Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
DBSJ 19 (2014) p. 115
The Theology of Augustine: An Introductory Guide to His Most Important Works, by Matthew Levering. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013. xviii + 204 pp. $24.95.
Without question Augustine of Hippo (a.d. 354-430) was one of most important theologians of the early church. His writings have been influential on both the Roman Catholic and Protestant theological traditions, and he remains an important figure in the realm of Christian philosophy as well. For students of Christian history, theology, and philosophy, Augustine is someone who simply cannot be ignored. However, becoming familiar with Augustine’s thought can be a daunting task, especially when considering the vastness of his written corpus (the ongoing translation project by New City Press has so far produced 35 volumes of a planned 46-volume set containing Augustine’s complete works). Understanding Augustine is further complicated by the fact that the context in which he wrote is often foreign to modern readers. Upon taking up virtually any of Augustine’s works, the reader will quickly find himself immersed in an intellectual environment filled with the likes of Plato, Plotinus, Cicero, Faustus, Pelagius, and Donatus—just to name a few. Thus, accurately understanding his works involves a basic understanding of church history, secular history, and the history of philosophy.
Thankfully, there are tools available that will help make Augustine’s writings and thought more manageable. One recent example is Matthew Levering’s book The Theology of Augustine, which provides the reader with, as the subtitle suggests, a guide to some of Augustine’s more important works. Considered in this book are Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine, Answer to Faustus, a Manichean, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, On the Predestination of the Saints, Confessions, City of God, and On the Trinity. The selection of works treated, in the main, makes good sense. Obviously, the Confessions, City of God, and On the Trinity are Augustine’s most famous and significant writings. The other works treated in this volume expose the reader to aspects of Augustine’s most important controversies, namely, his battles with the Manicheans, the Donatists, and Pelagius. On Christian Doctrine is included to help the reader understand and appreciate Augustine’s understanding of Scripture. A case could be made that either The Spirit and the Letter or On Nature and Grace should have been included as part of the anti-Pelagian sample, but some of the same ideas resurface in the work on predestination, so we should not quibble too much over their omission.
Before proceeding any farther, it is important to point out the exact nature of Levering’s book to any prospective r...
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