Vital insights from Augustine’s sermons on the life of faith.
Augustine is not usually thought of today as a preacher, but he delivered sermons weekly over the course of nearly forty years to his congregation in Hippo Regius and occasionally also in Carthage and other Roman cities he visited as bishop. The differences between his sermons and his theological treatises are striking but not surprising considering that the treatises targeted an elite, educated audience while his preaching was intended for Christians who lived—then as now—by the spoken and remembered rather than the written word. Where Augustine’s treatises were intellectual, intricate, and theoretical, the rhetoric of his sermons is characterized by conviction, emotion, and a firm commitment to putting faith into action.
This volume by renowned Augustine scholar Patout Burns explores the theology of Augustine’s preaching. Utilizing recent advances in the chronological ordering of Augustine’s extant sermons, Burns traces the development of their core thematic elements—wealth and poverty, sin and forgiveness, baptism, eucharist, marriage, the role of clergy, the interpretation of Scripture, the human condition, and the saving work of Christ. He also identifies the influence and manifestation of significant controversies in Augustine’s preaching, most notably Donatism and Pelagianism. As Burns shows, most of Augustine’s groundbreaking insights on the relation of Christ to Christians were developed in his sermons.
Like any good preacher, Augustine strove to establish a dialogue between scripture and lived experience through his sermons—and did so quite effectively. Thus, pastors as well as scholars will benefit from Burns’s insight into the teachings of one of the most effective ministers in Christian history.
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