Saint Augustine, the greatest theologian of the disintegrating ancient Roman world, came to Christian faith partly “from the outside” after a trying spiritual and intellectual pilgrimage. His Confessions recounts episodes from a restless life finally blessed by religious peace and certainty. The work opens and closes with ardent praise for God’s goodness and mercy. The details of Augustine’s autobiographical passages achieve significance only in the focus of a deeply experienced conversion. After the conversion, Augustine sees everything from a new perspective.
The book is the first and perhaps most universally read of its genre. Examples of this type of literature in the modern world can be found in aspects of the novel and in straightforward autobiographies. Perhaps no other Christian writing of its kind has so influenced despairing persons or suggested so wide a range of psychological insights into the human quest after religious meaning in existence. Augustine writes of guilt and forgiveness from the vantage point of one who, threatened by the apparent worthlessness of life and haunted by a terrifying realization of the nature of human egoism, overcomes anxiety through a self-authenticating faith in Christ. In a world of chaos and impending destruction this faith speaks out joyously and compellingly in the Confessions.