Warfield on Augustine (3): The Confessions

For Warfield, The Confessions represents the quintessential Augustine. He defends Augustine from criticisms that The Confessions is too morbid and introspective, arguing that Augustine talks about himself only to direct us to the goodness and grace of God. In his words: “Confessions [is] not a biography of himself, but … a book of edification, or, if you will, a theological treatise. His actual subject is not himself, but the goodness of God; and he introduces his own experience only as the most lively of illustrations of the dealings of God with the human soul as He makes it restless until it finds its rest in Him” (337-338). I am listening to The Confessions on my iPhone these days on walks and hikes, and so far loving it. I agree with Warfield that it is not only a work of great psychological, literary, and cultural value, but ultimately a work of great theology. As I listen I encounter, not merely Augustine, but a portrait of what the work of God in a human soul looks like.

Here are two favorite quotes early on:

“Man is one of your creatures, Lord, and his instinct is to praise you…. The thought of you stirs him so deeply that he cannot be content unless he praises you, because you made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you” (1.1).

“But, as You fill all things, fill them with Your whole self, or, as even all things cannot altogether contain You, do they contain a part, and do all at once contain the same part? Or has each its own proper part— the greater more, the smaller less? Is, then, one part of You greater, another less? Or is it that You are wholly everywhere while nothing altogether contains You?” (1.3).

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