Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss St Augustine's account of his life, sometimes called the first autobiography, written around AD397 after he had been appointed as Bishop of Hippo. Under Lane Fox’s definition, a conversion “requires a decisive change whereby we abandon a previous practice or belief and adopt exclusively a new one. What is a non-specialist, someone who is interested in Augustine but does not have time to master the scholarly literature, to do? Others experience their conversion as a process that includes more than one step and occurs over a period of time. GradeSaver, 29 April 2007 Web. Pusey, Saint Augustine (trans. [5] Through the Eye of the Needle, p. 160. But Lane Fox clearly believes that he did, as do most other scholars. Latin prose texts. I will leave it to Augustine scholars to debate this claim, but Lane Fox makes an intriguing case. He speculates that she was happy that he postponed marriage and took a concubine, because she believed that he could better enhance the family’s status through his marriage if he achieved renown before marrying. [8] Lane Fox’s disdain for Christianity suggests that the opposite can also be true. It’s not entirely clear whether Lane Fox sees this as a conversion, since he believes that Augustine saw himself as a Christian and Manichaeism as a form of Christianity, and Lane Fox usually but not always omits it from his summaries of the conversions. Augustini Confessiones This page points to the complete Latin text of Augustine's Confessions, one book at a time.N.B. Augustine's Confessions is a diverse blend of autobiography, philosophy, theology, and critical exegesis of the Christian Bible. (2). He advertises Augustine: Conversions to Confessions as a backstage look at The Confessions, an intimate biography of the book. It’s in the notes that follow. If you’re new to In Our Time, this is a good place to start. "Confessions Book VIII – The Birthpangs of Conversion Summary and Analysis". The only thing he never converts to is Christianity itself. The erudition and revisionism are plain to see, but Augustine is too often marred by Lane Fox’s love of speculative theories, his attempts to be racy or clever, and his disdain for the faith that animated Augustine’s life. ����yd �C04d6�����q"�jw The first nine Books (or chapters) of the work trace the story of Augustine's life, from his birth (354 A.D.) up to the events that took place just after his conversion … Download the best of Radio 3's Free Thinking programme. It was Monica’s idea, as Lane Fox puts it, that Augustine “not be wasted too soon on a local bride from a modest family.”[7] Lane Fox no doubt is right that Monica was concerned about the family’s stature, but he gives short shrift to her passionate faith and her longing for Augustine to fully embrace orthodox Christianity as she had.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas, Latin prose texts Lane Fox is not the first scholar to explore Augustine’s Manichaeism and the seeded flour allegations.

[1] Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity 127-35 (1989). Most readers of the Confessions, including this one, read it as the spiritual autobiography of an early church father who had cycled through a series of enthusiasms during his early life before his dramatic, final conversion to orthodox Christianity. Lane Fox views this as the last of a series of “conversions” that Augustine underwent. Conversion, or the turning to God, is a movement that is possible for us at every moment of our journey - not simply once and forever, but continually and ever more deeply. While Augustine retells many episodes from his own life, the greater strength of his Confessions has come to be seen as his examination of his own emotional development, and the growth of his soul. Christianity does seem to have been an ongoing theme in Augustine’s adult life. Lane Fox speculates, without any direct evidential basis, that the couple may have suspected that the loaf given to them by Augustine, who was dogged by allegations of Manichaeism long after he rejected its teachings, came from seeded Manichaean flour. Lane Fox credits a medical condition that made it difficult for Augustine to sit or lie down as prompting him to start writing. Two recurring tendencies raise additional questions about Lane Fox’s backstage story: his skepticism of faith and the supernatural, and love of speculative theories, especially when they are bawdy or naughty. Throughout the Confessions, the language Augustine uses to describe his sexual impulses is negative, reflecting images of disease, disorder, and corruption. |�,�>a�N"�|`Wxw93 ޥ7��L�&J,d��O�:K�՚��M\$7a�na(x̺�D���̪)��cnSH�(dDb� Augustine thus converts to wisdom, to philosophy, to humility and to celibacy. Augustine: Conversions to Confessions is not entirely without other redeeming qualities. Lane Fox’s skepticism of faith is most evident in his portrayal of Monica,[6] Augustine’s famously devout and long-suffering mother. 32-45). Lane Fox’s first startling claim is that Augustine’s famous conversion wasn’t a conversion to Christianity at all. Augustine is one of those figures—like Shakespeare or Darwin—who is impossible to keep up with. Lane Fox frequently characterizes her as little more than a social climber. (Lane Fox occasionally seems almost to endorse a version of this perspective himself, describing the last three of Augustine’s conversions as a single three-part conversion, rather than three different conversions as he does elsewhere in the book.). His disinterest in Christianity seems to interfere with his ability to sympathetically engage with Augustine and with the genius of the Confessions. How do you escape Brown’s shadow, and persuade lay readers they should venture beyond Brown (or at most, Brown plus the well-received biography by James O’Donnell)?

With this definition as his guide, Lane Fox chronicles the conversions in Augustine’s life. A Protestant friend of mine plans to join the Catholic Church this fall. If you’re going to play a conversion-counting game, you obviously need to start by defining just what you mean by conversion. [2] The only hope, it seems, is to come at Augustine from a surprising new angle, or promise clever or counterintuitive insights that will alter our understanding of who Augustine was. [2] James O’Donnell, Augustine, Sinner and Saint: A New Biography (2005). For the past generation, the short answer has been: read Peter Brown. �_AЂD2 �h���pf�> ����@9�j�ܮ�3H6����7cx��: 1L���Զ)�@�9D�j�7PP��+KtЎ}"3���+���"� endstream endobj 13 0 obj 501 endobj 4 0 obj << /Type /Page /Parent 5 0 R /Resources << /Font << /F1 7 0 R /F2 9 0 R /F3 11 0 R >> /ProcSet 2 0 R >> /Contents 12 0 R >> endobj 15 0 obj << /Length 16 0 R /Filter /LZWDecode >> stream (Confessions, 1.1.3) [1] Augustine displays, early in his Confessions, his present Christological knowledge, showing that perfect union of Christ’s humanity and of His divinity, i.e., as second Person in the Trinity, “Thy Son,” and Man’s orientation to Christ, i.e., as prayerful and faithful recipient of His grace. Lane Fox focuses entirely on Augustine’s his life up to his commencement of the Confessions in 397 at age forty-three. He converted to celibacy, Lane Fox assures us, not Christianity. Discussion of religious movements and the theories and individuals behind them. The work is often seen as an argument for his Roman Catholicism, a less powerful force where he was living in North Africa where another form of Christianity was dominant, Donatism. [8] See, e.g., George M. Marsden, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship (1998). It involves a ‘turning which implies a consciousness that the old way was wrong and the new is right.’”[3]. But I am quite confident that he will describe the step in the future as a conversion. Lane Fox’s penchant for speculative theories is most evident in his fascination with an allegation by critics of Manichaeism that the elite class of Manichaeans, who ostensibly were required to remain celibate, actually engaged in an bizarre ritual in which they poured flour on the floor, had sex, and then made bread from the “seeded” flour. Cite this page Augustine’s conversion is foreshadowed in the Confessions by Augustine’s statement to God that “our heart is restless until it finds rest in you,” and triggered by the words of a child Augustine hears as he agonizes in a garden: “take it up, read it.”. Desire is mud (2.2, 3.1), a whirlpool (2.2), chains (2.2, 3.1) thorns (2.3), a seething cauldron (3.1), and an open sore that must be scratched (3.1). © 2015. Robin Lane Fox, Augustine: Conversions to Confessions (Penguin, 2016) Kim Paffenroth and Robert P. Kennedy, A Reader’s Companion to Augustine’s Confessions … Although Augustine never became one of the Elect, the highest rank of Manichees, he was a Hearer for roughly a decade and was instrumental in converting others—including his patron Romanianus—to Manichaeism.

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Lane Fox’s discomfort with Augustine’s faith makes Augustine seem as much about Lane Fox himself as about his subject. Lane Fox’s claim that Augustine didn’t experience a conversion to orthodox Christianity in the garden would be slightly less dubious, though only slightly, if Augustine never took Manichaeism seriously. In Augustine: Conversions to Confessions, Robin Lane Fox, an emeritus Reader at Oxford University and longtime classicist and Augustine scholar, tries a little of both. This isn’t to say that all Christians experience a conversion with a capital “C”. Surely someone who took the much larger step from Manichaeism to Catholicism in the ancient world converted too. The New Rambler Review  All rights reserved. Lane Fox connects dots between this allegation and the apparent breach of Augustine’s friendship with a wealthy Christian couple who gave all of their wealth to the church and committed themselves to celibacy. Written c397AD, it has many elements of autobiography with his scrutiny of his earlier life, his long relationship with a concubine, his theft of pears as a child, his work as an orator and his embrace of other philosophies and Manichaeism. “[T]here was no greater cue for a sense of God’s grace,” Lane Fox writes, “than a sense of relief at escape from pains in the backside.”[12] It is as if an English schoolboy were whispering to his neighbor, with glee in his voice, did you hear why Augustine started writing the Confessions …? Review of Augustine: Conversions to Confessions, by Robin Lane Fox. I suspect Augustine himself would have viewed his embrace of wisdom, philosophy and humility as steps toward a conversion to orthodox Christianity, or as conversions with a small “c”. %PDF-1.1 %���� 12 0 obj << /Length 13 0 R /Filter /LZWDecode >> stream Under Lane Fox’s own definition of conversion—the conviction that an old way is wrong and the new one right—Augustine surely converted at one point to Manichaeism and then, as chronicled in the Confessions, converted to (or possibly back to) Catholicism. Augustine had long considered himself to be a Christian. He marshals fascinating evidence from relatively recently discovered Augustine sermons to support his argument for an early completion date. I suspect I may revisit these from time to time in the future. 4th-century Christian texts, This episode is related to Every episode of In Our Time is available to download. #y��s9��B ,@�e7� �{���1�g�#)��i� Lane Fox’s story does offer some useful correctives to a simple understanding of the transformations Augustine underwent—he plausibly argues, as have others, that Augustine’s garden experience gave him a stable view of the Christian God, rather than an entirely new one-- but it also is extraordinarily frustrating. Lane Fox also promises to update Brown’s work and to provide surprising new insights into and theories about the Confessions and some of the famous events it recounts.