A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

Augustine of Hippo (354–430) was born in North Africa to a pagan father and a Christian mother. Following a youth and an early career steeped in debauchery and ambition, Augustine experienced a dramatic conversion to Christianity when he turned from his pagan beliefs. His classic book Confessions details his conversion story and, to this day, remains a perennial bestseller.

Over his lengthy career Augustine was a prolific author, a robust theologian, an insightful philosopher, and a tenacious apologist for the truth of historic Christianity. Widely considered the greatest of the church fathers, Augustine’s writings shaped Christian orthodoxy like few others. He is a universal Christian voice within Western Christendom and remains equally important to Protestants and Catholics alike. He also enjoys the pop culture distinction of being the only Christian thinker to be mentioned in songs by Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and Sting.1

Yet while he is one of the most famous Christians in church history, there are three things you may not know about St. Augustine the writer. I hope these details enhance your appreciation for Augustine’s role in history.

  1. Augustine was the most prolific author of the entire ancient world.

Writing and preserving manuscripts presented a significant challenge in the ancient world, but Augustine was an intensely bookish person with a preoccupation for both reading and writing books. Hence, over his lifetime, Augustine’s writings exceeded five million words, making him the most productive author of antiquity.2 His Latin corpus of writings extended well beyond all other Latin and Greek ancient authors. In a literary sense, we know more about Augustine than any other writer of antiquity.

2. Augustine created the literary genre of autobiography.

Augustine’s most famous book Confessions gave birth to the autobiography, then a new literary genre in Western culture. Written about 397, the work chronicles Augustine’s intellectual, moral, and spiritual pilgrimage from paganism to Christianity. The title “Confessions” can be understood in a triple sense: Augustine’s candid and contrite confession of sin, his sincere confession of newfound faith, and his grateful confession of God’s goodness. Up until then, people generally did not write accounts of their own lives, especially not about their spiritual journeys.

3. Some of Augustine’s books have become both Christian and Western classics.

Four of Augustine’s classics of historic Christianity especially stand out: Confessions, The City of GodOn the Trinity, and On Christian Doctrine. The first two have also become literary classics of Western civilization and can be found on every great books list. The City of God is considered by many scholars to be Augustine’s magnum opus (Latin for “greatest work”). His most comprehensive work (written intermittently between 413 and 427), The City of God gave the Western world its first philosophy of history and presented and defended a distinctly Christian view of history.

As a writer, St. Augustine’s insights span the centuries. Anyone, Christian or not, stands to benefit from his thoughtful reflection. How about taking up one of the books mentioned in this article and giving it a read? You’ll be reading a classic.

Reflections: Your Turn

Have you read any of St. Augustine’s books? If so, which ones and what did you learn? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

Endnotes
  1. See “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” by Bob Dylan, “Saint of Me” by The Rolling Stones, and “Saint Augustine in Hell” by Sting.
  2. Guy G. Stroumsa, The Scriptural Universe of Ancient Christianity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016), 66.

 

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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