Reading Etienne Gilson has been extremely helpful. And reading Augustine has been a blessing. My love for Augustine has increased, but also has my love for the Evangelical faith. I have simultaneously appreciated Augustine, and grown--I hope--in my appreciation for what it means to be a Protestant. The following quotation from Gilson I put here mainly just so I do not lose it. He is here writing on the nature of creation in Augustine. What is helpful, I think, is that in a Christian doctrine of creation God is not simply creating "stuff." He is doing that, but not simply that. He is creating a world which is structured, ordered, and designed a certain way, and with certain purposes. I suspect these insights are ones which Christians need desperately today. We live in a world in which there are deep and fundamental structures which we kick against at our own peril.
I was also reminded of this while listening to a Crowded House song, "Into Temptation." I really could not believe what I was hearing. Some of Crowded House's ringleader Neil Finn's insights and wording are startlingly insightful. In the melancholy song about temptation Finn sings that in giving into temptation, one does so "knowing full well the earth will rebel." He continues to describe the person walking into temptation: "safe in the wide open arms of hell." The song rings true and perhaps is a lamentation and song of regret. It can be heard and viewed here. How insightful: "the earth will rebel." We do in fact live in a world which is ordered and structured. When we rebel, we are not simply rebelling against abstract "law" which--we might think--is haphazardly given to us. We are rebelling against the very structures of a morally ordered world. Morally ordered by a good God who has created a good world.
I am not here taking sides whether Augustine's understanding of "matter" and "form" need to be affirmed. But Gilson's summary here is helpful, at least to me:
"He [God] gives being to a matter which tends to nothingness because of its formlessness alone, while in so far as He speaks (dixit Deus, fiat), i.e. in so far as He creates as the Word, God impresses, as it were a movement upon matter whereby it turns towards Him, and this movement in turn is but an imitation of the Word's eternal adherence to the Father." (Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of Saint Augustine, 205).
So, for Gilson Augustine teaches that when God creates the world, God "impresses" upon matter in such a way that the world--as created matter--inherently, inextricably, is ordered to God. And tantalizingly, Gilson goes on to say that this aspect of the world whereby it is ordered to God is a type of reflection or echo or imitation of the Son's love for the Father. Provocative. Our world is a marked world, an ordered world. We kick against the order and truth of things to our own peril.