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In this brief and incisive book, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Garry Wills tells the story of the Confessions--what motivated Augustine to dictate it, how it asks to be read, and the many ways it has been misread in the one-and-a-half millennia since it was composed. Following Wills's biography of Augustine and his translation of the Confessions, this is an unparalleled introduction to one of the most important books in the Christian and Western traditions.
Understandably fascinated by the story of Augustine's life, modern readers have largely succumbed to the temptation to read the Confessions as autobiography. But, Wills argues, this is a mistake. The book is not autobiography but rather a long prayer, suffused with the language of Scripture and addressed to God, not man. Augustine tells the story of his life not for its own significance but in order to discern how, as a drama of sin and salvation leading to God, it fits into sacred history. "We have to read Augustine as we do Dante," Wills writes, "alert to rich layer upon layer of Scriptural and theological symbolism." Wills also addresses the long afterlife of the book, from controversy in its own time and relative neglect during the Middle Ages to a renewed prominence beginning in the fourteenth century and persisting to today, when the Confessions has become an object of interest not just for Christians but also historians, philosophers, psychiatrists, and literary critics.
With unmatched clarity and skill, Wills strips away the centuries of misunderstanding that have accumulated around Augustine's spiritual classic.
An Introspective Philosophy
Augustine's Love of Wisdom is an analytical and interpretive focus on the first thirty chapters of book ten of Augustine's Autobiographical Confessions. Bourke provides a rich synthesis of key tenets of Augustine's psychology in the context of his philosophical system and selects the most intensive writing of Augustine on the intricacies of the human psyche, providing the reader with insight on an Augustinian explanatory method, introspection.
Conversion and Apostasy, 373-388 C.E.
Augustine of Hippo is history's best-known Christian convert. The very concept of conversio owes its dissemination to Augustine's Confessions, and yet, as Jason BeDuhn notes, conversion in Augustine is not the sudden, dramatic, and complete transformation of self we likely remember it to be. Rather, in the Confessions Augustine depicts conversion as a lifelong process, a series of self-discoveries and self-departures. The tale of Augustine is one of conversion, apostasy, and conversion again.
In this first volume of Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, BeDuhn reconstructs Augustine's decade-long adherence to Manichaeism, apostasy from it, and subsequent conversion to Nicene Christianity. Based on his own testimony and contemporaneous sources from and about Manichaeism, the book situates many features of Augustine's young adulthood within his commitment to the sect, while pointing out ways he failed to understand or put into practice key parts of the Manichaean system. It explores Augustine's dissatisfaction with the practice-oriented faith promoted by the Manichaean leader Faustus and the circumstances of heightened intolerance, anti-Manichaean legislation, and pressures for social conformity surrounding his apostasy.
Seeking a historically circumscribed account of Augustine's subsequent conversion to Nicene Christianity, BeDuhn challenges entrenched conceptions of conversion derived in part from Augustine's later idealized account of his own spiritual development. He closely examines Augustine's evolving self-presentation in the year before and following his baptism and argues that the new identity to which he committed himself bore few of the hallmarks of the orthodoxy with which he is historically identified. Both a historical study of the specific case of Augustine and a theoretical reconsideration of the conditions under which conversion occurs, this book explores the role religion has in providing the materials and tools through which self-formation and reformation occurs.
Making a "Catholic" Self, 388-401 C.E.
By 388 C.E., Augustine had broken with the Manichaeism of his early adulthood and wholeheartedly embraced Nicene Christianity as the tradition with which he would identify and within which he would find meaning. Yet conversion rarely, if ever, represents a clean and total break from the past. As Augustine defined and became a "Catholic" self, he also intently engaged with Manichaeism as a rival religious system. This second volume of Jason David BeDuhn's detailed reconsideration of Augustine's life and letters explores the significance of the fact that these two processes unfolded together.
BeDuhn identifies the Manichaean subtext to be found in nearly every work written by Augustine between 388 and 401, and demonstrates Augustine's concern with refuting his former beliefs without alienating the Manichaeans he wished to win over. To achieve these ends, Augustine modified and developed his received Nicene Christian faith, strengthening it where it was vulnerable to Manichaean critique and taking it in new directions where he found room within an orthodox frame of reference to accommodate Manichaean perspectives and concerns. Against this background, BeDuhn is able to shed new light on the complex circumstances and purposes of Augustine's most famous work, The Confessions, as well as his distinctive reading of Paul and his revolutionary concept of grace. Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 2 demonstrates the close interplay between Augustine's efforts to work out his own "Catholic" persona and the theological positions associated with his name, between the sometimes dramatic twists and turns of his own personal life and his theoretical thinking.
Scholarship has painted many pictures of Augustine—the philosophical theologian, the refuter of heresy, or contributor to doctrines like Original Sin—but the picture of Augustine as preacher, says Sanlon, has been seriously neglected. When academics marginalize the Sermones ad Populum, the real Augustine is not presented accurately. In this study, Sanlon does more, however, than rehabilitate a neglected view of Augustine.
How do the theological convictions that Augustine brought to his preaching challenge, sustain, or shape our work today? By presenting Augustine’s thought on preaching to contemporary readers Sanlon contributes a major new piece to the ongoing reconsideration of preaching in the modern day, a consideration that is relevant to all branches of the twenty-first century church.
Through careful analysis of Augustine's writings, Burnell concludes that Augustine conceives of human nature as a unity at every level--socially, morally, and in basic constitution--despite very common objections that he fails to achieve such a conception
Shaping the Urban Religious Culture of Richmond, Virginia, 1900-1929
Avenues of Faith documents how religion flourished in southern cities after the turn of the century and how a cadre of clergy and laity created a notably progressive religious culture in Richmond, the bastion of the Old South. Famous as the former capital of the Confederacy, Richmond emerges as a dynamic and growing industrial city invigorated by the social activism of its Protestants.
By examining six mainline white denominations-Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Disciples of Christ, and Lutherans-Samuel C. Shepherd Jr. emphasizes the extent to which the city fostered religious diversity, even as "blind spots" remained in regard to Catholics, African Americans, Mormons, and Jews. Shepherd explores such topics as evangelism, interdenominational cooperation, the temperance campaign, the Sunday school movement, the international peace initiatives, and the expanding role of lay people of both sexes. He also notes the community's widespread rejection of fundamentalism, a religious phenomenon almost automatically associated with the South, and shows how it nurtured social reform to combat a host of urban problems associated with public health, education, housing, women's suffrage, prohibition, children, and prisons.
In lucid prose and with excellent use of primary sources, Shepherd delivers a fresh portrait of Richmond Protestants who embraced change and transformed their community, making it an active, progressive religious center of the New South.
Clergy Misconduct in Modern America
Child-molesting priests, embezzled church treasures, philandering ministers and rabbis, even church-endorsed pyramid schemes that defraud gullible parishioners of millions of dollars: for the past decade, clergy misconduct has seemed continually to be in the news.
Is there something about religious organizations that fosters such misbehavior? Bad Pastors presents a range of new perspectives and solidly grounded data on pastoral abuse, investigating sexual misconduct, financial improprieties, and political and personal abuse of authority. Rather than focusing on individuals who misbehave, the volume investigates whether the foundation for clergy malfeasance is inherent in religious organizations themselves, stemming from hierarchies of power in which trusted leaders have the ability to define reality, control behavior, and even offer or withhold the promise of immortality. Arguing that such phenomena arise out of organizational structures, the contributors do not focus on one particular religion, but rather treat these incidents from an interfaith perspective.
Bad Pastors moves beyond individual case studies to consider a broad range of issues surrounding clergy misconduct, from violence against women to the role of charisma and abuse of power in new religious movements. Highlighting similarities between other forms of abuse, such as domestic violence, the volume helps us to conceptualize and understand clergy misconduct in new ways.
A Global Anthology
Baptist Preaching comprises thirty-five sermons from around the globe given in the same year by Baptist preachers. These sermons demonstrate, as Joel C. Gregory argues, that the act of preaching lies at the heart of Baptist identity—possibly rivaling the practice of believers’ baptism. The sermons collected here represent varied voices, multicultural contexts, and global concerns that occupy Baptists worldwide. The sermons thus give living witness to how Baptists wrestle with cultural issues confronting their respective churches. From Latin and South America to Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe, Baptist Preaching celebrates the diversity of global Baptist proclamation while simultaneously highlighting the near-sacramental role of preaching in Baptist churches.
Métis children encounter evangelical Protestants at Mackinaw Mission, 1823-1837
In 1823 William and Amanda Ferry opened a boarding school for Métis children on Mackinac Island, Michigan Territory, setting in motion an intense spiritual battle to win the souls and change the lives of the children, their parents, and all others living at Mackinac. Battle for the Soul demonstrates how a group of enthusiastic missionaries, empowered by an uncompromising religious motivation, served as agents of Americanization. The Ferrys' high hopes crumbled, however, as they watched their work bring about a revival of Catholicism and their students refuse to abandon the fur trade as a way of life. The story of the Mackinaw Mission is that of people who held differing world views negotiating to create a "middle-ground," a society with room for all.
Widder's study is a welcome addition to the literature on American frontier missions. Using Richard White's "middle ground" paradigm, it focuses on the cultural interaction between French, British, American, and various native groups at the Mackinac mission in Michigan during the early 19th century. The author draws on materials from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions archives, as well as other manuscript sources, to trace not only the missionaries' efforts to Christianize and Americanize the native peoples, but the religious, social, and cultural conflicts between Protestant missionaries and Catholic priests in the region. Much attention has been given to the missionaries to the Indians in other areas of the US, but little to this region.