Monday, August 24, 2009

What Would Augustine Do?

There is usually at least one portrait of men and women from Church history which is done by one of their contemporaries. Not so with Augustine. The oldest portrait of Augustine was done in the VI century (about 100 years after his death, see photo on left). On the web there must be a hundred different paintings, each portraying Augustine as some artist saw him.
Augustine was a Berber from Northern Africa (Algeria). So maybe that's what he looked like (see photo on top right). But his personality? Most of the artists who sent me their initial samples saw him as a pious, quiet, remissive man, and often depicted him burdened by heavy church apparel. On the other hand, from his geographical background and his writings, I see him as an extremely passionate man, very intense, fervent, always looking for more truth, more light, more understanding. So, in every situation, my suggestions to the artist always included the most dramatic response.
In some ways it was probably good. Wes, my present artist, is a quiet, unassuming man, and his personality has come up in some of the illustrations. So our feelings combined probably granted a pretty well-rounded personality to our Augustine.
But that's just the point. What did Augustine really do and feel in the situations we have portrayed? As I read his description of the different events of his life, my mind would immediately create a mental picture which I did not even stop to question. Not until an artist sent me something totally different after reading the same passage.
We will never fully know the answer to my question, not as long as we are in this world. I believe that we have done the very best to illustrate each situation as Augustine or his contemporaries have described it. Jay (my publisher) may say that I have been even too fastidious.
On the other hand, this dilemma shows the wisdom behind the 2nd commandment. No matter how closely you stick to the written text, if you draw a picture of Jesus you will always end up making it your Jesus. Same for slogans like WWJD. How do we know? And who cares? We know what Jesus wants us to do, and that's enough. I know, I am digressing... I always think too much. That's why I love Augustine!

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