I love that St Augustine is so gentle with those of us who struggle with theology and philosophy and plain old questions of "But Why? But How? Who and When did THAT happen?".
He wrote, around the year 426 or so, the following:
"I counsel you first to thank God for such things as you understand; but as for all which is beyond the reach of your mind, pray for understanding from the Lord...".
He was writing to some monks who were grappling with the question of how God's grace affects Free Will. Apparently, there was some dissension among them as to how one affects the other and he wanted them to know that asking questions was OK.
I find myself giving that advice a great deal to the people I sponsor in my 12 step program. While I am not in the same league as St Augustine, what I know is we often get so tangled in what we don't know that we forget to thank God for what we DO know. In fact, often we are afraid to declare what we know to be true in case we offend someone. So I often remind my sponsees to acknowledge what they have learned, celebrate what they now know but pray always for the Lord to give them the understanding needed to navigate this world and walk the path towards Him.
I also tell them to not be overly critical of those who make statements that you can tell, on their face, indicates a lack of deep understanding or a closed and intolerant mind.
Here is an example: recently a well-meaning friend posted one of those ridiculous Memes on FB. Basically, the Meme stated that being pro choice doesn't mean she is pro abortion; rather, she is simply against the GOVERNMENT telling someone they cannot HAVE an abortion.
Now, let me tell you why that is ridiculous first, before I tell you how I responded to the meme.
To assert that the government does not tell women or men what they can and cannot do with their own bodies is false. The government does it all the time and uses, as its reason and right to do so, whether or not my doing what I want to do with my body supersedes YOUR right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In other words, my rights end where your life begins. I do not get to walk up to people I do not agree with or like, or who otherwise make my life less than efficient or happy or free, and kill them. In fact, the only time I get to take their life is if they are threatening mine or I am actively engages as a soldier during a just war. Otherwise, the fact that someone else's existence bothers me or cramps my style, or makes me uncomfortable is NOT a reason for ending that existence.
The government has a myriad of laws on the books that outlines this for me. I am told what is murder, what is manslaughter, what is intentional and unintentional, etc. etc.
So, the basis of her Meme (that being she doesn't like the government regulating her or any one's behavior) is shaky at best, spurious at the most.
Let's look at the other part of that assertion - the whole abortion issue.
The idea that because the life being ended is dependent upon the woman in whose womb the life is currently residing makes that life dispensable flies in the face of common sense and logic. It is a separate life from her life. If she aborts that life, she is not aborting a goat or a fish or a California Condor. If she has a natural abortion (another phrase currently being used by the anti life movement) she mourns the loss of her CHILD. She does not mourn the life of her pet goldfish, her neighbor's cat or a flea. The woman mourns...because her child died.
So while you may not like it, to simply say "I am pro choice" is an incomplete sentence. The whole sentence, if one is truly honest, is "I am supportive a woman's right to choose to end the life of her child in utero up to and including the day it is due to leave that womb".
If you are not supportive of that, you are not supportive of Roe V Wade. If you are supportive of a woman's right to do so within, say, the first trimester then you are asking the government to put restrictions on what she can choose.
So, with all this in mind, you may wonder what I did as a reaction.
I hid the post.
The woman in question is a good person. She is trying so hard to walk a line in which she declares she understands the harm abortion causes but she really really really doesn't want to sound like one of us hard line, religious, conservative, war-on-women, Catholic types. I give her great credit for even tolerating my existence. We do not agree on this issue, just as we do not agree on many issues, but she is trying so hard that I cannot bring myself to take a swipe at everything she posts on FB. It would be cruel, it would be silly and it would not do any good.
So I sit on my reaction (I pause) and I hide the post so she does not get pummeled by my pro-life and pretty darn smart friends, and I formulate a response (like this one) that I hope is reasonable, kind and solidly based.
If it is not, then others can correct me.
Free Will and God's grace.....I hope I am demonstrating that one does not wipe the other out; rather, one rightly influences the other, when I freely choose to cooperate with that grace so lovingly given to me.
Thanks, St Augustine.