Saint Augustine’s conversion to Christianity wake up in publication VIII, section 12 (the final section of book VIII) of his Confessions (Confessiones in Latin). Throughout publication VIII we are readily available a glimpse right into the inner turmoil challenged by Augustine as he rejects Neoplatonism and also Manichaeism, and his continuous struggle through chastity and lust: “I had actually prayed to you because that chastity and said: ‘Give me chastity and also continence, yet not yet"” (8.7). Prefer Paul prior to him, Augustine was a deeply troubled man, believing his within nature to it is in evil and in dispute with himself. In allusion come the gospels (Mark 13:25 and also Matthew 12:25) Augustine says, “My inner me was a residence divided against itself” (8.8).

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The conversion of St. Augustine by the Italian Renaissance artist, Fra Angelico (1430-1435)

Augustine goes come visit a virtuous and also knowledgable friend called Simplicianus, the “spirital father of Ambrose that was a bishop” (8.2). Some have argued it was St. Ambrose who played a big role in Augustine’s conversion, but the Confessions plainly points a straight path come Simplicanus as the leading number in Augustine’s life. Simplicianus counsels Augustine versus reading books written through the classical philosophers, also the Platonists (or at least the Ciceronian Platonists), and also instead provides biographies the saints that converted to Christianity as examples for Augustine to consider (i.e. Saint Antony). In other words, the aesthetic image or eidos of a converted Christian is what initially pushes Augustine towards converting come Christianity. Simplicanus encourages Augustine to learn around Victorinus, an old guy of an excellent learning. Victorinus was a well-respected roman who available guidance to roman inn senators. He was inducted into the at an early stage Christian mysteries and also was baptized, despite privately at an initial because Christianity to be not totally accepted into the society of Rome. Augustine becomes overwhelmed v a desire to “imitate” Victorinus (8.5). He likewise becomes fascinated by Christian monks who disapprove the world and also live in great monasteries away from cities. The is attracted to the ascetic life. Augustine is readily available these various photos of Christian options to life under Rome (an realm on the verge the crumbling). Augustine reflects on his inner struggle with a friend named Alypius while castle sit in a garden in Milan.

In desiring to totally convert come Christianity, Augustine cases it need to be “a resolute and whole-hearted plot of the will” (8.8). However, he additionally claims the the human will is constantly in conflict with itself:

“For if the will were full, it would certainly not command chin to be full, due to the fact that it would certainly be for this reason already. That is as such no strange phenomenon partly to will to carry out something and partly to will not execute it. That is a condition of the mind, i m sorry does not wholly climb to the heights wherein it is lifted through the truth, due to the fact that it is weighed under by habit. Therefore there are two wills in us, due to the fact that neither by chin is the whole will, and also each own what the other lacks” (8.9).

So, how will Augustine have the ability to make a conscious decision to convert? Habit? Force? Teaching? Augustine summary departs native his girlfriend Alypius in the garden in Milan come weep in solitude under a fig tree (he is emotionally distraught). Augustine is can not to control his will. That hears a voice informing him to ‘take it up and also read…’ (perhaps the voice of a son in a surrounding house) so, prefer Saint Antony listening the gospel for the an initial time, Augustine decides to open the gospel to a random section for divine inspiration. That leaps up and runs earlier to his friend, Alypius, and also opens Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Augustine begins reading a arbitrarily passage (midway through the verse):

“Not in revelling and drunkenness, no in lust and also wantonness, no in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, eight yourselves v the mr Jesus Christ; invest no much more thought on nature and also nature’s appetites” (Romans 13:13 -Augustine does no quote the full passage).

Thus, after analysis the passage, Augustine decides to transform to Christianity, together does his girlfriend Alypius that reads the passage a tiny further. Augustine climate rushes to educate his mother, a Christian woman named Monica, who is pleased by she son’s conversion.

Is Augustine’s conversion come Christianity a confident path forward? Or merely an escape indigenous his life the hedonism? In various other words, is Christianity a intentionally chosen way of life, or a mere crutch to bear the weight of his lawlessness? Augustine appears to count on Christianity as the structure which conservation his psychological consistency indigenous day to day (a note which Descartes will later on echo centuries later on in his Meditations on first Philosophy). Augustine’s conversion minute is unusual, irrational, inexplicable, and seemingly innocuous. In a word, his counter is simply divine. Was it the life the Antony that inspired him? The assistance of his friend and also other? Or go something inexplicit native the passage in Romans sway him? because that Augustine, over there is no explosive minute of revelation indigenous on high, together in the instance of Paul on the road to Damascus or also Constantine (both account of which are dubious at best).

Augustine’s battle with human being willpower, or what is sometimes called the concern of ‘free will,’ bring to mental Nietzsche’s idea of the “will come power.” for Nietzsche in ~ the source of Augustine’s struggle is a desire for strength -or probably the ability to wield power over himself. Augustine agrees through Nietzsche to an extent: the great life is akin to the ascetic life. However, Augustine believes that the Christian life will permit man to much better study the people without the clouding affect of sin. However the reality of his conversion still eludes us. Augustine’s conversion remains sudden, deeply personal, and divinely revealed in a method that makes sense just to the converted.

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For this analysis I offered the Penguin version of Saint Augustine’s Confessions, analyzed by R.S. Pine-Coffin.