Augustine: Conversions to Confessions MOBI Ô

Augustine: Conversions to Confessions This narrative of the first half of Augustine s life conjures the intellectual and social milieu of the late Roman Empire with a Proustian relish for detail New York TimesIn Augustine, celebrated historian Robin Lane Fox follows Augustine of Hippo on his journey to the writing of his Confessions Unbaptized, Augustine indulged in a life of lust before finally confessing and converting Lane Fox recounts Augustine s sexual sins, his time in an outlawed heretical sect, and his gradual return to spirituality Magisterial and beautifully written, Augustine is the authoritative portrait of this colossal figure at his most thoughtful, vulnerable, and profound [EPUB] ✼ The End (The 30-Day Collective Book 1) ✿ Ellen A. Easton – 9facts.co.uk celebrated historian Robin Lane Fox follows Augustine of Hippo on his journey to the writing of his Confessions Unbaptized ➽ [Download] ✤ The Light Over London By Julia Kelly ➲ – 9facts.co.uk Augustine indulged in a life of lust before finally confessing and converting Lane Fox recounts Augustine s sexual sins [Ebook] ➣ Cell By Robin Cook – 9facts.co.uk his time in an outlawed heretical sect ❰Download❯ ➺ Braving the Wilderness Author Brené Brown – 9facts.co.uk and his gradual return to spirituality Magisterial and beautifully written [Ebook] ➣ Lightning / Midnight / The Bad Place By Dean Koontz – 9facts.co.uk Augustine is the authoritative portrait of this colossal figure at his most thoughtful ❴Read❵ ➳ A Cidade Das Trevas (Dean Koontzs Frankenstein, Author Dean Koontz – 9facts.co.uk vulnerable [BOOKS] ⚣ Iron Council (New Crobuzon, By China Miéville – 9facts.co.uk and profound


10 thoughts on “Augustine: Conversions to Confessions

  1. Michael Finocchiaro Michael Finocchiaro says:

    I was quite excited to read this book thinking that it was a biography of one of the leading philosophers of the Christian faith written by an atheist like myself, Robin Lee Fox I loved his epic biography of Alexander the Great years ago Well, in one sense I was disappointed because this is not a biography of Augustine of Hippo, it is a lengthy study of the first of Augustine s great works, Confessions That being said, it is exhaustive in its look into Augustine s moral and religious odyssey I was quite excited to read this book thinking that it was a biography of one of the leading philosophers of the Christian faith written by an atheist like myself, Robin Lee Fox I loved his epic biography of Alexander the Great years ago Well, in one sense I was disappointed because this is not a biography of Augustine of Hippo, it is a lengthy study of the first of Augustine s great works, Confessions That being said, it is exhaustive in its look into Augustine s moral and religious odyssey from his Christian birth, to his phase as a Manichaean, his studies of Plotonius, and his re conversion to Catholic Christianity Along with the greekophiile Libineus, whose life is also described in parallel to Augustine, these are the first two writers to write intimate autobiographies, something I was unaware of Augustine also had to contend with the heretical Donatist sect His life prior to writing Confessions was an interesting one which again was painstakingly researched by Fox I had not realized how central the issue of sex was in these formative years of Christian thought Augustine voluntarily gave up sex with much difficulty in order to purify his mind and devote himself to studying the mysteries of God and Christ Curious anecdote from the book the Manichaen sect that followed a heretical gospel of Mani of Persia At one point, adepts of Manichaeism spread from the Mediterranean basin all the way to China They had this idea somewhat similar to Spinoza in my mind that the Light of god was shattered into fragments and needed to be purified by removing everything in the material world they were vegetarians no light in animals and split into Hearers Augustine was one, this was sort of the religious layman and the Elect who disdained sex and were not allowed to work and so they lived off of Hearer s donations Now, the most bizarre thing about this religion was a ceremony where an elect would have sex with a girl or woman I suppose on top of a pile of flour The Elect would pull out just in time to ejaculate on the flour which would be made into bread and eaten by the Elect talk about a snowball in order to recycle the Light in the sperm back in to their bodies.Back then, it was a custom among non Manichaean Christians to exchange loaves of bread with correspondence as a token of the bounty of god and of friendship Augustine exchanged letters with people across the entire Roman empire including a rich Senator who had converted to Christianity and was in the process of giving away his vast properties some of which were in near Hippo and of interest to the Church there Since Augustine was a Manichaean in his past, his appointment to being co bishop of Hippo was controversial and created him not a few enemies He actually got in trouble once because one of his jealous enemies falsely accused him of sending a Manichaean Elect s sperm laden loaf of bread to this particular nobleman Can you imagine the look on their faces, the aristocrat and his wife when they were told this and sadly believed it Blech It is a heavy read, but nonetheless a fascinating one A must read even for atheists like me that are interested in this particularly complex period of history in the development of Western philosophy


  2. Toby Toby says:

    This epic part biography of Saint Augustine it covers only the period up to the writing of the Confessions is not a book for the faint hearted Readers who want an introduction to the life and thought of Augustine, or have perhaps been beguiled by the extremely attractive cover and big name publisher may well find themselves overwhelmed early on Familiarity with The Confessions and with the period is a must And it will take a certain dedicated reader to plough through the seemingly exhaustiv This epic part biography of Saint Augustine it covers only the period up to the writing of the Confessions is not a book for the faint hearted Readers who want an introduction to the life and thought of Augustine, or have perhaps been beguiled by the extremely attractive cover and big name publisher may well find themselves overwhelmed early on Familiarity with The Confessions and with the period is a must And it will take a certain dedicated reader to plough through the seemingly exhaustive detail on Manichaeism, Plotinus and neo Platonism.Caveats aside, Robin Lane Fox is an extremely skilled writer who handles his material deftly Whilst this book does not wear its scholarship lightly, it does keep the reader interested throughout and makes a genuine contribution to Augustine studies Fox s case for the Confessions being written rapidly during Lent and Easter 397 as Augustine recovers from illness and anticipates episcopal responsibility seems a convincing one and, if accepted, will surely alter the way in which we read them.Just occasionally, Lane Fox slips up His numbering of the Psalms is a little erratic, sometime sticking to modern convention, sometimes using the Fourth Century numbering This leads to The Lord is My Shepherd being referred to both as Psalms 22 and 23, which can be a little confusing He is right that St Paul refers himself as a slave of God but when Augustine uses this term he is not taking Paul s mantle on for himself, Paul in Romans 6 refers to all baptised Christians under this term.This said, the book is full of new and strange details that will for better or worse stick in the reader s mind Who knew that monks were allowed one wet dream every four months, or that farting was an important part of Manichaean spirituality As for the supposed events of a Manichaean sacred meal, I will never look at a multi seed loaf in quite the same way again


  3. Nick Spencer Nick Spencer says:

    Would have made a good 300 page book As it stands, too detailed, frankly dull in large tracts Augustine comes across as intellectually very curious and wide ranging but also largely unpersuasive in most of what he writes RLF clearly thinks so with a distinctly unhealthy and obsessive attitude to sex, presumably aided by a oppressively attentive mother, with real Oedipal issues going on there Mind you, compared to Jerome, who seems somewhere between a repressed narcissist and an outright shi Would have made a good 300 page book As it stands, too detailed, frankly dull in large tracts Augustine comes across as intellectually very curious and wide ranging but also largely unpersuasive in most of what he writes RLF clearly thinks so with a distinctly unhealthy and obsessive attitude to sex, presumably aided by a oppressively attentive mother, with real Oedipal issues going on there Mind you, compared to Jerome, who seems somewhere between a repressed narcissist and an outright shit, Augustine seems a model of sanity and good judgment


  4. James James says:

    This is an exhaustive story, although a bit of a slog as a read Lane Fox likes his structural conceits very much seeing Augustine s life in a triptych with the kind of contemporaneous Libanius and Synesius seeing whether Augustine s life is a series of conversions on the way to the Confessions These approaches are fairly illuminating but the author seems a bit too pleased with them, and worse when he goes for a while without mentioning one or other of his binding themes, he suddenly remin This is an exhaustive story, although a bit of a slog as a read Lane Fox likes his structural conceits very much seeing Augustine s life in a triptych with the kind of contemporaneous Libanius and Synesius seeing whether Augustine s life is a series of conversions on the way to the Confessions These approaches are fairly illuminating but the author seems a bit too pleased with them, and worse when he goes for a while without mentioning one or other of his binding themes, he suddenly reminds us and himself of them with a bit of shoe horning Nevertheless, the insights into Augustine s many twists on the road to his masterpiece are many Fox is particularly good at exploring the whys and wherefores of Manicheanism, and there s also a decent overview of the Donatists He makes some bold claims that the concept of original sin is based on a misreading of a Latin translation of Paul that Augustine s prime movers in writing the Confessions are an accusation of sexual impropriety and a very bad case of piles that the Confessions were written as the closing phase of an astonishing and very compressed burst of writing ending in AD397 The book never really decides whether it is a biography, a critical study, a series of comparative lives or a collection of academic papers readjusting some views and timescales A bit of a mess, therefore, but with lots worth reading


  5. Charles J Charles J says:

    Most of us, or so I like to think in order to feel better about myself, steer away from actually reading St Augustine We know that he is an intellectual giant and one of the handful of core, key thinkers of Christianity, but everything he has to say seem so dense, and wasn t he the mean proto Calvinist who thought unbaptized infants go straight to Hell Not to mention that, after all, it was all so long ago and far away Like a lot of people, I own several works by Augustine, but mostly to sho Most of us, or so I like to think in order to feel better about myself, steer away from actually reading St Augustine We know that he is an intellectual giant and one of the handful of core, key thinkers of Christianity, but everything he has to say seem so dense, and wasn t he the mean proto Calvinist who thought unbaptized infants go straight to Hell Not to mention that, after all, it was all so long ago and far away Like a lot of people, I own several works by Augustine, but mostly to show my erudition, not for, you know, actual reading But after completing Robin Lane Fox s Augustine Conversions to Confessions, I think I m inspired, or at least impelled, to sit down, concentrate, and read some of Augustine s works Assuming the feeling doesn t pass, I think that s exactly what I ll do.This is a theological biography of Augustine That may seem like a tautology since Augustine was a theologian, what else would a biography of him be But he was also a bishop, a contemplative, and before all that, an indifferently religious worldly striver and a devotee of a peculiar heresy religion, Manicheism, which this book taught me was vastlycomplex, and vastlybizarre, than I had known Thus, any particular biography of Augustine might not engage fully with Augustine s theology, but this one does Given Augustine s voluminous output and huge range of thought, this is not a full history of that theology, much less an explication of it, but rather a view of the man s life viewed largely through his theology.It s a very good view of that life, and evenimpressive when you realize that Fox is an atheist, something he mentions in passing, but which he does not emphasize, and which mostly does not color his explication of, or appreciation for, Augustine s theology The exception isthan one blunt claim that any belief that the Old Testament predicted the Gospel is entirely false because that s how historians consider that claim nowadays Using that yardstick, what atheist historians think, seems not very relevant to the truth of any part of Christianity In any case, the book covers Augustine s life only up until he wrote his Confessions, which Fox dates to being completed in 398 A.D apparently there is disagreement about this among Augustine scholars Therefore, other than a few references, Fox does not cover the decades of Augustine s later life as Bishop of Hippo, much of his writing, or his death.Naturally enough, given that Augustine is a theological biography, it s very dense, and it s very long Unless you are keenly interested in Christian theology, this is not likely to be a book that holds all that much interest for you It is not filled with titillating descriptions of Augustine s sex life most references to sex are to a lack of it Nor is it filled with titillating descriptions of pagan sex lives, either In fact, the only thing titillating is several, vaguely creepy references to not feeling the softness of a woman I would have felt better without those references But, luckily, I am keenly interested in Christian theology, and I also am interested in the late Roman Empire, an underserved era in which Fox is an expert, so this book held a lot of interest for me.From various phrasing that Fox uses, it s evident that in the subculture of Augustine scholars, there is quite a bit of dispute about the details Many of these disputes seem to center around the dating of various events in Augustine s life others revolve around the reasons why one thing or another happened, such as Augustine s movements within Italy, or back to North Africa Much of this seems like inside baseball, and lends the book a slightly stilted academic air in some parts This is compounded, or at least emphasized, by an overt attack in the Introduction upon the former Librarian of the Bodleian Library, Sarah Thomas, for breakingthe carefully planned link between pagan and Christian worlds which had underlain its lower reading rooms productively for many years Research into Augustine now means crawling on hands and knees to find essential journals in a sub basement, while the outer building publicizes newly build access points for the disabled We are all familiar with the virtue signaling project of exalting the supposedly disempowered at the expense of excellence, so I certainly sympathize, but it is a bit odd to see such an attack in the middle of a set of thanks and dedications to others.Fox not only directly examines Augustine s life and career, but views it through and against the life and career of two rough contemporaries who shared certain similarities Synesius, a upper class scion and disciple of Hypatia of Alexandria, who like Augustine ended his life as a North African bishop, and Libanius, a Sophist pagan philosopher who spent most of his life in Antioch, who was a friend of the Emperor Julian the Apostate, as well as the teacher of St John Chrysostom These men pop in and out of the narrative, with Fox using them as foils to illustrate points about Augustine, many of them relating to how unique his path was, even among committed Christians All three men began on a traditional track of oratory and philosophy, and ended at various points along the religious spectrum, in theory and practice This framing both provides interesting insight and keeps the book moving along, where it might otherwise become overwhelming if it merely focused on Augustine.The basic organization of the book is as a chronological history of Augustine s life until 398 A.D., which at the same time focuses a great deal on his inner life and spiritual development, mostly through the prism of the Confessions which after all are autobiographical , as well as through various other writings, including letters and other informal writings Fox manages to give a thorough flavor of the different places Augustine spent time Thagaste, where he was born Carthage Rome Milan with St Ambrose then back to North Africa, to Hippo In each place, Augustine s philosophy continued to develop, ranging from Christian tinged classical philosophy through Neoplatonism to Manicheism to baptized Christianity though Augustine always believed firmly in Christ to fully engaged and then some Christianity Nearly as important to the narrative are Augustine s close friends and other interlocutors, with whom he engaged in the development of his thought and practice, many of whom are described in interesting detail, such that they seem like real people, not just historical cardboard cutouts.To me, one of the most interesting parts of the book was a great deal of information about the Manichees, who are commonly referred to as a Christian heresy, but whose beliefs are radically unconnected to anything resembling Christianity today Mani was a Mesopotamian born in the early Third Century into a Christian sect, who created a syncretic dualist religion, revolving around the Kingdom of Light as opposed by the Kingdom of Darkness, both eternal and uncreated Mani thought he was the Holy Spirit and he had a Twin, a heavenly interlocutor, who communicated truths to him Orthopraxy in Manicheism consisted of practices designed to collect Light supposedly fragmented into the world, such that the Light could be ascended to the Moon, there collected and transmitted to the Sun and thence back to the Kingdom of Light, during which the Moon waned until it filled up with Light again The basic mechanism of this was for the Manichee Elite, the Elect, to liberate the Light by eating foods considered rich in Light, only certain fruits and vegetables, prepared ritually by the Manichee Hearers, the initiates, and to avoid practices that kept Light bound Certain Jewish and Christian doctrines are visible, but very dimly Sins were less the individual s personal responsibility but actions of the Kingdom of Darkness within him, to be combatted by adhering to the Light through ritual Eventually Mani was killed by the king of Persia, whereupon the faith was spread by missionary work throughout Asia, including to China, where it remained modestly popular until the Middle Ages, though it was stamped out further west much earlier.Fox accurately characterizes Mani s theology aslike Star Wars than our own Christianity It has an endless series of demigods, demons, angels, and other actors, all populating a bizarre universe where, for example, the firmament is the stretched skin of flayed demons defeated in battle Augustine was a devout Manichee, though a Hearer, not an Elect, for nearly ten years He used his oratorical and intellectual talents to convert others, as he did later to spread Christianity Fox rejects the idea that Augustine was in any way a crypto Manichee, but does see certain elements of Augustine s thought being formed in reaction to Manicheism.Fox also examines, although not with the intensity and depth of the Manichees, the Donatists, an undoubtedly Christian but heretical sect dominant in North Africa, who among other beliefs held that sacraments were not valid if the priest administering them was not in a state of grace The Donatists had arisen during the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian, when many priests knuckled under to the state, in particular by handing over their copies of the Scriptures to the authorities to be destroyed The Donatists were those who did not, and their approach was similar to that of the also heretical Novationists, who denied the efficacy of repentance to those who had recanted the Faith Much of Augustine s combat with the Donatists took place after the events of this book, while Augustine s adherence to Manichaeism took place in his earlier life and was also muchimportant in his personal theological development Thus, the Donatists occupy a less prominent place in this book.Fox covers not just Augustine s theological development, but what might be called his mystical development as well He starts with elements of the Neoplatonism of Plotinus, relating to turning inwards and passing beyond thought to elevate one s mind, until a vision fills one s eyes with light, which does not make one see something else by it, but the light itself is what one sees This progression to foretaste of what is in essence the Beatific Vision is at least potentially available to all who form their minds appropriately it is the possible fruit of contemplation, in the trained but passive Josef Pieper sense, not in the sense of active struggling to reach the desired point Augustine reached that point three times, and left detailed impressions which have fascinated generations of Christian readers, and Fox as well Moreover, the metaphor of ascent derived from this process becomes important in the Confessions, where it is used as a framework for much of the book.Augustine also preached a great many sermons to the local populace, mostly in Hippo, a large number of which seem to have survived, surprisingly, and they are still being uncovered These are dense expositions, frequently revolving around subtle and complex allegories Augustine found in the Scriptural passages for the day Augustine, like all the Church fathers, was very focused on Biblical exegesis, in contrast to the stereotype Protestants like to spread about, that before the Reformation the Bible was ignored He focused heavily on the Psalms and on the writings of St Paul, with an insistence that scripture has a multiplicity of meanings, no one of which can be upheld as the right one so long as each is consistent with God s Truth These sermons sound very interesting, and may beapproachable then the Confessions or other longer works of Augustine.While Fox extensively discusses the Confessions, the untutored reader only gets a fragmentary picture of that famous work he gets the famous stories of stealing pears, of conversion, and so on, and he gets an explanation of the work s structure, but the work itself never takes complete shape in the reader s mind This is not necessarily Fox s fault, since this is a biography, not an exegesis of a difficult and complex work It helps those interested in further study that the glittering Sarah Ruden has recently published a new translation of Augustine s Confessions I have a copy and haven t read it yet but now I have a place to start when it s time I don t think this is the best biography to read if you are just dipping into Augustine although it s the first I read That honor seems, by common agreement, to go to a book I have not read Peter Brown s Augustine of Hippo, recently re issued in a forty fifth anniversary edition with new supplementary material by the author Fox refers repeatedly to this book with glowing admiration, including as a work of genius But this book, Fox s book, is still a very good book, which surprisingly, in some ways manages to retain the reader s interest throughout, probably because of the framing choices made by Fox, along with his cogent and direct writing style


  6. Melora Melora says:

    An excellent supplement to Peter Brown s Augustine of Hippo A Biography, focusingnarrowly than Brown s book on the period of Augustine s conversions, from approximately 372, when he became fired with the love of wisdom on encountering Cicero s Hortensius to his final conversion according to Fox to celibacy and renunciation of earthly ambition in 386 in the garden in Milan Fox clarifies his use of the word conversion as follows a conversion requires a decisive change whereby An excellent supplement to Peter Brown s Augustine of Hippo A Biography, focusingnarrowly than Brown s book on the period of Augustine s conversions, from approximately 372, when he became fired with the love of wisdom on encountering Cicero s Hortensius to his final conversion according to Fox to celibacy and renunciation of earthly ambition in 386 in the garden in Milan Fox clarifies his use of the word conversion as follows a conversion requires a decisive change whereby we abandon a previous practice or belief and adopt exclusively a new one It involves a turning which implies a consciousness that the old way was wrong and the new is right I do not restrict conversions to changes from one religion to another Conversions are possible within one and the same religious commitment, as historians of early and medieval Christianity recognize Actually, Augustine s final conversion only takes us up to page 294, with the remaining 268 pages concerned with his conversions of others, and the experiences and developments in his thought that led the writing of his Confessions In addition to Augustine and Christianity and its competition in the Roman world, Fox broadens the picture by looking at the lives of two other men, comparable to Augustine in education and experience, who help place Augustine s words and actions in the context of his world Modern readers find it hard to remember that much of it the vividness with which Augustine lays his past before God may have been less startling in the context of its time I will therefore present it against two near contemporaries lives My aim is not to write a biography of all three persons, but to place Augustine, with the Confessions in his hand, as the central panel in a triple set of sketches, like a triptych on a medieval Christian altar On the left side stands a sketch of his older contemporary Libanius, casting a look of profound disapproval up at Augustine, not least because he himself was a pagan and a committed Greek teacher, one who detested Latin and the technical skill of shorthand On the right side, looking up with tempered adoration, is a sketch of his younger Greek speaking contemporary Synesius, a Christian, a bishop and a fellow lover of philosophy.The lives of Libanius and Synesius do not overlap with all of Augustine s early career, but they help to bring out aspects of it, his social class and the demands which it imposed on him, the pressures of his schooling and his worldly ambitions, his relations with close family members and the ideals of friendship which he projected onto those around him Like Augustine, Libanius and Synesius wrote about ascents to a divine presence More mundanely, they illustrate the social perils of travel abroad to great cities, followed by a return, like Augustine s, to a home town They address their own and others sexual lives in ways which contrast with Augustine s They also illumine the bitterness which appointments to prominent jobs could ignite, especially, as ever, in a Christian church Fox does not spend a huge amount of time with these two, bringing them in periodically to cast light on Augustine s experiences and choices, but I found their presence helpful.Fox s non Christian perspective adds a useful objectivity to this narrative He doesn t feel obliged to point out where Augustine is headed in the right direction and where he s not, and his expertise on pagan religion and Manichaeism adds tremendously to his presentation of how Augustine s thought differed from and built on other ideas current in his time Also, if you ve ever wondered exactly how Manichaeism differed from catholic Christianity, look no further Fox explores this in great, great detail Speaking of detail, this is probably the place for me to mention that this is a very detail oriented book Shadings of belief, minutiae of theological quarrels, in depth consideration of Manichaean practices, etc did occasionally become a bit much for me, but, in fairness to Fox, I read this with my ears thanks to my friend Nicole for this expression while walking a lively young golden retriever, so readers who are better focused might well not have this issue Anyway, given the length of the book and the ideas under discussion, Fox really does an excellent job His explanation of the development of Augustine s ideas on free will, grace, and predestination is notably clear, and, while recognizing how disconcerting and unattractive some of Augustine s views on celibacy and perfectionism will be to modern readers, Fox nevertheless manages to render him, on the whole, an admirable and appealing figure.I ll conclude with Fox s transition, in Chapter 21, from focusing on Augustine s conversions to examining his confessions, as this encapsulates his themes far better than my words could So far, we have followed Augustine s memories with a constant eye on his conversions There have been three, to philosophy, to celibacy and within Christianity to the supposedly true Christianity preached by Mani Conversion has been the obvious theme to pursue in his early life because he himself looks back on it in terms of a turning from and towards God It is also the theme which makes him special for modern historians He is the only early Christian who has told us in detail about his conversions They are not conversions to Christianity from non Christian belief They have emerged as conversions away from rhetoric, worldly ambition, and sex After his decision in the garden many modern scholars continue to look for yetconversions and make them a guiding theme in their accounts of the following years Augustine continued to try to convert others, but in my view he underwent noconversions himself However, he is also special for being the author of a masterpiece, the Confessions Confessing, therefore, is the thread which I will trace in the next eleven years until this masterpiece s beginning Gradually, he will assemble in his mind the pieces which enable him to confess in a novel way If he had confessed his sins to God after coming indoors from the garden, his prayer would have sounded very different Eleven years later, he had written on deep questions of free will and grace, sin, faith and predestination, questions which were to become central parts of his legacy to Christian thinking They are also the themes with which Luther, Calvin, and many others would engage through knowledge of his writings and which would earn him his status as a Doctor of the Catholic Church They are a far cry from his days as Milan s Libanius, selling lies for a living Four and a half stars, recommended for readers with a real interest in early Christianity, and especially those who have already read Peter Brown s book on Augustine and want to dig a bit deeper


  7. JQAdams JQAdams says:

    The 600 odd pages here aren t even trying to cover St Augustine s whole life, only the years up to the publication of the Confessions, which still leaves the last three decades uncovered It s a pretty monumental undertaking, further supplemented with lengthy parallel accounts of two other roughly contemporaneous memoirists the Levantine pagan Libanius and the Cyrenian Christian Synesius taking up some of the space It probably should have been a warning in the early chapters when I found the The 600 odd pages here aren t even trying to cover St Augustine s whole life, only the years up to the publication of the Confessions, which still leaves the last three decades uncovered It s a pretty monumental undertaking, further supplemented with lengthy parallel accounts of two other roughly contemporaneous memoirists the Levantine pagan Libanius and the Cyrenian Christian Synesius taking up some of the space It probably should have been a warning in the early chapters when I found the material on those other twointeresting than the Augustine stuff itself that feeling never really went away, even as their material is increasingly rarer in later chapters of this volume.Augustine is one of the best documented figures of the ancient world an astonishing array of letters, sermons, and miscellaneous documents have survived the sixteen centuries since his death, even if being a bishop of a still extant religious helps encourage preservation So there is a lot of material to work with, and Lane Fox does not let any of it go unexamined The detail about mosaics, readings, and popular ideas does provide a lot of rich texture about the world of ancient North Africa and Italy, but this is not a book for the casually interested Indeed, there are long chapters on various philosophical or religious beliefs Manichaeanism, Neoplatonism that Lane Fox assures you it s important to go through the details of, but he s lying most of the details never come back in the biography itself, and if you skipped those chapters you d still be able to understand everything essential about the main narrative and Augustine s ideas It s also a very academic y book in tone, in that Lane Fox spends a lot of space swatting away competing explanations If other authors prefer a different chronology to Lane Fox s on some questions, he will provide the details And he s deeply fascinated by what, in its religious sense, conversion specifically means As the subtitle indicates, the book thinks Augustine went through several of them, some not necessarily reflecting any change in belief so much as behavior e.g., becoming celibate Conversely, Lane Foxthan once talks about turning points in Augustine s life that other authors have called conversions where he rejects the label And so large portions of the book argue the semantic point about what should and should not fall in the definition of the word That material s also pretty skippable for the non academic reader, though it s not as cleanly hived off into its own chapters.All of the above makes for a book that s much easier to be impressed by than to actually enjoy reading


  8. Jason Jason says:

    This is an extraordinary and engrossing biography of the most towering figure in western Christian thought I remember one of my seminaries professors remarking dryly once that whenever he had encountered a bishop he had never felt in receipt of illumination The same could certainly not be said of the Bishop of Hippo, who wrote an incredible number of texts, many of which stand today, 17 centuries later, as essential reading for believers and all who seek to understand Christian theology Whi This is an extraordinary and engrossing biography of the most towering figure in western Christian thought I remember one of my seminaries professors remarking dryly once that whenever he had encountered a bishop he had never felt in receipt of illumination The same could certainly not be said of the Bishop of Hippo, who wrote an incredible number of texts, many of which stand today, 17 centuries later, as essential reading for believers and all who seek to understand Christian theology While Lane Fox makes the life of the mind the riveting focus of much of the book, he doesn t neglect Augustine s bodily life, noting the way everything from dentistry to sexuality played a part in his understanding of grace There s even an exceedingly bizarre and bawdy incident involving a loaf of bread that might make even certain presidential candidates blush The true accomplishment is the way Lane Fox conveys Augustine s fortitude and originality and insight as a reader, both of classic works by Virgil and the scriptures that changed his life


  9. Deborah Deborah says:

    Michael Page presents an impeccable narration of Robin Lane Fox s Augustine Conversions to Confessions Augustine, product of a marriage between a Christian mother and a pagan father, is presented alongside contemporary figures Synesius, a Christian, and Libanius, a pagan His multicolored life is expounded from a youth to adulthood with all its persuasions Page recounts Conversions to Confessions in a clean, clear and concise manner, though the material is academic at times, this should prove Michael Page presents an impeccable narration of Robin Lane Fox s Augustine Conversions to Confessions Augustine, product of a marriage between a Christian mother and a pagan father, is presented alongside contemporary figures Synesius, a Christian, and Libanius, a pagan His multicolored life is expounded from a youth to adulthood with all its persuasions Page recounts Conversions to Confessions in a clean, clear and concise manner, though the material is academic at times, this should prove to be an easily understood rich portraiture of the influence Augustine had on Christian thought and belief via philosophies and theology of this time in Church history


  10. Robert Stevenson Robert Stevenson says:

    Written by Robin Lane FoxThis is a biography on the great Catholic thinker Saint Augustine The book examines the years from Augustine s youth born 354 AD until he started writing his masterpiece Confessions circa 394 AD There is maybe three pages of post confession historical analysis in the book which was a time when his contributions to Caltholic Church where greatest in terms of centralizing its doctrine and practice and ending various Calthotic agnostic cults.Augustine grew up in Tha Written by Robin Lane FoxThis is a biography on the great Catholic thinker Saint Augustine The book examines the years from Augustine s youth born 354 AD until he started writing his masterpiece Confessions circa 394 AD There is maybe three pages of post confession historical analysis in the book which was a time when his contributions to Caltholic Church where greatest in terms of centralizing its doctrine and practice and ending various Calthotic agnostic cults.Augustine grew up in Thagaste in northern Africa now Souk Ahras, Algeria and his father died while he was young, his father converted to Christianity on his deathbed His mother was a very pious Christian woman who had big plans for her sons Of Monnica s children Augustine showed the greatest promise when he was young and a fellow rich merchant, Romanianus, of the neighborhood, sponsored Augustine s education in Carthage and later in Rome and Milan Initially Augustine was captured by the philosophical works of the Plutonists in his early education This included Cicero, Pluto, Plotinus, Virgil and others He enjoyed their logical based arguments, the deduction based thinking, the skepticism and the rhertoric based speaking Cicero s Hortensius a lost book which taught happiness could be found in the study of philosophy was particularly influential Later he came across Plotinus works and fell in love with the romantic perspective of philosophy and Plotinius s stages of enlightenment Ultimately he secured a public speaking role in Milan fo the governor However, he felt he was always selling lies in his working career life and he seeked a greater calling In a moment in a garden in Milan, Augustine had a divine inspiration and began his conversion to Universal Cathlotism.Prior to his first conversion Augustine was a follower of an agnostic Christian cult called the Manicheans The Manicheans believed in a sun light based Christianity one of darkness and light interruptions of heaven and earth as taught 75 years earlier by their prophet Mani The Manicheans embraced the New Testament but dismissed the Hebrew bible aka Old Testament Augustine converted followers to the Machee ways early in his life but begins to struggle with Manichee doctrines particularly under the light of his philosophical studies.Two key ideas that turned him away from Manicheans were the concept of God s knowledge and the creation of evil including a Manichiean perspective that implies God is corruptible and a second idea regarding personal responsibility and free will His thinking here would eventually lead into the concept of original sin and man s fall with Adam and a belief in interrupting your life via the lenses of scripture With his serious doubts of the Manicheans while in Milan under the tutelage of Saint Ambrose, Augustine he is baptized and still later in life back in North Africa he becomes a priest This was his first great conversion, turning from the Manichaeans He has two additional conversions but neither is change from a life he rejects butof an embracing of Celibacy and Priesthood There after Augustine writes a series of book pointing out failures in the thinking of the Manicheans And ultimately after winning a great public debate against Fortuanious in Carthage, which also including his books bring him greater respect and ultimately an appointment as co bishop.Augustine continues to write books on how to be a good priest and sets up monastery for monks And slowly comes to the his master work Confessions and a life as a slave of god and his love.The author is quite comprehensive in his research, but at times he drifts off intosexual innuendo and analyisis of things less certain Either way an atheistic perspective does give a rounded understanding of Saint Augustine s life I enjoyed the book It was interesting reading about Augustine intellectual development both philosophical and spiritual Although later in life he loses interest in the Greek philosophers and looks to scripture for understanding his meaning and purpose, taking the stages of intellectual life discovered among the Platonists and improving on it and using the framework to understand the stages of spiritual development.At the same time in history, Rome is about to fall, Saint Jerome is translating ancient Hebrew texts to remove the translation errors in the Bible from the Greek to Latin translations And you also see additional agnostic cults sects like Donatist struggling agains the new emerging Universal Cathlotism Saint Augustine writing will ultimately shape Saint Thomas Aquistas and also lead to the Luther and Calvin breaks with Cathlotism later in history


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