Augustine and the Wisdom of God

One of the benefits of reading the Church Fathers is to immerse oneself into the rich imagery that they use to describe biblical concepts. This is not only good for the soul in reflection of deep spiritual truths but is also helpful for teachers and pastors in shaping and expanding their mind to be able to describe the truths of God more effectively. Here Augustine is describing the contrasting nature of God’s wisdom and the foolishness of the cross. Read on…

The way to help is through medical care; God’s care is taken it upon himself to heal and restore sinners by the same methods. When doctors find wounds, they do this not just any help, but in an appropriate manner, so that the effectiveness of the dressing is matched by a kind of beauty; similarly the treatment given by wisdom was adapted to our wounds by its acceptance of human nature, healing sometimes by the principle of contriariety, sometimes by that of similarity. A doctor treating a physical wound applies some medications that are contrary — a cold one to a hot wound, a dry one to a wet wound, and so on — and also some that are similar, such as a round bandage to a round wound and a rectangular bandage to a rectangular, and she does not apply the same dressing to all wounds, but matches like with like. So for the treatment of human beings God’s wisdom — in itself both doctor and medicine — offered itself in a similar way. Because human beings fell through pride it used humility in healing them. We were deceived by the wisdom of the serpent; we are freed by the foolishness of God. Just as that was called wisdom yet was foolishness to those who despise God, so this so-called foolishness is wisdom to those who overcome the devil. We made bad use of immortality, and so we died; Christ made good use of mortality, and so we live. The disease entered through a corrupted female mind; healing emerged from an intact female body. Also relevant to the principle of contrariety is the fact that our vices to are treated by the examples of his virtues. Examples of similarity in the kinds of bandages (as it were) applied to our limbs and wounds are these: it was one born of a woman that freed those deceived by a woman; it was a mortal man that freed mortals; and it was by death that he freed the dead. Careful consideration of many other such things (which can be done by those who were not hard-pressed by the need to finish a book!) reveals that the basic principle of Christian healing is one of contrariety and similarity.

  • Augustine - On Christian Teaching

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