Book Reviews

Ruth Alkema has contributed this book review – highly recommended reading!

Confessions

By Saint Augustine

Wow! What a wonderful book was this! I am so glad that I read it!

Everything that I had heard about Augustine was proven false. I really love this man, he is so open and sensitive and honest, and very intelligent and broad minded!

For a long time I had wanted to read this book, but not really felt up to it, since I thought it would be very difficult and perhaps even depressing. Therefore I first listened to the great introductory course St. Augustine’s Confessions, which was very interesting in itself, provided lots of useful background information, and was a really good appetizer to read the actual book itself!

To my surprise it is not difficult or downcast at all. He is just so very open about his thoughts and feelings and how he came to be a Christian. I found his struggles very recognizable, even though they were written so very long ago. The word ‘confession’ makes me think of self accusation, but Augustine is different. To him it is just an honest reflection on all his inner motives, both good and bad. I find it very comforting that such an exemplary Christian can write with confidence that quite a few of his inner motives were sincere and praiseworthy.

The famous chapter of his conversion was most moving. He describes his inner turmoil so vividly, and realistically! How you can want something and not want it at the same time. All the time knowing that he did want to make a profound choice for God, but feeling himself bound by old habits and unable to break free by himself. Then after that famous scene comes book IX where he describes his newfound joy in the church and in reading scripture with new eyes. His relief at finally feeling free and having experienced God’s grace is so palpable, it shines from the pages.

The autobiographical part is in the first 9 books. Then book 10-13 are of a more philosophical nature. These are most stunning too. I think they really show how much better we can see and understand ourselves and the world and the whole of creation, if we see it in God’s light. He has some wonderful descriptions of our mind, and memory, of time and matter (very modern ideas, really, comes close to general relativity). Also the way he explains the creation story in Genesis is very wonderful to read. I am amazed at how confidently he states that God explained some of these things to him. I think it is a wonderful testimony about how God answers to those who really honestly seek him.