Thursday, March 31, 2011

Illustration-a-day: Counterfeit Liberty

St. Augustine, in his autobiography, Confessions, tells a story that we can probably all relate to. As a boy, he and some friends where walking down the road, when they came upon a neighbor’s pear tree. Now, he says, there was nothing particularly appealing about this tree. The fruit was no better than that of their own orchards. And yet, he says, he and his friends almost could not help but “shake and rob” this tree. They carried off a large load of pears, most of which they either threw at each other or fed to the hogs. At the time, he admits of his thievery, “It was foul, and I loved it. . . I did not desire to enjoy what I stole, but only the theft and the sin itself.” There was an excitement in it, a rush, a sense of power and freedom.

He pondered, later in life, why such sins were so enjoyable. Why he could not simply receive the gift of life, but instead, insisted upon taking that which he neither needed nor even especially wanted. He concludes, that in rebelling against God’s prohibitions, even in the face of God’s permissions, he sought “by gesture, to rebel against Thy law, even though I had no power to do so actually – so that even as a captive, I might produce a sort of counterfeit liberty, by doing with impunity deeds that were forbidden, in a deluded sense of omnipotence.”

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