Augustine is one of those early church fathers whose contributions to Christianity have stood the test of time, and still influences theology today. His written works, most notably Confessions, provide an in-depth look into the personal nature of sin and God’s personal interest in having a relationship with each one of us. However, Augustine’s journey to salvation takes some interesting twists and turns, and he wrestles with some tough issues involving his Christian faith. In a way, his story is not that different than most of ours, and most Christians can personally relate to his life and works.
Augustine was raised by a Christian mother, which was vital in laying the foundation for his later conversion. She ensured that his early education had a Christian base, which was important given the many philosophy-based methods of education of the day. However, like many young intellectuals throughout the ages, he became enticed by various schools of thought and ideas that played on his inquisitive nature, such as dualism, Manichaeism, magic, and astrology (1). He also wrestled with many of the temptations that we face today, as mentioned in his Confessions.
Eventually he began to have doubts concerning many of the worldviews he dabbled in during his informative years, and, upon hearing Ambrose interpret Scripture, began his journey back to Christ. His conversion was also aided by Simplicianus, who guided Augustine along the right intellectual and spiritual path (2).
His eventual conversion began as “an intellectual conversion, but not yet a moral conversion” (3). In his mind, he still had some issues to sort through, much like the rest of us upon our conversion to Christianity. However, out of the mouth of a child, the Holy Spirit directed Augustine to “pick up and read” Paul’s letters (4). While reading through them, the issues and struggles addressed by Paul resonated with his current situation, and began to shed light on his own issues and struggles. Immediately following this experience, he did the wisest thing a Christian can do—get alone with God and wait patiently on His guidance and direction. By retiring to a country estate surrounded by nothing more than God’s revelation through creation, he was able to read and reflect on God’s revelation through Scripture.
Like many others during that period who struggled with the lasciviousness surrounding him, the aesthetic life appealed to him. In his mind, this environment was much more conducive to living the purest form of the Christian life, and it provided the right environment for building his lasting legacy for Christianity.
Augustine’s story resonates with many travelling along the narrow path of
Christianity. Riddled with personal struggles and doubts, we can learn a lot about overcoming these obstacles from Augustine. Springing forth from the Christian roots planted by his mother, the Holy Spirit put the right people in his path to direct him back to Christ. By studying the life of Augustine, we are reminded that He does the same for us.
1. Everett Ferguson, Church History, Volume 1: From Christ to Pre-Reformation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 269.
2. Ibid., 270.