I'm about halfway through Francis Collins' The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence For Belief (2006). Collins is a brilliant geneticist who is also the head of the Human Genome Project. I checked the book out from the local library about six months ago but couldn't get into it at all. This time I'm actually listening to the CD version during the daily commute so there's nowhere to hide, and I'm enjoying it much more than I would have anticipated. Maybe God's Universe got me warmed up to scientific apologetics. Anyway, I'd like to share a choice quote that Collins offers from the sophisticated St. Augustine.
Augustine had a special interest in the first couple of chapters of Genesis. He felt these chapters were open to various interpretations. Yet, he hoped fellow Christians would at least not do harm to the Church by adopting and broadcasting untenable views. Quoting from Collins, p. 156-57, here's what Augustine wrote in The Literal Meaning of Genesis (De genesi ad litteram):
Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars ... about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.
Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show a vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.
The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but the people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books and matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learned from experience in the light of reason?
I'm not sure we generally give enough credit to Augustine, the last bright light of a dying ancient world, a prolific writer, and Western philosophy's key stepping stone across the arid millennium and a half between Aristotle and Aquinas.