Confessions: Awe Means Confessing To You


Awe means confessing to you.—Saint Augustine, Confessions 5.8


Augustine then asks a question tongue in cheek, “Who asked Mani[1] to write about stuff he has no clue about? Who can write on knowledge or reverence when they have no experience with it at all? Who is this guy anyway, does anyone even know? He is just some random guy who started spewing nonsense and people listened” (my translation of 5.8.1). Augustine does not know if Mani understood science or not, but regardless, one thing is for sure, he did not know anything about Divinity. And what annoyed Augustine about Mani, and the religion that followed, is that they claimed to know the Divine simply because they understood science.


Mani and his religion’s rise to popularity is no different than the rise of many influencers today. In Augustine’s day, there was a desire to be famous, and people were willing to exaggerate their abilities (lie) to attain it. Read Augustine’s description of Mani and compare it to today’s social media influencers, “He spoke not only ignorantly but even deceptively, and with psychotic self-regard, bragging about nothing, to the point where he aspired to ascribe his statements to divine personhood in his own person” (5.8.3).


Although today's influencers are not selling religion (at least not religion as we most commonly think about it), they are selling something in its place with their exuberance. In place of religion, often the thing that they sell is meaning, purpose, independence, or some other thing that can only be found in the creator of the soul.


And what is it about faith in the creator that gives life meaning? There is a lot of things we could say, but I would argue that the main thing faith produces in the believer is awe. Awe awakens humility and wonder in a person as they watch the heavenly bodies move across the sky, and see creation hum in unison. Faith awakens awe, awe creates meaning, and meaning leads to confession.


For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.—Psalm 86:10


Lord, in awe I confess that Christ is the Living Word and the Ancient of Days. You are my God and King forever and ever, amen.


[1] Mani was the founder of Manichaeism

Note: These are my daily reflections as I go through Saint Agustine's Confessions. Unless otherwise noted, I am using Sarah Ruden's translation of the original text, and the NIV.

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