In book one of Augustine’s Confessions, he begins by praising God and at the same time confessing what he has come to learn about God.
And what he has come to learn is that a lost soul is still a part of God’s creation. Moreover, a lost soul desires to praise God-even though it may not know it at the time because it is wrought with sin and pride.
Augustine would insist however, that this loss soul is restless until it finds rest in God. But he also realizes that God is the one drawing this lost soul to Himself.
So he states, “Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of Praise, your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we humans, who are a part of your creation, long to praise you- we who carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. Yet these humans, due part of your creation as they are, still do long to praise you.”
After Augustine recognizes that God is the one drawing us to Himself and that He is worthy of praise, he begins to ask a few questions.
He asks: “Grant me to know and understand, Lord which comes first: to call upon you or to praise you?”
Or, ” to know you or to call upon you?” And then he asks further, “Must we know you before we can call upon you?”
And here, it is as if he pauses and thinks about the questions for he says, ” Anyone who invokes what is still unknown may be making a mistake. Or should you be invoked first, so that we may then come to know you?”
“But how can people call upon someone in whom they do not yet believe?” And how can they believe without a preacher?”
Surely, Augustine is reflecting upon his life here and how he followed the wrong path when he thought it was the right path. Something we all can relate too.
Augustine cannot answer each of his questions, but he does find one answer that seems to satisfy his hunger. So he tells his readers as he confesses the truth of what he has discovered.
“But scripture tells us that those who seek the Lord will praise him, for as they seek they find him, and on finding him they will praise him.”
Augustine realizes that praise is comely for the upright and he is ready and willing to offer up this praise for he has found the Lord.
But even though he has found the Lord, Augustine wants more, and even if Augustine cannot tell for certain which comes first, he declares to the Lord something we should all consider:
“Let me seek you then, Lord, even while I am calling upon you, and call upon you even as I believe in you, for to us you have indeed been preached.”
Seek – Call upon the Lord – Believe
Call upon the Lord – Believe – Seek
Believe – Seek – Call upon the Lord
So to us – that have indeed been preached too – and have heeded the call. Let us continue to seek the Lord as he quiets our restless hearts. And as Augustine reminds us, let us never forget that “God is exceedingly worthy of praise.”
-Ronald Burris, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Church History