By Saint Augustine (Author), R. S. Pine-Coffin (Author)
The son of a pagan father and a Christian mother, Saint Augustine spent his early years torn between conflicting faiths and world views. His Confessions, written when he was in his forties, recount how, slowly and painfully, he came to turn away from his youthful ideas and licentious lifestyle, to become instead a staunch advocate of Christianity and one of its most influential thinkers. A remarkably honest and revealing spiritual autobiography, the Confessions also address fundamental issues of Christian doctrine, and many of the prayers and meditations it includes are still an integral part of the practice of Christianity today.
Many consider St. Augustine to be the founder of Western Christian thought both in its philosophical and theological aspects. Born in North Africa, St. Augustine turned in his youth to the study of philosophy especially that of Cicero and the Neoplatonists. For some years he was even a Manichaean, that is, a follower of a religion based on dualism which had issued from ancient Persia and had spread into the Roman Empire at that time. It was not until 386 A.D. that he became converted to Christianity, rising very rapidly in Christian ecclesiastical circles until he became the bishop of Hippo and one of the most important fathers of the Western Christian Church now known as the Catholic Church. In the year 400 A.D. St. Augustine wrote his famous Confessions which is one of the great masterpieces of Western thought. In this work he expressed his belief that philosophy could lead to happiness and even blessedness and could be harmonized with Christianity. In fact, he con- sidered Christianity itself to be a philosophy in which the scriptures were the authority and where faith was central.
One of the main concerns of St. Augustine to which he turned over and over again was the relationship between faith and understanding or faith and reason and at the same time the relationship between reason and illumination. His major work, which is called The City of God, also contains the Christian view of time and history as well as of the perfect and imperfect society wherein he emphasized the significance of the presence of sin and the importance of redemption through Christ. When St. Augustine died in the year 430 A.D., he had already left a body of work which was to influence all later history of Christian thought and even much of Western philosophy in circles outside of the specifically Catholic confession.
(Seyyed Hossein Nasr)
Note: 'The Great Books of the Western World recommends St. Augustine's ‘On the Teacher’.