Monday, July 24, 2006

review of You Converted Me: The Confessions of St. Augustine

You Converted Me: The Confessions of St. Augustine with Introduction and notes by Tony Jones and with a contemporary translation by Robert J. Edmonson, CJ. This is a faithful translation of what may be considered the greatest Christian classic by the greatest and most influential theologian of the western Church, Augustine. Actually it is the first eight books, the most famous part of it, that is translated. This is a book meant to get people to read this classic. The books following book eight, are more philosophically oriented in such a way as to lose many readers, though worthy in themselves of consideration and study as has been done for centuries. Tony Jones provides a helpful introduction and helpful notes along the way, in the text.

Classics are considered classics for a reason. Surely in my society we are weak in reading them. This is true in my case. I have had a copy of this classic for some years now, but hadn't even read through the first eight books in their entirety (as far as I remember, anyhow; some of my reading during that time was not well absorbed). Rather it had been a selective reading of it for me. So I am grateful for this edition, which, by the way, I did read all the way through. And I see it as a good way of getting young and old alike to read it.

The Confessions of Augustine are both in regard to his God, and in regard to himself and his struggle towards conversion. And his mother, Monica is a chief player in this story.

And that is what this book essentially is: a story. Told by Augustine in speech, largely to God. But also thinking his way through it. In these ways reminding one of a psalm and perhaps something of a letter of Paul, melded together.

And you get to meet, through his writing, a man, bearing his soul. As well as sharing the gift God had given him for us.

Many lines stand out in this reading. I'm not one to underline in books (I've ruined some, doing so, lines everywhere!), but I would recommend an exception here. Maybe take a pencil and do so lightly. And not too often. But there are gems to be found. Here is one in which he is describing the near end of his long struggle towards conversion:
"I still didn't quite make it, or touch it, or lay hold of it, hesitating to die to death and to live to life." (p 224)
The greatest aspect of this book is to hear the story of God's work in Augustine's life, bringing him to his true self in God through Christ (Luke 15:17). And to know that this is from one of the great lights of the Church. A light that has helped others in God from his time right up to the present.

So I highly recommend purchasing this volume. It is all you need in reading and rereading Augustine's struggle and account of his conversion. If you're of a scholarly bend, this is still a great place to start. You could borrow a copy that includes books nine through thirteen, from the library. And eventually choose to purchase such. Most of us will not care to spend alot of time in those books, some of which are hard to understand and follow.

Paraclete Press graciously gave this book to the first fifty who responded to the offer on Scot McKnight's blog, Jesus Creed. And asked us to review it on Amazon or a blog we might have. I would highly recommend that you check out their website. They publish good books written by Christians from all the Christian traditions. This is ecumenical in a good sense. In the sharing of our common faith in Jesus Christ, bringing in the rich diversity among us in our various thought and practice.

Lord, Let many read and appreciate anew the gift of your servant, Augustine. Let us so follow, in seeing our lives totally and increasingly changed from glory to glory into your likeness. Hold us to that; that we might hold to it. By your grace. Amen.

2 comments:

Allan R. Bevere said...

Ted:

Thanks for the review. I am going to order a copy. I love Augustine's Confessions and support anything that gets his profound and deeply spiritual theology into the hands of more people.

Ted Gossard said...

Allan,
Thanks. I think they did a good job in potentially doing just that.