Fish on Augustine

Let Stanley Fish tell you something about your own theological tradition that you should know if you don’t already. This is from Fish’s conversation with Marvin Olasky before an audience of students at King’s College:

Those of you who have studied Augustine will remember that one of his central tenets is the distinction between using and enjoying the things of this world. People who use the things of this world as a springboard to the higher truth of God and Jesus Christ are doing the right thing. Those who enjoy the things of this world—that is, linger on them as if they were valuable in and of themselves—are making a huge mistake; and as he puts it, they are captive to the wrong love. That’s the danger that Augustine is always warning against.

What Fish is after is the distinction between uti and frui. God is the only frui—the only ultimate joy, the only joy which we should enjoy for His own sake, the only one that is valuable in Himself, the sole joy we can linger on for eternity. All other joys are, or should be, uti. We should use them to get us to God.

This is similar to Edwards’ distinction (in The End for Which God Created the World) between subordinate ends and ultimate ends.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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