Playing Hide-and-seek in the Figurative Reading Framework
Two important early works, Catholic and Manichean Practices and On True Religion, give a synoptic view of the elements in Augustine's figurative approach. The first work spells out the relationship between believing a credible authority and thinking according to spiritual reason. Augustine argues strongly that the mind must undergo a process of healing through faith because reason has been vitiated by sin. Believers' obedience to the Divine Physician's commands, along with their humble reception of Scripture's earthly events, words, and images, unblocks the clogged channels of spiritual perception. The second work contains Augustine's most detailed early theoretical analysis of figurative exegesis. The way God playfully hints at spiritual truth through symbols offers a pattern for reading Scripture rightly. Those who discern this pattern know that Scripture's earthy and sometimes even crude images not only teasingly veil divine truth but also create a stairway from carnal to spiritual understanding.
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