Augustine of Hippo is one of the most important thinkers for Western theology and philosophy. His understanding of the self, of sin, of redemption, and of sanctification set the tone for all subsequent theology. Even those who disagree with him must still interact with the effects of his thought. In his Confessions, Augustine gives a theocentric testimonial of his conversion experience and his growing understanding of God. This crucial work introduced the idea of the inner self to the world. It was the first work that struggled to understand the inner life—the life of the mind. Its place at the beginning of the development of the autobiography is undeniable.
Augustine of Hippo (354–430) was born in Thagaste, Numidia, in Northern Africa. He studied rhetoric in Carthage when he was 17. As an adult, Augustine abandoned the Christianity of his youth to pursue Manichaeism. Through his Manichaen connections, Augustine became professor of rhetoric at the imperial court of Milan. While in Milan, Augustine was heavily influenced by the bishop of Milan, Ambrose. Influenced by Ambrose and by the biography of St. Anthony, Augustine began exploring Christianity and eventually reconverted. He was baptized in 387 and returned to Africa. There he was ordained and became a well-known preacher and apologist for the Christian faith. He was eventually made Bishop of Hippo, an office he held until his death in 430.
“No doubt, then, that a free curiosity has more force in our learning these things, than a frightful enforcement.” (source)
“For I disobeyed, not from a better choice, but from love of play, loving the pride of victory in my contests, and to have my ears tickled with lying fables, that they might itch the more; the same curiosity flashing from my eyes more and more, for the shows and games of my elders.” (source)
“But if I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me, where, I beseech Thee, O my God, where, Lord, or when, was I Thy servant guiltless? But, lo! that period I pass by; and what have I now to do with that, of which I can recall no vestige?” (source)
“Hear, Lord, my prayer; let not my soul faint under Thy discipline, nor let me faint in confessing unto Thee all Thy mercies, whereby Thou hast drawn me out of all my most evil ways, that Thou mightest become a delight to me above all the allurements which I once pursued; that I may most entirely love Thee, and clasp Thy hand with all my affections, and Thou mayest yet rescue me from every temptation, even unto the end. For lo, O Lord, my King and my God, for Thy service be whatever useful thing my childhood learned; for Thy service, that I speak, write, read, reckon. For Thou didst grant me Thy discipline, while I was learning vanities; and my sin of delighting in those vanities Thou hast forgiven.” (source)
“Look with pity, Lord, on these things, and deliver us who call upon Thee now; deliver those too who call not on Thee yet, that they may call on Thee, and Thou mayest deliver them.” (source)