Thursday, February 11, 2010

God doesn't care about oxen.

In an ironic twist of fate, St. Augustine takes 1 Corinthians 9:9 as an alleged proof text for Divine Indifference (viz.- Divine Indeterminism):
"...It is too little to say, thee; the sparrow,
the locust, the worm, none of these did He
not make, and He cares for them all. His care
refers not to His commandment, for this com-
mandment He gave to man alone. . . . As re-
gards then the tenor of the commandment,
"God does not take care of oxen:" as regards
His providential care of the universe,
whereby He created all things, and rules the
world, "You, Lord, shall save both man and
beast." Here perhaps someone may say to me,
"God cares not for Oxen," comes from the New
Testament; "You, Lord, shall save both man
and beast," is from the Old Testament.
There are some who find fault and say, that
these two Testaments agree not with one
another. . . Let us hear the Lord Himself,
the Chief and Master of the Apostles: "Con-
sider," says He, "the fowls ofthe air; they
sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather in
barns, and your Heavenly Father feeds them."
Therefore even besides men, these animals
are objects of care to God, to be fed, not to
receive a law. As far then as regards giving
a law, "God cares not for oxen:" as regards
creating, feeding, and governing, ruling, all
things have to do with God..."

St. Augustine, Enarr. in Psalmos 145:6
Augustine thinks that the statement "God cares not for oxen" is literally false, despite the fact that Paul's rhetorical question seems to force our affirmation. In a wholly genius interpretive move, Augustine quotes Christ, "the Chief and Master of the Apostles", against Paul (The Apostle), forcing us (rightfully so) to tinker with the jots and tittles of the latter instead of the former. I think we should follow in Augustine's hermeneutical footsteps; doing so will enable us to reject his proto-Calvinism.


Blogger Jonathan Charles Wright said...


9:33 PM  
Blogger daniel said...

I disagree, Derek. Augustine, as brilliant as he was, cared very little for the context that surrounds this verses he chose to employ for many of his argument. This passage from Augustine is a classic example of his proof texting.

In this chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul is addressing the issue about whether it's reasonable for servants (missionaries and ministers specifically) of the church community to receive a wage for their work.

From verses 7-9 Paul argues from example of a soldier, vine-dresser, shepherd and an ox. It was reasonable for all of these servants and caretakers to receive some sort of wage. Paul's appellation to the Law only underscored the point he was making about the justness of receiving a wage. In context, it would be wrong to read into this passage that Paul was suggesting, rhetorically or not, "God does not take care of oxen" and that's exactly what Augustine did here.

Augustine was a master theologian, only to be paralleled by few in Church history, but was not a great exegete on many points.

It's been a long time my friend. I hope you are well.

7:54 PM  

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