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Journey toward God in Augustine's Confessions, The

Books I-VI

Carl G. Vaught

Publication Year: 2003

This detailed discussion of Augustine’s journey toward God, as it is described in the first six books of the Confessions, begins with infancy, moves through childhood and adolescence, and culminates in youthful maturity. In the first stage, Augustine deals with the problems of original innocence and sin; in the second, he addresses a pear-stealing episode that recapitulates the theft of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and confronts the problem of sexuality with which he wrestles until his conversion; and in the third, he turns toward philosophy, only to be captivated successively by dualism, skepticism, and Catholicism. Augustine’s journey exhibits temporal, spatial, and eternal dimensions and combines his head and his heart in equal proportions. Vaught shows that the Confessions should be interpreted as an attempt to address the person as a whole rather than through our intellectual or volitional dimensions exclusively. The passion with which Augustine describes the end of his journey is reflected best in a sentence found in the opening chapter of the text—“You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Interpreting this statement, Carl G. Vaught presents a more emphatically Christian Augustine than is usually found in contemporary scholarship. Refusing to view Augustine in an exclusively Neoplatonic framework, Vaught holds that Augustine baptizes Plotinus just as successfully as Aquinas baptizes Aristotle. It cannot be denied that Ancient philosophy influences Augustine decisively. Nevertheless, he holds the experiential and the theoretical dimensions of his journey toward God together as a distinctive expression of the Christian tradition.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page

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p. iii


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p. iv


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

Augustine’s Confessions is a difficult book. For many readers, there are too many prayers, too much self-flagellation, and too much philosophy. What other book begins by praising the greatness of God and by calling our attention to the mortality that reflects our separation from him...

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pp. 1-19

This book is a detailed analysis of the first six Books of Augustine’s Confessions, and it comes to focus on two central themes: the first is the relation between God and the soul, and the second is the language we must learn to speak to deal with this relation appropriately. At a time when philosophy and...

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1 Infancy, Childhood, and Adolescence

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pp. 21-65

Augustine’s Confessions exhibits an interplay between two competing dimensions: on the one hand, the dynamism of creation and a desire to return to his origins motivates his inquiry; on the other hand, a radical discontinuity separates him from God and makes his longing for peace problematic. A...

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2 The Philosophical Turn

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pp. 67-114

Augustine continues to explore the relation between God and the soul and to develop a way of speaking that is appropriate to it by describing seven stages of experiential and reflective development, some of which make his separation from God more painful than before. These stages occur when he...

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3 Manichaeism, Skepticism, and Christianity (Books V–VI)

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pp. 115-154

As our account of the temporal, spatial, and eternal dimensions of Augustine’s development continues to unfold, the relation between God and the soul and the language that permits us to speak about it are once again our central themes. This chapter focuses on the first of these themes...


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pp. 155-176


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pp. 177-185


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pp. 187-193

E-ISBN-13: 9780791486535
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791457917
Print-ISBN-10: 0791457915

Page Count: 206
Publication Year: 2003

OCLC Number: 55530838
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Journey toward God in Augustine's Confessions, The

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Subject Headings

  • Augustine, Saint, Bishop of Hippo. Confessiones. Liber 1-6.
  • Augustine, Saint, Bishop of Hippo.
  • Spirituality -- History -- Early church, ca. 30-600.
  • Christian saints -- Algeria -- Hippo (Extinct city) -- Biography -- History and criticism.
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