This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #160, titled, “Augustine of Hippo: A Tortuous Path to Faith (Part 1).”
When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.
Our Scripture for today is Romans 13:13-14 which reads: “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”
Our History of Christianity quote today is from Augustine of Hippo. He said: “When I though of devoting myself entirely to you, my God…it was I that wished to do it, and I that wished not to do it. It was I. And since I neither completely wished, nor completely refused, I fought against myself and tore myself to pieces.”
Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Augustine of Hippo: A Tortuous Path to Faith (Part 1)” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).
“Take up and read. Take up and read. Take up and read.” These words, probably shouted by a playing child, floated over the fence of the garden in Milan [MEE-LAHN] and struck the ears of a dejected professor of rhetoric who sat under a fig tree and cried, “How long, Lord, how long? Will it be tomorrow and always tomorrow? Why does my uncleanliness not end this very moment?” The child’s words seemed to him words from heaven. Shortly before, elsewhere in the garden, he had put down a manuscript he was reading. Now he returned to the spot, took up the manuscript, ad read the words of Paul: “Not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Responding to these words, Augustine–for that was the name of the rhetorician–made a decision that he had been postponing for a long time: he devoted himself to the service of God. Soon he abandoned his career as a professor, and set out on a course that would eventually make him one of the most influential figures in the entire history of Christianity.
In order to understand the scope and meaning of the experience in the garden of Milan, one must follow Augustine’s career to that point.
Augustine was born in 354 CE, in the little town of Tagaste [TAH-GHAST], in North Africa. His father was a minor Roman official who followed the traditional pagan religion. But his mother, Monica, was a fervent Christian, whose constant prayer for her husband’s conversion was eventually answered. Augustine does not seem to have been very close to his father, whom he hardly mentions in his writings. But Monica did play an important role–sometimes even an overwhelming one–in the life of her only son.
Both parents were aware of their child’s exceptional gifts, and therefore sought for him the best education possible. To that end they sent him to the nearby town of Madaura [MAH-DU-RAH] until their resources ran out, when Augustine had to abandon his studies and return to Tagaste [TAH-GHAST]. There, according to his own report, he “wandered with my companions through the public squares of Babylon and wallowed in their mud as it it were cinnamon and precious ointments.” With these friends, he boasted of his sexual adventures–real or imagined–and joined in capers that he would one day rue as the sign of his own sinfulness.
Next time, we will continue looking at “Augustine of Hippo.”
Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.