The Theology of Augustine
An Introductory Guide to His Most Important Works
"Matthew Levering introduces Augustine through seven of his most important texts--a wonderful idea. Levering's treatment beautifully complements existing introductions, providing a guide that should aid generations of students and inspire the interested lay reader."--Lewis Ayres, Durham UniversityMost theology students realize Augustine is tremendously influential on the Christian tradition as a whole, but they generally lack real knowledge of his writings. This volume introduces Augustine's theology through seven of his most important works. Matthew Levering begins with a discussion of Augustine's life and times and then provides a full survey of the argument of each work with bibliographical references for those who wish to go further. Written in clear, accessible language, this book offers an essential introduction to major works of Augustine that all students of theology--and their professors!--need to know.
1. On Christian Doctrine
"Matthew Levering introduces Augustine through seven of his most important texts--a wonderful idea. Augustine shines out as one whose theology focuses on the central mystery of the Christian faith, God's gracious drawing of humanity into the divine life through the work of the incarnate Word and the life-giving Spirit. Levering's treatment beautifully complements existing introductions, providing a guide that should aid generations of students and inspire the interested lay reader."
Lewis Ayres, Durham University
"The current reawakening of interest in Augustine's theology has created a great need for an introduction that is elevated enough to be of interest to specialists and yet accessible enough to be read by students and readers from other disciplines. Levering's study meets exactly that need. It points the way for those who are interested in how Augustine is relevant to our own theological quandaries, and it guides those who are just beginning to find their way in things Augustinian by helping them see theological themes as they are embodied in whole texts. An excellent contribution!"
John Cavadini, McGrath Institute for Church Life, University of Notre Dame
"Levering offers to students the best introduction to Augustine devised so far. He makes clear that Augustine himself was no 'Augustinian': even though he invented subjective angst and had an acute sense of sin, Augustine was also a humanist and a profound metaphysician. This book successfully inducts us into the bishop of Hippo's integral blend of soul-searching, critical reading of sacred texts, ontological reflection, and social activism."
John Milbank, University of Nottingham (emeritus)
"Matthew Levering applies his characteristic clarity of exposition and acuity of analysis to seven major works of Augustine. The result wonderfully substantiates his introductory claim that 'Augustine speaks as powerfully today as he did sixteen hundred years ago.'"
Khaled Anatolios, Tantur Ecumenical Institute, University of Notre Dame
"This promising survey takes a highly novel approach to Augustine's theology by serving as a summary of seven of his most influential works. . . . Methodologically, this project has no real precedent in the field. . . . Levering's book is aimed at students and others who are relatively new to the thought of Augustine. . . . Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through graduate students; general readers."
J. P. Blosser,
"[Levering] enables those encountering Augustine for the first time to quickly gain a valuable bird's-eye view of his intellectual contours, while also discussing a number of important themes in the process. . . . Levering's volume will serve admirably for introductory classes that lack room for primary engagement with Augustine, for those who need a quick and reliable overview of Augustine in support of other research or preaching, or perhaps as an adult education tool in ecclesial contexts."
W. Travis McMaken,
"There is no postbiblical writer of more theological importance than Augustine. Yet he is a vast and subtle thinker and, while the Confessions is broadly accessible, his body of writings as a whole is not. That is why it is such a pleasure to be able to commend the latest book from the distinguished theologian Matthew Levering. . . . This is a book that should be read by thoughtful pastors. . . . This is an excellent introduction to Augustine's thought, which will also prove useful as an ongoing resource when grappling with the texts themselves."
Carl R. Trueman,
"By taking time to guide readers through the intricacies of Augustine's sustained arguments in these seven works, Levering presents a more complex and compelling picture of the Bishop of Hippo. Preachers and those in other ministerial vocations who seek to walk alongside a spiritual master will find this book inviting, challenging, and rewarding as it provides a deeper appreciation not only of what Augustine thought but, more important, how he thought. . . . Levering is reliable and astute in his reading of Augustine, and he provides more substantial footnotes than one would expect in such an introductory work, demonstrating the depth of his scholarship and directing the non-expert reader to the most significant secondary works in an overcrowded field. Because of its innovative method and his nuanced treatment of the texts, Levering's new book is an exceptional introduction to Augustine's thought that facilitates, rather than replaces, the reader's engagement with Augustine's own writing."
"The greatest strengths of the book are, first, how it 'majors on the majors' in Augustine. There are manifold themes in Augustine one could attend to in an introductory text, and the theme of love is a major one that is sure to shine a pure and true light on Augustine. Secondly, a sound birds-eye-view summary of Augustine's major works is priceless for students of Augustine; Levering's book is precisely that. He manages to properly explain Augustine's important works at the macro level, while dealing closely and carefully with the seams and important themes. . . . Thirdly, Levering did his homework, as evidenced by the many footnotes on almost every page. His sources are up to date, and representative of the major voices and movements in current Augustinian research. Levering packs into 200 pages what feels like 500 pages of solid research and scholarship--and for a great price. . . . Recommended? Yes. Needed? Yes. Levering's book . . . orient[s] readers to the forest of Augustine's work and thought before leading them too far into the thick trees of De Trin. or civ. Dei. that so often overwhelm. I would gladly give this book to the interested parishioner, undergraduate, or beginning graduate student."
Benjamin T. Quinn,
"Augustine (while I've read a bit) has represented a scholarly blind spot for me. I've sorely needed a book like this for a great long while. If you're an amateur and you're looking for a theology starter-kit, look no further."
Anthony Le Donne,
The Jesus Blog
"Countless works of Augustine may overwhelm any reader of his works, but then comes Matthew Levering's volume. . . . The Theology of Augustine is the product of a brilliant idea: a summary introduction of essential and classical texts from a prominent figure in antiquity. We can only hope that more in the fields of Early Christianity, Patristics, Medieval, and/or Reformation studies could do likewise. This book would be a helpful addition for college, university, and introductory graduate level courses on the early Church or the figure of Augustine. Assigning this textbook along with primary text material could make an easy addition. Even for teaching, the text offers simple and adaptable comments for pedagogy."
Shawn J. White,
Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
"Levering does what a good introduction should do, which is to invite us to read Augustine for ourselves. . . . This text-directed approach constitutes the uniqueness of this introduction. At the same time, Levering presents Augustine's theology as a consistent unity. . . . I would recommend this book both as a guide to the rudes among Augustine scholars, and to his more advanced readers. It is indeed what it pretends to be--a guide to Augustine's most important works. . . . The footnotes point the reader to the most important secondary literature in English, which is not an unwelcome aid to cut oneself a way through the forest of Augustine scholarship."
Bart van Egmond,
"A beautiful book about love in Augustine. Levering skillfully leads us through seven dense works of Augustine and shows how each one is fundamentally about the God who is Love drawing us into his inner life in order that we might learn to love him and our neighbor as God has loved us. . . . . Levering is among the few but growing number of scholars who recognize how important 'deification' is to Augustine's thought. . . . Levering's fine work shows how this central drama of salvation is at the center of these seven important works and how each one has a 'participatory dimension' which is intended to draw the reader into this drama. There are a number of features of this book that make it unique as well as useful both to scholars and to students just starting out. First, the selection of texts is both traditional and non-traditional. . . . The discussion of these texts will initiate new students and edify advanced scholars. Second, the footnotes will be enormously valuable to any beginning student of Augustine (I wish I had this book when I wrote my dissertation!). . . . Eminently useful and characteristically lucid, this is a sure guide to Augustine's thought. The Theology of Augustine will be valuable not only for learning the mind of Augustine, but . . . for drawing all of us closer to the Triune God who invites us to share His life of Love."
Catholic World Report
"As an entry point for understanding some of Augustine's fundamental ideas Matthew Levering's The Theology of Augustine has much to recommend it. Levering selects seven key works of Augustine for consideration. . . . Together these provide a helpful overview of the great themes which occupied Augustine's attention during his writing career. . . . Levering's presentation of his material is clear and thorough, and he has succeeded in providing an introduction to Augustine in all his richness and diversity which ought to send readers back to the original texts hungry to learn more."
Reformed Theological Journal
"The Theology of Augustine provides an accessible companion to the thought of an otherwise imposing figure and his major works. . . . Levering's prose is exactly what one would hope to be in this kind of book. His writing is direct and easily comprehended, and he is intentional in making sure his own interpretations and musings on Augustine are as limited as is possible. In the main body of the text Levering wears his own erudition lightly, but the footnotes demonstrate his grasp of the immense body of secondary literature that has accumulated around Augustine. Those footnotes together with Levering's bibliography are an excellent introduction to Augustinian studies. . . . [This book] fills a notable gap in the secondary literature. Those who desire some knowledge of the terrain before they set off into City of God or On the Trinity will find in Levering a faithful and knowledgeable guide."
"Admirably done, [Levering's] Theology of Augustine will serve as both an excellent companion volume for those working through Augustine's original writings while also fulfilling its stated purpose in providing for readers a clear and accessible introduction to his theology through the lens of his major works. . . . I commend this work to both the academy and the church as an excellent introduction to Augustine's thought. It provides not only an accessible orientation to the key elements of Augustine's theology, but it also clearly communicates Augustine's emphasis on love for one another and love for God as being at the heart of the Christian life."
"This is a valuable contribution to the new, burgeoning literature on Augustinian studies. . . . Each work is presented in a clear and penetrating style giving a contextualization of the work along with an overview. Especially useful are the cumulative summaries of each of the discussed works. Levering then presents a series of seminal aspects of the writings and what these tell us about Augustine's theological vision. This is an innovative approach to introducing students to Augustine's thought. . . . This book is an excellent introduction to the thought of Augustine seen through the prism of his key works. It is highly recommended for those wishing to learn more about this preeminent Christian thinker."
Catholic Books Review
"A good introduction to the most important writings of one of Christianity's greatest thinkers and writers. By breaking down seven of Augustine's most widely known writings, Levering is able to convey the ideas and truths from Augustine in a way that is easily understandable and digestible. The best part of The Theology of Augustine is Levering's inclusion of academic material to emphasize Augustine's points. By referencing dozens of scholarly works on Augustine and biblical history, Levering better illuminates Augustine's writing wisdom. . . . This is an excellent introduction to Augustine's work and is sure to ignite a spark leading to further study of Christianity's fathers."
Portland Book Review
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