"Augustine through the Ages: An Encyclopedia" edited by Allan D. Fitzgerald, O.S.A.

Mark R. Talbot
Thursday, July 5th 2007
Sep/Oct 2000

As Jaroslav Pelikan observes in his foreword to this very fine volume, "[T]here are certain figures in the history of thought who are themselves an encyclopedia … and whose writings, therefore, both by their profundity and by their total mass, seem to require encyclopedic treatment" and, "[m]easured by any criterion, whether volume of literary output or depth and originality of thought or historical significance 'through the ages,'" Augustine certainly is among them.

This book attempts to orient readers to the whole range of Augustine's achievements. Through nearly 500 entries by almost 150 scholars, each of Augustine's works-such as the Confessions, De mendacio (On Lying), De bono conjugali (On the Good of Marriage) and the City of God-is overviewed and placed among the corpus of his writings; his major philosophical, theological and cultural themes-e.g., Asceticism, Church, God, Grace, Pelagius and Pelagianism, Sin, Time, and Women-are plumbed; and his influence on particular individuals-such as Adolf von Harnack, Athanasius, Bonaventure, Calvin, and Luther-and specific historical periods traced. In addition, the classical and Christian sources of his ideas-Plato, Neoplatonism, Ambrose, Cicero, "Skeptics and Skepticism," among others-are identified. Each article includes an up-to-date bibliography of the best secondary writings on its subject; there are good cross-references among them, and a thorough index. Each, moreover, is written by an acknowledged expert-Gerald Bonner, for instance, wrote the article on Augustine's Anti-Pelagian writings, J. Patout Burns the piece on grace, and Robert A. Markus writes on the "Life, Culture, and Controversies of Augustine."

Augustine is one of the few thinkers to whom it is not inappropriate to devote a lifetime of study. I have taught his Confessions almost yearly for 20 years, and each year of teaching brings me a harvest of fresh insights. His anti-Pelagian writings remain indispensable for understanding the interrelations of grace and free will. Of course, Roman Catholics as well as Protestants cite Augustine as their master; there is that within his writings that supports both Rome's doctrine of the church and the reformers' doctrine of grace. No one can master the whole Augustinian corpus, but this encyclopedia can help both neophyte and expert alike to grow both more appreciative of and more discerning about his works.

Thursday, July 5th 2007

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

Picture of J. Ligon Duncan, IIIJ. Ligon Duncan, IIISenior Minister, First Presbyterian Church
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