It would be difficult to overstate Augustine’s impact on Western Christianity. In Confessions, we see a real man who resisted God for years. But God continued to pursue him. Even during Augustine’s years of rebellion, God intentionally prepared him for the role he would eventually fill. His years of searching for truth, and even joining a false religion for nearly a decade, ultimately gave him the insight he needed to argue against the heresies that would threaten the church. Throughout his years of rhetoric training, he learned how to structure and build a persuasive argument—skills that certainly came in handy when defending the Trinity and salvation by grace.
Augustine showed us how the church can engage in the popular culture and shape the influential thinking of the day. Even when he eventually became a Christian, Augustine was still a renowned intellectual in the secular sphere. His life shows us that we can be Christians who live in and engage with culture. He saw the positive aspects of philosophy and rhetoric, the most respected disciplines of his time. When Augustine came to faith, he didn’t abandon the secular world but continued to see the value in it and engaged it respectfully in light of his new faith. Every part of God’s world is important and none of it is wasted. Neither sacred nor the secular.
What does this look like for us today? How can we be committed followers of Christ who actively engage the culture? Who are not fearful but press into culture by listening, learning, and loving? In what ways are we doing this well? In what ways are we failing? How do we need to improve? As the church, we don’t just build a Christian culture, but rather we show Jesus to the culture of the day.