Monday, February 14, 2011


A friend of mine recommended that I read the book entitled Confessions by St. Augustine. He told me that this would not be an easy read, but that it would be a journey I would find relevant to my own walk as a Christian. St. Augustine, or Augustine of Hippo, was a philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province in modern day Algeria circa 400 A.D.. His writings were very influential in the development of Western Christianity.

His work called Confessions is an account of his early life from a teenager to an adult. The book is written as his personal confession to God of what led him to each point along his path from unbeliever to baptised Christian. By all accounts, St. Augustine was a very bright scholar, and it was his early life's experiences in academia that initially polarized his beliefs against Christian teaching. But St. Augustine was not one who accepted what he heard without careful and critical examination. He personally agonized over everything that he came across to slowly separate the wheat from the chaff, the wrong or misguided from the truth. In fact, the wonderful aspect of his Confessions was going along on this journey of self-discovery with him and witnessing how he wrestled through conflicting thoughts and ideas, and ultimately came to accept and embrace the Christian doctrine.

There was much to savor and enjoy in this 1600-year-old account. However, there were also several long sections that struck me as metaphysical ramblings or really pointless debate. It was funny to me that St Augustine was at one point a teacher of rhetoric. I am not really sure what this means, but usually when I think of a rhetorical question, it is a musing for which there is no answer. I thought this type of definition fitting for portions. However, even though I found some sections obtuse, they were still fascinating to read to see how he went about asking a question and then passionately framing his answer.

The other fascinating aspect of reading this sixteen century-old work was just how current its topics remain. Apart from some allusions to a very different culture in a long bygone age, the struggles of man then to learn about his creator are very much the same as they are today.