Augustine’s *Confessions*: What Made Them Be So Introspective?
When I first read Augustine’s Confessions a number of years ago, I remember thinking: “What’s so special about this Christian leader in the late 4th century reminiscing about the sins of his youth?”
It was only later that I realized what a significant achievement the Confessions were. There simply had not been anything like that before: a psychologically introspective autobiography. Nowadays, of course, we have thousands of introspective autobiographies.
In fact, an autobiography isn’t considered very good if it doesn’t contain a large amount of introspection. We feel that we haven’t really gotten to know the person if he doesn’t honestly take us into his inner world—if he doesn’t put the public figure aside and present himself primarily as a human being with all the struggles that this entails. In that way, Billy Graham’s Just As I Am is somewhat of an antithesis to Augustine’s Confessions, because in Billy’s book you still meet foremost the preacher and public man Billy. Who is simply the man Billy? I came away quite empty in this regard after reading his autobiography, almost as if there was no man Billy beyond his public ministry, his preaching, his Christianity. A man reduced to anecdotes and didactic purposes for others.
Not so Augustine’s Confessions. There I got a strong sense of Augustine as a human being.
Now one thing I wonder about is what made Augustine achieve such an unprecedented psychological autobiography? Was it coincidental that he converted to Christianity before he wrote this work? Or is there something in the Christian faith that makes (some) people much more introspective than they would otherwise be? And if so, has Christianity made the entire West more introspective than it would be without the Christening of Europe?
Entry filed under: Books/Book Reviews, Christianity (general), History, Psychology. Tags: autobiography, Billy Graham, Christening of Europe, Christian West, Confessions, introspection, Just As I Am, St. Augustine.