Review of “Augustine on the Christian Life” by Gerald Bray (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015)
Augustine on the Christian Life is an entry in the Theologians on the Christian Life series, published by Crossway. This entry, written by Gerald Bray, focuses on the 3rd and 4th-century bishop, Augustine of Hippo.
The Theologians on the Christian Life series is a combination of biography and historical theology. Each entry includes a chapter covering the biographical information, and the remainder of the book focuses on explaining the figure’s various perspectives on Christian piety and practice.
Bray begins by providing a thoroughgoing account of Augustine’s life. Drawn primarily from the Confessions, but also from some other biographical work done in subsequent generations. He marvelously outlines the socio-economic context of Augustine’s upbringing, as well as the religious and philosophical milieu which produced the great bishop. He follows this with an overview of the corpus of Augustine’s writings and gives a brief explanation of various theological positions he held. This is the contents of chapter 1, and this chapter alone is worth the cost of the book for anyone who wants a popular level introduction to this significant figure.
The remainder of the book contains a clear and well thought out exposition of Augustine’s writings regarding various aspects of Christian piety. Bray focuses on three aspects of Augustine’s life and how they demonstrate his perspectives on the subject. Those three aspects are Augustine’s personal piety (Chapter 2, Augustine the Believer), his teaching career (Chapter 3, Augustine the Teacher), and his pastoral career as the Bishop of Hippo (Chapter 4, Augustine the Pastor). He concludes the book with a reflection of Augustine’s impact on the modern church and some suggestions on how we might live in light of Augustine’s insights (Chapter 5, Augustine Today).
I really cannot say enough in favor of this book. Bray’s writing style is clear and compelling, he is a master of his art and discipline, and the way the book is divided enhances the presentation. Even in the more straightforward biographical section in the first chapter, Bray draws out implications and applications that edify and engage his readers. The only real critique that I have is that the chapters are perhaps a bit too long. Especially in popular works, I find that shorter chapters are easier to digest and enhances the reading experience.
Augustine on the Christian Life is available for purchase through Crossway, in both paper and electronic formats.