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The Confessions of St.Augustine Mass Market Paperback – 1 Apr 2008
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"Confessions" is one of the most moving diaries ever recorded of a man's journey to the fountain of God's grace. Writing as a sinner, not a saint, Augustine shares his innermost thoughts and conversion experiences and wrestles with the spiritual questions that have stirred the hearts of the thoughtful since time began. Starting with his childhood in Numidia, through his youth and early adulthood in Carthage, Rome, and Milan, readers will see Augustine as a human being, a fellow traveler on the road to salvation. Though staggering around potholes and roadblocks, all Christians will find strength in Augustine's message: When the road gets rough, look to God! Previously released in 1977, this book invites readers to join Augustine in his quest that led him to be one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the history of the church.
From the Back Cover
Join the journey to find God's grace
The Confessions of St. Augustine is one of the most moving diaries ever recorded of a man's journey to the fountain of God's grace. Writing as a sinner, not a saint, Augustine shares his innermost thoughts and conversion experiences and wrestles with the spiritual questions that have stirred the hearts of the thoughtful since time began.
Starting with his childhood and continuing through his youth and early adulthood, you this book shows Augustine as a human being, a fellow traveler on the road to salvation. Join him on his journey. Listen in as he worships God. If you are fighting changes in your life, struggling to know God more, or staggering around roadblocks in your faith, Augustine's confessions will stretch your mind and enrich your soul.
"No matter who you are or what your religious experience may be, The Confessions of St. Augustineis a book that will help you. It will teach you how to love God with all your mind as well as all your heart."-- Warren W. Wiersbe
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Saint Augustine, observes: "They look for happiness, not in you, but in what you have created." This is the autobiography of a proud and intelligent man of rhetoric, a philosopher, a gnostic, and a sinner who spent well over ten years considering the pros and cons of Christianity. Yet many have deliberated longer including myself.
Nevertheless, events finally reach a climax when Augustine hears about the conversion of two younger men who give their lives to Christ within hours of knowing more about the Christian faith. In light of this Augustine goes into the garden and throws himself in misery at the feet of a merciful God.
And whether or not you consider Augustine a saint also depends on your idea of a saint, because, with reference to the old homily "actions speak louder than words", the more I got involved with this book the more I found it the pathetic ramblings of a selfish (“the plan was to arrange this life of leisure”, “because there were other reasons too why I found it irksome to be forced to adapt myself to living with a wife”), privileged, rich, mother's boy (“for her life and mine had been as one”) who even at the time of writing (at age 40+) only saw his sin as that which blinded him to God and not as how he had treated others, particularly the women in his life who he seemed to regard as little more than chattels, to be picked up, used and discarded as suited his current sexual or intellectual desires. Indeed, his attitude towards sex certainly was strange (“the sins of the flesh which defiled my soul”, “plunged me in the whirlpool of sin,” “I was born in sin and guilt was with me already when my mother conceived me” - though this last gem was selected by him from Psalms (51:5)) And his poor son was presented as the embodiment of his sin! How is that for patriarchal love? No, in my view, he did not come across as a very saintly or pleasant person and, given his influence on the Christian Church, possibly explains some of the not so pleasant aspects of it.
His view of the world was blatantly creationist, which is possibly understandable given when the book was written (4th century), and his constant carping on about all that God had given him without presenting a shred of evidence to back it up, and obsequious page after page witterings about how wonderful and blessed God is, do get a bit tiring. Maybe I should also forgive him for his simplistic philosophical views, all of which presuppose that one believes hook, line and sinker in his view of God, and don't stand up to much scrutiny if one does not. And his thoughts on creation and time, given in the later chapters, are intriguing from a fictional standpoint, but more than a touch illogical.
On the other hand he presented some insightful analysis on the human condition, insight into his and others motives for their actions (“Could I enjoy doing wrong for no other reason than that it was wrong?”) and his observations of these are as relevant today as they were when he made them. So definitely worth reading for these.
So do I recommend this book? As said at the start, it depends on why you want to read it. From my point of view the book gave me some interesting material and quotations for my upcoming fictional piece, some of which I hope might have met with St Augustine of Hippo's approval! (less)
He was born in 354 and died in 430. Therefore this book was written about 1600 years ago! This is a translation for Augustine did not write in English. There are many versions of translation of this work - I do not know why or the general shortcomings of the translations, but this version reads nicely and, I believe, authentically. Saint Augustine was a professor in Rhetoric before he was a monk. He was a highly learned person. That is to say, when you pick up this book, be mindful that you are reading one of the greatest minds of his time and writing was his strength. What I would say about this translation is that it does not pose a barrier between us and the great mind. Furthermore, its prose is sophisticated and poetic. I believe therefore this is a faithful reflection of the original work. It is a great piece of literature in its own right. This is my first point.
As a subject matter, how many of us would be as candid as he in writing up our deepest confessions for posterity? In today's narcissistic culture greatly enhanced and enabled by the social media, we see human nature is to show off our best to the public. Confessions are something we do behind closed doors and in our private prayer to God. And yet Augustine is demonstrating the right approach to God. No one can come to God like a saint in our own merits. Heart wrenching confessions that cry out to God and His mercy are the only path that all genuine believers must tread. In other words, every genuine believer must have made the journey through like Augustine and have his own personal confessions to make to God. We are put down in order that we can be lifted up. We can't be lifted up if we are not down on our knees first. Melodrama they are not. Augustine's confessions are the results of deep soul-searching. If we think we don't have confessions of our own to make, Augustine shows us how as he lays out the kind of questions to ask ourselves and how God's Word search and examine our souls. Augustine tells us how he argues at each turn, the critical moments he knew it was the Truth, and the struggle to break away from the bondage of his carnality. His is what every Christian should have experienced, although the details differ in each individual case. If we never know the work of the Holy Spirit in using God's Word to examine our heart and soul with power and conviction, Augustine's Confessions is a fine example. As such his autobiography is not just his spiritual journey but also a spiritual journey that he takes us to go on ourselves.
The book starts with a narrative of his life, showcasing his sense of humour and playfulness as well as the brilliance of his mind and his command of words. That part of the book stops at the death of his pious and prayerful mother, Monica, who played a significant role in Augustine’s spiritual life from young. Thereafter Augustine takes us to soar high and lofty probing into the things of God. He covers concepts that when you first read, you will be puzzled. But then you realise they are far from trivial but pivotal in our understanding of God. For example, he talks about memory. I believe the whole discourse is hinting at the peculiar feeling of homecoming when we come to God even though we do not seem to know Him beforehand in our life. Where does this sense of homecoming come from if we have no memory of “home” in God at all? This reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s concept of JOY. Augustine also takes time to define what eternity is. The discourse does seem a little trivial at first. Not so. When I was reading Confessions, I was reading Dolezal’s All that is in God concurrently. I realise Augustine’s exploration of eternity has helped me understand the latter! It is an essential concept about God that implies many of His other attributes in His essence. Moving on, he describes what God’s Word is. God’s Word is not speech! Wow! How wrong I have been in understanding “In the Beginning was the Word!” The Word, God’s only begotten Son, is catapulted on to a completely different plane for our understanding. What is strange is that I have never come across this view relayed in more contemporary works or sermons.
I have read a reviewer on his other work who mocks Augustine’s scientific knowledge. Far from it, Augustine knew and even critiqued the latest scientific developments of his time. From what I see, there is timelessness in his writing. The questions he asked, the query he framed and the method he used to probe are masterclass. His writing is transcendent because he is bringing us a knowledge of God who is transcendent. I hope people would see the relevance even to this day. One may ask how the latter part of the book relates to Confessions. I would answer that genuine confessions are brought about by our high view of God. The more we see God, the more we see our sins. Put it differently, we can only see our sins when they are set against God.
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