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One of the most influential religious books in the Christian tradition recalls crucial events and episodes in the author's life: his mid-4th-century origins in rural Algeria; the rise to a lavish lifestyle at the imperial court in Milan; his struggle with sexual desires; eventual renunciation of secular ambitions and marriage; and recovery of his Catholic faith. A detailed classic that will be important to students of religion, religious scholars, and anyone interested in the impact made by one of the most significant figures in the development of Christian thought.
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ISBN: 9780486113869
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I love this book. I am reading it again. A chapter a night. The sincerity and passion and earnest curiousity of the narrative is only slightly undercut by an intelligence that sometimes overcomes the rigid reading of Biblical texts that litter his writing.

In other words, Augustine works (right from the beginning of Chapter I) at manipulating the Biblical text to fit the constraints of his religious doctrine. He transforms both the Biblical texts and the doctrine creating a personal rubric for his spirituality.

Also, he makes me giggle.more
Powerful in its honesty, but also hard for me as a nonbeliever to read. The constant reference to God occurs not on the scale of once every page, but more like every other sentence. The effect is to make me skeptical of even the best parts, such as the brilliant discussion of the nature of time and the excruciatingly honest effort to understand the theft of the pears, when they end up being folded into Augustine's religious narrative. Yet the passion of Augustine's thought and the force of his writing is impossible to deny and those insights that do hold relevance beyond the Christian are presented powerfully here.more
One of the most excellent books I've every read. From start to finish I was captivated letter by letter, word by word and so on.You do not have to be a catholic, or even a christian to enjoy this mans tail of finding faith.more
Augustine’s Confessions is rightly considered a classic because it illustrates the origin and development of much of Augustine’s doctrine. In turn, Augustine’s doctrine is the foundation of much of theology for the rest of church history (it has been said that all later theology is a footnote to Augustine). Confessions is an interesting work; while it is clearly intended to be a deeply personal work, it is also clear Augustine intended to illustrate the impact of his belief on his life. In modern terms it might be called a work of application, or even possibly a homily, rather than a theology or a confession.Augustine begins with several short chapters on the nature of God. Here he extols God’s greatness, pervasiveness, and justice in grand terms reminiscent of the Psalms of David: “For if I go down into hell, Thou art there. I could not be then, O my God, could not be at all, wert Thou not in me; or, rather, unless I were in Thee, of whom are all things, by whom are all things, in whom are all things? Even so, Lord, even so.”In the eighth chapter of the first book, Augustine turns to his life as he actually lived it, first discussing his infancy, then his childhood, then his young adulthood. In each of these areas he focuses not only on his specific sins, but also on the theological implications of those sins. For instance, when discussing his education he states that while he hated education, and did everything to prevent receiving an education, God still directed his path towards educational pursuits that would prove useful later in life. In this way, he shows how God’s providence intrudes on his life time and time again, developing, for the reader, a strong sense of his belief in predestination. One particularly interesting thing here is that the sins he lists are nowhere near what a reader might expect. Playing ball rather than studying? Chasing after young girls while he is sixteen years old? These don’t seem like major issues in the modern world –they seem, in fact, almost mild. The modern reader might be left wondering whether Augustine is telling the full depth of his sins, or if the culture in which he lived was so much more infused with morality that these were really considered horrible sins. The most likely answer is that these sins were no worse than anyone else in his age, and probably no worse than the sins of any sixteen year old in present times, but Augustine, in his conversion, became so intent on separating his life into the evil time before he was saved and the Godly times after that he sees his entire world through this lens. He continues detailing his life with various interjections, reaching his young adulthood in book three, where he becomes immersed in philosophy. He works through various phases in his life, including taking a wife, then a mistress, then teaching rhetoric, then memorizing the words of several teachers, until he finally reaches the point of describing his conversion in the eleventh chapter of the eighth book. Here he describes how, after reading Romans 8:13, he pours out his heart to God, and God changes his mind, leading to repentance and salvation. After this point, the Confession becomes a record of Augustine’s life as a Christian, with his baptism itself not coming until the sixth chapter of the ninth book.The strength of the Confession is in its constant application of theology back to the Christian life. The most useful piece of the author’s work in this area is on his consideration of the nature and place of evil as he encounters it. Why has Augustine’s friend died at this time, and in this way? Why should he, himself, be struck with a number of diseases and other problems? Why should the world seem to be so full of evil? Why shouldn’t men follow the evil they find in the world around them? Augustine answers each of these questions in a patient and mostly helpful way (though his strong predestinarian streak sometimes clouds his answer, causing more difficulties than are resolved).At the same time, it’s difficult not to miss the strong mystical elements in the Confessions. Time and again Augustine makes statements that would be clearly considered mystical in the modern church. He insists on a strong separation between the flesh and the spiritual, declaring marriage to be a bad state of affairs for men. He does somewhat counter these outbursts with works about how God created all there is, and therefore the material things are not evil, but the reader can clearly see the foundation of modern pietistic movements in Christianity within his words, including the modern Roman Church treatment of marriage for priests.The theology Augustine presents is a strong theonomy based on God’s character proceeding from God’s will. On page 39, for instance, he says, “But when God commands a thing to be done, against the customs or compact of any people, though it were never by them done heretofore, it is to be done; and if intermitted, it is to be restored; and if never ordained, is now to be ordained. For lawful if it he for a king, in the state which he reigns over, to command that which no one before him, nor he himself heretofore, had commanded, and to obey him cannot be against the common weal of the state…” Overall, Augustine’s Confessions is well worth reading as a Christian classic; there is much to be learned in terms of theology and the problem of evil that is of value for the modern Christian.more
Every time I start to get a little down on St. Augustine -- what with his invention of some pretty deplorable doctrines (ie original sin) -- I need to reread his Confessions. In fact, everybody should read his Confessions. It is an absolutely beautiful book! St. Augustine pours out his soul before God and all the world -- confessing his sins and telling the story of how he came to Christ, watching for the subtle movement of the Holy Spirit in all things and seeing God's guiding hand behind every event in his life. It's not often that you get to watch a sinner become a saint (literally!) -- read it!more
The peril with reading classics is my insufficiency to write a proper review. As with The Imitation and Revelations of Divine Love, you'll have to be content with my amateurish reflections instead.When I first sat down to begin Book One of The Confessions, I was prepared for a war. I figured if I could get through five or ten pages, I'd be doing well. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how readable and compelling this spiritual autobiography is. The work is divided into thirteen separate "books", and it's no problem to lose yourself in one book per sitting—even if you're not trained in history or theology. I'm sure much of this is due to Philip Burton's fine translation.Speaking of the translator, he did the reader a favour by setting all scriptural quotations in italics. Augustine was pickled in scripture—especially the Psalms. He can't praise God without the Psalmist's phrases springing to his pen. While with some this style could seem cumbersome (little more than parachuting in proof-texts), it's endearing with Augustine. There's no wonder why his name is prefixed with Saint.Augustine's heart was tender. When he sinned, he grieved over it. Not just so-called big sins, either. In one section he delves into his motives for steeling some fruit he didn't even need from a neighbour's tree. It's encouraging to read someone who takes their spiritual life so seriously, and who admits their faults so freely. (Where else on the spiritual best-seller list can you find a chapter entitled, "Farewell My Concubine"?)I have to admit that I was frustrated by the last three chapters. They were a reminder that ancient writers don't follow the same conventions that we moderns do. After ten books of beautiful and gripping autobiography he spent the last three explaining his philosophical and allegorical understanding of Genesis 1. I know his break with Manichean philosophy runs through both biography and commentary but it doesn't make it any less frustrating to read. Even so, endure the last three books. There are still gems to be found.With a work so classic as The Confessions, you can find any number of editions. I choose the cloth-bound Everyman's Edition from Knopf, published in 2001. The binding is solid and the typesetting is elegant. More importantly, the translator was clear and authentic and Robin Lane Fox's substantial introduction helped to put the entire work into perspective.Don't fear the "classic" moniker. This work is a gem any thinking Christian would do well to read.more
St. Augustine is one of the most significant authors of the early Roman Catholic Church. This autobiography is stunning in its frankness and its passion. Augustine of Hippo documents his transition from childhood to adulthood; also his path from Paganism to Christianity. He is not a perfect human being, he is seeking something profound, but is also admittedly weak and tempted by pride and pleasure. While many books have been written after, none before had been written like it.more
Augustine's 'efficacious grace' inspired Reformation theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin. Augustine taught that Adam's guilt, as transmitted to his descendants, severely weakens, though does not destroy, the freedom of their will. Luther and Calvin took it one step further and said that Original Sin completely destroyed liberty. So we can thank him for helping open up the floodgates of what I perceive to be a huge part of what hell would be like: the overwhelmingly negative infatuation with ascetism. Meanwhile, Augustine's arguments against magic, differentiating it from miracle, were crucial in the early Church's fight against paganism and became a central thesis in the later denunciation of witches and witchcraft. In other words, he perhaps unintentionallly contributed to the burning alive of many innocent people.However, because it is impossible to separate Christianity form European intellectual tradition, we must (for me grudgingly so) acknowledge Augustine's positive role.1. in bringing Greek thought back into the Christian/European intellectual tradition.2. his writing on the human will and ethics would become a focus for later thinkers such as Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. 3. His extended meditation on the nature of time imfluenced even agnostics such as Bertrand Russell. 4. throughout the 20th century Continental philosophers like Husserl, Heidegger, Arendt and Elshtaing were inspired by Augustine's ideas on intentionality, memory, and language.5. Augustine's vision of the heavenly city has probably influenced the secular projects and traditions of the Enlightenment, Marxism, Freudianism and Eco-fundamentalism.Augustine was a medieval thinker who contributed many things, and we must understand he did live in a dark time. I admit his positive achievements (like contributing to my atheism) but we must also realize how his asceticism, fundamentalism and guilt-mongering contributed immensely to some of the darkest moments in history. 4.5 stars for being an important part of history and our understanding of it, whether Augustine's influence is seen as good, bad, or in-between.more
Read the whole thing as part of my church history course. It probably meant more to me reading it as an adult than it would have if I read it all the way through when I bought it in high school. A reminder that God's love is deeper than anything we can imagine.more
The son of a pagan father, who insisted on his education, and a Christian mother, who continued to pray for his salvation, Saint Augustine spent his early years torn between the conflicting religions and philosophical world views of his time. His Confessions, written when he was in his forties, recount how, slowly and painfully, he came to turn away from the licentious lifestyle and vagaries of his youth, to become a staunch advocate of Christianity and one of its most influential thinkers, writers and advocates. A remarkably honest and revealing spiritual autobiography, the Confessions also address fundamental issues of Christian doctrine, and many of the prayers and meditations it includes are still an integral part of the practice of Christianity today.more
Written in the 4th century by an early intellectual christian who is famous (to me anyway) for his prayer - "Lord grant me chastity, but not yet"!. The book is in the form of an autobiography, interspersed with lots and lots of beseeching of the lord. The biography is interesting, and all the beseeching has a strong echo in the formulaic rants of the TV preachers. The book ends with some ponderings - on memory, and on the creation. Augustine believes god made the world, but he has some interesting questions about exactly how this was done. I couldn't help wondering, if Augustine was alive now, when there are much better explanations, whether he wouldn't be in the Richard Dawkins' camp. Read February 2009more

I began reading this once years ago, but it failed to engage me and I put it aside. When I started again I couldn't understand my previous lack of interest. The work ranges from philosophical speculation to personal memoir, and each kind has it's appeal. I was surprised by how must variety of belief and opinion late antiquity held on so many topics. Some of the debates and issues Augustine describes sound shockingly contemporary, though put in different terms. The passages covering Augustine's personal life can be poignant, especially those concerning death.

The scholarly consensus is that the Confessions was meant to be a preamble to a longer work: a detailed exegesis of the entirety of Christian scripture. The last three books cover the first chapter of Genesis, with careful attention given to an allegorical interpretation of the creation story. This is apparently as far Augustine ever got, thus adding to the long tradition of great, unfinished masterpieces.

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Well, I'm finished with this book at last!I originally became interested in reading Confessions when I saw a special twelve years ago about the beginnings of Christianity, because I thought "Confessions" sounded like a juicy book. It's really not juicy at all, so it's a good thing I approached it interested in theology and not scandal by the time I finally got around to reading it. This time around, I mainly felt like it was important for me to read firsthand the philosophy that is so much a basis of Catholic thought.Like most books written in the middle ages, St. Augustine's would have benefited from a good editor. There were a lot of times where I felt he repeated himself, which is fine for a spiritual seeker's personal musings, but a bit annoying for an outside reader hundreds of years later. And even though he wrote his Confessions both to strengthen his understanding/relationship with God and to further the same for others, a lot of it really did feel like naval-gazing. Still, I found myself appreciating a LOT of Augustine's theology, such as his insistence that people could come to diverse interpretations of Scripture without any of them being "wrong" (take that, fundamentalists!). Indeed, Augustine's perception of Christianity seems a lot more open than the Catholic Church of today would lead you to believe, although the hierarchy HAS kept his puritan perceptions of sexuality fully intact. Thank God for that.more
Timeless autobiography showing how the Spirit of Christ drew this Church father to Himself.more
Has been called the greatest autobiography of all time.Exceedingly eloquent; the entire book is a prayer which reflects on the author's life and the work of God's grace within it.more
I liked it. One of the more theological books I’ve read this year and in the past year (shame on me). For what it was it was assuredly brilliant. And I was intrigued to learn of his struggles in the faith. I was particularly challenged in my own spiritual life in my relationships with others. I didn’t quite finish it because it isn’t an easy read prose wise. I owe it another go at some point (along with City of God).more
I have read this book several times, both as part of the Basic Program of Liberal Education at the University of Chicago and most recently as one of the monthly selections of a reading group in which I participate. Like all classics it bears rereading and yields new insights each time I read it. But it also is unchanging in ways that struck me when I first read it; for Augustine's Confessions seem almost modern in the telling with a psychological perspective that brings his emotional growth alive across the centuries. From the carnality of his youth to the moment in the Milanese Garden when his perspective changed forever you the story is an earnest and sincere exposition of his personal growth. You do not have to be a Catholic or even a believer to appreciate the impact of events in the life of the young Augustine. His relations with his mother, Monica, are among those that still have impact on the modern reader. This is one of those "Great" books that remind you that true insight into the human condition transcends time and place.more
This is a master work of religious philosophy. This was one of the first things I read which made me understand religion in the deeper sense.more
Not nearly as senational as some make outmore
This book is very dear to me. I read "Confessions" in a very difficult personal time and quickly became overwhelmed by Augustines sincerity, intellect, and love for The Immutable Light. Augustine presents us with a very interesting time period in as where Christianity and Roman Paganism lie in juxtaposition. Besides Augustine's personal confessions, I enjoyed his examination of Genesis and his hefty discourse on time, or perhaps I should say the lack of the past and future. Rather than prattle on in the present, which has become past, I will urge you, reader, to introduce yourself to an author you most assuredly will hold very close to your heart.more
What makes this such a popular testimonial and classic of Christian writing is the profound thinking he shares about the depth of his own spiritual life and his contemplation about creation and God. Most of the early chapters are about the wretchedness of his life and those of anyone before they find God. He starts at infancy and works his way through boyhood to the point where he was a young man of 30. Book 8, #13 includes a great description of his friend going to the gladiator events, intending not to watch but looking out of curiosity and becoming another bloodthirsty member of the crowd. St. Augustine's life was not that of a typical saint. After this passage: "my concubine being torn from my side as a hindrance to my marriage, my heart which clave unto her was torn and wounded and bleeding," he took on another mistress and kept with him the son by the first. He refers to Epicurus, remarking that he would have believed were it not for the tenet that there is nothing after death. This metaphysical debate shows the type of thought process that Augustine had to endure to reconcile current philosophy with early Christian beliefs: " that the body of an elephant should contain more of Thee than that of a sparrow, by how much larger it is, and takes up more room." In Book 7 #7, Augustine begins contemplating the nature of evil and how it "crept" into being. Did God create it? Again, we see reason guiding his spiritual thinking. He talks about the astrologers and how he rejected them based on a story of two men born at the exact same time, one a slave and the other a prince. Despite identical stars, they led very different lives. Hee first encountered John 1:1 by acquiring it among some books recorded by the Platonists. The Platonic concept of duality is entwined through much of Augustine's thinking. He considers the passage "and the word was made flesh" and appreciates the implication. He thinks about the meaning of an "incorruptible substance" and the effect on that which it touches. Book IX, #20 relates the strength and admonishment of women Christians at the time, and how they placed value in hearing the scripture in the home as a way of controlling abusive husbands. Book IX, #33 is the moving passage about how he came to understand his mother's death and how it brought him closer to God. Book X is the single most important and profound part of the Confessions. Having in the former books spoken of himself before his receiving the grace of baptism, in this section he admits what he then was. First, he inquires by what faculty we can know God at all, reasoning on the mystery of memory, wherein God, being made known, dwells undiscovered. Then he examines his own trials under the triple division of temptation, 'lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride.' The sins of the eyes is actually "curiosity." The sins of the flesh are all of those bodily pleasures and desires that take us away from the spiritual. Book X, #47: "Placed then amid these temptations, I strive daily against concupiscence in eating and drinking. For it is not of such nature, that I can settle on cutting it off once for all, and never touching it afterward, as I could of concubinage." Like many other great thinkers, Augustine considered the wonder of creation; in fact, just the nature of it alone to be proof of something greater than, i.e. God. There is much discussion about the nature of time, memory, the soul, and the how of God and man. In the closing books, he considers the immutable and eternal nature of God and the logical implication on creation, God's will, the past, the future, and the human frame of reference about these concepts.more
Actually brings up the idea that some parts of the bible are to be understood metaphorically, rather than literally. Including Genesis. I always have big trouble with the way Augustine just "sent away" his mistress when he converted. Lots of agonizing over how much it hurt him, but not much on how it affected her. Seems to me he should have married her.more
Chadwick's notes that accompany this version of Augustine's Confessions do the best job of understanding the deep Manichaean context of not only the book but Augustine's early (and, some would say, entire) intellectual life.more
I really felt my soul physically grow as I read this book.more
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Reviews

I love this book. I am reading it again. A chapter a night. The sincerity and passion and earnest curiousity of the narrative is only slightly undercut by an intelligence that sometimes overcomes the rigid reading of Biblical texts that litter his writing.

In other words, Augustine works (right from the beginning of Chapter I) at manipulating the Biblical text to fit the constraints of his religious doctrine. He transforms both the Biblical texts and the doctrine creating a personal rubric for his spirituality.

Also, he makes me giggle.more
Powerful in its honesty, but also hard for me as a nonbeliever to read. The constant reference to God occurs not on the scale of once every page, but more like every other sentence. The effect is to make me skeptical of even the best parts, such as the brilliant discussion of the nature of time and the excruciatingly honest effort to understand the theft of the pears, when they end up being folded into Augustine's religious narrative. Yet the passion of Augustine's thought and the force of his writing is impossible to deny and those insights that do hold relevance beyond the Christian are presented powerfully here.more
One of the most excellent books I've every read. From start to finish I was captivated letter by letter, word by word and so on.You do not have to be a catholic, or even a christian to enjoy this mans tail of finding faith.more
Augustine’s Confessions is rightly considered a classic because it illustrates the origin and development of much of Augustine’s doctrine. In turn, Augustine’s doctrine is the foundation of much of theology for the rest of church history (it has been said that all later theology is a footnote to Augustine). Confessions is an interesting work; while it is clearly intended to be a deeply personal work, it is also clear Augustine intended to illustrate the impact of his belief on his life. In modern terms it might be called a work of application, or even possibly a homily, rather than a theology or a confession.Augustine begins with several short chapters on the nature of God. Here he extols God’s greatness, pervasiveness, and justice in grand terms reminiscent of the Psalms of David: “For if I go down into hell, Thou art there. I could not be then, O my God, could not be at all, wert Thou not in me; or, rather, unless I were in Thee, of whom are all things, by whom are all things, in whom are all things? Even so, Lord, even so.”In the eighth chapter of the first book, Augustine turns to his life as he actually lived it, first discussing his infancy, then his childhood, then his young adulthood. In each of these areas he focuses not only on his specific sins, but also on the theological implications of those sins. For instance, when discussing his education he states that while he hated education, and did everything to prevent receiving an education, God still directed his path towards educational pursuits that would prove useful later in life. In this way, he shows how God’s providence intrudes on his life time and time again, developing, for the reader, a strong sense of his belief in predestination. One particularly interesting thing here is that the sins he lists are nowhere near what a reader might expect. Playing ball rather than studying? Chasing after young girls while he is sixteen years old? These don’t seem like major issues in the modern world –they seem, in fact, almost mild. The modern reader might be left wondering whether Augustine is telling the full depth of his sins, or if the culture in which he lived was so much more infused with morality that these were really considered horrible sins. The most likely answer is that these sins were no worse than anyone else in his age, and probably no worse than the sins of any sixteen year old in present times, but Augustine, in his conversion, became so intent on separating his life into the evil time before he was saved and the Godly times after that he sees his entire world through this lens. He continues detailing his life with various interjections, reaching his young adulthood in book three, where he becomes immersed in philosophy. He works through various phases in his life, including taking a wife, then a mistress, then teaching rhetoric, then memorizing the words of several teachers, until he finally reaches the point of describing his conversion in the eleventh chapter of the eighth book. Here he describes how, after reading Romans 8:13, he pours out his heart to God, and God changes his mind, leading to repentance and salvation. After this point, the Confession becomes a record of Augustine’s life as a Christian, with his baptism itself not coming until the sixth chapter of the ninth book.The strength of the Confession is in its constant application of theology back to the Christian life. The most useful piece of the author’s work in this area is on his consideration of the nature and place of evil as he encounters it. Why has Augustine’s friend died at this time, and in this way? Why should he, himself, be struck with a number of diseases and other problems? Why should the world seem to be so full of evil? Why shouldn’t men follow the evil they find in the world around them? Augustine answers each of these questions in a patient and mostly helpful way (though his strong predestinarian streak sometimes clouds his answer, causing more difficulties than are resolved).At the same time, it’s difficult not to miss the strong mystical elements in the Confessions. Time and again Augustine makes statements that would be clearly considered mystical in the modern church. He insists on a strong separation between the flesh and the spiritual, declaring marriage to be a bad state of affairs for men. He does somewhat counter these outbursts with works about how God created all there is, and therefore the material things are not evil, but the reader can clearly see the foundation of modern pietistic movements in Christianity within his words, including the modern Roman Church treatment of marriage for priests.The theology Augustine presents is a strong theonomy based on God’s character proceeding from God’s will. On page 39, for instance, he says, “But when God commands a thing to be done, against the customs or compact of any people, though it were never by them done heretofore, it is to be done; and if intermitted, it is to be restored; and if never ordained, is now to be ordained. For lawful if it he for a king, in the state which he reigns over, to command that which no one before him, nor he himself heretofore, had commanded, and to obey him cannot be against the common weal of the state…” Overall, Augustine’s Confessions is well worth reading as a Christian classic; there is much to be learned in terms of theology and the problem of evil that is of value for the modern Christian.more
Every time I start to get a little down on St. Augustine -- what with his invention of some pretty deplorable doctrines (ie original sin) -- I need to reread his Confessions. In fact, everybody should read his Confessions. It is an absolutely beautiful book! St. Augustine pours out his soul before God and all the world -- confessing his sins and telling the story of how he came to Christ, watching for the subtle movement of the Holy Spirit in all things and seeing God's guiding hand behind every event in his life. It's not often that you get to watch a sinner become a saint (literally!) -- read it!more
The peril with reading classics is my insufficiency to write a proper review. As with The Imitation and Revelations of Divine Love, you'll have to be content with my amateurish reflections instead.When I first sat down to begin Book One of The Confessions, I was prepared for a war. I figured if I could get through five or ten pages, I'd be doing well. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how readable and compelling this spiritual autobiography is. The work is divided into thirteen separate "books", and it's no problem to lose yourself in one book per sitting—even if you're not trained in history or theology. I'm sure much of this is due to Philip Burton's fine translation.Speaking of the translator, he did the reader a favour by setting all scriptural quotations in italics. Augustine was pickled in scripture—especially the Psalms. He can't praise God without the Psalmist's phrases springing to his pen. While with some this style could seem cumbersome (little more than parachuting in proof-texts), it's endearing with Augustine. There's no wonder why his name is prefixed with Saint.Augustine's heart was tender. When he sinned, he grieved over it. Not just so-called big sins, either. In one section he delves into his motives for steeling some fruit he didn't even need from a neighbour's tree. It's encouraging to read someone who takes their spiritual life so seriously, and who admits their faults so freely. (Where else on the spiritual best-seller list can you find a chapter entitled, "Farewell My Concubine"?)I have to admit that I was frustrated by the last three chapters. They were a reminder that ancient writers don't follow the same conventions that we moderns do. After ten books of beautiful and gripping autobiography he spent the last three explaining his philosophical and allegorical understanding of Genesis 1. I know his break with Manichean philosophy runs through both biography and commentary but it doesn't make it any less frustrating to read. Even so, endure the last three books. There are still gems to be found.With a work so classic as The Confessions, you can find any number of editions. I choose the cloth-bound Everyman's Edition from Knopf, published in 2001. The binding is solid and the typesetting is elegant. More importantly, the translator was clear and authentic and Robin Lane Fox's substantial introduction helped to put the entire work into perspective.Don't fear the "classic" moniker. This work is a gem any thinking Christian would do well to read.more
St. Augustine is one of the most significant authors of the early Roman Catholic Church. This autobiography is stunning in its frankness and its passion. Augustine of Hippo documents his transition from childhood to adulthood; also his path from Paganism to Christianity. He is not a perfect human being, he is seeking something profound, but is also admittedly weak and tempted by pride and pleasure. While many books have been written after, none before had been written like it.more
Augustine's 'efficacious grace' inspired Reformation theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin. Augustine taught that Adam's guilt, as transmitted to his descendants, severely weakens, though does not destroy, the freedom of their will. Luther and Calvin took it one step further and said that Original Sin completely destroyed liberty. So we can thank him for helping open up the floodgates of what I perceive to be a huge part of what hell would be like: the overwhelmingly negative infatuation with ascetism. Meanwhile, Augustine's arguments against magic, differentiating it from miracle, were crucial in the early Church's fight against paganism and became a central thesis in the later denunciation of witches and witchcraft. In other words, he perhaps unintentionallly contributed to the burning alive of many innocent people.However, because it is impossible to separate Christianity form European intellectual tradition, we must (for me grudgingly so) acknowledge Augustine's positive role.1. in bringing Greek thought back into the Christian/European intellectual tradition.2. his writing on the human will and ethics would become a focus for later thinkers such as Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. 3. His extended meditation on the nature of time imfluenced even agnostics such as Bertrand Russell. 4. throughout the 20th century Continental philosophers like Husserl, Heidegger, Arendt and Elshtaing were inspired by Augustine's ideas on intentionality, memory, and language.5. Augustine's vision of the heavenly city has probably influenced the secular projects and traditions of the Enlightenment, Marxism, Freudianism and Eco-fundamentalism.Augustine was a medieval thinker who contributed many things, and we must understand he did live in a dark time. I admit his positive achievements (like contributing to my atheism) but we must also realize how his asceticism, fundamentalism and guilt-mongering contributed immensely to some of the darkest moments in history. 4.5 stars for being an important part of history and our understanding of it, whether Augustine's influence is seen as good, bad, or in-between.more
Read the whole thing as part of my church history course. It probably meant more to me reading it as an adult than it would have if I read it all the way through when I bought it in high school. A reminder that God's love is deeper than anything we can imagine.more
The son of a pagan father, who insisted on his education, and a Christian mother, who continued to pray for his salvation, Saint Augustine spent his early years torn between the conflicting religions and philosophical world views of his time. His Confessions, written when he was in his forties, recount how, slowly and painfully, he came to turn away from the licentious lifestyle and vagaries of his youth, to become a staunch advocate of Christianity and one of its most influential thinkers, writers and advocates. A remarkably honest and revealing spiritual autobiography, the Confessions also address fundamental issues of Christian doctrine, and many of the prayers and meditations it includes are still an integral part of the practice of Christianity today.more
Written in the 4th century by an early intellectual christian who is famous (to me anyway) for his prayer - "Lord grant me chastity, but not yet"!. The book is in the form of an autobiography, interspersed with lots and lots of beseeching of the lord. The biography is interesting, and all the beseeching has a strong echo in the formulaic rants of the TV preachers. The book ends with some ponderings - on memory, and on the creation. Augustine believes god made the world, but he has some interesting questions about exactly how this was done. I couldn't help wondering, if Augustine was alive now, when there are much better explanations, whether he wouldn't be in the Richard Dawkins' camp. Read February 2009more

I began reading this once years ago, but it failed to engage me and I put it aside. When I started again I couldn't understand my previous lack of interest. The work ranges from philosophical speculation to personal memoir, and each kind has it's appeal. I was surprised by how must variety of belief and opinion late antiquity held on so many topics. Some of the debates and issues Augustine describes sound shockingly contemporary, though put in different terms. The passages covering Augustine's personal life can be poignant, especially those concerning death.

The scholarly consensus is that the Confessions was meant to be a preamble to a longer work: a detailed exegesis of the entirety of Christian scripture. The last three books cover the first chapter of Genesis, with careful attention given to an allegorical interpretation of the creation story. This is apparently as far Augustine ever got, thus adding to the long tradition of great, unfinished masterpieces.

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Well, I'm finished with this book at last!I originally became interested in reading Confessions when I saw a special twelve years ago about the beginnings of Christianity, because I thought "Confessions" sounded like a juicy book. It's really not juicy at all, so it's a good thing I approached it interested in theology and not scandal by the time I finally got around to reading it. This time around, I mainly felt like it was important for me to read firsthand the philosophy that is so much a basis of Catholic thought.Like most books written in the middle ages, St. Augustine's would have benefited from a good editor. There were a lot of times where I felt he repeated himself, which is fine for a spiritual seeker's personal musings, but a bit annoying for an outside reader hundreds of years later. And even though he wrote his Confessions both to strengthen his understanding/relationship with God and to further the same for others, a lot of it really did feel like naval-gazing. Still, I found myself appreciating a LOT of Augustine's theology, such as his insistence that people could come to diverse interpretations of Scripture without any of them being "wrong" (take that, fundamentalists!). Indeed, Augustine's perception of Christianity seems a lot more open than the Catholic Church of today would lead you to believe, although the hierarchy HAS kept his puritan perceptions of sexuality fully intact. Thank God for that.more
Timeless autobiography showing how the Spirit of Christ drew this Church father to Himself.more
Has been called the greatest autobiography of all time.Exceedingly eloquent; the entire book is a prayer which reflects on the author's life and the work of God's grace within it.more
I liked it. One of the more theological books I’ve read this year and in the past year (shame on me). For what it was it was assuredly brilliant. And I was intrigued to learn of his struggles in the faith. I was particularly challenged in my own spiritual life in my relationships with others. I didn’t quite finish it because it isn’t an easy read prose wise. I owe it another go at some point (along with City of God).more
I have read this book several times, both as part of the Basic Program of Liberal Education at the University of Chicago and most recently as one of the monthly selections of a reading group in which I participate. Like all classics it bears rereading and yields new insights each time I read it. But it also is unchanging in ways that struck me when I first read it; for Augustine's Confessions seem almost modern in the telling with a psychological perspective that brings his emotional growth alive across the centuries. From the carnality of his youth to the moment in the Milanese Garden when his perspective changed forever you the story is an earnest and sincere exposition of his personal growth. You do not have to be a Catholic or even a believer to appreciate the impact of events in the life of the young Augustine. His relations with his mother, Monica, are among those that still have impact on the modern reader. This is one of those "Great" books that remind you that true insight into the human condition transcends time and place.more
This is a master work of religious philosophy. This was one of the first things I read which made me understand religion in the deeper sense.more
Not nearly as senational as some make outmore
This book is very dear to me. I read "Confessions" in a very difficult personal time and quickly became overwhelmed by Augustines sincerity, intellect, and love for The Immutable Light. Augustine presents us with a very interesting time period in as where Christianity and Roman Paganism lie in juxtaposition. Besides Augustine's personal confessions, I enjoyed his examination of Genesis and his hefty discourse on time, or perhaps I should say the lack of the past and future. Rather than prattle on in the present, which has become past, I will urge you, reader, to introduce yourself to an author you most assuredly will hold very close to your heart.more
What makes this such a popular testimonial and classic of Christian writing is the profound thinking he shares about the depth of his own spiritual life and his contemplation about creation and God. Most of the early chapters are about the wretchedness of his life and those of anyone before they find God. He starts at infancy and works his way through boyhood to the point where he was a young man of 30. Book 8, #13 includes a great description of his friend going to the gladiator events, intending not to watch but looking out of curiosity and becoming another bloodthirsty member of the crowd. St. Augustine's life was not that of a typical saint. After this passage: "my concubine being torn from my side as a hindrance to my marriage, my heart which clave unto her was torn and wounded and bleeding," he took on another mistress and kept with him the son by the first. He refers to Epicurus, remarking that he would have believed were it not for the tenet that there is nothing after death. This metaphysical debate shows the type of thought process that Augustine had to endure to reconcile current philosophy with early Christian beliefs: " that the body of an elephant should contain more of Thee than that of a sparrow, by how much larger it is, and takes up more room." In Book 7 #7, Augustine begins contemplating the nature of evil and how it "crept" into being. Did God create it? Again, we see reason guiding his spiritual thinking. He talks about the astrologers and how he rejected them based on a story of two men born at the exact same time, one a slave and the other a prince. Despite identical stars, they led very different lives. Hee first encountered John 1:1 by acquiring it among some books recorded by the Platonists. The Platonic concept of duality is entwined through much of Augustine's thinking. He considers the passage "and the word was made flesh" and appreciates the implication. He thinks about the meaning of an "incorruptible substance" and the effect on that which it touches. Book IX, #20 relates the strength and admonishment of women Christians at the time, and how they placed value in hearing the scripture in the home as a way of controlling abusive husbands. Book IX, #33 is the moving passage about how he came to understand his mother's death and how it brought him closer to God. Book X is the single most important and profound part of the Confessions. Having in the former books spoken of himself before his receiving the grace of baptism, in this section he admits what he then was. First, he inquires by what faculty we can know God at all, reasoning on the mystery of memory, wherein God, being made known, dwells undiscovered. Then he examines his own trials under the triple division of temptation, 'lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride.' The sins of the eyes is actually "curiosity." The sins of the flesh are all of those bodily pleasures and desires that take us away from the spiritual. Book X, #47: "Placed then amid these temptations, I strive daily against concupiscence in eating and drinking. For it is not of such nature, that I can settle on cutting it off once for all, and never touching it afterward, as I could of concubinage." Like many other great thinkers, Augustine considered the wonder of creation; in fact, just the nature of it alone to be proof of something greater than, i.e. God. There is much discussion about the nature of time, memory, the soul, and the how of God and man. In the closing books, he considers the immutable and eternal nature of God and the logical implication on creation, God's will, the past, the future, and the human frame of reference about these concepts.more
Actually brings up the idea that some parts of the bible are to be understood metaphorically, rather than literally. Including Genesis. I always have big trouble with the way Augustine just "sent away" his mistress when he converted. Lots of agonizing over how much it hurt him, but not much on how it affected her. Seems to me he should have married her.more
Chadwick's notes that accompany this version of Augustine's Confessions do the best job of understanding the deep Manichaean context of not only the book but Augustine's early (and, some would say, entire) intellectual life.more
I really felt my soul physically grow as I read this book.more
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