Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 14 [X.]--It is More Excellent to Know That the Flesh Will Rise Again and Live for Evermore, Than to Learn Whatever Scientific Men Have Been Able to Teach Us Concerning Its Nature.
But although the questions which arise touching the origin of souls are |higher,| no doubt, than that which treats of the source whence the breath comes which we inhale and exhale, you yet believe that those things are |higher| which you have learnt out of the Holy Scriptures, from which we derive what we learn by faith; and such as are not traceable by any human minds. Of course it is far more excellent to know that the flesh will rise again and will live for evermore, than any thing that scientific men have been able to discover in it by careful examination, which the soul perceives by no outward sense, although its presence quickens all the things of which it is ignorant. It is also far better to know that the soul, which has been born again and renewed in Christ, will be blessed for ever, than to discover all that we are ignorant of touching its memory, understanding, and will. Now these subjects, which I have designated as more excellent and as better, we could by no means find out, unless we believed them on the testimony of the inspired Scriptures. These Scriptures you perhaps think you so thoroughly believe, that you do not hesitate to draw out of them a definite theory about the origin of souls. Well, then, first of all, if it be as you suppose, you ought never to have attributed to human nature itself what man knows by discussion and inquiry about his own nature and quality, but to God's gift. Now you asked: |Wherein does a man differ from the cattle, if he is ignorant of this?| But why need we read any thing, in order to know this, if we ought already to know it by the very fact that we are different from cattle? For just as you do not read anything to me for the purpose of teaching me that I am alive (my own nature making it impossible that I should be ignorant of this fact), so if it is an attribute of nature to know this other matter, why do you produce passages of Scripture for me to believe concerning this subject? Is it then only those persons who read them that differ from the cattle? Are we not so created as to be different from brute animals, even before we can acquire the art of reading? Pray, tell me how it is that you put in so high a claim for our nature, that by the very circumstance of its differing from cattle it already knows how to discuss and inquire into the origin of souls; while at the same time you make it so inexpert in this knowledge, as to be unable by human endowment to know this without it believe the divine testimonies.