At our very first gathering, Dr. Charles Scalise said his goal in teaching Early Church History was not to teach us everything there is to know about this discipline, but to begin the life-long dialogue between us and these people in their times.
He did just that. Instead of ending the class, mentally fatigued and wanting nothing to do with early church history the rest of my life, I feel drawn to these people and their stories. I want to spend more time listening to Ambrose, Augustine, Athanasius, Jerome, Origen and several others. I’ve found that reading these writers can often be tedious, but mostly worth the work.
Back then, there was no distinction between studying theology and engaging personal spirituality. Theology was always practical. No one studied the God of the Scriptures without reporting radical soul change deep within. I admire the purity and power of their studies. Many times they got it wrong, and thinkers after them have had to tweak and modify.
I spent most of my energy studying St. Augustine and particularly his own account of his conversion. He wrote an autobiographical work, called The Confessions. In it, he systematically went though his life observing his tendencies and their meanings. I wrote a paper on the chapter on his conversion.
Mostly, I gleaned the powerful transformation of Augustine’s mind, heart and will at his conversion. I was impressed with how his mind was obviously transformed from the Neoplatonist worldview, to one which engaged the Scriptures. Secondly, Augustine was changed emotionally from fearing God & deeply mourning his sin, to joyfully trusting Christ & giving up his dreams (professor of rhetoric) and desires (mostly sexual) for Him. In this, he also observed change in his will. This is something I don’t think many Christians today experience at their conversion. But Augustine felt the power of sin (mostly his loose sexual background and desire for prestige) in his life at conversion and wrestled it right to the ground. Right after his conversion, he left his professorship for the ministry and became totally chaste. His wrestling with his own will after conversion seems to have been minimal. I cannot relate to this, but see it all over the Scriptures (especially 1 John 2:3, And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.) This has deeply impacted me lately. God has my mind and my heart, but many times I feel He does not yet have my will. Am I even saved?
Thank you Dr. Scalise! I have appreciated your ministry this quarter. Such ministry is why I came to seminary in the first place. Thank you for stewarding your call to form the minds, hearts and wills of future Augustines.