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Augustine’s 6 Foundations for Bible Study

J.I. Packer once said, “Read two old books for every new one.”

Modern day books by good Christian authors are great. But they haven’t stood the test of time. There’s a reason why John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion or Martin Luther’s The Bondage of the Will or Jonathan Edwards’ The Religious Affections are still being widely read today. Dead authors still speak today, and you would do well to learn from them. Who should we examine today?

Augustine's Six Foundations for Bible Study

St. Augustine is regarded as one of the greatest theologians of all time. In his book On Christian Doctrine, he outlines a few foundational rules for a proper approach to Bible study. And you can find six of them below.

 1. Fear of God

“Of necessity this fear will lead us to thought of our mortality and of our future death and will affix all our proud motions, as if they were fleshly members fastened with nails, to the wood of the cross.”

2. Piety

“Then it is necessary that we become meek through piety so that we do not contradict Divine Scripture either when it is understood and is seen to attack some of our vices or when it is not understood, and we feel as though we are wiser than it is and better able to give precepts. But we should rather think and believe that which is written to be better and more true than anything which we could think of by ourselves, even when it is obscure.”

3. Knowledge

“In this every student of the Divine Scriptures must exercise himself, having found nothing else in them except first, that God is to be loved for Himself, and his neighbor for the sake of God . . . then it follows that the student first will discover in the Scriptures that he has been enmeshed in the love of this world, or of temporal things, a love far remote from the kind of love of God and of our neighbor that Scripture provides.”

4.  Fortitude

“This attitude causes him to ask with constant prayers for the consolation of divine assistance lest he falls into despair, and thus he enters the fourth step of fortitude, in which he hungers and thirsts for justice. And by means of this affection of the spirit he will extract himself from all mortal joy in transitory things, and as he turns aside from this joy, he will turn toward the love of eternal things . . .”

5. Mercy

“When, insofar as he is able, he has seen this Trinity glowing in the distance and has discovered that because of his weakness he cannot sustain the sight of that light, he purges his mind, which is rising up and protesting in the appetite for inferior things, of its contaminations, so that he comes to . . . the counsel of mercy.”

6. Cleansing

“ Therefore this holy one will be of such simple and clean heart that he will not turn away from the truth either in a desire to please men or for the sake of avoiding any kind of adversities to himself which arise in this life.”

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About David Qaoud

David Qaoud (MDiv, Covenant Theological Seminary) is associate pastor of Bethesda Evangelical Church in St. Louis, Missouri, and founder of gospelrelevance.com. His work has appeared on The Gospel Coalition, For the Church, and Banner of Truth. He lives in St. Louis with his wife and son. Learn more>