Saint Augustine, Confessions. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2007, 296 pages.
Augustine is not only cherished as one of the greatest fathers of the Catholic Church, he also played a prominent role in the Reformation, having a significant effect both on Martin Luther, but also John Calvin. In this sense, his influence is felt even in radically opposing religious movements.1 It is, therefore, no surprise that his famous Confessions, should be held in highest literary esteem.
The complete work is comprised of thirteen books that together provide an autobiographical life of Augustine of Hippo, a fourth century Roman from North Africa. The first nine books trace his life from birth through childhood to conversion to Christ. Raised by his Christian mother, Monica, who ceaselessly prayed for the conversion of her son, and his pagan father, Patrick, Augustine explores the depths of his unhappy depravity and his expresses his continuous struggle with sin and evil as a young adult in Carthage, Rome and finally in Milan. Augustine’s further records that his spiritual journey in search for truth and salvation leads him to join two movements, the Manicheans and then the Neoplatonists. Augustine finds that the philosophical view of both groups fails to align with Augustine’s reasoning and conscience. The last four books in the autobiography consider heavily the reality of God as creator and his creation, paying particular attention to the aspect of time and the eternality of God, the truth of scripture, and the work and person of the Holy Spirit.
In book one, Augustine recalls his life an infant, and considers the greatness of God and the sinfulness of man, concluding that man is never truly happy without God at the centre of his life. Augustine reflects, “And how shall I call upon my god – my god and my lord?”2 As he grows he learns to perceive God through his parents and schoolteachers, and laments over the existence of his sin. His mother Monica...