More thoughts from/on St. Augustine's Confessions, these mostly on the Bible:
On Biblical literalism: “I began to believe that the Catholic faith might fairly be maintained, especially since I had heard one passage after another in the New Testament figuratively explained. These passages had been death to me when I took them literally…”
“Anselm lifted the veil of mystery and disclosed the spiritual meaning of texts which, taken literally, appeared to contain the most unlikely doctrines.”
Augustine himself cites in this regard the following passage: “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” Surely, he suggests, this principle is to be followed in Biblical interpretation.
Augustine does not even bother arguing whether God exists; he takes that as a given. The issue for him is how to know his nature: why believe that the Bible has the truth about him, and not the Manichees or Neoplatonists?
Still a live issue today: how do we know Christianity is the truer path, and not Islam or Buddhism?
Augustine argues that
1. The truth about God is not easily accessible to unaided reason. This makes some form of revelation logically necessary. For, even if some men might arrive at the truth by reason alone, most men cannot, all men cannot. Since our reasoning ability is not entirely our own doing, this would not be fair, and so would not be expected of a just God.
2. There must be some definitive sacred book somewhere. Given that there must be some such thing, logically, a just God would make it the most obvious and most widely accessible of supposed sacred books.
For Augustine’s time, that meant the Bible and the Catholic faith.
For our time, that means the Bible and the Catholic faith.
I think it equally logically follows that other sacred texts are probably also substantially true. But given you have the choice, go with the Bible.
Augustine further argues:
3. The nature of the Bible also commends it as the likeliest candidate. “While all can read it with ease, it also has a deeper meaning in which … great secrets are locked away. “its plain language and simple style make it accessible to everyone, and yet it absorbs the attention of the learned.” This is just what you would expect from a book meant by God as guide: accessible to all, and profitable to all.