- Series: Armchair Theologians
- Paperback: 222 pages
- Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press (September 30, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0664223729
- ISBN-13: 978-0664223724
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #647,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Augustine for Armchair Theologians Paperback – September 30, 2002
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From Library Journal
An associate professor of religious studies at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania, Cooper offers a kind of guided tour through the great theologian Augustine's Confessions summarizing here, explaining there, spicing the whole with substantial quotations from his own translations from the original. Augustine's life and mind are never out of place and always worth bringing to a new audience, so that while Cooper himself is somewhat overshadowed by Augustine, this cleanly written book should be a worthwhile addition to many libraries.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
If this sounds like a popularization, well, it is. But except for its overly chipper cartoon illustrations, there is nothing condescending about it. Cooper follows the first nine books of the Confessiones closely, producing not so much an explication of Augustine's theology as a biography of the great Catholic convert, bishop, and doctor of the church. His citations from Augustine appear in his own translations, which contain more contemporary patter than the main text; as a result, Cooper's Augustine sounds more contemporarily vernacular than Cooper. Cooper incidentally shows how acute a psychologist Augustine was, not least of early childhood, as Garry Wills argued in Saint Augustine's Childhood (2001). The saint's long struggle with eros, flirtation with Manichaeism, mounting frustration with a worldly career, sudden enlightenment (an archetypal decision for Christ), and homecoming to Carthage, saddened by the successive deaths of mother, best friend, and son, become in Cooper's retelling a vivid illustration of Augustine's famous observation that God makes us for Himself, and our hearts are uneasy until we find rest in Him. Ray Olson
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Cooper follows the lead of Augustine’s most famous work, Confessions, most of which is autobiographical, to tell the story of his life. Augustine’s other most famous work, his massive City of God, gets a brief nod in the final chapter. I found that Cooper provided a proper balance to the influences and motivations of Augustine’s life: his closeness with his mother, his relationships and later determined abstinence, his foray into Manicheism, and his resultant theology of grace. A proper perspective helps overcome the shallow perception that Augustine was wracked with guilt over what he considered a terribly sinful life. Augustine did indeed condemn his youthful actions, but they hardly ranked very high on the sin scale, and he comes across in this book as much more reasonable, merely cognizant of his shortcomings.
This is not to say his denunciation of Manicheism and acceptance of Christianity was an easy one. He quickly grasped the untruths of astrology and other competing life views, and saw Christianity as the one true way, but was unwilling. One day, before feeling any strong conviction toward Christianity and feeling unfulfilled, he picked up a Bible and it opened to this passage:
Not in revelry and drunkenness, not in chambering and shamelessness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh” –Romans 13:13–14
He needed to read no further. His past ways were put behind him, and he found the strength to overcome his sinful nature—most of which amounted to a youthful lust for women. Augustine’s reputation as one who condemned the evils of sex (that whole “original sin” thing, you know) is somewhat deserved, but to be fair he was a product of his Christian times. The connection between Christianity and a preference for the virginal or celibate life was not something he or his generation manufactured. Christian asceticism traces its origins to the practices of Jesus and Paul, who were themselves both celibates. By Augustine’s time, this strain of religiosity was in full bloom, and he strove to overcome his “slavery to lust.”
The majority of Cooper’s book, then, is of the formative years of Augustine’s journey, with little attention given to his time as Bishop of Hippo. Fun and engrossing, this is an easy book to recommend.
This book was provided for review by Logos Bible Software and read on their mobile e-book software.