There was nothing in Augustine’s Confessions that will help reveal his background especially concerning his socio-economic status. One has to consult other sources for that. But knowing fully well that education in ancient times is prized by the rich and the elite it is easy to deduce from the well written Latin masterpiece that indeed Augustine belong to the creme de la creme of society. This is a significant insight because not only is Augustine part of the highly educated and well-to-do crowd he also is a man who longs for God.
A close study of the Confessions will lead one to understand how Augustine views Christianity. Based on the document, Augustine believed that Christianity is about striving to be intimate with God and at the same time a daily struggle to make the flesh obedient to the call of a godly life in Christ Jesus. Intimacy with God One of the most radical concepts about Christianity is the notion that mere mortals can be intimate with God. In order to appreciate this idea one has to first understand that Christianity like Judaism believes in one Almighty God who is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
They are not simply worshipping someone that is ruler of a particular locale, like a god that is in-charge of a really old Oak tree or some ancient hill. This God is the one and only. Aside from that the God of St. Augustine is a great Deity whose power is evident in the Old Testament portion of the Bible. The God of Augustine is the Creator of Heaven and Earth. And yet Augustine wanted to be close to Him. This is evident in Book I: The Early Years. In the first few paragraphs Augustine’s deep longings was evident by expressing near panic not knowing what to do first.
Is it to call Him or to praise Him? Having the ultimate goal in mind Augustine said that, “You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you” (Book I: Early Years). This desire for intimacy is actually radical. One only has to take a casual review of ancient religions, Greek and Roman mythology to realize that for thousands of years before Augustine’s Confessions God or the gods were considered to be mean and cruel. The ultimate goal of the worshiper is not to be intimate with the gods but to appease them.
God according to other religion is indeed mighty but He is unapproachable. As one continues to read, one will find that Augustine was simply warming up. He is not merely content with the getting to know you stage and his desire to know God goes deeper not willing to accept a superficial relationship. Augustine did not write the Confessions because he simply wanted to earn the favor of God. He went one step further and in the first few sentence of Book II, Augustine declared that he desires to love God (see Book II: Adolescence).
The Flesh The words coming from his pen were profound and those who may mistake Augustine’s longing for intimacy with the Almighty as wishful thinking. Augustine as agreed in beginning of this study was a man born to privilege and highly educated. If what he is saying is truth then it will be either as a mockery to God or as an honest desire to really know and be known by Him. One has to continue digging deeper into the Confessions in order to understand that Augustine was not deluded into thinking that this quest will be an easy one.
It is at the point of realization that knowing God will not be an easy task Augustine begins to pour out his frustration that he is a sinner and has no illusion that he will be able to walk like the great and godly men of old like Moses and Elijah. In Book VIII: The Birthpangs of Conversion, Augustine mentioned his past, the desire for women and being enamored with the world and its intoxicating temptations. In Book VIII Augustine began to provide the resolution to a very complicated proposition that was made in the beginning of this study.
It is possible to be intimate with God but its not going to be easy. The first step in order for a man to know God and be known by him, before a loving relationship between child and God can commence there is a need to first forsake worldly desires. In short a conversation from darkness to light must first occur and Augustine promises that there is nothing like it and that every sacrifice is worth every good thing that one can receive from Christ Jesus. Conclusion
Aside from the fact that Augustine a highly educated, intelligent and very talented man to give up all the pleasures of this world to embrace the cross of Christ, there are other facets to the Confessions that are very radical. As mentioned earlier the concept that God is approachable and that one can build a relationship with him is an idea that is so advanced it is impossible to find any precedent other than the New Testament of the Christian Bible. But Augustine emphasized that he is not merely content to know God he is in the quest to learn how to love God. This is raising the bar so high it is almost impossible to reach it.
It is a good thing to know that Augustine took time to explain that his goal of being intimate with God will not be a walk in the park. In fact, according to his own “confessions” there are many obstacles that must be overcome in order to achieve that goal. And it begins with conversion from darkness to light. At the end St. Augustine set an example and encourages many to strive for the impossible because it is only through God that one can find meaning, satisfaction and rest in this life. References Saint Augustine. (1998). Confessions. H. Chadwick (Trans. ). New York: Oxford University Press.