Monday, January 06, 2014

Hollingworth’s basic thesis is that the child is father of the man. So he gives a great deal of space to Augustine’s formative years and tries to show how much they influenced him in later life. The main effect is to downplay the importance of his conversion, although Hollingworth, research fellow in the history of ideas at St. John’s College, Durham University (U.K.), makes no attempt to do that. He recognizes that everything Augustine tells us about himself is written in the light of his spiritual rebirth. But he points out that the bishop of Hippo’s concerns and general approach to intellectual matters remained the same as they had been before. Christianity is the answer to his searching, not a complete change of direction, and that made his works uniquely important. Augustine spoke not only for, but also to, a generation that was losing its bearings as the Roman Empire slowly collapsed. The old gods had failed, but in Christ, Augustine had found the key to understanding the ways of the universe. On that basis, he restructured his inherited culture and rewrote its history. The pagan idea that Rome represented the supreme triumph of reason and civilization gave way to the view that human life was an eternal struggle between good and evil, played out in the individual heart as much as on the world stage.

Read it all.

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