Humans differ from animals in various ways. For example, humans are made in the image of God and we have “souls that will last forever” as the kids’ catechism rightly says. For another example, humans have deep longings of the heart. Here’s how James Smith explains Augustine’s view of humans and our longings:
Augustine opens [his Confessions] with a design claim, a conviction about what human beings are made for. This is significant for a couple of reasons. First, it recognizes that human beings are made by and for the Creator who is known in Jesus Christ. In other words, to be truly and fully human, we need to ‘find’ ourselves in relationship to the One who made us and for whom we are made. The gospel is the way we learn to be human. As Irenaeus once put it, ‘The glory of God is a human being fully alive.’
Second, the implicit picture of being human is dynamic. To be human is to be for something, directed toward something, oriented toward something. To be human is to be on the move, pursuing something, after something. We are like existential sharks: we have to move to live. We are not just static containers for ideas; we are dynamic creatures directed toward some end. In philosophy we have a shorthand term for this: something that is oriented to an end or telos (a ‘goal’) is described as ‘teleological.’ Augustine rightly recognizes that human beings are teleological creatures.
Here are Smith’s conclusions, which form the main point of his book:
…It’s not just that I ‘know’ or ‘believe’ in some telos. More than that, I long for some end. I want something, and want it ultimately. It is my desires that define me. In short, you are what you love.
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