Augustine: A Very Short Introduction, Paperback Book

Augustine: A Very Short Introduction Paperback

Part of the Very Short Introductions series

3 out of 5 (1 rating)


By his writings, the surviving bulk of which exceeds that of any other ancient author, Augustine came to influence not only his contemporaries but also the West since his time. This Very Short Introduction traces the development of Augustine's thought, discussing his reaction to the thinkers before him, and themes such as freedom, creation, and the trinity.

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I like this series, but it does strike me that the supposedly succinct introductions can become a deceptively long read. In this case, the author made up for space with big vocabulary, which actually results in a nice challenging piece of work. I still advocate my principle of reading the source before the commentary (in this case, especially the Confessions. This author shows the diversity of Augustine's thoughts, as they apply to philosophy, religion, and literature. He also brings out Augustine's life and personality. And he shows the way Augustine's writings affected future doctrine. In particular, Augustine believed in the force of government (he was a Roman citizen), but he would have opposed the severe practices adopted later by the Catholic and Byzantine church. The author also explains Augustine's thoughts about prayer (not to change God's will but to conform to it - mostly silent and and then OK to pray in hope for the basics of health and food). Chadwick also discusses briefly that Augustine believed that Peter as "the rock" reflected the first of many redemptions Christ would make, rather than positioning Peter as the one leader (though he later left open that possibility). With respect to religion and state, Augustine believed in the power of the latter, but also felt a government without justice was the equivalent of a very powerful thug. He believed the redistribution of resources through taxation was necessary as the church's charitable efforts would not be sufficient.