152 of 178 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2000
I will begin by stating that I am an estranged ex-catholic. But as a philosopher and writer, I always wanted to read The Confessions of St. Augustine. The famed quote of Give me chastity and continence but not yet is one that I have often used out of context with a wicked smile. It was great to read these lines within the intended framework of Augustines writing. This is a beautiful book. Augustines gradual turn toward God is glorious. This book beautifully illustrates the human ability for transformation and transcendence. Along with Meister Eckhart and Thomas Aquinas it gives one a good grasp of the early Christian and Catholic theory. As a cynic I must question what went wrong but my sarcasm should not detract from the sheer beauty and power of St Augustine. It brought me closer to God if not back to my original faith. Like the Bible itself, this is a book that many Christians in general and Catholics in specific really ought to read.
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2005
Let me just begin by saying that this book is brilliant. Augustine is one of the greatest thinkers that the world has ever known, and it shines through in this book. In this book, Augustine manages to cover an amazing number of topics, and does so in a beautiful way, filled with prayers to God.
I am not sure what the reviewer from June 10, 2005 is talking about. I think that they were reviewing the wrong book. This book is 400 some pages, not 90, and it is the complete version, not an introduction or abridgement.
Normally when I read books I underline quotes or passages that I think are especially good, or that I think I will be able to use in papers in the future. I then write the page numbers of the pages that have underlining on the back page. In this book, however, I ended up writing the pages numbers of pages I DIDN'T underline in on the back, since I underlined something on nearly every page. This book is absolutely filled with wisdom and knowledge of God and how He and the world He created works. This book inspired me to find a copy of The City of God, which I am now just beginning. If it is one-tenth as good as the Confessions, it will be well worth the money.
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2004
This book is a Roman Empire era classic, but not for the reader in a hurry. The translation appears to attempt to faithfully follow the original Latin long sentences and has therefore had to deploy advanced literary English to deal with the frequent multiple midsentence clauses. This is one of the reasons I found it slow going from a time perspective, but worth persisting with. One really good addition to the book is the notes section with all the Bible references; this is where having a cleric as the translator is clearly a bonus.
As other reviewers have pointed out, the book is a combination of St Augustine's personal life and his discussion of theology and philosophy. His personal life details include petty theft of fruit from an orchard, sitting around unemployed, youthful indiscretions, living a few years with his girlfriend until they split up, and his personal spiritual realignment from a heretical sect to the Catholic tradition. The Biblical references are mainly letters from the Apostle Paul, the Genesis story of the creation, and the Psalms, and there is nothing much from the Gospels or the Prophets. The philosophy component includes a review of his personal experiences with sense of time and memory which was no doubt drawn from his experience as a professional teacher of rhetoric and philosophy.
What one gains from all this is a great snapshot of what someone of religious conviction in the fading days of the Roman Empire saw and thought, including the experience of just scraping by to make a living. Overall, recommended for the patient reader!
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2005
In The Confessions of Saint Augustine, Augustine concentrates on his powerful and zealous ongoing spiritual questions. His dairy- type book tells of the history of one man's struggle to obtain and maintain a close spiritual walk with God. John K. Ryan translated the book in an attempt to make Augustine's work more reader friendly.
John K. Ryan's translation of "The Confessions of Saint Augustine" is a very easy book to read. His 22-page introduction and notes with Bible scriptures at the back of the book help the reader understand and tie together St. Augustine's work. The scriptures that Ryan provided the reader appeared to come from the King James Bible. With this in mind, I examined the possibility that Ryan was Protestant and not Catholic in his own spiritual ideology. I than questioned if that had tainted his translation. Therefore, I read parts of other translations of the Confession found on the Internet and discovered them all to be like-minded. I concluded that Ryan's translation didn't show any bias, but tried to relay to the reader that Saint Augustine's true desire was to understand God's "Will". Therefore, Augustine was portrayed as a sinner turned saint. The book was organized in a chronological manner, taking the reader from the beginning of Augustine's spiritual journey to being known as a saint and a church father. Ryan's approach to translating "The Confession of Saint Augustine" was a social history because his translations were geared toward the aspects of civil society that show the evolution of social norms, behaviors, and more.
"The Confessions of Saint Augustine" is a valuable read because it offers a first hand look at how Augustine struggled to understand God's divine power and aspiration for his life, and to be of assistance to others in the future. He raised questions that men and women since time began have questioned during their sacred walk with the Supreme Being known as God. His personal thirst for righteousness consumed his life, and he is known as one of the great Christian thinkers.
The Confession was not what I thought it would be. I truly thought it would be a book full of confessions from a saint that was "suppose" to be a prefect person that had fallen by the spiritual wayside. Instead, the Confession was like an autobiographical journal, which did included doctrine, scriptures, studies, praise, memories, and confessions. I was impressed by his ability to swing from scriptures to his own thoughts, but had you not read the scriptures prior to reading the book you may not have realized the source of this information.
Augustine was a wonderful philosopher/thinker and his writings have been the subject of many discussions throughout history since it was written in 397 A.D. However, the Confession was written in a prayer-like manner addressing various issues making it difficult to focus on the subject for long periods of time.
Some of the things Augustine questioned to the "simple-minded" or should I say "non-philosopher type" is somewhat of a given. For example: in The Infant Augustine, he wrote, "I myself do not remember this. Therefore, the comfort of human milk nourished me, but neither my mother nor my nurse filled their own breast. Rather, through them you gave me as an infant's food in accordance with your law and out of the riches that you have distributed even down to the lowest level of thing." (7) Why did he question such things? Female animals of all types feed their young from the breast. This is natural. He apparently was so far above me as a thinker that where he was going with this is beyond my comprehension, unless, he was just saying, "Thank you Lord for supplying my needs even as a child, when I knew you not." He almost said these same words in the next few sentences but to go back so far and question every aspect is as I said before, beyond my comprehension.
As you can tell I have never read a book of this nature before unless you count the King James Bible, but I did try to keep an open mind. I was surprised that he didn't appear to be a happy Christian in all his efforts to be "Christ like". This disappointed me. However, there were times while reading the book I could relate to Augustine and many of his questions. This book reminded me that no matter what God a person chooses to serve, as human beings we want to become the best we can be spiritually.
During my reading I realized that Augustine through his quest for righteousness must have gone through many of the same stages that persons in earlier cultures and time periods have. For example: he questioned what pleased God, how should he praise and show his thankfulness to God, and in what way did he want to serve God. Throughout world history these same questions have been asked at one time or another.
Ryan did a wonderful job of translating the Confession. Augustine's book written like a diary made the confessions more personal. He was one of the greatest thinkers and Christian fathers of his era. His spiritual struggles were genuine; his desire for righteousness was obvious in his writing. I sit in awe at his wisdom and his pursuit of knowledge. This book was a good read and I will study it again someday. It gave me insight to what other cultures throughout history underwent to comprehend and to determine what path of Christianity they would embrace.
25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2000
I was asked to read this book as a freshmen in college and I loved it. It is not an easy read, but once you read over a part once more, Augustine's logic makes perfect sense. If you've read any other Augustine, such as "Freedom of the will", this book fits right in there and explains it perfectly. In fact, this book explains most of Augustine's tenants perfectly. If anyone wants to know why Christianity took such a harsh stand against sexual sins...it's Augustine lashing out at his past. He was really tormented. Worship God or worship sex. He chose God and I'm sure he thought about going back. Augustine also developed the full Christian idea of free will, which is manifested in this book as well. Augustine is an incredible figure and a role model for modern Christians. His trials are not much different from ours, seeing as we live in a society so obsessed with sex. Augustine's Confessions is one of my favorite books. A must-read for any theologian and philosopher.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2003
This book holds a special place among the greatest books ever written. While it is autobiographical, so say that and only that misses the point of the book entirely. Augustine's work is great philosophy, great theology, great lessons about life, struggles, weaknesses that cause failure, strengths that provide great success, wisdom, knowledge, and even history (for both the Church and secular world).
Augustine discusses issues such as original sin, the Word of God, free will and the problem of evil, universal good, the Trinity, prayer, thought and memory, mathematics, truth, happiness, the good, Plato, the influence that Cicero had on him, his education, his relationship with his mother, the attributes of God, and all these barely scratch the surface.
The book is heartwarming, makes you think, causes humility in the reader, and 1500 years after it was written, it is still being read by countless people. This text is used in colleges, in seminaries, and in history classrooms. It is a timeless work as applicable today as it was when Augustine first wrote it.
If you enjoy history (secular as well as Church history), theology, philosophy, sociology, and classical studies, then you will not want to be without this text. I highly recommend it!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2011
Yeah. Big surprise here. I had a feeling this would be my kind of book, even before I started reading it, although in fairness, I expected that the autobiographical nature of the text would really turn me off. It certainly didn't, although I still preferred the theology sections of the book.
This is a book written, originally, by Augustine before he became one of the greatest saints, thinkers and philosophers of all time. In it, he tells the story of how his sinful life led him to the heresy of the manicheans, and how, through careful thinking and intellectual honesty, he was eventually led back to the Catholic Church, and to a life of devotion and holiness. It's a beautiful, true story.
Then, in about the last third of the book, he starts talking theology, and this is where Augustine really gets to show the depth of his intelligence. I was thrilled by this. I'm a big theology fan, and I loved hearing him talk about the workings of the mind, the memory, time, eternity, etc... It's fantastic, because it encourages one to think on a much deeper level than we're accustomed to at this day in age, and yet, it all makes perfect sense.
There are Christian masterpieces that tell you only about the lives of poor sinners, striving to reach God, and other masterpieces, which tell you primarily deep truths about God himself, and his state of being and creation. The first can be more instructive, in terms of leading us home, while the latter is, arguably, more delightful, since it pertains to the very creator and source of all delight. I won't say which is better to read, but this book has both, so there's no need to.
Augustine's story is inspiring and encouraging, and his theology is rock solid and brilliant. It's heady, intellectual stuff, though, so while I consider it one of the best books I've read in a while, and very difficult to misunderstand, I also can't really say it's for beginners. It might be better to start with something a bit lighter, if you're not a theology buff. My personal suggestion would be to start with "Rome Sweet Home," and some basic ancient philosophy, like Socrates or Plato, then move on to this when you've got all that down.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2011
The Confessions of St. Augustine is one of the most important literary and spiritual classics in Western civilization. It is a profound and brilliant spiritual autobiography in which Augustine paints a picture of himself, "warts and all." Augustine's honesty about himself is matched by the beauty of his expression, but what is most moving about The Confessions is Augustine's engagement with God. Throughout, you see a soul which God is drawing to Himself, as well as a soul that gradually responds to the grace of God in its life. It is a book that may be read as devotional literature, autobiography, theology, and literature.
As Augustine discovered, "our heart is unquiet until it rests in you."
Actually, The Confessions are addressed to God, and this gives them a sense of immediacy and intimacy, as if God has been watching over Augustine his entire life. One of the most compelling aspects of The Confessions is that we are able to see the gradual conversion of St. Augustine's heart. His isn't an instantaneous conversion, as conversions are often portrayed, but a series of steps on the path to God. Along the way we are privileged to experience with Augustine some of the turning points in his spiritual pilgrimage. One of these is the famous story in which Augustine hears a voice say, "Pick it up and read," provoking him to read Romans 13:13-14, after which light flooded his heart and his face was peaceful.
It has been said that The Confessions are "the West's first autobiography," and the influence of The Confessions on Western literature is incalculable. It is a book that continues to speak to us, more than 1500 years after its original writing and a book that is worth wrestling with. Augustine's meditations on memory, the senses, time, eternity, and heaven and earth (which make up Books X-XII) are also worth reading and contain not only some profound theology but a theology intermingled with prayers and praise to God.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 1997
Confessions tells the story of one man's uncompromising search for truth. Augustine begins with intellectual concessions to the Christian world view and ends with a passionate and personal devotion to God. Confessions also addresses the question, "How can a sinner have fellowship with a holy God?"
Prepare to think abstractly, as Augustine slips often and with little warning into his specialty -- philosophy. Philosophy buffs will find out why many contemporary philosophers such as German philosopher Martin Heidegger pay their respect to Augustine
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2005
This is a beautiful book even if you aren't familiar with the Saints. It opens like a flower as you read. It is completely about this wonderful man's own thoughtful analysis of his own emotional experiences. He reflects on his early life when he was actually a pagan worshipper, and then focuses on his conversion to the Christian faith. Once he converted Saint Augustine returned to Africa and set up a monastic community. What makes this book so special is that is told with the utmost candor and he holds nothing back. It is also a beautiful book in praise of God and how he changed Saint Augustine's life. Although religious in tenure, this is not a totally religious work. So many observations and thoughts that this man had in his lifetime (354 AD is when he was born). It is a book about friendships (both true and false), faith, celibacy and love.