Friday, April 12, 2013

Review: The Theology of Augustine by Matthew Levering

5 out of 5 Stars
Author: Matthew Levering
Publisher: Baker Academic
Buy The Theology of Augustine
Reading Level: Moderate

Overview. Matthew Levering seeks to introduce Augustine’s thought to a new generation. The style lends itself to those who are already reading theology (think college level). He describes his method:
Many introductions to Augustine’s theology treat his ideas on this and that topic, drawing upon a wide variety of his treatises, letters, and sermons. It seems to me more fruitful to introduce Augustine’s major ideas by surveying his most important works in their entirety. (p. xii)
Matthew examines 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 introduction also offers a concise historical sketch of Augustine’s life.

What I found edifying. First, it amazes me how diverse Augustine’s writings were. He wrote theological treatises, defenses, biographies, allegories, homilies--he writes it all. Second, I was impressed by how God-centered his thought was and robustly Trinitarianism. The culmination of this God-wardness arrives in the last work discussed On the Trinity which Matthew summarizes as a participation in the life of the Trinity (p. xviii). Last, when reading the chapter for Answer to Faustus, a Manichean it’s startling how unoriginal our liberalism is today. Augustine argues for the unity of the Old and New Testament and for a Christ-centered reading of both testaments. Many of Faustus’s arguments were right out of the pages of today’s lastest liberal bestseller. Solomon is right, “There’s nothing new under the sun.”

Recommendation. I could see the book being helpful for three kinds of Christians wanting to know more about Augustine. First, the reader who has read Augustine but maybe feels like some of what he’s read is over his head. He needs help understanding it all. Matthew moves through each of these books--summarizing major points and translating major thoughts. Second, the reader who is interested in learning more about Augustine but she doesn’t have the time or desire to read his books first hands. She just wants a Cliff Notes if you will. Last, anyone who loves historical theology or Augustine will love this book. An excellent book from start to finish.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the Baker Academic. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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