from His Sermon on the Mount before appl ying these actions to literary analysis: You have heard that is was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persec ute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven (5:43-45). In this command, Jesus firs t distinguishes between the two, neighbors and enemies. Then He follows with a but, suggest ing that this classificat ion is subverted. Does loving ones enemies fall under the great commandm ents? If we demonstrate our full love for God by obeying this command, we must re-define enemies Certainly we easily perform the negation, that our enemies are no t-God. Where, then, do enemies fall in this scheme? They become our neighbors, whom we are to love as ourselves. Neighbors, enemies, and believers all participate in this act of love. But they are our enemies; we have perceived an opposition to us within them, or we have experienced some sort of wound at their hands. A tension remains that leads us back to the negation. Where else can not-God be identified? We must identify ourselves as not-God. For while the Holy Spirit lives within us, there is s till Badious animal some-one, the part of us in which sin still lurks. This self, where our instin cts of survival and intere st-protection reign, must be identified as not-God in order for Jesus co mmand to work. Once we identify ourselves as not-God, we recall our identity, as His creation. Then our enemys id entity falls into place, as a fellow creation, as our neighbor What, then, is the enmity between us and them? It has been a distorting agent, hindering us from adhering to G ods commandments and therefore our created purpose. We can then recognize it as sin a nd reject it, allowing us to take the third action, exhibiting our belief of

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63 and love in Christ to our enemy, which will take different forms, depending on if this enemy is a believer or non-believer. Is our goal then to ha ve our enemies love us? If we expect love from our enemies, then we once again misinterpret Go ds command. We neglec t to identify ourselves as not-God, because we are tryi ng to love our enemies for our sake, in the hopes that they might finally play nice. No, we must love them for Gods sake. When we do this, a tension still exists in the scheme, but rather than tensi on between our enemies and us, it becomes tension between usthat is, Badious exce ss, that which the Holy Spirit has captivated within usand the distortion of the fallen world. We can see, then, that loving our enemies is a movement toward God in the process of sanctification. We can extend this active waiting to our encount ers with literature, if we cling to Gods wisdom in the process. On the one hand, we know that God has not prohibited us from reading, writing, or thinking about literature. On the ot her hand, we know that, while the finger of God has touched every thing in this wo rld, every thing, incl uding literature, is not in line with His created intention. Not even believers, in w hom the Holy Spirit dwells, are free from the sinfulness of the fallen world: So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in Gods law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretch ed man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to Godthrough Jesus Christ our Lo rd! (Rom. 7:21-25) This is the struggle of the believer in his pr ocess of sanctification, transcending the sinful influence of his ties to the fallen world, or as Badiou would say, conti nuously exceeding his own being. While this struggle plays out within us, how much more do we realize the havoc that sin wreaks upon non-believers! Jesus has called us to witness to these individuals who have not reclaimed their purpose as creations Gods intention. We invite non-b elievers to take part in the Event of Christs Redemption, to experience aliena tion from this world by identifying it as not-

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64 God and begin the process of red eeming their life in this world th rough an interpretation of love. This love that awakens in us is not for our sake for the sake of non-believers, nor for the sake of the fallen world; the love that takes place is for Gods sake. Embodied in the Holy Trinity, He is the Thing-to-be-enjoyed, that makes the lives of those who enjoy Him blessed. In our quest to enjoy Him more fully, in the process of sanctificati on, we see things-to-beused, which we use in obtaining that which you love, provided that it is worthy of love ( OCD 1.4.4). Humans are worthy of love, yet Augustine clas sifies them as things-to-be-used. The love for ourselves and our neighbors is part and parcel of our love for God, once again showing that our love for fellow humans is for Gods sake. Within this relationship, though, we see that the use of humans as things-to-be-used is for loveto love and be loved. Literature, as Augustine established, is a type of sign that attempts to convey the mental actions of humans, a type of intention. For th is reason, our emotional an d intellectual responses to humans can be reflected in our responses to li terature. To the extent that we can alight upon something human within literature, we can treat it similar to the wa y we treat our neighbors. But to say that we love literature in the same way that we love ourse lves, our neighbors, or God is to be shackled by an inferior lov e (1.3.3). Although humans and literature are both things-to-beused, their uses differ. Whereas the utility of hu mans lies in their capacity for and ability to give love, the utility of literature lies in facilitating that love. Perhaps considering the nature of the scriptur es will assist us in understanding how to use literature. According to Augustine,

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65 it is to be understood that the plenitude a nd the end of the Law and of all the sacred Scriptures is the love of a Be ing which is to be enjoyed and of a being that can share that enjoyment with us.That we might know this and have the means to implement it, the whole temporal dispensation was made by divi ne Providence for our salvation. We should use it, not with an abiding but with a transito ry love and delight, so that we love those things by which we are carried along for the sa ke of that toward which we are carried. (1.35.39) Thus, we use scriptures to facilitate our l ove for God as we engage in the process of sanctification. But is literature to humans what scripture is to God? Recall Gods traits of immutability and complete goodness. His word and His intention are each part of Himthey make up two thirds of the Trinityso they do not change either. Humans are neither unchanging nor completely good (in fact, the goo dness we have comes from God); we cannot imbue our writings with the steadfastness of scripture. So literature is not exactly like humans or scripture. If we have access to humans and scripture, and they make up for the inherent wea knesses of literature, then what use is literature to Christians? But in its very unlikeness to these two things, liter ature finds its use. Consider again Ricoeurs praise of texts: Through ficti on and poetry, new possibil ities of being-in-theworld are opened up within everyd ay reality (Ricoeur 142). We dont go to literature to get actual human interaction, nor do we go to litera ture to receive Gods word, but we do go to literature to extend the possibili ties of human interaction and to understand how Gods intention can infiltrate and guide those possibilities. As Ferretter points out, Ricoeu r conceives of inte rpreting these possible worlds as an appropriation, a process by which the reader mak es his own what was initially alien, because of the distance between writer a nd reader (123). For the Christ ian, then, making literature his own means applying the process of active waiting to the text: identifying the text, the meaning the reader gleans from it, and th e internal effect the text has upon the reader all as not-God, and then putting it in conversation with Gods inte ntion under the auspices of the truth provided by

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66 God in the scriptures. This latter step represents the Christian interprete r standing firm in love, because he cannot set apart his ac t of literary interpretation from the process of sanctification. Believers are called to listen ever more closely to God s intention in all aspects of their lives, and thus this call holds true in reading. Therefore, we cannot plunder the Egyptians wh en it comes to reading literature. When we do, we dont live in the fullness of our cr eated intention, because we shortchange our interaction with God and stunt our growth as revised creations. A lthough his concept of plundering does not satisfactorily gui de the Christians interpretati on of literature, Augustine did provide a workable concept for literary study that can be rev italized by our discussion here charity, or caritas : Scripture teaches not hing but charity [ caritas ], nor condemns anything except cupidity, and in this way shapes the minds of men.I call charity the motion of the soul toward the enjoyment of God for His own sake, and the enjoyment of ones self and of ones neighbor for the sake of God. ( OCD 3.10.15-16)5 For this reason, Augustine assert s that if scripture seems to promote cupidity or undermine charity, we must read such passa ges figuratively. While he can declare the binary facets of scripture with certainty, we cannot do so with literaturea single work could in places embrace and reject charity and sh un and uphold cupidity. Augustines solution to this confusion was to simply pick and choose pieces of literature that clearly embrace charity, but once again, we dont reap the benefits of literature by doing this, just as we are not fully living up to our created purpose if we shut out worldly people because they do not uphold charity. We are calle d to go into the fallen world to exhibit and explain our alienation from it. At the same time, we cannot detect cupidity in literary works and 5 The quote continues: But cupidity is a motion of the soul toward the enjoyment of ones self, ones neighbor, or any corporal thing for the sake of something other than God (3.10.16).

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67 claim that the author intended it fi guratively. Even though we cannot use caritas in the same manner as with the scriptures, it give s us a place to start in literature. When aspects of a literary work do uphold ch arity or condemn cupidity, the Christian interpreter should recognize them and appreciate them, but the hard work begins with portions of literature that seem out of line with or opposed to Gods intention. The interpreter first must identify how the work disagrees wi th doctrine; then he must think about why the conflict is there. Most importantly, he must consider the value of the differencehow does the difference affect the vision of the overall work? How does the diffe rence affect him, both as a reader and as a Christian? What does the differe nce say about Gods intention? Does it clarify or obscure parts of scripture or the life of the believer (if the latter, then a whole new series of questions arises)? How do the answers to these questions about th e opposition affect the aesth etic details of the work?6 These questions sound cold and didactic within the confines of this theoretical essay, and they may not take the same shape when interp retation actually occurs. The goal of such questions, however, is to show where the Christia n interpreters labor real ly lies. He should not comb the work for Amen! statementsa literary work is an artifact of the fallen world, where such statements are frequently ob lique and sparse. Rather, the inte rpreter is serving those readers seeking Gods intention when he focuses on the tende ntious points within literature. As he uses 6 The practice of charity also applies to other interpreta tions, other theories of literature. Consider Augustines words in the Confessions : But as for those who feed on your truth in the wide pa stures of charity, let me be united with them in you, and in you find my delight in company with them. Let us approach the words of your book together, and there seek your will as expressed through the will of your servant, by whose pen you have dispensed your words to us. ( C 12.23.32) As in On Christian Doctrine he is speaking of scriptural interpretatio n, but one can see how the practice of charity can allow the interpretation and utilization of other th eorieseven overtly hostile theoriesto make his own interpretation.

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68 scripture to shed light on the l iterary text, that very interpreti ve work should bring fresh insight into the wisdom of the scriptures themselves. The completion of the analysis should not leave him feeling comfortable; instead, his alienation with the world shoul d be renewed, or the literary encounter should spur him to take the next step in sanctification, to Keep going!7 and remain faithful to the truth he has discovered. When the believer has reached th e end of the interpretive pro cess, he will have established a reconciliation with the literary work. This does not mean that he has converted it into a Christian work; such an act commits violence to the text and does not le ave the interpretation on a note of tension. Rather, he has maintained the in tegrity of the text but has pointed it in a new direction, leaving the invitation for future readers to look at it in a similar way: So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting mens sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:16-19) We share this message of reconciliation in lite rary interpretation when we juxtapose it with the text and let them speak to each other, in the same way that the message is shared with nonbelievers. Recall Simplicianus failure in c onverting Augustine with his story: although Augustine had much in common with Victorinus, crucial details of th e latters story kept it from fitting the former. We cannot make Simplicianus mistake and force texts into the molds of our expectations. We cannot ignore the misfittings; instead, we must engage them and experience the growth of our love because of our engagement with them, for the sake of fulfilling the created intention bestowed upon us by God. 7 The maxim of the ethic of truth, according to Badiou (52).

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69 CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSION In Christian Figural Reading and the Fashioning of Identity John David Dawson investigates the postmodern criti que of Daniel Boyarin that Pau line theology aims to supercede traditional Judaism, that is, to regard as religiously (and finally, humanly) irrelevant the physical genealogy and embodied practices that form erly identified them as Jews (Dawson 3). He seeks to prove that Pauls re interpretation of Jewish practices is an effect of a divine, transformative performance in hi story (7), the death and resurre ction of Jesus Christ. Rather than subverting the literal cultur e and practice of pre-Christian J udaism, Pauls retrospection of them after the sacrifice of Christ actually extends their meaning and brings them into fuller relief: The key to the capacity to extend rather than undermine lay in the di stinctive quality of Christs identity, for it was preci sely (and only) Christ whose identity was so singular and unsubstitutable that it could, by virtue of th e relation it bore to others, enhance their distinctive identities, even as it transformed them by bringing them into fuller relief. (212) Dawsons identification of this extending without supplanting th at occurs in the figural reading of Jewish tradition translates well into the ethic of literary interpretation I have established in the previous pages, although the pr actice takes a certain twist. The Christian interpreter must juxtapose the literary work with Gods intention expressed in the scriptures, to see where they align and wher e they diverge. Some readers would think that the interpretation was complete when they f ound the parts of literature that embrace Gods wisdom. In fact, the discovery of such passage s might induce some to out their authors as closet Christians. But this method of interp retation exemplifies the su persessionist attitude that Dawson argues against. Indeed, to illumi nate only the Christian cr annies of literature suggests that believers need to sa tiate their thirst for Gods wis dom from the worlds literature,

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70 but those who do again misplace the utility of litera ture. They are like Eve, trying to acquire the wisdom of God by eating fruit. Christian interpreters and readers do not need literature to give them wisdom. Recall from Chapter 4 that literary works open up worl ds to the reader that she may otherwise never experience. Within these worlds, she discovers new facets of human interaction, between each other and with God. These interactions take place in an experimental space; they offer possibilities. The Christian interpreter then can apply Gods wisdom to these potential exchanges, in the same way that he is called to do so in real life. In this way, then, literature does not give us Gods wisdom; rather, it give s us new opportunities to think about and employ Gods wisdom. Thus the scriptures play a crucia l role in the Christian s encounter with another text. The supersessionist attitude that Dawson poi nts out can lead to a nother misunderstanding about how Christians should approach literature. Like the misguided idea that the redemption of Christ supplants the Jewish people, Christians may mistak enly consider the Christian interpretation of a literary work to be a conquest, a victory for the good guys that forces the bad guys to lose ground. This view would e xplain the defensive tone of much Christian literary theory, the writers of which defend th emselves against other Christians who feel threatened by the dangers of secu lar literature and against secula r critics and theorists who have theorized the obsolescence of Christianity. Appr oaching literature from a defensive standpoint marginalizes the Christian interpreter and characterizes him as a victim. His recourse then becomes vengeance. Let us reconsider Alain Badi ous ethic of truth for a mome nt. He writes, It mustbe the case that what the event calls forth and name s is the central void of the situation for which

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71 this event is an event (Badiou 72). So, for exam ple, the proletariat, the workers exploited by the societal domination of the bourgeoisie, are the vo id of the communist revolution. In terms of Christianity, we identified the event as Chri sts redemption manifest in His death and resurrection. The void of this situation, then, isnot Christians, because the Christian identity was not yet known, but God Himself in all three in stantiations of the Trin itythe majesty of the Father, the righteousness of the Son, the intention of the Holy Sp irit. The subject, which we established is the body of believers are those who hear th e call of the situatio ns void: [W]hat is retained of [the event] in the situation, and what serves to guide the fidelity, must be something like a trace, or a name, that refers back to the vanished event (72) This is Peters confession to Jesus that You are the Christ, th e Son of the living God (Mt. 16: 16). This is the believers act of witnessing to Christ that He commande d us to carry out, prior to His ascension. The Christian interpreter makes a mistake if the event of his analysis names anything other than God as the void. Although he may captu re the imagination of his readers, his work must invoke the name of the void of the original Event, God, so that the readers will become part of the subject as well. Otherwis e, he practices what Badiou calls fidelity to a simulacrum and subverts the framework of the actual Event. To avoid naming the Christian interpreter the void of the event is not to say that the interpreter as subject faces no opposition, though. Badiou is quick to point out that [e]very fidelity to an authentic event names the adversar ies of its perseverance (Badiou 75). Because a fidelity breaks with the situation, with opi nions and established knowledges, those who are faithful to the fidelity are prone to feel th e banalities of the si tuationand those who uphold thempressing the faithful to return to the anim al interests. But one who takes a defensive

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72 stance to those pressures actually surrenders to them, because he attempts to protect a perceived self-interest. The attitude of Keep going! th at characterizes a fidelity can be the only response to such adversity; perseverance offers wi sdom and brings to the faithf ul a greater understanding about the opposition, the identity and significance of wh ich become extended, to use Dawsons term. This dynamic between the faithful and their oppositi on echoes Paul in his le tter to the Romans: [W]e also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Rom. 5:3-5). When the Christian community or Christian in terpreters are placed in the role of victim, they become the void because they then focus thei r efforts on regaining some influence or power for the community. But such struggle is not the substance of event; it is the substance of situation: Every invocation of blood and soil, of race, of custom, of co mmunity, works directly against truths; and it is this very collection that is named as the enemy in the ethic of truths (76). We must remember what iek de clares about the revolution of Christs act of redemption: [W]e are formally redeemed, subsumed under Redemption, and we have to engage in the difficult work of actualizing it. The true Openne ss is not that of undeci dability, but that of living in the aftermath of the Event, of draw ing out the consequencesof what? Precisely of the new space opened up by the Event. (137) The revolution has already taken place; those who believe respond to th e revolution in their actions. They are forming the community that crosses boundaries of culture, race, class, and gender. We have no need to be defensive or protectionist; rather, we must be proactive in obeying the commands to witness and to love. Just as Jesus identity as the Son of God illuminates for Paul how the Jewish traditions come into fulfillment through the extension of thei r meaning that results from the Cross, so too

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73 can Christian interpreters envision Christs fulfi llment in the divergences of secular texts from Gods intention: [T]he spirit does not undermin e but instead draws out the fullest meaning of the letter; the letter must remain in the spirit because the spirit is the letter fully realized (Dawson 217). The letter is in the spirit, even if the letter stra ys from Gods intention, because the letter says important things about the fallen na ture of the world, the pain of humanity, and the need for Gods mercy. The letter calls for the Holy Spirit to respond; the Christian interpreter is in turn moved by the Holy Spirit to understand th e letter with Gods wisdom and to respond to it with Christ-like compassion.

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74 LIST OF REFERENCES Abrams, M. H. The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Cr itical Tradition New York: Oxford University Press, 1953. Augustine of Hippo. Confessions Trans. Maria Boulding. New York: Vintage Books, 1997. Augustine of Hippo. On Christian Doctrine Trans. D. W. Robertson, Jr. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997. Badiou, Alain. Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil Trans. Peter Hallward. New York: Verso, 2002. Dawson, John David. Christian Figural Reading and the Fashioning of Identity Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Edwards, Michael. Towards a Christian Poetics Grand Rapids, MI: Ee rdmans Publishing Co., 1984. Eliot, T. S. Religion and Literature. The Christian Imagination: E ssays on Literature and the Arts Ed. Leland Ryken. Grand Rapids MI: Baker House Books, 1981: 141-154. Ferretter, Luke. Towards a Christian Literary Theory Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003. Forman, Robert J. Augustine and the Making of a Christian Literature: Classical Tradition and Augustinian Aesthetics Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1995. Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000. Jameson, Fredric. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981. Lewis, C. S. An Experiment in Criticism Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961. McPherson, C. W. Augustine Our Contemporary. Cross Currents 50 (Spring/Summer 2000): 170-76. Mills, Kevin. Justifying Language: Paul and Contemporary Literary Theory New York: St. Martins Press, Inc., 1995 Myers, Ken. The Church and Cultural Di scernment: Distinguishing Engagement from Captivity, Part I. Reconsiderations 5.3 (June 2006): 1-4. Pascal, Blaise. Penses. Trans. A. J. Krailsheim er. New York: Penguin Books, 1995. Reed, Teresa. Shadows of Mary: Reading the Virgin Mary in Medieval Texts Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2003.

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75 Ricoeur, Paul. The Hermeneuti cal Function of Distanciation. Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences: Essays on Language, Action, and Interpretation Ed. and Trans. John B. Thompson. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981. Ricoeur, Paul. Time and Narrative, Volume 1 Trans. Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984. Robertson, D. W. Jr. Some Observa tion on Method in Literary Studies. Essays in Medieval Culture Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980. Sayers, Dorothy. The Mind of the Maker San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1987. Stock, Brian. Augustine the Reader: Meditation, Se lf-Knowledge, and the Ethics of Interpretation Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996. Stock, Brian. Ethical Values and the Litera ry Imagination in the Later Ancient World. New Literary History 29:1 (Winter 1998): 1-13. iek, Slavoj. The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003.

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76 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Zachary Beck was born and raised in Cocoa, Fl orida. He graduated Valedictorian in 2000 from Cocoa High School, received the Xerox Award for Excellence in the Humanities, and was recognized as a National Merit Scholar. In 2002 he was named an Anderson Scholar for outstanding academic performance during the first two years of his bachel ors program at the University of Florida. His undergraduate honors thesis examined the religious and philosophical motivations of the muckraking journalists at the turn of the twentieth century. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Florida in 2004 with bachelors degrees in English and political science. From 2005 to 2006, he edited the quarterly periodical for the Christian Study Center of Gainesville entitled Reconsiderations which explores Christian thought in the university community. In May 2007, Zachary ea rned his Master of Arts degree from the University of Florida.


Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0020967/00001

Material Information

Title: Alienation and love : creating a redemptive hermeneutics from the work of Augustine of Hippo
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Language: English
Creator: Beck, Zachary ( Dissertant )
Paxson, James J. ( Thesis advisor )
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007
Copyright Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: English thesis, M.A
Dissertations, Academic -- UF -- English
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )

Notes

Abstract: I will attempt to outline a practicable method of literary interpretation from a Christian perspective, using the discussions of writing, reading, and exegesis put forth by Augustine of Hippo in two of his works--the Confessions and On Christian Doctrine. By "practicable," I mean a method that silences both the criticism of secular academics who say that the Christian perspective in literature is limited and obsolete, as well as the protests of devout Christians who renounce literature for its potential to corrupt readers. I intend to place literature in a framework that enables Christians to strengthen their faith without sacrificing the integrity of the literary works themselves. Furthermore, competing worldviews and literary theories that try to undermine a Christian approach will not be discarded as "enemies to the faith," but rather re-contextualized and embraced as helpful tools. I have divided my essay into three parts. In the first, I will perform a close reading of the eleventh and twelfth books of the Confessions, in which Augustine discusses memory and time in relation to the first verses of Genesis, when God creates heaven and earth. This close reading will begin the formulation of the Christian literary theory by explaining how God creates and then by extending the process to the human act of creation. Once this dynamic of creativity between God and humanity has been established, I will move into the thirteenth book of the Confessions, in which Augustine allegorizes the six-day account of creation in Genesis 1. The purpose of this close reading is to set up the environment in which a Christian interpretation of literature can operate. The second part of my thesis refers to Augustine's account of his conversion in the sixth, seventh, and eighth books of the Confessions. I will elaborate upon the effect of sin within humans and their creations, as well as the transformation that can occur in both, following the redemptive act of Jesus Christ. This ability to change that exists in humans will guide my subsequent discussion of hermeneutic theory, where I will put D. W. Robertson, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Paul Ricoeur into conversation with one another. The conclusions drawn from this conversation will assist me in describing Augustine's conversion account as an interaction with texts, revealing the inescapable similarities between the narrative of human life and the interpretation of texts. The blurring of the line between human and text is essential to a Christian theory of literature. For the third part, I turn to Augustine's treatise on the interpretation and instruction of the scriptures, On Christian Doctrine, beginning with a criticism of his concept of "plundering the Egyptians." By critiquing this idea, I intend to present the underlying challenge of the Christian interpreter: since we are called to be in the world and not of it, how does the interpreter do justice to a worldly text while maintaining focus on God's will? In order to answer this question, I will turn to Alain Badiou's ethic of truth, which I believe parallels the revolution that is Christian salvation. Jesus Christ's commands to His followers lay the groundwork for how Christians can approach literature, and Augustine's understanding of love, what he terms caritas, will assist me at this culminating point in my essay, as I formulate a Christian literary ethic.
Subject: Augustine, Badiou, Christianity, ethic, hermeneutics, literature, Zizek
General Note: Title from title page of source document.
General Note: Document formatted into pages; contains 76 pages.
General Note: Includes vita.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
General Note: Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0020967:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0020967/00001

Material Information

Title: Alienation and love : creating a redemptive hermeneutics from the work of Augustine of Hippo
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Language: English
Creator: Beck, Zachary ( Dissertant )
Paxson, James J. ( Thesis advisor )
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007
Copyright Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: English thesis, M.A
Dissertations, Academic -- UF -- English
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )

Notes

Abstract: I will attempt to outline a practicable method of literary interpretation from a Christian perspective, using the discussions of writing, reading, and exegesis put forth by Augustine of Hippo in two of his works--the Confessions and On Christian Doctrine. By "practicable," I mean a method that silences both the criticism of secular academics who say that the Christian perspective in literature is limited and obsolete, as well as the protests of devout Christians who renounce literature for its potential to corrupt readers. I intend to place literature in a framework that enables Christians to strengthen their faith without sacrificing the integrity of the literary works themselves. Furthermore, competing worldviews and literary theories that try to undermine a Christian approach will not be discarded as "enemies to the faith," but rather re-contextualized and embraced as helpful tools. I have divided my essay into three parts. In the first, I will perform a close reading of the eleventh and twelfth books of the Confessions, in which Augustine discusses memory and time in relation to the first verses of Genesis, when God creates heaven and earth. This close reading will begin the formulation of the Christian literary theory by explaining how God creates and then by extending the process to the human act of creation. Once this dynamic of creativity between God and humanity has been established, I will move into the thirteenth book of the Confessions, in which Augustine allegorizes the six-day account of creation in Genesis 1. The purpose of this close reading is to set up the environment in which a Christian interpretation of literature can operate. The second part of my thesis refers to Augustine's account of his conversion in the sixth, seventh, and eighth books of the Confessions. I will elaborate upon the effect of sin within humans and their creations, as well as the transformation that can occur in both, following the redemptive act of Jesus Christ. This ability to change that exists in humans will guide my subsequent discussion of hermeneutic theory, where I will put D. W. Robertson, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Paul Ricoeur into conversation with one another. The conclusions drawn from this conversation will assist me in describing Augustine's conversion account as an interaction with texts, revealing the inescapable similarities between the narrative of human life and the interpretation of texts. The blurring of the line between human and text is essential to a Christian theory of literature. For the third part, I turn to Augustine's treatise on the interpretation and instruction of the scriptures, On Christian Doctrine, beginning with a criticism of his concept of "plundering the Egyptians." By critiquing this idea, I intend to present the underlying challenge of the Christian interpreter: since we are called to be in the world and not of it, how does the interpreter do justice to a worldly text while maintaining focus on God's will? In order to answer this question, I will turn to Alain Badiou's ethic of truth, which I believe parallels the revolution that is Christian salvation. Jesus Christ's commands to His followers lay the groundwork for how Christians can approach literature, and Augustine's understanding of love, what he terms caritas, will assist me at this culminating point in my essay, as I formulate a Christian literary ethic.
Subject: Augustine, Badiou, Christianity, ethic, hermeneutics, literature, Zizek
General Note: Title from title page of source document.
General Note: Document formatted into pages; contains 76 pages.
General Note: Includes vita.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
General Note: Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0020967:00001


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ALIENATION AND LOVE: CREATING A REDEMPTIVE HERMENEUTICS
FROM THE WORK OF AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO




















By

ZACHARY BECK


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2007
































02007 Zachary Beck









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude to James Paxson and Phillip Wegner

for their guidance in this proj ect, as well as for their counsel and friendship during my time at the

University of Florida. I would also like to thank David Leverenz, Judith Page, Patricia

Craddock, and Pamela Gilbert, whose advice greatly helped my exploration of the intersections

of Christianity and literature in the proj ects for their seminars during my master' s program. This

proj ect would not have been possible without the intellectual and moral support of the Christian

Study Center of Gainesville and its director, Richard Horner, who has spent several hours with

me over the years, mulling over these issues of literature. Furthermore, the conversations in

which I have engaged with my colleagues at the Study Center--particularly Sarah Graham,

Carter McCain, Trevor Richards, and David Weinert--were essential to my visualization and

articulation of this proj ect. I would also like to take this opportunity to commend Pastor Richard

Parker at Creekside Community Church in Gainesville for encouraging those who attend the

church to love the Lord with their mind, as well as with their hearts, souls, and strength, by

rigorously immersing themselves in the richness of the scriptures. Finally, I would like to thank

my family: Mom and Dad, Clint, Susan, Wes, Afton, and Sonnet. No words can properly

express how thankful I am for their constant love and support.












TABLE OF CONTENTS





ACKNOWLEDGMENT S .............. ...............3.....


CHAPTER


1 INTRODUCTION ................. ...............7.......... ......


2 ERECTING THE VAULT .............. ...............13....


3 HIUMAN TEXTS AND TEXTUAL HUMANS .............. ...............29....


4 REDEMPTIVE READING OR, READING OF REC ONCILIATION ............... ... .........._..47

5 CONCLU SION................ ..............6


LIST OF REFERENCES ................. ...............74........... ....


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............. ...............76....









Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

ALIENATION AND LOVE: CREATING A REDEMPTIVE HERMENEUTICS
FROM THE WORK OF AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO

By

Zachary Beck

May 2007

Chair: James Paxson
Major: English

I will attempt to outline a practicable method of literary interpretation from a Christian

perspective, using the discussions of writing, reading, and exegesis put forth by Augustine of

Hippo in two of his works--the Confessions and On Christian Doctrine. By "practicable," I

mean a method that silences both the criticism of secular academics who say that the Christian

perspective in literature is limited and obsolete, as well as the protests of devout Christians who

renounce literature for its potential to corrupt readers. I intend to place literature in a framework

that enables Christians to strengthen their faith without sacrificing the integrity of the literary

works themselves. Furthermore, competing worldviews and literary theories that try to

undermine a Christian approach will not be discarded as "enemies to the faith," but rather re-

contextualized and embraced as helpful tools.

I have divided my essay into three parts. In the first, I will perform a close reading of the

eleventh and twelfth books of the Confessions, in which Augustine discusses memory and time

in relation to the first verses of Genesis, when God creates heaven and earth. This close reading

will begin the formulation of the Christian literary theory by explaining how God creates and

then by extending the process to the human act of creation. Once this dynamic of creativity

between God and humanity has been established, I will move into the thirteenth book of the










Confessions, in which Augustine allegorizes the six-day account of creation in Genesis 1. The

purpose of this close reading is to set up the "environment" in which a Christian interpretation of

literature can operate.

The second part of my thesis refers to Augustine' s account of his conversion in the sixth,

seventh, and eighth books of the Confessions. I will elaborate upon the effect of sin within

humans and their creations, as well as the transformation that can occur in both, following the

redemptive act of Jesus Christ. This ability to change that exists in humans will guide my

subsequent discussion of hermeneutic theory, where I will put D. W. Robertson, Hans-Georg

Gadamer, and Paul Ricoeur into conversation with one another. The conclusions drawn from

this conversation will assist me in describing Augustine's conversion account as an interaction

with texts, revealing the inescapable similarities between the narrative of human life and the

interpretation of texts. The blurring of the line between human and text is essential to a Christian

theory of literature.

For the third part, I turn to Augustine' s treatise on the interpretation and instruction of the

scriptures, On Christian Doctrine, beginning with a criticism of his concept of "plundering the

Egyptians." By critiquing this idea, I intend to present the underlying challenge of the Christian

interpreter: since we are called to be in the world and not of it, how does the interpreter do justice

to a worldly text while maintaining focus on God's will? In order to answer this question, I will

turn to Alain Badiou' s ethic of truth, which I believe parallels the revolution that is Christian

salvation. Jesus Christ' s commands to His followers lay the groundwork for how Christians can

approach literature, and Augustine's understanding of love, what he terms caritas, will assist me

at this culminating point in my essay, as I formulate a Christian literary ethic.









CHAPTER 1
INTTRODUCTION

In this essay, I will attempt to outline a practicable method of literary interpretation from a

Christian perspective, using the discussions of writing, reading, and exegesis put forth by

Augustine of Hippo in two of his works--the Confessions and On Christian Doctrine. By

"practicable," I mean a method that silences both the criticism of secular academics who say that

the Christian perspective in literature is limited and obsolete, as well as the protests of devout

Christians who renounce literature for its potential to corrupt readers. I intend to place literature

in a framework that enables Christians to strengthen their faith without sacrificing the integrity of

the literary works themselves. Furthermore, competing worldviews and literary theories that try

to undermine a Christian approach will not be discarded as "enemies to the faith," but rather re-

contextualized and embraced as helpful tools.

My goal stems from the notion that, because of the call that God has commanded them to

obey, Christian interpreters must be able to incorporate their beliefs into their study of literature.

Fredric Jameson' s assertion about the centrality of Marxism reflects a similar perspective which

this proj ect embraces: "Marxism is here conceived as that 'untranscendable horizon' that

subsumes such apparently antagonistic or incommensurable critical operations, assigning them

an undoubted sectoral validity within itself, and thus at once canceling and preserving them"

(Jameson 10). Although Jameson is arguing for the primacy of political interpretation, his words

describe the same overarching quality that I argue Christianity provides for the believing scholar.

Within modern criticism, however, scholars who ascribe to the religion have debated

whether Christianity (or any other religious or political worldview) should influence the study

and critique of literature. For example, Northrop Frye seeks to systematize criticism outside of

the realm of political or religious interests. He writes, "If it is insisted that we cannot criticize









literature until we have acquired a coherent philosophy of life with its center of gravity in

something else, the existence of criticism as a separate subject is still being denied" (Frye 7). He

claims that the field of criticism can be structured and organized, making inductive observations

from one's encounters with literature, in a manner similar to science-based fields: "[I]f the varied

interests of critics could be related to a central expanding pattern of systematic comprehension,

this undertow [of Christian, democratic, and Marxian critics] would disappear, and they would

be seen as converging on criticism instead of running away from it" (12).

Frye is considered to be a Christian scholar because of his career as an Anglican minister,

but his literary work subsumes Christianity within this literary cataloging he describes in the

introduction to Anatomy ofCriticism. He justifies this prioritization by explaining that "the

axioms and postulates of criticism...have to grow out of the art it deals with" (6). This may

evoke a feeling of obj activity, but this stance actually reveals Frye' s bias, similar to the Marxian

or Christian critic' s--if the art determines the organization of politics and religion within its own

system, then the art itself merely takes the seat of honor, rather than the economy or scripture.

Moreover, one might question whether science trumps art for Frye, considering his desire to

legitimize the field of criticism by applying his classifications to "species" of literature. Jameson

assists in clarifying the uneasiness that Frye' s proj ect evokes:

It should not, in the present intellectual atmosphere, be necessary laboriously to argue the
position that every form of practice, including the literary-critical kind, implies and
presupposes a form of theory; that empiricism, the mirage of an utterly nontheoretical
practice, is a contradiction in terms; that even the most formalizing kinds of literary or
textual analysis carry a theoretical charge whose denial unmasks it as ideological.
(Jameson 58)

In contrast to Northrop Frye's opinion that literary criticism should not be framed by

religion or politics, T. S. Eliot encourages readers of literature to have a firm grip on what Frye

calls their "philosophy of life" when coming to a work of art: "In ages like our own, in which









there is no such common agreement [on ethical and theological matters], it is the more necessary

for Christian readers to scrutinize their reading...with explicit ethical and theological standards"

(Eliot 142). Eliot insists such scrutiny is necessary because, even if readers try to

compartmentalize their literary opinions from their religious and ethical judgment, "the

separation is not, and never can be, complete" (146).

Therefore, let us not practice the denial that our past experiences and the formation of our

spiritual commitments do not affect how we approach literature. Rather, I want to address some

important issues that arise for the Christian interpreter when he analyzes literary works and

harmonize them into a theory that will allow him to serve himself, others, and God through his

interpretive efforts. Augustine's meditations on similar matters in the Confessions and On

Christian Doctrine are invaluable in this pursuit because he thought about how to ethically

interpret texts in a world very similar to ours:

The world of the late Roman Empire knew the tremendous advantages of a colossal
network of transportation and communication, of advanced technological achievement, of
internationalism, and of cultural, intellectual, and theological pluralism. It also
experienced the concomitant disadvantages of a dislocation of values, internecine warfare
and random violence, political corruption and revolution, ethnic and racial tensions, new
disease, and existential despair. (McPherson 172)

The conclusions Augustine made laid the foundation for textual interpretation throughout the

Middle Ages, so his reputation as a Christian theorist is certain. Although he influenced several

subsequent centuries of literary thought, his judgment of literature, combined with his focus on

allegorical meaning, impose a separation between secular literature and the Christian

community, beyond the mandate that Christians are to be set apart (sanctified) for their faith.

Christian theorists find themselves isolated, protective, and irrelevant from the larger literary

community, and this unfortunately in part is a consequence of Augustine' s teaching. In this

essay, however, I want to revisit Augustine, paying particular attention to passages in the two









works that describe human relationships, in order to show that, with Augustine's help, the

Christian literati need not--and should not--remove themselves from the larger secular field.

I have divided my essay into three parts. In the first, I will perform a close reading of the

eleventh and twelfth books of the Confessions, in which Augustine discusses memory and time

in relation to the first verses of Genesis, when God creates heaven and earth. This close reading

will begin the formulation of the Christian literary theory by explaining how God creates and

then by extending the process to the human act of creation. Once this dynamic of creativity

between God and humanity has been established, I will move into the thirteenth book of the

Confessions, in which Augustine allegorizes the six-day account of creation in Genesis 1. The

purpose of this close reading is to set up the "environment" in which a Christian interpretation of

literature can operate.

The second part of my thesis refers to Augustine' s account of his conversion in the sixth,

seventh, and eighth books of the Confessions. I will elaborate upon the effect of sin within

humans and their creations, as well as the transformation that can occur in both following the

redemptive act of Jesus Christ. This ability to change that exists in humans will guide my

subsequent discussion of hermeneutic theory, where I will put D. W. Robertson, Hans-Georg

Gadamer, and Paul Ricoeur into conversation with one another. The conclusions drawn from

this conversation will assist me in describing Augustine's conversion account as an interaction

with texts, revealing the inescapable similarities between the narrative of human life and the

interpretation of texts. The blurring of the line between human and text is essential to a Christian

theory of literature.

For the third part, I turn to Augustine' s treatise on the interpretation and instruction of the

scriptures, On Christian Doctrine, beginning with a criticism of his concept of "plundering the










Egyptians." By critiquing this idea, I intend to present the underlying challenge of the Christian

interpreter: since we are called to be in the world and not of it, how does the interpreter do justice

to a worldly text while maintaining focus on God's will? In order to answer this question, I will

turn to Alain Badiou' s ethic of truth, which I believe parallels the revolution that is Christian

salvation. Jesus Christ' s commands to His followers lay the groundwork for how Christians can

approach literature, and Augustine's understanding of love, what he terms caritas, will assist me

at this culminating point in my essay, as I formulate a Christian literary ethic.

Before I begin my examination of Augustine' s works, I must offer two working definitions

for problematic terms that will set the boundaries of my scope for this essay and silence--or at

least postpone--potential questions about the relevance of my theory. First, the term Christian

or believer will be defined for this essay by the Apostles' Creed, which affirms the Trinity (and

therefore Jesus Christ' s divinity), the gospel account of Christ' s death and resurrection, the unity

of the body of believers by that belief known as the Church, the sinfulness of humankind, and the

judgment and forgiveness of God. Although not explicitly stated in the creed, I add to my

working definition that the Christian believes in the veracity of the Bible and its divine

authorship. Readers may find this definition too limiting, but it allows for the bypass of certain

controversies that make the term so troubling.

Due to the nature of conflicts occurring in world affairs today, the term Christian tends to

be associated with a particular political orientation or agenda. The term suffers further

misappropriation when it is considered synonymous with Western-ism. Such unfortunate


SThe Apostles' Creed: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ,
His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius
Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence He shall come to judge the
living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness
of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen."









connotations that ultimately stem from issues of earthly political power obscure the fact that the

term Christian labels what Slavoj 2iiek calls "the remainder of humanity": "a community of free

believers that suspends all ethnic divisions...those who have faith in Christ" (Ziiek 130).

A second term, ri itib, may cause difficulty within this discussion. Pilate asks Jesus, "What

is truth?" The question echoes throughout literature in abounding points of view and in long

trails of signification. No interpreter can claim to own truth, nor can he or she measure its

dimensions; the same holds for the Christian interpreter. As Paul writes, "[n]ow we see but a

poor reflection as in a mirror" (1 Cor. 13:12). Belief in truth distinguishes the Christian

interpreter: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see....By

faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command" (Heb. 11:1, 3). The

formation of the universe at God' s command aptly describes the definition of truth used in this

essay, as well as Augustine' s use of the term:

[E]verything which begins to exist and then ceases to exist does so at the due time for its
beginning and cessation decreed in that eternal Reason where nothing begins or comes to
an end. This eternal Reason is your Word, who is 'the Beginning' in that he also speaks to
us....When some changeable creature advises us, we are but led to that stable Truth, where
we truly learn as we stand and listen to him. (C 252)

According to Augustine, from truth springs temporal creation, all that has a beginning and end;

furthermore, changeable creation learns from unchangeable truth. Finally, his use of the pronoun

"he" refers to Christ, which agrees with John's reference to God as the Word (Jn. 1:1), and Jesus'

proclamation that He is "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn. 14:6). Augustine writes the

Confessions as a second-person narrative to God, whom he addresses occasionally as "O Truth."

The framework of a Christian literary theory depends upon the understanding of an eternal,

immutable truth, but also a truth that is the wellspring of creation, a concept that I will discuss

further in this essay. But because no reader or interpretive method is infallible, I will avoid using

this term as much as possible in describing my theory's dynamics.









CHAPTER 2
ERECTING THE VAULT

Nearly every discussion of artistic pursuits from a Christian perspective begins with the

first chapter of Genesis, where God demonstrates His own creativity in making the universe,

including human beings, whom He made in His likeness. As Dorothy Sayers points out in The

Mind of the Maker, the main characteristic attributed to God in this first chapter is His ability to

create: "Looking at man, he [God] sees in him something essentially divine, but when we turn

back to see what he says about the original upon which the 'image' of God was modeled, we Eind

only the single assertion, 'God created'" (Sayers 22). Augustine also devotes lengthy

consideration to the creation account in the Einal books of the Confessions to assist him in

thinking about memory and time, and to practice scriptural interpretation. His examination of

Genesis 1, though, will provide the first step for establishing a Christian literary theory because it

establishes the space in which literature takes place.

Augustine begins by arguing that heaven and earth show themselves to be made because

they exhibit "change and variation" (C 1 1.4.6). The act of creation effects mutability in that

which is created, so that difference instantly arises between the creator and the created. In the

case of God, He is eternal and thus unchanging; His created works have a distinct beginning and

therefore are not eternal. The fact that created works change from non-existent to existent

engenders their changeability from the beginning.

In the case of human beings, we constantly change (being creations ourselves); however,

the potential for change in the created works of humanity is multifaceted. In one sense, the

works change because they are made of changeable material: paper decomposes, pigments fade,

stone weathers, etc. In another sense, however, artistic works do not change; the arrangement of










words, the sequence of notes, the geometric proportions, or the color values remain. Yet one

could say that human works change in that the reception of those works alters over time. As a

simplistic example, let us consider Chaucer' s Canterbury Tales: the centuries-old Hengurt or

Ellesmere manuscripts undergo the decay of passing years, and although the words he wrote

down (barring scribal error) have continued unchanged since he first put them on paper, our

understanding and appreciation of them now is quite different from how they were perceived at

any other time in history. Is this latter characteristic not the imposition of humans' mutability, as

created beings themselves, upon the text?

But let us return to the details of God' s creative acts. Once he establishes that God made

heaven and earth, Augustine wonders what tools and what media God could have used to create

them :

You cannot have gone to work like a human craftsman, who forms a material obj ect from
some material in accordance with his imaginative decision. Whatever design his mind's
eye conjures up within, the mind has power to impose upon the material, but where would
he get this power, if you had not made his mind? He merely stamps a form on matter
already in existence and in no possession of its being, such as clay or stone or wood or
gold or any other stuff of the kind. And whence would these derive their existence, unless
you had established them in being? (C 11.5.7)

This observation could explain the perpetual elements of human creation, that is, the artist' s

manipulation of materials--Augustine refers to this as design. Unchanging, eternal God creates

human beings in His image to be creators, and along this chain of creation filters down a quality

of persistence, which emerges when a human acts as a creator and imposes a design upon pre-

existent material. The deliberate artistic act awakens this character of immutability in the

material, an echo from when God first created the material for humans to manipulate.



SThe one obvious exception to tlus concept would be revision, but is one version of a work, say, William
Wordsworth's 1790 edition of the Prelude, the same as another, like Wordsworth's 1850 edition? Should these
revisions not be considered separate works?









God did not have this material from which to make heaven and earth, though. If

everything that exists does so as a result of God' s creative acts, then He must have created ex

nihilo, which Augustine argues He did. The formation of heaven and earth had to come from

within God somehow, like Athena springing from Zeus' head, an analogous situation in classical

mythology, or like Narnia growing from Aslan's song, C. S. Lewis's modern allegorization of

the idea. At this point, Augustine introduces the W(w)ord into his discussion: "Clearly, then,

you spoke and things were made. By your word you made them" (C 11.5.7). He immediately

explains that this creative word differs from the times when God speaks to humans in Scripture,

like when Jesus is baptized; such speech acts are temporal, and they require the material needed

for the act of hearing to exist.

The word Augustine describes is eternal, since it is of God, and all that the word conveys is

uttered simultaneously, so that the word does not change. Just as the words that a human speaks

intend to transmit thoughts or emotions, so God's word, as Brian Stock writes, "represents the

eternal expression of the divine mind" (Stock 195). Even though God's word is eternal and

simultaneous, "things which you [God] create by speaking do not all come to be simultaneously,

nor are they eternal" (C 11.7.9). So too can human words produce effects and meanings in the

listener' s mind, regardless of the time of the utterance. Consider also the sequence of responses

a reader will have as he or she reads a book; because the words to be read are stored in one place,

the book acts with a simultaneity similar to God's word. Yet no earthly analogy will

satisfactorily explain God's act of creation, because human words are finite.2

So the word of God is eternal, and all that is made, from the heaven and earth in Genesis

1:1 to the infant born as I write this, originates simultaneously from God's utterance. This idea


2 Even the term "creative act" erroneously implies an end to God's creative work.










means that God's creative mandate continuously rules over all existent matter. As creatures of

His likeness, human beings benefit from this mandate, in that their creative acts are extensions of

God's originating word.

By speaking this word, God creates heaven and earth; the former Augustine distinguishes

as "heaven's heaven" (12.8.8, cf. Ps. 115:16), the dwelling God creates for Himself. 3 The

description of the newly created earth is "formless and empty," according to the NIV translation

of the scripture, and "invisible and unorganized," according to Boulding' s translation of

Augustine. He struggles to understand and explain the nature of formless matter, but we can

catch a glimpse of the phrase' s meaning if we think of raw materials used for an artistic work,

before humans apply a design to them. Before a writer pens the words of her story onto a page,

the page has no significance outside of its being a piece of paper. The paper could sit in a desk

drawer for years, or someone could toss it into the fire without a second thought. Once the writer

inscribes meaningful words onto the paper, it takes on a new significance, apart from its nature

as paper.

We can compare the "formless and empty" matter of the earth, before God fashions it into

land, plants, animals and people, with the paper before the author writes upon it. Indeed, this

analogy parallels Augustine's resolution: "[Y]ou, Lord, made the world from formless matter,

and that formless matter that was almost nothing at all you made from nothing at all, intending to

create from it all the great things which fi11 us humans with wonder" (C 12.8.8). Once again,

Augustine uses the word intending in speaking of creation. When a creator imposes a design


3 At the risk of digressing too much, I must comment upon this, for it gave me a foreboding pause. Heaven 's heaven
leads one to question where God lived before He created this place. We could apply a human example, saying that
heaven's heaven is like a house an architect builds for herself. Before the house is built, she still exists and dwells
somewhere else on earth; we must therefore have faith that God existed and dwelled in some realm while He built
His "house". This scheme harmonizes with scripture: in Revelation, both heaven and earth are abandoned for a new
heaven and earth (Rev. 21:1).










upon matter, his or her intentionality infused within the manipulated material inspires wonder in

the beholder, whether it be God's works or human works. But even human works, because of

their substance, are God's works: "[T]he aforementioned invisible earth is the matter underlying

all forms" (C 12.8.8).

The psalmist writes in Psalm 24, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, / the world,

and all who live in it" (Ps. 24:1-2). He distinguishes between the earth and the world--he

associates every thing with the former and all who live with the latter--but the inhabitants of

both realms testify to the glory of the Lord as their creator. Consider Psalm 148:

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, / lightning and
hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, / you mountains and all hills, fruit
trees and all cedars, / wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, / kings of
the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, / young men and maidens, old
men and children (Ps. 148:7-12).

The scope of this passage reflects the psalmist' s assertion that the hand of God is in the creation

of every existent thing; he calls these things to praise God as their ruler and creator. Earlier in

the Confessions, Augustine also observes this fact: "[Y]ou have made all good things,

and...there are absolutely no substances that you have not made....They all exist because they

are severally good but collectively very good, for our God has made all things exceedingly good'

(C 7. 12. 18; his italics). If nature points to God as its designer, and if human artists, who are part

of God' s design also, manipulate the natural world for their own design, then the artistic works

of humans also testify to God the creator. 4

The so-called cultural mandate, which God declares after creating human beings in

Genesis 1, reinforces this chain of creation: "God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and

increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it:'"' (Gen. 1:28). Not only does this command call


4 Thanks to Ken Myers, whose lecture "The Church and Cultural Discernment: Distinguishing Engagement from
Captivity" led me to this conclusion.










humans to care for the earth as good stewards, it also suggests creativity: humans are to occupy

this material world, manage it, handle it, shape it. The word "subdue" connotes malleability and

changeability. "Its very mutability, so evident to us, makes possible our awareness and

demarcation of passing times, because this is what the rolling seasons are--the changes that

occur in creatures as various forms proliferate and develop" (C 12.8.8).

Time is key for Augustine in understanding change and creation: "These are three

realities in the mind, but nowhere else as far as I can see, for the present of past things is

memory, the present of present things is attention, and the present of future things is expectation"

(C 11.20.26). The past exists only in the mind as reminiscences, and the future is only a

prediction based on what visibly exists at present. But the present can be divided into

progressively smaller durations so that it becomes a "vanishing point" (C 11.15.20). Time raises

a conundrum similar to how God creates ex nihilo.5

Again, the answer lies in intentionality. Once a person translates what her mind

remembers from the past or predicts for the future into (for Augustine) words, then these non-

existent places in time materialize. Of course, this materialization has form to the extent that its

creator gives it form, just as God gives being to His creations: "It was you who made them,

Lord...you who are, because they are. Yet not in the same way as you, their creator, are they

beautiful and good, nor do they exist as you exist; compared with you they have neither beauty

nor goodness nor being" (C 11.4.6). The spirit of Augustine's declaration borrows from

Platonism6, the idea that created things are at gradually farther removes from ideal forms. Still,

when an artist creates a work, that work does not have the artist's ability to remember the past


5 Paul Ricoeur examines this conundrum, what he calls an "aporia," in the first chapter of Time and Narrative.

6 The influence of Plotinus on Augustine's thinking is well-documented. Consider his encounter with the "books by
the Platonists" in the Confessions, starting at 7.9.13.










and foresee the future; its representation of past or future depends on the interpretation of the

beholder. Even its representation of the present changes (recall the Chaucer example).

At this point, a brief review of Augustine' s meditations on matter, form, and creativity will

help us to the next stage. Scripture states that God created human beings in His own image, the

image of a creator. God's creative work described in Genesis 1 parallels how humans create.

First, God created matter out of nothing; similarly, that which humans visualize in their minds to

create does not physically exist. God accomplishes His creation by uttering a word that

expresses His creative intention. This word is eternal in that it is unchanging and of God, who is

also eternal.' The word's eternality means that the act of creation lasts longer than the six days

in Genesis; its duration continues through to this day, and beyond. In addition to its eternality,

the word conveys all of God' s creative intention simultaneously--even though the word rings

loud and clear to this day, whatever is presently created was part of God' s intention, along with

all other created things, from the beginning. We can imperfectly compare this concept to a book:

an author' s creative act is stored in the book, but its effects unfold as a reader per-uses it over

time.

What first comes into existence with God's utterance is heaven and earth, the latter of

which is "formless and empty." In human terms, we can imagine the raw materials before a

work has been made, materials which lack significance and design. The creator must impose his

intention upon the material to give it form.8 Mutability characterizes God's works, evident in a

wide variety of ways, from the change of seasons to a human' s change of mind. Likewise,

human works of art have the ability to change in two ways: the physical material of which the


SI have purposely avoided addressing Jesus Christ as the Word of God for now. This will be covered later in my
essay.

SAugustine's scheme is an invocation of Aristotle's four causes.









work is made changes (which is actually the mutability of God' s original work), and the way

beholders perceive or understand the work. Although the artist's intention (be it memory,

prediction, or observation) manifests itself in the creative act, the completed work becomes

susceptible to the interpretation (intention) of anyone who encounters it. All matter that exists,

including the artist' s material, was created in the utterance of God' s word, so that human

creations--works of art--still bear the imprint of God' s craftsmanship.

What is striking about this framework for creativity is that Augustine unpacks almost all of

this interpretation from the first verse in Genesis, aided by the very basics of Christian doctrine,

which are laid out in the Apostles' Creed. The changeability inherent to all levels of the creative

chain emerge out of the earliest (biblical) account of creation, not out of the fall. In spite of the

ramifications of sin, variation and multiple interpretations would always characterize creativity.

The other striking aspect of Augustine' s conception of creativity is that it serves as a

jumping-off point for an allegorical interpretation of the remainder of the creation account. His

treatment of Genesis 1 benefits the Christian interpreter who can point to God's creativity

without the controversy surrounding a literal reading of the account. Yet Augustine does not

alienate believers with his metaphor because he maintains that the account is true: "[O]bserve

that scripture offers us a single truth, couched in simple words....But is it not interpreted in

manifold ways? Leaving aside fallacious and mistaken theories, are there not divergent schools

of true opinion?" (C 13.24.36). By using the creation account to sketch the roles of scripture,

reading, and interpretation, Augustine gives Christian students of literature a space of hope and

vitality in which to work. I now want to focus on three parts of Augustine' s allegory that,

combined with our previous discussion, set the stage for literary interpretation: the second day of









creation, during which God erects the sky; the fourth day, when the lights of the sky are lit; and

the sixth day, when God commands humans to be fruitful and to multiply.

In Book XII, Augustine describes the order of creation as God's spiritual house. He

continues this idea of a building-like structure in Book XIII, when he associates the sky--an

expanse separating the waters above from the waters below (Gen. 1:7) --with the "vault" of the

holy scriptures (C 13.15.16). This scriptural ceiling is within the spiritual house, one could say,

separating two stories. He draws upon two biblical passages for this analogy: Psalm 104, which

says that God "stretches out the heavens like a tent" (Ps. 104:2), and the prophecy of Isaiah,

which says that the sky will be rolled up like a scroll at the time of God' s judgment (Isa. 34:4).9

The waters above the vault represent the immortal, angelic peoples who "behold [God's]

face unceasingly and there read without the aid of time-bound syllables the decree of [His]

eternal will" (C 13.15.18). Clearly the waters below represent mortal human beings. At this

point, the allegory reveals itself to be anachronistic, in that it is predicated upon the human

condition after the fall, separated from God, which does not occur until Genesis 3. Indeed,

Augustine writes later in his allegory, when he speaks of the creatures of the sea on the fifth day,

"If Adam had not fallen away from you...there would have been no need for the...words spoken

by your stewards amid the pounding waves, words and deeds material and sensible, yet fraught

with sacramental power" (C 13.20.28).

Rather than set up a system that would be destroyed by sin, Augustine installs the solution

to the problem aI irlhin the system, thereby side-stepping complicated (and frankly irrelevant)

speculations about pre-lapsarian life. In the use of the phrase "time-bound syllables," he

additionally introduces the idea that the world beneath the vault relies upon the limited


9 Augustine uses the word "book" as opposed to "scroll" for his allegory. From the beginning of the Christian era,
the New Testament scriptures were always transcribed by believers in codices, not scrolls.










capabilities of language to gain wisdom, that is, to know God better. We are to "contemplate the

heavens, the work of [God's] fingers," for it "imparts wisdom," "evokes perfect praise," "lays

pride low," performs "reconciling work," and induces confession, humility, and worship.

Understanding the scriptures is God's gift to earth-dwellers (C 13.15.17). The vault of scripture

is an instantiation of the word. While the sky will roll up like a scroll at the end of time, God's

word will persist, but only then will we see and know the word, and thus God, fully (18).

Earlier we established that the creative works of humans, because they are made of God-

made material, are subj ect to the order of God' s spiritual house. The location of human works,

including literature, is in the first story of that house, with the earth-dwellers, under the vault of

scripture. Literature seems to have a special significance, since humans gain wisdom and grow

closer to God by contemplating the scriptures, which are made out of the "time-bound syllables"

of language.

Literature's significance becomes clearer on the fourth day, when God spangles the

expanse of sky with sources of light. Augustine interprets the stars to represent believers who,

living "in" the firmament of the scriptures, cast the light of wisdom onto the benighted, sensual

world. Each star possesses a different spiritual gift, be it healing, prophesying, discernment of

spirits, etc. These "stars" already have somewhat interpretive tasks, in that they must reflect the

light of scripture' s wisdom for the world, but the blatantly literary skills go to different members

of the luminary cast. The person who speaks with wisdom is like the light of the dawn, whereas

the person who can "put the knowledge he has into words" is like the "lesser light," perhaps just

before dawn (C 13.18.23).

The distinction between speaking and putting into words implies that the latter is writing.

Writing might be the lesser light for Augustine because speaking has a more immediate impact.










Certainly, several authors, such as Brian Stock, have pointed out the centrality of reading (and

therefore writing) in Augustine's view of Christian learning; his prioritization of speaking and

writing is not important at the moment, because he privileges them both, as verbal acts, above

the other spiritual gifts in his allegory. Writing and speaking transform the obscurity of the night

into the all-encompassing presence of God' s wisdom, the light of day.

Like the second day, the fourth is important for its introduction of language into the world.

Even the scriptural account mentions signs: "[L]et [the lights in the sky] serve as signs to mark

seasons and days and years" (Gen. 1:14). Recall that seasons exemplify the mutability of God's

creation; the lights in the sky now serve to signify that variation, the marking of time. Also

recall that humans use their creative works in the same way, to put into tangible form their

mental perceptions of past, present, and future. Thus, on the fourth day, the creative goals of

humans merge with God's, and believers who use language as their medium stand at the point of

convergence.

Augustine sees a progression in the creation account, starting with the making of formless

matter and culminating in the proliferation of human life on the sixth day. He reflects that

progression in his allegory, so that the sixth day marks the pinnacle of human creation and

thereby justifies Augustine's creative, interpretive act, the Confessions. He interprets God's

command to increase and multiply in relation to interpretation: "[W]e do not find anything able

to increase and multiply in the way that one truth may be articulated in various modes, or one

articulation understood in many different senses; this we find only amid signs displayed by

corporeal things and concepts of the mind" (C 13.24.37).

Augustine compares signs to the sea creatures made on the fifth day and concepts to

human progeny. Once again, as in the case of the lights in the sky, he gives preference to the act









with more immediacy--in this case, thinking over writing. Why is this? Perhaps humans

display their resemblance to God most when their creative acts parallel God's. God creates

heaven and earth by speaking a word; what comes into being as a result of this word is His

creative intention, the product of His "mind." Thus, humans are most like God when they

articulate their creative intentions.

How do we reconcile the preference Augustine gives to speaking in the Confessions with

his critique of spoken word in On Christian Doctrine: "[B]ecause vibrations in the air soon pass

away and remain no longer than they sound, signs of words have been constructed by means of

letters" (OCD 2.4.5)? Written language overcomes speech's transience, but apparently we do

not find our commonality with God through the seeming permanence of writing. Augustine

provides an answer in the first book:

How did He [Jesus Christ] come except that 'the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among
us?' It is as when we speak. In order that what we are thinking may reach the mind of the
listener through the fleshly ears, that which we have in mind is expressed in words and is
called speech. But our thought is not transformed into sounds; it remains entire in itself
and assumes the form of words by means of which it may reach the ears without suffering
any deterioration in itself. In the same way the Word of God was made flesh without
change that He might dwell among us. (OCD 1.13.12)

Throughout his discussion, Augustine equates God's creative word with Christ the Word.

Christ' s identity as the Word allows Augustine to say that the Word is coeternal with God.

Furthermore, as the "Word made flesh," Christ dons the material created out of the Word, the

divine instance of art and artist becoming one.

As a spoken Word, Christ came to humanity, like a spoken word coming to the listener' s

ear. After He ascends to heaven, those who hear His Word receive the thought (or intention) the

Word means to communicate, that is, God' s order of creation, which comes in the form of the

Holy Spirit, who is also God. Thus God embodies all three parts of the creative dynamic










Augustine describes: the creator (God the Father), the intention (the Holy Spirit), and the work of

art (Jesus).

In turn, believers who receive the Holy Spirit, the intention, verbalize Him/It in earthly

language. This is what occurs at Pentecost: "They [the disciples] saw what seemed to be tongues

of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy

Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them" (Acts 2:3-4; my italics).

The disciples "declare the wonders of God" in these multiple languages; what are God's wonders

but His order of creation? Speech thus takes the place of privilege over written language because

it most closely resembles how God established the order of creation.

This order is reflected in Genesis 2, when God allows Adam to name His other creatures:

"Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of

the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man

called each living creature, that was its name" (Gen. 2:19). A synergism occurs between God

and Adam-God creating the animals and Adam creating names for them. Adam performs his

creative act upon the material provided by God, and it is a verbal act. Thus, the naming of the

animals represents the harmonious order of creation. But this is an ideal from before the fall,

when God and humanity were not in different parts of the spiritual house.

Now that humans are separated from God, their methods of creativity do not mimic God's

as much as they did in paradise. An uncertainty arises in human creativity, caused by the

divisive forces of God' s order and human sin. Works of art seek reconciliation in this position of

conflict. Whether an artist operates under an aesthetic of beauty or dissonance, the underlying

motivation of aesthetic is that there is a "proper" manipulation of material that will enhance

people' s understanding of the ordering of the universe. Thus, we have in part Horace' s two










demands for literature, that it delight and instruct. One should not confuse the former with

entertainment and the latter with didacticism. Rather, literature should delight the reader in the

sense that she has a clearer idea of the creative order, or its post-lapsarian disorder. At the same

time, literature instructs the reader to work toward recapturing the order, or to continue to point

out examples of the disorder.

Augustine' s illustration of God' s command to be fruitful and to multiply to the inhabitants

of the land and sea indicates the uncertainty and urgency of creativity in the fallen world: "Thus

the waters of the sea are filled, for it takes a variety of signs to stir them; and so too do human

generations populate the land whose aridity bespeaks its thirst for knowledge, the land where

reason holds sway" (C 13.24.37). Augustine uses the word stir to describe the activity of

writing, which fills the allegorical sea; in his other images of the sea, he uses strong words that

connote motion, including "gush," "stormy," "pounding," "fraught," and "unstable flux" (C

13.20.28). Not only do these words point to frenetic activity, but also uncertainty, as if the act of

writing by humans is their attempt to gain their bearings. 10

Whereas the sea is enraged with numerous, competing written interpretations, the land,

"where reason holds sway," is a stifling desert where generation upon generation of humans

"thirst for knowledge." Augustine' s image is strong because it encompasses all of humanity, not

merely Christians--whether they realize it or not, all humans exhibit their resemblance to God in

the use of their minds to process symbols and search for truth (C 13.24.37). This search incites

desperation, for while their reason motivates their search, reason cannot give them complete




'o In his interpretation of the fourth day, Augustine compares "sacred signs," which either constitute miracles and
spiritual gifts or the words of scripture, with the waxing and waning moon. If we extend the metaphor, the ever-
shifting signs of writing add to the movement of the ocean of written interpretation, like the phases of the moon
controlling the tides.










truth. As Blaise Pascal writes in the Pensees, reason'sns last step is the recognition that there

are an infinite number of things which are beyond it" (Pascal 188).

The vault of scripture hovers over both the land and sea. Brian Stock describes the

scriptures as "verbal signs given by God and revealed to us in the transcriptions of men" (Stock

197). So the scriptural sky is similar to the ocean of interpretations, in that the written word

binds them both, but unlike the tumult of conflicting human interpretations in the sea, the sky is

serene and luminous, the source of wisdom.

Augustine interestingly compares preachers to clouds (C 13.15.18), which can be a

troublesome metaphor. He explains that, like the clouds that blow away, preachers' lives come

to an end, yet the Word that they preach, like the sky, abides. We can extend this metaphor

further to understand the interrelationship of written works. Just as the sky absorbs water from

the ocean into clouds, which rain down upon the land, the conflicting written interpretations of

humans can interact with the scriptures, precipitating knowledge to quench human reason's thirst

for wisdom.

Through his allegory, Augustine has imagined the foundations on which Christian

interpretations of literary works can be constructed. I will briefly recapitulate the highlights of

his allegory covered above. On the second day of creation, God creates the sky, which

Augustine identifies as "the vault of scripture." From this analogy, he establishes the separation

of humanity from God, the condition of the world after the fall. In spite of this separation,

humanity exists within God's order of creation, the spiritual house. The scriptures stretch across

this divide as a way for God to communicate with humanity. Thus, humans find wisdom--

understanding of the order of creation--by contemplating the scriptures. Christian believers play

the role of luminaries installed in the scriptural firmament in Augustine' s interpretation of the









fourth day. They illuminate the wisdom of God' s word and shed light upon the world darkened

by sin. Believers who can utilize language, whether written or spoken, take center stage in

Augustine's allegory; they represent the light of dawn, the prelude to the full disclosure of God' s

wisdom, the light of day. On the sixth day, after God has created everything, he instructs

humans to be fruitful and to multiply, which for Augustine parallels humans' ability to think and

to generate interpretations. The act of interpretation occurs also in the sea, which represents

written interpretation in Augustine's allegory. Humanity's procreation takes on an incessant,

insatiable quality, like the human quest for wisdom, while the tempestuous oceans mimic the

conflict of multiple perspectives put into writing. The vault of scripture can unify the land and

sea by drawing from the scribal ocean and raining down upon the thirsty land of human reason.

The details in Augustine's allegory thus describe the "environment" in which a Christian

literary theory can flourish. This framework benefits the Christian interpreter in that it asserts

the authority of God without being divisive: all of humanity and all creative endeavors--

including literature--are included in the created order conceived by Augustine. We cannot end

the discussion here, however. Serious questions about human nature, and its reflection in

literature, remain.









CHAPTER 3
HUMAN TEXTS AND TEXTUAL HUMANS

Humans, like all of God's creations, are changeable things and change frequently in a

number of ways: physically, mentally, and spiritually. In Chapter 2, we considered how the raw

material from which works of art are made diminishes over time--the weathering of stone, the

fading of pigments, etc. The raw material of humans similarly diminishes; from the point of full

maturity, the body begins its withering descent: "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your

food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust

you will return" (Gen. 3:19). God makes this pronouncement as part of the curse of the fall. Our

human form dissolves back into the material of the earth; not the formless matter of the abyss,

though, for God created the earth out of that formless matter.

Physical death is not the only consequence that followed humanity's fall. The fall itself

marks a crucial change in humans, their proximity to God. Adam and Eve enjoyed a close

relationship with God, both physically and spiritually, in Eden, demonstrated by the creative

synergy between Adam and God of naming the animals. We receive another striking picture of

God' s physical closeness in Genesis 3:8a: "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the

Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day...." But this intimacy is quickly

lost in the second half of the verse: "and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the

garden" (Gen. 3:8b). This moment takes place after Adam and Eve have eaten the fruit from the

forbidden tree. As a result of their disobedient act, they alienate themselves from God, a concept

which we will discuss further in Chapter 4. Thus, the fall from God, the great estrangement

between God and His creations, occurs prior to the humans' physical exile from Eden.

The change in humans' closeness with God stems from another important type of change:

humans change in obedience to God. But we can extend this to say that they change in









obedience to their purpose, since the underlying purpose of humanity is to obey God. We need

not think about this in legalistic terms; rather, the concept is easier to grasp in terms of creativity.

When an artistic work veers away from the artist's intention, the artist might deem the work

"disobedient" and either revise the work or cast it aside to begin a new one. The purpose of the

creative work is wrapped up in the intention of the creator.

Returning to Genesis, one can see in the interaction between God and the humans, before

He banishes them from Eden, that Adam and Eve have strayed from their created purpose. Not

only do they eat the fruit they were told to avoid, but they also hide from God and wish to

conceal their nakedness from Him when He finds them. God acknowledges that His creations

have gone awry with His anguished question, "Where are you?" (Gen. 3:9).

In Book VII of the Confessions, Augustine meditates upon the movement of humans

toward and away from God and the concomitant variations in obedience. According to him, God

is supremely good and unchanging. Everything that God creates is good, but not supremely

good, since complete goodness is not prone to change, which humans (and all other created

things) clearly are. Thus, everything that He creates is prone to destruction, "because if they

were supremely good they would be indestructible" (C 7. 12. 18). Augustine defines destruction

as diminishing the good. Everything that God creates also has being, but only God has complete

being: "[T]hey are real because they are from you, but unreal inasmuch as they are not what you

are. For that alone truly is, which abides unchangingly" (7. 11.17). Being, substance, and

existence all possess goodness then, according to Augustine's thinking. "Hence if they are

deprived of all good, they will be simply non-existent; and so it follows that as long as they do

exist, they are good. Everything that exists is good, then" (7.12.18).









God creates nothing that has no substance and therefore no goodness. Augustine thus

intuits that evil is without substance. It is an absence of goodness, a lack of being. Solomon's

words in Ecclesiastes come to mind: "What is twisted cannot be straightened; what is lacking

cannot be counted" (Eccl. 1:15). That cause of the deformity, that thief of the missing, cannot be

extricated--there is nothing to seize. Augustine refers to this non-being or non-creation as

villainy: "the perversity of a will twisted away from you, God, the supreme substance, toward the

depths--a will that throws away its life within and swells with vanity abroad" (C 7. 16.22).

Augustine' s description of the perversion of humans by villainy illustrates humans' rej section of

their created purpose--the life they throw away--which manifests itself as an outward distortion

(note Augustine' s use of the word "swells"): because of this villainy, humans cease to

understand who they are and what they are meant to do. Paul sums up this distortion in his letter

to the Romans: "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created

things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen" (Rom. 1:25).

As a result, they move back toward the depths of formless matter; the imprint of God on

the human material grows fainter. Augustine reminds us later in Book XII, though, that "the

primal abyss was almost nothingness, for it was still totally without form, although it did exist,

since it had' the capacity to receive form" (C 12.8.8; my italics). The inherent changeability of

humans allows us to turn away from the depths and move back toward God by rediscovering the

purpose with which He created us. Thus, we have the two movements of human creation: the

movement away from God, or sin, and the movement toward God, or sanctification.

Believers can hope in a reunion with God at the end of the process of sanctification

because the sinfulness that opened the gap between God and humanity, exacerbated by the

perpetual presence of villainy in the fallen world, has been closed by the life and death of Jesus









Christ. Recall from Chapter 2 that in the artistic analogue of the Holy Trinity, the Son represents

the work of art, which is humanity in the scheme of creation. Jesus is both perfectly God and

perfectly man, and he embodies the Word from which creation was made. As such, He was able

to don the worldly material and live in the fullness of God's purpose for humanity: "Do not think

that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to

fulfill them" (Mt. 5:17). 2

His disgraceful death to atone for all the sins of humanity means that God' s intention for

humanity is restored and attainable; His resurrection means that the physical death of the body

will not impede the progress of sanctification for those who believe. In terms of humanity as

God's creative work, Jesus acts as the magnum opus--He fulfills both the inherent purpose of

humanity by living perfectly, and He satisfies the consequences for humanity's divergence from

their created intention by enduring their punishment. The implications of Jesus Christ' s sacrifice

and resurrection for humans as creative works are tremendous. The disfiguration of humanity

due to the ravages of sin will gradually heal as the believer clings to God's creative intention; she

will die to sin and grow in the Holy Spirit:

The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and
peace....But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive
because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living
in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through
his Spirit, who lives in you. (Rom. 7:6, 10-11)

Once again, the Spirit is God's intention, which is now breathed into the created work that is the

believer. No longer does sin make the believer the broken machine, the incomplete manuscript,

or the smudged portrait. Rather, "we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good


SThe Father represents the artist, and the Holy Spirit represents the artistic intention.

2 At this point, we can take the Law to mean the express intentions of God for how humanity is supposed to live.
We will momentarily set aside the historical context of the term, as well as its deeper implications for salvation.









works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Eph. 2:10). The redemptive work of Christ

is God' s restoration proj ect, in which the restored works of art take part in the process.

In this part of the discussion so far, we have treated physical and spiritual changes which

humans undergo--the process of aging and death, the disobedience of humans, and the

redemption of repentant believers. Another crucial way that humans exhibit mutability will be

useful to a formulation of Christian literary theory channeled through Augustine, which is the

constant change of human perception. Recall from Chapter 2 that the reception of human works

changes over time. A novel written one hundred years ago may have been loved by its readers

when it first was published, but present-day readers may view it disdainfully. Such a scenario

exemplifies a change in the audience--different groups of people reading the novel at different

points in time. But a single person's reception of a work changes over time also, either from one

reading to the next, or from the first reading to the reader' s memory of the work.

The former example, representing a change in audience, seems to be what D. W.

Robertson advises about in "Some Observations on Method in Literary Studies." A creative

work written at one historical point will not have the same impact at another historical point

because the creative works of humans, like any other "human formulations and institutions...are

contingent phenomena without any independent reality of their own" (Robertson 77). In other

words, since the world around the text changes, the unchanging qualities of the text only reflect

one point in time, and to understand that text, the reader must familiarize herself with the text' s

historical context, that is, what the world looked like at that point in time. As a result, Robertson

argues, "What we call the past is, in effect, a series of foreign countries inhabited by strangers

whose manners, customs, tastes, and basic attitudes even partially understood widen our horizons









and enrich our daily experience" (82). This interpretive visitation that Robertson describes

captures the essence of historical criticism.

Robertson's goal of appreciating a text within its historical context is admirable on some

levels, but perhaps it draws too simplistic a picture of textual interpretation. For instance, Paul

Ricoeur, in analyzing Augustine's meditation on time and memory, makes this observation:

In the name of what can the past and the future be accorded the right to exist in some way
or other? Once again, in the name of what we say and do with regard to them. What do
we say and do in this respect? We recount things which we hold as true and we predict
events which occur as we foresaw them. It is therefore still language, along with the
experience and the action articulated by language.... (Ricoeur 9)

This observation presents the problem for Robertson' s goal: the way that we access the historical

context in which a text was written is through language. Even "the experience and the action"

are rescued from the oblivion of an ungraspable past through language.

This means, then, that the historical context becomes an enveloping text around our

original text. Interestingly, Robertson' s metaphor of the past as a confederation of foreign

countries resonates with Ricoeur' s hermeneutic theory. Unlike spoken conversation, in which

interlocutors share a common reality of references to which they can point, within a written text

"there is no longer a situation common to the writer and the reader" (Ricoeur 141). In spite of

this disconnection, the written text does not necessarily "destroy the world," but rather

establishes a new world with its own set of references, what Ricoeur calls "the world of the text"

(140). Ferretter writes, "A text...frees reference from the limits of the situation in which speech

occurs, and opens up to the reader a 'world,' which comprises 'the ensemble of references

opened up by texts'" (Ferretter 121-22). This world is the subject of textual interpretation:

"Ultimately, what I appropriate is a proposed world. The latter is not behind the text, as a hidden

intention would be, but in front ofit, as that which the work unfolds, discovers, reveals.

Henceforth, to understand is to understand oneself in front of the text (Ricoeur 143)."










Thus, in our example of the century-old novel, the interpreter has the option of looking at

two texts: the novel itself, and the historical circumstances one hundred years ago that encase the

novel. In either case, the fruit of interpretation, what Ferretter refers to above as "non-ostensive

references," seem to be those aspects of an artistic work that possess some immutable character.

Clearly, Robertson favors the historical context, for he writes, "[I]f we impose our own terms on

[the text, rather than terms relative to the text' s historical context], we might as well be studying

ourselves rather than the past" (Robertson 80).3 Ricoeur shows us that any act of interpretation,

be it text or historical context, is an act of studying oneself before the text. Teresa Reed agrees

when she writes, "[A]ny investigation of the past is already tinted by present

concerns.... Similarly, any view of the past is bound to be tinted by every aspect of our present

being" (Reed 2).

Let us return to the second situation, in which the individual human reader's reception of

a work changes over time. As Brian Stock writes, "the relationship between the inner self and its

outward representation is not something stable, obj ective, and enduring but is instead involved

with changing relations between subj ect and obj ect" (Stock 4). In other words, all aspects of an

individual are affected by who and what he encounters in the world and vice versa. So, not only

does the significance of an artwork change with each person's interpretation, as we established

earlier, but the person changes with each encounter with a work of art.

Martin Heidegger observes this dynamic between human and text, that a human's

interpretation of a text is affected by a "fore-structure," which consists of experiences, ideas, and


3 The separation of the creative text from the historical context is exaggerated here, since they rely upon each other
to varying extents for their interpretive significance. The exaggeration also may result in treating Robertson's stance
unfairly, since he certainly does not believe in putting the historical context in such stark isolation. When I argue
that Robertson favors the historical context, I am intending to show that he believes that text and historical context
are inextricably linked, so that the creative text loses a measure of its transcendent character. Robertson begins his
essay by critiquing the tendency to universalize or trans-historicize artistic works (Robertson 74).










concepts that the interpreter already possesses (Ferretter 101). Hans-Georg Gadamer embraces

the notion of fore-structure, asserting that an interpreter cannot avoid such "prejudices"; rather,

she must try to understand them and their influence on the interpretation (102).4 Therefore, in

the same way that Robertson argues that one cannot extricate a text from its historical context, so

Gadamer agrees that the interpreter cannot remove herself from her fore-structure:

We do not study a text from the past, that is, as an obj ect from which we as interpreters are
independent, disinterested subj ects of knowledge, but rather as a part of the very process of
tradition by which our thinking, and all that which structures our interpretation in advance,
is determined....It is impossible to interpret the past, in short, without already having been
affected by it, in a way that determines both what one interprets and how. (105)

Gadamer refers to this concept as the "fusion of horizons": a human interpreter is constrained by

her historical situation, as well as by the amount of understanding she already possesses; when

she encounters a text from the past, it "tests her prejudices" so that she arrives at a new point in

understanding. She has not lost the understanding she had prior to the new text; instead, the text

reshapes that understanding for her next textual encounter. The prejudices of the present cannot

be formed without contact with the past. Robert Forman observes a similar theory at work in the

meditations of Augustine, that of memorial oblivionis, or "memory of forgetfulness":

This is actually memory's most valuable form since it j oins some previously acquired
information with a present experience to yield new insight. This, too, has an aesthetic
application, for the satisfaction produced in encountering any work of art largely consists
in recalling some aspect of one' s own experience in terms of the work encountered.
(Forman 99)

Indirectly, then, Gadamer forms a link with Robertson, in that a chain of tradition j oins a

text from the past, complete with its historical context, to the reader of the present, complete with

her own historical context and her collective understanding. Ricoeur enriches this scheme by de-

emphasizing the linear connotation tied to phrases like "historical context." His view of texts


SGadamer's term "prejudice" should not come with the negative connotation it currently has in modern usage. He
uses the term simply to mean the interpreter's collective understanding with which he comes to a text.










opening up possible worlds takes the retrospective hermeneutic circle and redirects its view

toward the future: "To appropriate the meaning of a text is to actualize in the present the possible

world it proposes" (123).

Thus, encountering a text reshapes the reader' s understanding but also reshapes the

possibilities of that reader' s world. Each subsequent text also affects this metamorphosis; more

interestingly still, a reader who returns to a text later in this hermeneutic circle will have a new

understanding. The interpreter is no longer the same human she was when she first read the

texts; other texts have since added to her understanding; her prejudices have changed. But then

the text itself will be different; it will offer a different meaning to this "new" reader; it will

present different possibilities. We can extend this hermeneutic process to multiple readers,

whose understandings are different in some way. They each respond uniquely to the text, and

the text responds uniquely to them. Augustine himself already seems to understand this plurality

of interpretation. As he writes in the Confessions,

[a]mid this profusion of true opinions let Truth itself engender concord; may our God have
mercy upon us and grant us to make lawful use of the law for the purpose envisaged by his
commandment, pure charity....But let all of us who, as I acknowledge, discern rightly and
speak truly on these texts, love one another and likewise love you, our God, the fount of
truth, if trth is really what we thirst for, and not illusions. (C 12.30.41)

Augustine observes that the Scriptures speak differently to different readers, and he believes that,

if readers are following the Holy Spirit, upholding God' s intentions, then Truth will bring

harmony among the various interpretations and understanding to those who seek it.'

The changeability of humans is central to Augustine's Confessions; indeed, change

within himself marks the climax of the first nine books, his conversion to Christianity. For the

remainder of this chapter, we will examine Augustine' s account of his conversion to see how the



5 Recall that Augustine uses Truth as another name for God (p. 11).









various types of human change we have already addressed interact to reveal important

resemblances between human texts and humans as texts that will help formulate a Christian

literary theory.

Augustine' s conversion account begins in the sixth book of the Confessions, when he

meets Ambrose the bishop of Milan and hears in the latter' s sermons frequent allusions to Paul's

statement in his second letter to the Corinthians that "the letter kills, but the spirit gives life" (2

Cor. 3:6). "This he would tell [his parishioners] as he drew aside the veil of mystery and opened

to them the spiritual meaning of passages which, taken literally, would seem to mislead" (C

6.4.6). Most scholars focus on this moment for its significance in Augustine's eventual

polysemous interpretations of Scripture-the four levels of meaning. But this initial meeting

with Ambrose is significant in two other ways.

Robert Forman marks this meeting with Ambrose as the moment of Augustine' s

"aesthetic conversion," when he turns from the styles of Virgilian poetry and Ciceronian rhetoric

to the deceptively simplistic style of the Scriptures. Forman declares that this is "a dramatic

about-face" for Augustine, the first step in a complete alteration of lifestyle for Augustine that

will culminate in his theological conversion in the garden (Forman 80-81). The second point to

apprehend relates to the first. Ambrose as a catalyst for aesthetic conversion also represents a

key figure in Augustine's hermeneutic circle.

Augustine comes to Ambrose following his disappointing encounter with Faustus, the

sophistic Manichaean orator. The two men stand in stark contrast to each other: whereas Faustus

appears unavailable to his followers, is poorly read in the liberal arts, and has only a shallow

understanding of Mani's writings, which he disguises under his oratorical skill (C 5.6. 10-7. 13),

Ambrose spends most of his time counseling his parishioners, encouraging them to delve deeper









into the mysteries and meaning of the Scriptures; when he is not offering tutelage, he reads

voraciously (6.3.3).

The frustration Augustine feels from his interrogation of Faustus and his failure to

reconcile the confusions within the Manichaean texts bring him to Ambrose, who addresses

those frustrations. Ambrose's teaching encourages Augustine to grapple with issues like

authority, ambition, astrology, and promiscuity as he peruses the works of the neo-Platonists and

finally discovers Paul's writings. Throughout the Confessions, Augustine informs his readers

what he is reading at each stage of his life, offering a sort of providential canon for his journey to

finding Christ. From these details, we can see the hermeneutic circle at work in Augustine and

see how his reading gathers the various strands of his life--physical, social, intellectual,

spiritual--and unifies them in his narrative of conversion.

The centrality of the hermeneutic circle in Augustine' s conversion is apparent also in the

stories related to him by his close friends. Literal texts are supplemented by humans-as-texts,

beginning with Alypius, a fellow native of Thagaste and one of Augustine' s students in

Carthage. Alypius overcame his addiction to the bloodthirsty spectacles of the circuses because

he heard Augustine ridicule circus-goers as an illustration in a lesson he was teaching.

Augustine was unaware that this criticism affected his student so strongly. From this incident, he

realized that "[ylou [God] brought about his correction through my agency, but without my

knowledge, so that it might be clearly recognized as your work....You make use of all of us,

witting or unwitting, for just purposes known to you" (6.7.12).

He drew from the text before him a parallel in which God's intended meaning appears for

Alypius who, responding to Augustine as if to a text, reconsiders his prior understanding and










alters his behavior.6 Augustine does not realize he has become Alypius' text; conversely,

Alypius probably does not realize that he has become a text for Augustine, revealing this lesson

about God's "just purposes."

Next, Augustine hears a story from Simplicianus, Bishop Ambrose's mentor, who recounts

the conversion of Victorinus, a famous Roman teacher of rhetoric. Victorinus confessed to

Simplicianus that he was already a Christian, but he did not want to declare that before the

church because it would enrage his colleagues who worshipped in pagan cults. As he read, he

realized his prideful error, went to church with Simplicianus, and declared his faith in Christ to

the parishioners and angry colleagues. Due to the emperor' s decree that Christians could not

teach rhetoric, Victorinus willingly gave up his post (8.2.3-5.10).

Simplicianus intended his story to motivate Augustine to convert. The similarities between

Augustine and Victorinus are striking: both are accomplished teachers of rhetoric, both are well

read and have searched for spiritual meaning in their research, both are ambitious men.

Simplicianus saw these similarities and wanted to interpret Augustine-as-text in the same manner

as Victorinus-as-text. But whereas pride hindered Victorinus' full conversion, lust prevented

Augustine from accepting Christianity. Thus, Simplicianus misread Augustine, but Augustine

also misreads himself, as he admits later:

I had grown used to pretending that the only reason why I had not yet turned my back on
the world to serve you was that my perception of the truth was uncertain, but that excuse
was no longer available to me, for by now it was certain. But I was still entangled by the
earth and refused to enlist in your service, for the prospect of being freed from all these
encumbrances frightened me as much as the encumbrances themselves ought to have done.






6 Although Alypius realizes that the circuses are detestable, he does not become a Christian at this time. He actually
converts moments after Augustine.









To a certain end Augustine's reading was "complete," in that he was certain of Christianity's

truth, but unlike Victorinus who "from his avid reading" felt compelled to "confess [Christ]

before men and women," Augustine had yet to come across the text that would produce such a

compulsion in him.

He acquires the necessary motivation from the next story. Ponticianus, a court official

originally from Africa, visits Augustine and Alypius. As he speaks to the two of them,

Ponticianus notices a book lying on a table. Once he picks it up and sees that it is the epistles of

Paul, he remembers the story of two court officials in Trier who similarly discover a book sitting

in the cottage of some peasants. The book they found was The Life ofSt. Antony, the most

famous of the first Egyptian monks. As one of the officials started to read it,

a change began to occur in that hidden place within him where you [God] alone can see;
his mind was being stripped of the world, as presently became apparent. The flood tide of
his heart leapt on, and at last he broke off his reading with a groan as he discerned the right
course and determined to take it. By now he belonged to you. (8.6.15)

At this point, he told his compatriot that he was quitting his post to devote his life to God. When

the other official heard this declaration, he too determined to give up his career to serve God.

Ponticianus' story sets in motion the final moments leading to Augustine's conversion, but

before we examine those moments, let us consider the official's tale.

The fact that Ponticianus is African, like Augustine and Alypius, may suggest an instant

accord between the three of them--they share a common background. It is important to look at

similarities within this story, because they played a significant part in the success and failure of

Simplicianus' account. But unlike Victorinus, Ponticianus does not seem to share many

commonalities with Augustine; they seem to be of different stations. Ponticianus appears

knowledgeable before Augustine because he is familiar with the story of St. Antony, as well as

the proliferation of monasteries throughout the empire, information Augustine is astounded to









learn (8.6.14). So the two men's origins are similar, but their opening conversation promises to

move Augustine in a new direction.

Ponticianus next picks up the collection of Paul's letters, of which "I was applying

myself to intensive study." When the official picks up the book, a convergence occurs of the

written texts Augustine has studied so fervently over the years and the stories his friends have

been telling him recently. Also, his holding the book suggests that what he tells Augustine will

enable the latter to receive the truth of God' s purpose, which is expressed in Paul's letters.

Recalling that Augustine was unaware of God' s intention in his instructing Alypius, there seems

to be no confusion of intention in Ponticianus regarding what he can offer Augustine.

The book reminds Ponticianus of the story of the Trier officials, which he begins to relate

to Augustine and Alypius. This incident parallels the events of the story: one official picking up

the book, confessing his faith, and convincing his friend also to convert (although Augustine's

conversion does not happen during his conversation with Ponticianus). As the official tells this

story, though, the lines between human and text become blurred from the book in Trier (which

is The Life ofSt. Antony!), to the one official convincing the other to convert through his

excitement, to Ponticianus' narration, to the book in his hand, to the already existent ambiguities

of Augustine and Alypius as texts. Across this chain, however, the intention of its author, God,

reaches Augustine, that is, to bring His creations back into His created purpose.

After Ponticianus finishes his story, Augustine is distressed. He takes leave of the

official and retreats to the garden adj acent to the house where he and Alypius are staying. His

conversion to Christianity takes place in this garden, and the details of this profound experience

bring together all the types of change we have discussed so far. First, Augustine describes

changes to his physical body. Before he flees to the garden, he speaks with a crazed urgency to









Alypius: "[T]he cadences of my voice expressed my mind more fully than the words l uttered"

(8.8.19). His eyes looked wild, and his face flushed. He enters a physical state that is

simultaneously spasmodic and paralytic:

While this vacillation was at its most intense many of my bodily gestures were of the kind
that people sometimes want to perform but cannot....If I tore out my hair, battered my
forehead, entwined my fingers and clasped them round my knee, I did so because I wanted
to. I might have wanted to but found myself unable, if my limbs had not been mobile
enough to obey. (8.8.20)

Although he does not physically die, Augustine identifies his mental and physical agitation with

the death of his will: "All I knew was that I was going mad, but for the sake of my sanity, and

dying that I might live, aware of the evil that I was but unaware of the good I was soon to

become." Augustine observes that his confusion of movement is his will desiring to carry out

any motion except surrendering to God's will. Cornered in this garden by the truth of God' s

intention that now faces him, his only recourse for staying in a fallen, disobedient state are these

bodily convulsions, which themselves are stifled as his will grows submissive.

Augustine takes this opportunity to discuss the presence of conflicting urges in the mind

and to rej ect the Manichaean theory that two natures--good and evil--play a tug-of-war in the

mind. It is interesting that he chooses to argue against this during his account of conversion. He

argues that the conflict is not as simple as "two hostile minds at war" (8.10.24), that there could

be multiple evil impulses within the mind, or several good impulses vying for attention. Does

this multiplicity of impulses within the human soul not remind one of his discussion of multiple

interpretations of scripture in the twelfth book?

Why not both, if both are true? And if there is a third possibility, and a fourth, and if
someone else sees an entirely different meaning in these words, why should we not think
that he [Moses] was aware of all of them, since it was through him that the one God
carefully tempered his sacred writings to meet the minds of many people, who would see
different things in them, and all true? (12.31.42)










Thus, his acknowledgement of multiple interpretations of scripture under God's guidance echoes

his meditation on the variety of impulses--both good and evil--within the human soul "until one

is chosen, to which the will, hitherto distracted between many options, may move as a united

whole" (8.10.24): this is the resolution he seeks in the garden, that he will finally answer "when

the joys of eternity call."

Once he has solved for himself this issue of conflicting impulses, he envisions his struggle

as an allegory, in which he is the main character. The temptations of his sinful ways tug at him

and whisper in his ears, but he pulls away and walks toward a country "into which I trembled to

cross," until the "chaste, dignified figure of Continence" stands before him, beckoning to him

with her "calm and cheerful" although "modest, pure and honorable" charm. She urges

Augustine to trust in the Lord for His support and healing (8.11.26-27). This allegory, this text,

that plays in Augustine's mind comes to this tense moment of decision, where Augustine must

decide to commit the ending of the story to God, allowing God' s authorial intention to take over.

Breaking out of this allegorical vision, Augustine brings us back into the garden, where he

runs to a secluded spot under a tree as "a huge storm blew up within me and brought on a heavy

rain of tears" (8. 12.28). Within this tempest of emotion he begins praying that God will forgive

him his sins and end the struggle. At this point, perhaps the most famous moment of

Augustine's conversion occurs; he hears children nearby chanting the phrase "Pick it up and

read," which he interprets to be a divine command to read the Scriptures. He admits that he does

this because "I had heard the story of how Antony had been instructed by a gospel text"

(8.12.29). By adhering to the children's command, he internalizes the narrative chain that he had

heard from Ponticianus; Augustine accepts his identity as a text, the created work of God, and

commits himself to the Author' s intention.










He finds the collection of Paul's epistles where Alypius had left it, opens it, and reads the

first passage he comes to, Romans 13:13-14 : "No sooner had I reached the end of the verse than

the light of certainty flooded my heart and all dark shades of doubt fled away." It takes an act of

reading to complete Augustine's conversion. In a sense, a hermeneutic circle is closed when

Augustine accepts Christ, if we view the texts that he encounters merely building to this one

epiphany. Certainly, the works that he read in his life up to the Milanese garden are significant

to hi s conversion--otherwi se he would not have mentioned them in the Confessions--but their

influence on his writing subsequent to the Confessions is undeniable. Thus, Augustine's

conversion actually reveals the hermeneutic circle of his thinking. The passage he reads in

Romans opens up the new world of possibility, which Ricoeur describes as the obj ect of

interpretation.

Ricoeur' s hermeneutics and Augustine-as-text give the Confessions as a work a meaning

crucial to the mission of the Christian literary interpreter. In terms of hermeneutics, Augustine's

writing becomes the moment of testing his prejudices, of fusing his horizons. He looks back on

the significant memories of his life with the perspective he has gained from his reading history,

and he makes an interpretation of those memories that may not be historically accurate but useful

to Augustine in the continuation of his spiritual and intellectual narrative:

While most modern readers would agree that there is nothing of consequence that is false
in Augustine' s account of his conversion, it is unlikely that they would agree all of these
remarkable details occurred exactly as he records them. Even so, Augustine's memorial
recalls the conversion as an experience in which all details of person, setting, and event
assume the role of symbols and images. All of these, in turn, point to higher meaning.
(Forman 90-1)




SRomans 13:13-14: "not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and
jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of
the sinful nature."









In terms of Christian faith, Augustine takes the opportunity in the Confessions to submit

his life up to his conversion to God for revision and restoration. Augustine writes the work in

the second person, as an extended prayer to God, so that the details of his life receive divine

scrutiny. The children' s chant of "Pick it up and read" suddenly takes on another meaning; not

only should Augustine go to the Scriptures, but he should also pick up and read his life with the

intention and understanding that the Holy Spirit can provide. As Paul writes, thereforeor, if

anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, and the new has come!" (2 Cor. 5:17).

Brian Stock also sees this goal in Augustine's writing:

Our understanding of our lives is inseparable from the stories by which we represent our
thoughts in words. Every understanding, therefore, is a reading of ourselves, every
genuine insight, a rereading, until, progressing upwards by revisions, we have inwardly in
view the essential source of knowledge, which is God. (1 11)s

Having reread his life following the intention instilled by the Holy Spirit, Augustine now

stands at the end of the Confessions with a world of interpretive possibility. We now know the

environment in which the Christian interpreter functions; we see the intermingling of humans,

texts, and humans-as-texts; thanks to Augustine, we have a model for retrospective analysis of

ourselves as part of God' s process of restoring believers as His creative work, what we refer to as

sanctification. The next step is to look at texts in this world--what is the role of the Christian

interpreter of literature?












SAlso consider, "Texts and selves interpenetrated: it became possible to look upon the building of a new self as an
exegetical and interpretive process" (Stock 54-55).









CHAPTER 4
REDEMPTIVE READING OR, READING OF RECONCILIATION

In the first two parts of this essay, I have focused on Augustine' s Confessions. Chapter 2

showed the centrality of creation and interpretation in his view of how God formed the world.

Chapter 3 explored the human as a creation--a text--from the perspectives of both God and

humans. The ground we have covered so far allows us to move on to Augustine's later treatise

on biblical interpretation called On Christian Doctrine. In this final part, I will consider how the

believer can extend the restoration proj ect within himself that begins at conversion outward to

texts he encounters in the fallen world.

Augustine ends the second book of On Christian Doctrine with his metaphor of

"plundering the Egyptians." Just as the Israelites took gold, silver, and clothing from the

Egyptians before fleeing to the desert, so too should Christians take from the surrounding

culture what is useful to building their faith and leave what is repugnant:

When the Christian separates himself in spirit from their [pagans'] miserable society, he
should take this treasure with him for the just use of teaching the gospel. And their
clothing, which is made up of those human institutions which are accommodated to human
society and necessary to the conduct of life, should be seized and held to be converted to
Christian uses. (OCD 2.40.60)

In this militant statement Augustine moves from a spiritual segregation to a physical

confiscation. He interprets the treasures of gold and silver to be "liberal disciplines more suited

to the uses of trth and some most useful precepts concerning morals." The clothing on the

backs of the Egyptians, which represents the structure of society, is to be forcefully taken (note

the word "seized") and altered to suit Christian purposes.




S"The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing.
The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so
they plundered the E! priansli (Ex. 12:35-36).









This metaphor offers two troubling possibilities. On the one hand, Christians could take

the treasure and run to the desert, away from the kingdom whose inhabitants wear the cloaks of

society. Consequently, Christians miss out on numerous advantages that society offers which

would further their earthly mission. Their role in the world thus becomes backward and

irrelevant, so that they lose their influence as God's witnesses. Furthermore, the question of

which treasures one should take to the wilderness becomes problematic--if we make the wrong

choice, we could Eind ourselves in a slavery worse than that endured in Egypt.

On the other hand, Christians could strip society of its cloak and turn it into the cloak of

Christian society. Each step of this process involves violence, not necessarily in physical terms,

but in terms of sudden, unsolicited force, which, rather than nurturing the progress of a society

sincerely beholden to Christian doctrine, breeds disillusion and plants the seeds of a reciprocal

coup. After all, a cloak, regardless of its material or its maker, remains a cloak, subject to the

same wrinkles, tears, and misfittings.

Augustine's metaphor seems to advise two contradictory movements--either run away

from society or take it by storm--neither of which satisfactorily shows how the believer can

grow closer to Christ in the world and help to bring other people along on this pilgrimage. The

prospect looks just as bleak in the secular world of academics, including our focus in this essay,

literature. Either Christian scholars take what they can from the secular Hield to study a canon of

literature limited by the demand that it clearly edify the Christian worldview, or they take over

the secular field and force the flow of its progress into a narrow channel, with the danger of

losing important streams of truth along the way. Neither of these options promises a greater

appreciation of literary creation or the promulgation of faith in Christ.










At this point, the question that the Christian interpreter must answer becomes clear; it is a

question that all believers must keep in mind, faced with two challenges of scripture. While John

tells us, "Do not love the world or anything in the world" (1 Jn. 2:15), James also urges us "to

look after orphans and widows in their distress" (Js. 1:27). How does the follower of Christ live

in the world, to carry out the latter command, but not be of the world, to uphold the former?

This question is hard enough to answer in terms of interpersonal relationships; how much more

so in terms of worldly texts!i How does a Christian interpreter take her inner transformation of

Christ' s redemption and apply it to a literary work without diminishing the integrity of the work

itself or of God' s truth? Is such a question worth answering in the grand scheme of

sanctification, that is, one's spiritual progress toward the holiness of Christ? I argue that it is,

and, in spite of his imagery of plundering, Augustine seems to, also. In order to find the answer,

let us first return to Genesis to examine the first act of human interpretation.

Earlier we discussed the creative collaboration between God and Adam, when God created

the animals and Adam named them (Gen. 2:19). Shortly before this act, God places Adam in the

Garden of Eden with one ordinance: "And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to

eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and

evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die'" (2: 16-17). These two events--God's

commanding Adam and the creative collaboration--seem intertwined: the creative order can take

place as God conceived it only when Adam (representing humanity) lives in obedience to God's

rule.

When the serpent speaks to the woman Eve, he reframes God's command: "You will not

surely die...for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like

God, knowing good and evil" (3:4-5). In his argument the serpent uses both truth and falsehood.










Whereas eating the fruit will "open their eyes" and give the humans the godlike power of

knowing good and evil, it also guarantees death for the humans. Interestingly, Eve's next act is

to look, as if in response to the serpent' s comment that her eyes needed to be opened: "When the

woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable

for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it" (3:6).

When Eve looks at the fruit in light of the information the serpent gives her, the serpent' s

re-contextualization of God' s command is complete, as well as the separation of humanity from

God. Eve's gaze is an act of interpretation; everything that she observes about the fruit is true,

and every quality she discerns makes a positive impression on her--food, beauty, and wisdom

are all favorable things. But she has forgotten the one characteristic of the fruit that would put

her observations into perspective, that God has forbidden the fruit. Had she taken account of this

last fact, would the other facts change? The fruit would still be edible, beautiful brain food, but

the significance of those qualities would change, not to mention the other instantiations of those

qualities around her. By deciding not to eat the fruit, her eyes would be opened in a different

way.

People often think that the Edenic tragedy is that Adam and Eve gave up blissful ignorance

for knowledge. In a world where we are deluged with information, and there are countless things

we wish we didn't know, a pristinely naive world sounds attractive. But Adam and Eve did not

sacrifice ignorance to acquire the godlike ability to know good and evil. They already possessed

the tools to gain wisdom and the faculties to utilize those tools. Indeed, Eve correctly observed

that the fruit would enable her to acquire wisdom, but was there another way, besides heeding

the serpent's deception?









At this juncture, a distinction arises between wisdom and knowledge. In the Confessions,

Augustine defines wisdom in this way:

[W]isdom is known to be the eldest of all created things. The wisdom here referred to is
obviously not the Wisdom who is fully coeternal with you, his Father, who are our God,
and equal to you; no, not that Wisdom through whom all things were created, not that
Beginning in whom you made heaven and earth. The wisdom of which I speak is a created
wisdom, the intellectual order of being which by contemplating the Light becomes light
itself. Wisdom it is called, but it is a created wisdom, and as there is a vast difference
between Light as a source and that which is lit up by another, the difference is just as great
between Wisdom that creates and the wisdom that has been created. (C 12.15.20)

Augustine uses Wisdom as another appellation for the Word that creates all things, which he

identifies as God the Son. This would compliment the Book of Proverbs, in which Wisdom is

personified: "Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over

you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom" (Prov. 4:6-7). Wisdom's supremacy would

seem to point to Jesus' later words, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the

Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well" (Jn. 14:6-

7). Knowledge and wisdom do not appear to be synonymous; in fact, it would seem that one

acquires knowledge through wisdom, as in Proverbs 1:7: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning

of knowledge." Fearing the LORD, that is, coming to the Father through Christ the intercessor, is

wisdom. Once one "gets wisdom," she can acquire knowledge.

Applying this dynamic between wisdom and knowledge to Eve's situation, it seems that

she lacked wisdom because she did not adhere to God's command. In spite of her efforts to

know the fruit through her empirical observations, she could not know it fully without the

wisdom of fearing God. Adam and Eve, then, seek wisdom by getting knowledge first, which is

backwards to what Augustine calls "the intellectual order." The problem with gathering

knowledge first is that knowledge is a heterogeneous mixture of truth and falsehood, like the










serpent's argument. The serpent offered Eve knowledge, but she did not employ wisdom to

interpret the knowledge.

Readers of Genesis often wonder why God would plant a tree in the garden of which

Adam and Eve, the caretakers of the garden, couldn't partake. What purpose does a forbidden

tree serve? Here, Augustine's discussion of thring\ in the first book of On Christian Doctrine

comes in handy. He informs us that there are two types of things: those that are to be used and

those that are to be enjoyed (OCD 1.3.3). Things to be enjoyed make the individual blessed and

are characterized by their eternality and immutability (1.22.20). Thus, he writes, "The things

which are to be enjoyed are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, a single Trinity, a certain

supreme thing common to all who enj oy it" (1.5.5). Humans use the things-to-be-used in order

to attain those things that make us blessed, the Things-to-be-enjoeyed--God.

Using Augustine' s definitions of things, what could the forbidden tree and its fruit be

except things-to-be-used? How would they be used except in order to access the Thing-to-be-

enjoeyed? God, then, did not plant a tree that bears fruit; in that case, Eve' s use of the fruit would

be correct and God would be the deceiver. Instead, God planted a tree that bears forbidden fruit,

meaning that inherent within the fruit is its forbidden quality. Eve misuses the forbidden fruit by

treating it like any other fruit in the garden. By eating the fruit, she fails to understand the

significance that God attributes to it. When the interaction between Eve, the fruit, and God

follows the created order, Eve acquires greater insight into all three; by using the forbidden fruit

as a thing-to-be-used in order to enj oy God, Eve gains wisdom. But when Eve does not

acknowledge God's intention for the forbidden fruit, the creative synergy that existed between

the humans and God is lost. Rather than trusting God's wisdom, Eve demonstrates bad faith by










relying exclusively upon her limited, inaccurate knowledge and attributing her own significance

to the forbidden fruit.

Let us take to heart the lesson of Eve' s misinterpretation as we consider literature. First

of all, using Augustine's classifications for things, we can say that literature is a thing-to-be-

used. What type of thing is literature? Apparently from Augustine' s definition in the second

book, literature would fall under the category of conventional signs:

Conventional signs are those which living creatures show to one another for the purpose of
conveying, in so far as they are able, the motion of their spirits or something which they
have sensed or understood. Nor is there any other reason for signifying, or for giving
signs, except for bringing forth and transferring to another mind the action of the mind in
the person who makes the sign. (2.2.3)

At the most basic level, literature is a human creation, imbued with one human's mental action--

what we will tentatively call intention--so that another human can receive that intention. In

addition to the writer' s intention, literature possesses a divine significance, which fi1ters down

through the created order, as we discussed in Chapter 2. Because humans, who are God's

created works, take the material of this world, which is also the created work of God, to make

their own literary work, God's creative intention, to some degree, shines through.

But humans and their literature live in the world after the fall, where all information

contains that serpentine mixture of truth and falsehood. We no longer work in creative synergy

with God, so there is no certainty that our literary works are in accord with the created order.

Literature thus produces a tension for the Christian interpreter: on the one hand, it evinces

humans' divine resemblance; on the other, it seduces with potential untruths that could lure the

reader into disobedience. If he embraces it completely for its own sake, he makes the same

mistake that Eve made; he rej ects the wisdom of God and submits himself to whatever thoughts,

feelings, or actions the literary work may provoke. Yet if he categorically rej ects literature for its









own sake, then he also demonstrates a lack of faith in God: he assumes that God' s wisdom will

not shield him from deception or that God's truth cannot withstand the attacks of a critical work.

In truth, God never commands humans "Don't read," as He commanded Adam and Eve,

"Don't eat." The avoidance of literature because of its potential snares is not biblical; rather, the

scriptures seem to encourage believers to meet the challenges posed by some literature. For

instance, Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians, "That is why, for Christ' s sake, I

delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am

weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10). Later in the same letter, he says this: "Examine

yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ

Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?" (13:5). The scriptures urge the Christian

interpreter to grapple with criticism of the faith that he may encounter. At those points, he must

not turn away from God's wisdom but rather embrace it more fully, so that he may understand

the critiques. Furthermore, deceptions in literature are moments of testing for the believer, when

his faith must endure and grow stronger.

The acquisition of wisdom and the strengthening of faith seem like worthy rewards for

dealing with deceptive or critical literature, but why should the Christian interpreter come to

literature looking for trouble? Why should he not find his cozy academic niche reading and

analyzing literature written from a Christian perspective? In order to answer these questions, let

us digress from literary interpretation and consider Augustine' s explanation of human love:

[I]t is commanded to us that we should love one another, but it is to be asked whether man
is to be loved by man for his own sake or for the sake of something else. If for his own
sake, we enj oy him; if for the sake of something else, we use him. But I think that man is
to be loved for the sake of something else. In that which is to be loved for its own sake the
blessed life resides; and if we do not have it for the present, the hope for it now consoles
us. But 'cursed be the man that trusteth in man.' (OCD 1.22.20)










Humans, like literature, are things-to-be-used-they do not possess the eternality and

immutability characteristic of things-to-be-enjoyed, and Augustine argues that we love humans

for the sake of a Thing-to-be-enjoeyed (who bestows upon us the blessed life). He comes to this

conclusion by recalling Jesus' response when a Pharisee asks him which commandment is the

greatest in the Law:

Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with
all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:
'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two
commandments." (Mt. 22:37-40; my italics)

Since the first commandment compels the believer' s entire being, the love in the second

commandment is subsumed within the first, so that the love a human has for himself and for his

neighbor is a facet of the love devoted to God.

As it is true from the human perspective, so is it true from God's perspective that humans

are things-to-be-used. Augustine further explains the relationship between believers and God:

Therefore He does not enj oy us but uses us....But He does not use a thing as we do. For
we refer the things that we use to the enj oyment of the goodness of God; but God refers
His use of us to His own good.... That use which God is said to make of us is made not to
His utility but to ours, and in so far as He is concerned refers only to His goodness. (OCD
1.31.34-32.35)

Recall from Chapter 3 that God is complete being and supremely good (C 7. 12. 18), and the

being and goodness that humans possess come from God. His "use" of us goes to our good, in

that we align more with our created purpose when we are of use to Him, that is, when we are

obedient. Again, obedience to God is becoming aware of His intention for us (our artistic

metaphor for the Holy Spirit, who comes upon us in our conversion), listening to that intention,

and acting in accordance to it. Because that intention comes from God--is God, in fact--the

enj oyment we receive by adhering to our intended purpose is also His enj oyment; as Augustine

observes, it is "to His own good."









We described this process of coming into accord with God's intention a restoration

project, sanctification. In artistic terms, this is the effort to regain the creative synergy between

humans and God-Adam' s naming of the animals--so that the creative intention expressed by

humans is synchronized with, or is provided within, God's intention. But this reunion extends

beyond outward expressions of creativity; it is also the happy moment of reconnection, when

God's question in the garden "Where are you?" is Einally answered (Gen. 3:9). This moment is

described by Jesus in the parable of the good shepherd:

The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the
gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads
them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep
follow him because they know his voice....I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and
my sheep know me--just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. (Jn. 10:3-4, 14-
15)

This call and response that Jesus describes between the shepherd and his sheep parallels God's

resonance within His human creations that becomes all-encompassing within the believer when

the process of sanctifieation is complete.

Although the process of sanctifieation begins at the moment of conversion, it cannot be

completed in the fallen world, like a line plotted on a Cartesian plane that approaches an

asymptote; the line will draw infinitely closer to the asymptote but will never reach it. The

believer can grow ever closer to God as she becomes more receptive to the Holy Spirit, but the

sinfulness within the world--and in the members of her body, as Paul writes--prevent her from

embracing God with her total being. But this is why Jesus promised that He would return: "They

will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he

will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds,

from one end of the heavens to the other" (Mt. 24:30-3 1). The eschatological moment of the

Christian story is when the asymptotic divide between the believer and God is obliterated and the










Cartesian plain of the fallen world is "rolled up like a scroll." Jesus describes this moment in His

parable of the good shepherd, when the shepherd leads the sheep out of the pen; then the

intention of God' s creative work will be fully realized.

Until that moment of Christ' s return--the arrival of which is unknown to us (24:3 6) -we

still exist in the fallen world.2 But the process of sanctification is not simply an act of waiting

for His return, as the apostles learned after Jesus ascended into the sky:

They were looking intently up into the sky as he [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two
men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand
here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will
come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:10-11)

Prior to His ascent, when He tells the apostles that they will be His witnesses, Jesus does not

intend this witnessing to be staring into the sky. If we are not simply to wait for Christ' s return,

and if we don't know when it will happen, our only recourse, our only way of acting as

witnesses, is to go about living life. As Slavoj 2iiek writes, "[flar from providing the conclusive

dot on the i, the divine act stands, rather, for the openness of a New Beginning, and it is up to

humanity to live up to it, to decide its meaning, to make something of it" (Ziiek 136).

Ziiek shortly thereafter refers to Jesus' act of Redemption as the Event, a term central to

Alain Badiou' s ethic of truth. Before we continue our investigation of the believer' s role prior to



SConsider a similar realization by Fredric Jameson concerning Freudian psychoanalysis and Marxism:

Even the Freudian model of the unconscious...is everywhere subverted by the neo-Freudian nostalgia for
some ultimate moment of cure, in which the dynamics of the unconscious proper rise to the light of day and
of consciousness and are somehow 'integrated' in an active lucidity about ourselves and the determinations
of our desires and our behavior. But the cure in that sense is a myth, as is the equivalent mirage within a
Marxian ideological analysis: namely, the vision of a moment in which the individual subject would be
somehow fully conscious of his or her determination by class and would be able to square the circle of
ideological conditioning by sheer lucidity and the taking of thought. (Jameson 282-283)

The hope for a Christian that he will achieve Christ' s perfection of being prior to Jesus' second coming is like the
terminal, Utopian moments of these other intellectual systems. As Solomon writes, "No one can comprehend what
goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man
claims he knows, he cannot fully comprehend it" (Eccl. 8:17).










the eschatological moment, let us consider this ethic. According to Badiou, an event is an

occurrence that cannot be explained within the context of the situation in which it occurred; the

event is a "supplement," it supplants the normal situation and "compels us to decide a new way

of being" (Badiou 41). This new way of being takes effect when the individual decides "to relate

henceforth to the situation fr~om the perspective of its. Mypllement"l'll (41; his italics). Badiou calls

the decision to interpret the situation based on the new understanding produced from the event

"fidelity to the event" and the process of that interpretation, operating according to the event,

"truth" (42). Therefore, the "ethic of truth" is the principle of "being faithful to a fidelity" (47).

The truth that Badiou describes does not exist prior to the event; if the event is a break

from the commonalities of a situation, it stands to reason that the event' s truth could only appear

once the event took place. Likewise, those who practice the ethic of truth in the wake of an

event, whom Badiou calls the "subj ect" (43), were not part of the subj ect prior to the event.3

Badiou identifies within each individual that comprises the subj ect-each "some-one" -two

components of the individual: there is "the animal 'some-one,'" that is, the person himself, and

the "excess of himself," which exists beyond what is recognizable in one person by another. The

fidelity to an event captivates this excess; it passess through him, from within time, in an instant

of eternity" (45; his italics).

Within the scheme of Badiou's ethic, then, there appear to be two simultaneous, parallel

conditions: there is the known, which encompasses the banality of the situation and the animal

some-one, and the unknown, the process of truth following an event that leads the excess of self

on a course of discovery (47). The ethic sets as its goal to "link the known with the not-known,"

to subsume the interests of the animal some-one (survival, self-interest) within the perseverance


3 Badiou never refers to the subject of an event as a single individual. When he speaks of an individual who makes
up part of the subject, he refers to him as a "some-one."










of the excess self to remain faithful to the fidelity. Thus, the interests of the animal some-one

bend to the pursuit of the fidelity in a "disinterested interest":

[A]s regards my interests as a mortal and predatory animal, what is happening here does
not concern me; no knowledge tells me that these circumstances have anything to do with
me. I am altogether present there, linking my component elements via that excess beyond
myself induced by the passing through me of a truth. But as a result, I am also suspended,
broken, annulled; dis-interested. For I cannot, within the fidelity to fidelity that defines
ethical consistency, take an interest in myself, and thus pursue my own interests. All my
capacity for interest, which is my own perseverance in being, has poured out into the future
consequences of [the truth]. (49-50)

Let us now return to the life of the Christian. If Christ' s act of redemption is, as Ziiek

calls it, the Event, how can we view the believer through Badiou's lens? The body of believers

becomes the subject; the fallen world, the situation.4 Following our conversion, our acceptance

of God' s creative intention for us, we see within us the animal some-one, what Paul describes as

"sin living in me" (Rom. 7:20), the interests of a "mortal and predatory animal." The truth of the

Event passes through our excess selves, what will become the resurrected self: "The body that is

sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown

in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body" (1 Cor.

15:42-44). The sinful nature that gradually dies within the believer, like the interests of the

animal some-one, are "suspended, broken, annulled; dis-interested." In the meantime, the excess

self follows in fidelity the tr-uth, discovering the process of sanctification. We know the ultimate

destination of this process of truth, but we do not know the directions it will take before then.




SHow is it that the historical event of Jesus' death and resurrection can be the Event for believers today? Recall,
from Chapter 2, Augustine's description of God's word that is spoken both within time and eternally, so that His
intention to form the world in Genesis 1:1 is also that which creates a newborn today. The Event of Redemption
takes a similar form as God' s creating word, so that Jesus atones for the sinfulness of believers in that historical
moment, allowing the conversion or "rebirth" of believers to this day. So a baby is born in the hospital of a small
town in Florida, to parents who conceived her nine months prior, but she was created by God's creating word at the
beginning of time. Saul of Tarsus repents of his sins because of a conversation he has with God on the road to
Damascus and becomes Paul, but his becoming Paul happens due to Jesus' redeeming work on the Cross.









Which brings us back to the challenge posed by Ziiek, that we have to make sense out of

Jesus' act of Redemption. Badiou frames the question this way: "How will I, as some-one,

continue to exceed my own being? How will I link the things I know, in a consistent fashion, via

the effects of being seized by the not-known?" (Badiou 50). And, once again, we have the

Christian's puzzle, "How do I be in the world, but not of it?" Jesus gives us the challenge--

witness while you wait: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his

own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be

my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:7-

8). Jesus' final words before going up to heaven remind the disciples of things He has said

previously: the time of His return is not known, but believers are to be prepared for it (Mt. 24:36-

51, 25:1-13). Also, believers are to make disciples in His name and teach them to obey God's

commands (28:18-20). Thus, the waiting-game for believers is an active game: implicit in our

waiting is the spreading of our faith to non-believers, and at the same time, our evangelizing

brings new believers into the same game of waiting.

We must examine closely what this active waiting looks like, not only as believers but as

interpreters of literature, because both waiting and witnessing are essential to our literary theory.

At one point, prior to Jesus' crucifixion, the disciples ask Him when He will return:

Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name,
claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.... At that time many will turn away
from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and
deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow
cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will
be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
(24:4-5, 10-14)

Three actions characterize the waiting Christian: he watches out that no one deceives him, he

stands firm, and he preaches the gospel. The latter action describes witnessing; let us consider

the first two, those that describe waiting. The believer must not be deceived by false prophets









who declare they are Christ; their actions oppose the act of witnessing. Therefore, the believer' s

waiting must oppose their opposition--as charlatans claim, "I am the Christ," believers must be

able to counter, "He is not the Christ." Christian waiting, then, is a process of identifying and

negating. Just as the sheep know and come to the voice of the shepherd, so they must also know

not to heed the call of the thief.

By identifying these false prophets as "not-God," believers re-create in their negation that

same moment of wondrous watching when Jesus ascended into the sky. It creates the same void

but also the same promise that Christ is returning. The believer must have faith that Jesus is who

He says He is. If the believer is fooled into thinking that the false prophet speaks truthfully, his

recognition of the truth will be delayed, but it will also spring from disillusionment, which is a

further hindrance to faith. If the believer makes the negative identification as an act of faith in

Christ, though, disillusionment will not result; rather, hope will grow in the believer. This hope

then inspires the believer to take action out of love (carita~s).

In addition to this identification of things as not-God, the believer is also to stand firm.

He stands firm by not letting his love grow cold. Let us revisit the two great commandments that

Jesus tells the Pharisee: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; love your

neighbor as yourself. God's creative intention for humans rests in abiding by these two

commands. To stand firm in love is to stand firm in one's intended purpose. The Holy Spirit,

God in the form of His intention, that driving force that brings believers inexorably toward

Himself, dwells within Christ' s followers--an inner resonance that sounds with the call of the

Shepherd, that hand or whispering voice that directs you to your purpose. To stand firm in love

is to stand firm in the Holy Spirit.










How do these two actions--the identification of things as not-God and the standing firm

in love--play out in the life of the believer? We now shall consider as an example one of Jesus'

commands from His Sermon on the Mount before applying these actions to literary analysis:

"You have heard that is was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you:

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in

heaven" (5:43-45). In this command, Jesus first distinguishes between the two, neighbors and

enemies. Then He follows with a "but," suggesting that this classification is subverted. Does

loving one's enemies fall under the great commandments? If we demonstrate our full love for

God by obeying this command, we must re-define enemies. Certainly we easily perform the

negation, that our enemies are not-God. Where, then, do enemies fall in this scheme? They

become our neighbors, whom we are to love as ourselves. Neighbors, enemies, and believers all

participate in this act of love.

But they are our enemies; we have perceived an opposition to us within them, or we have

experienced some sort of wound at their hands. A tension remains that leads us back to the

negation. Where else can not-God be identified? We must identify ourselves as not-God. For

while the Holy Spirit lives within us, there is still Badiou's "animal some-one," the part of us in

which sin still lurks. This self, where our instincts of survival and interest-protection reign, must

be identified as not-God in order for Jesus' command to work. Once we identify ourselves as

not-God, we recall our identity, as His creation. Then our enemy's identity falls into place, as a

fellow creation, a~s our neighbor.

What, then, is the enmity between "us" and "them"? It has been a distorting agent,

hindering us from adhering to God's commandments and therefore our created purpose. We can

then recognize it as sin and rej ect it, allowing us to take the third action, exhibiting our belief of










and love in Christ to our enemy, which will take different forms, depending on if this enemy is a

believer or non-believer. Is our goal then to have our enemies love us? If we expect love fr~om

our enemies, then we once again misinterpret God's command. We neglect to identify ourselves

as not-God, because we are trying to love our enemies for our sake, in the hopes that they might

Einally "play nice." No, we must love them for God's sake. When we do this, a tension still

exists in the scheme, but rather than tension between our enemies and us, it becomes tension

between us--that is, Badiou's excess, that which the Holy Spirit has captivated within us--and

the distortion of the fallen world. We can see, then, that loving our enemies is a movement

toward God in the process of sanctifieation.

We can extend this active waiting to our encounters with literature, if we cling to God' s

wisdom in the process. On the one hand, we know that God has not prohibited us from reading,

writing, or thinking about literature. On the other hand, we know that, while the Einger of God

has touched every thing in this world, every thing, including literature, is not in line with His

created intention. Not even believers, in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, are free from the

sinfulness of the fallen world:

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my
inner being I delight in God' s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my
body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin
at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this
body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:21-25)

This is the struggle of the believer in his process of sanctifieation, transcending the sinful

influence of his ties to the fallen world, or as Badiou would say, continuously exceeding his own

being. While this struggle plays out within us, how much more do we realize the havoc that sin

wreaks upon non-believers! Jesus has called us to witness to these individuals who have not

reclaimed their purpose as creations, God's intention. We invite non-believers to take part in the

Event of Christ' s Redemption, to experience alienation from this world by identifying it as not-










God and begin the process of redeeming their life in this world through an interpretation of love.

This love that awakens in us is not for our sake, for the sake of non-believers, nor for the sake of

the fallen world; the love that takes place is for God's sake. Embodied in the Holy Trinity, He is

the Thing-to-be-enjoeyed, that makes the lives of those who enj oy Him blessed.

In our quest to enj oy Him more fully, in the process of sanctification, we see things-to-be-

used, which we use "in obtaining that which you love, provided that it is worthy of love" (OCD

1.4.4). Humans are worthy of love, yet Augustine classifies them as things-to-be-used. The love

for ourselves and our neighbors is part and parcel of our love for God, once again showing that

our love for fellow humans is for God's sake. Within this relationship, though, we see that the

use of humans as things-to-be-used is for love--to love and be loved.

Literature, as Augustine established, is a type of sign that attempts to convey the mental

actions of humans, a type of intention. For this reason, our emotional and intellectual responses

to humans can be reflected in our responses to literature. To the extent that we can alight upon

something human within literature, we can treat it similar to the way we treat our neighbors. But

to say that we love literature in the same way that we love ourselves, our neighbors, or God is to

be "shackled by an inferior love" (1.3.3). Although humans and literature are both things-to-be-

used, their uses differ. Whereas the utility of humans lies in their capacity for and ability to give

love, the utility of literature lies in facilitating that love.

Perhaps considering the nature of the scriptures will assist us in understanding how to use

literature. According to Augustine,









it is to be understood that the plenitude and the end of the Law and of all the sacred
Scriptures is the love of a Being which is to be enjoyed and of a being that can share that
enj oyment with us....That we might know this and have the means to implement it, the
whole temporal dispensation was made by divine Providence for our salvation. We should
use it, not with an abiding but with a transitory love and delight..., so that we love those
things by which we are carried along for the sake of that toward which we are carried.
(1.35.39)

Thus, we use scriptures to facilitate our love for God as we engage in the process of

sanctification. But is literature to humans what scripture is to God? Recall God's traits of

immutability and complete goodness. His word and His intention are each part of Him-they

make up two thirds of the Trinity--so they do not change either. Humans are neither

unchanging nor completely good (in fact, the goodness we have comes from God); we cannot

imbue our writings with the steadfastness of scripture.

So literature is not exactly like humans or scripture. If we have access to humans and

scripture, and they make up for the inherent weaknesses of literature, then what use is literature

to Christians? But in its very unlikeness to these two things, literature finds its use. Consider

again Ricoeur' s praise of texts: "Through fiction and poetry, new possibilities of being-in-the-

world are opened up within everyday reality" (Ricoeur 142). We don't go to literature to get

actual human interaction, nor do we go to literature to receive God's word, but we do go to

literature to extend the possibilities of human interaction and to understand how God' s intention

can infiltrate and guide those possibilities.

As Ferretter points out, Ricoeur conceives of interpreting these possible worlds as an

appropriation, "a process by which the reader 'makes his own' what was initially alien, because

of the distance between writer and reader" (123). For the Christian, then, making literature his

own means applying the process of active waiting to the text: identifying the text, the meaning

the reader gleans from it, and the internal effect the text has upon the reader all as not-God, and

then putting it "in conversation" with God' s intention under the auspices of the truth provided by









God in the scriptures. This latter step represents the Christian interpreter standing firm in love,

because he cannot set apart his act of literary interpretation from the process of sanctification.

Believers are called to listen ever more closely to God' s intention in all aspects of their lives, and

thus this call holds true in reading.

Therefore, we cannot "plunder the Egyptians" when it comes to reading literature. When

we do, we don't live in the fullness of our created intention, because we shortchange our

interaction with God and stunt our growth as revised creations. Although his concept of

plundering does not satisfactorily guide the Christian's interpretation of literature, Augustine did

provide a workable concept for literary study that can be revitalized by our discussion here--

charity, or carita~s:

Scripture teaches nothing but charity [caritas], nor condemns anything except cupidity,
and in this way shapes the minds of men....I call "charity" the motion of the soul toward
the enj oyment of God for His own sake, and the enj oyment of one' s self and of one' s
neighbor for the sake of God. (OCD 3.10. 15-16)'

For this reason, Augustine asserts that if scripture seems to promote cupidity or undermine

charity, we must read such passages figuratively. While he can declare the binary facets of

scripture with certainty, we cannot do so with literature--a single work could in places embrace

and rej ect charity and shun and uphold cupidity.

Augustine's solution to this confusion was to simply pick and choose pieces of literature

that clearly embrace charity, but once again, we don't reap the benefits of literature by doing

this, just as we are not fully living up to our created purpose if we shut out worldly people

because they do not uphold charity. We are called to go into the fallen world to exhibit and

explain our alienation from it. At the same time, we cannot detect cupidity in literary works and



5 The quote continues: "But 'cupidity' is a motion of the soul toward the enjoyment of one's self, one's neighbor, or
any corporal thing for the sake of something other than God" (3.10.16).










claim that the author intended it Eiguratively. Even though we cannot use carita~s in the same

manner as with the scriptures, it gives us a place to start in literature.

When aspects of a literary work do uphold charity or condemn cupidity, the Christian

interpreter should recognize them and appreciate them, but the hard work begins with portions of

literature that seem out of line with or opposed to God' s intention. The interpreter first must

identify how the work disagrees with doctrine; then he must think about why the conflict is there.

Most importantly, he must consider the value of the difference--how does the difference affect

the vision of the overall work? How does the difference affect him, both as a reader and as a

Christian? What does the difference say about God's intention? Does it clarify or obscure parts

of scripture or the life of the believer (if the latter, then a whole new series of questions arises)?

How do the answers to these questions about the opposition affect the aesthetic details of the

work?6

These questions sound cold and didactic within the confines of this theoretical essay, and

they may not take the same shape when interpretation actually occurs. The goal of such

questions, however, is to show where the Christian interpreter' s labor really lies. He should not

comb the work for "Amen!" statements--a literary work is an artifact of the fallen world, where

such statements are frequently oblique and sparse. Rather, the interpreter is serving those readers

seeking God's intention when he focuses on the tendentious points within literature. As he uses



6 The practice of charity also applies to other interpretations, other theories of literature. Consider Augustine's
words in the Confessions:

But as for those who feed on your truth in the wide pastures of charity, let me be united with them in you,
and in you find my delight in company with them. Let us approach the words of your book together, and
there seek your will as expressed through the will of your servant, by whose pen you have dispensed your
words to us. (C 12.23.32)

As in On Christian Doctrine, he is speaking of scriptural interpretation, but one can see how the practice of charity
can allow the interpretation and utilization of other theories--even overtly hostile theories--to make his own
interpretation.










scripture to shed light on the literary text, that very interpretive work should bring fresh insight

into the wisdom of the scriptures themselves. The completion of the analysis should not leave

him feeling comfortable; instead, his alienation with the world should be renewed, or the literary

encounter should spur him to take the next step in sanctification, to "Keep going!"' and remain

faithful to the truth he has discovered.

When the believer has reached the end of the interpretive process, he will have established

a reconciliation with the literary work. This does not mean that he has converted it into a

Christian work; such an act commits violence to the text and does not leave the interpretation on

a note of tension. Rather, he has maintained the integrity of the text but has pointed it in a new

direction, leaving the invitation for future readers to look at it in a similar way:

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once
regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a
new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us
to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was
reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he
has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:16-19)

We share this message of reconciliation in literary interpretation when we juxtapose it with

the text and let them "speak to each other," in the same way that the message is shared with non-

believers. Recall Simplicianus' failure in converting Augustine with his story: although

Augustine had much in common with Victorinus, crucial details of the latter' s story kept it from

fitting the former. We cannot make Simplicianus' mistake and force texts into the molds of our

expectations. We cannot ignore the misfittings; instead, we must engage them and experience

the growth of our love because of our engagement with them, for the sake of fulfilling the

created intention bestowed upon us by God.




SThe maxim of the ethic of truth, according to Badiou (52).









CHAPTER 5
CONCLUSION

In Christian Figural Reading and the Fa~shioning of Identity, John David Dawson

investigates the postmodern critique of Daniel Boyarin that Pauline theology aims to supercede

traditional Judaism, that is, to "regard as religiously (and Einally, humanly) irrelevant the

physical genealogy and embodied practices that formerly identified them as Jews" (Dawson 3).

He seeks to prove that Paul's reinterpretation of Jewish practices is an effect of "a divine,

transformative performance in history" (7), the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Rather

than subverting the literal culture and practice of pre-Christian Judaism, Paul's retrospection of

them after the sacrifice of Christ actually extends their meaning and brings them into fuller

relief:

The key to the capacity to extend rather than undermine lay in the distinctive quality of
Christ' s identity, for it was precisely (and only) Christ whose identity was so singular and
unsubstitutable that it could, by virtue of the relation it bore to others, enhance their
distinctive identities, even as it transformed them by bringing them into fuller relief. (212)

Dawson' s identification of this "extending without supplanting" that occurs in the Eigural reading

of Jewish tradition translates well into the ethic of literary interpretation I have established in the

previous pages, although the practice takes a certain twist.

The Christian interpreter must juxtapose the literary work with God' s intention expressed

in the scriptures, to see where they align and where they diverge. Some readers would think that

the interpretation was complete when they found the parts of literature that embrace God' s

wisdom. In fact, the discovery of such passages might induce some to "out" their authors as

"closet Christians." But this method of interpretation exemplifies the supersessionist attitude

that Dawson argues against. Indeed, to illuminate only the Christian crannies of literature

suggests that believers need to satiate their thirst for God's wisdom from the world's literature,










but those who do again misplace the utility of literature. They are like Eve, trying to acquire the

wisdom of God by eating fruit.

Christian interpreters and readers do not need literature to give them wisdom. Recall

from Chapter 4 that literary works open up worlds to the reader that she may otherwise never

experience. Within these worlds, she discovers new facets of human interaction, between each

other and with God. These interactions take place in an experimental space; they offer

possibilities. The Christian interpreter then can apply God's wisdom to these potential

exchanges, in the same way that he is called to do so in real life. In this way, then, literature

does not give us God's wisdom; rather, it gives us new opportunities to think about and employ

God's wisdom. Thus the scriptures play a crucial role in the Christian's encounter with another

text.

The supersessionist attitude that Dawson points out can lead to another misunderstanding

about how Christians should approach literature. Like the misguided idea that the redemption of

Christ supplants the Jewish people, Christians may mistakenly consider the Christian

interpretation of a literary work to be a conquest, a victory for the "good guys" that forces the

"bad guys" to lose ground. This view would explain the defensive tone of much Christian

literary theory, the writers of which defend themselves against other Christians who feel

threatened by the dangers of secular literature and against secular critics and theorists who have

theorized the obsolescence of Christianity. Approaching literature from a defensive standpoint

marginalizes the Christian interpreter and characterizes him as a victim. His recourse then

becomes vengeance.

Let us reconsider Alain Badiou' s ethic of truth for a moment. He writes, "It must...be

the case that what the event calls forth and names is the central void of the situation for which









this event is an event" (Badiou 72). So, for example, the proletariat, the workers exploited by the

societal domination of the bourgeoisie, are the void of the communist revolution. In terms of

Christianity, we identified the event as Christ' s redemption manifest in His death and

resurrection. The void of this situation, then, is--not Christians, because the Christian identity

was not yet known, but God Himself in all three instantiations of the Trinity--the maj esty of the

Father, the righteousness of the Son, the intention of the Holy Spirit. The subject, which we

established is the body of believers, are those who hear the call of the situation' s void: "[W]hat is

retained of [the event] in the situation, and what serves to guide the fidelity, must be something

like a trace, or a name, that refers back to the vanished event" (72). This is Peter' s confession to

Jesus that "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt. 16: 16). This is the believer' s act

of witnessing to Christ that He commanded us to carry out, prior to His ascension.

The Christian interpreter makes a mi stake if the event of his analysis names anything

other than God as the void. Although he may capture the imagination of his readers, his work

must invoke the name of the void of the original Event, God, so that the readers will become part

of the subj ect as well. Otherwise, he practices what Badiou calls "Hidelity to a simulacrum" and

subverts the framework of the actual Event.

To avoid naming the Christian interpreter the void of the event is not to say that the

interpreter as subj ect faces no opposition, though. Badiou is quick to point out that everyey

Eidelity to an authentic event names the adversaries of its perseverance" (Badiou 75). Because a

Eidelity breaks with the situation, with "opinions and established knowledges" those who are

faithful to the fidelity are prone to feel the banalities of the situation--and those who uphold

them--pressing the faithful to return to the animal interests. But one who takes a defensive









stance to those pressures actually surrenders to them, because he attempts to protect a perceived

self-interest.

The attitude of"Keep going!" that characterizes a fidelity can be the only response to such

adversity; perseverance offers wisdom and brings to the faithful a greater understanding about

the opposition, the identity and significance of which become "extended," to use Dawson' s term.

This dynamic between the faithful and their opposition echoes Paul in his letter to the Romans:

"[W]e also rej oice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;

perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has

poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us" (Rom. 5:3-5).

When the Christian community or Christian interpreters are placed in the role of victim,

they become the void because they then focus their efforts on regaining some influence or power

for the community. But such struggle is not the substance of event; it is the substance of

situation: "Every invocation of blood and soil, of race, of custom, of community, works directly

against truths; and it is this very collection that is named as the enemy in the ethic of truths" (76).

We must remember what Ziiek declares about the revolution of Christ' s act of redemption:

[W]e are formally redeemed, subsumed under Redemption, and we have to engage in the
difficult work of actualizing it. The true Openness is not that of undecidability, but that of
living in the aftermath of the Event, of drawing out the consequences--of what? Precisely
of the new space opened up by the Event. (137)

The revolution has already taken place; those who believe respond to the revolution in their

actions. They are forming the community that crosses boundaries of culture, race, class, and

gender. We have no need to be defensive or protectionist; rather, we must be proactive in

obeying the commands to witness and to love.

Just as Jesus' identity as the Son of God illuminates for Paul how the Jewish traditions

come into fulfillment through the extension of their meaning that results from the Cross, so too









can Christian interpreters envision Christ' s fulfillment in the divergences of secular texts from

God's intention: "[T]he spirit does not undermine but instead draws out the fullest meaning of

the letter; the letter must remain in the spirit because the spirit is the letter fully realized"

(Dawson 217). The letter is in the spirit, even if the letter strays from God's intention, because

the letter says important things about the fallen nature of the world, the pain of humanity, and the

need for God's mercy. The letter calls for the Holy Spirit to respond; the Christian interpreter is

in turn moved by the Holy Spirit to understand the letter with God's wisdom and to respond to it

with Christ-like compassion.










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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Zachary Beck was born and raised in Cocoa, Florida. He graduated Valedictorian in 2000

from Cocoa High School, received the Xerox Award for Excellence in the Humanities, and was

recognized as a National Merit Scholar. In 2002 he was named an Anderson Scholar for

outstanding academic performance during the first two years of his bachelor' s program at the

University of Florida. His undergraduate honors thesis examined the religious and philosophical

motivations of the muckraking j journalists at the turn of the twentieth century. He graduated

summa cum laude from the University of Florida in 2004 with bachelor' s degrees in English and

political science. From 2005 to 2006, he edited the quarterly periodical for the Christian Study

Center of Gainesville entitled Reconsiderations, which "explores Christian thought in the

university community." In May 2007, Zachary earned his Master of Arts degree from the

University of Florida.