Bray, Gerald. Augustine on the Christian Life: Transformed by the Power of God. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 232 pp. $18.99
It could be argued that Augustine of Hippo is perhaps the most influential theologian in the history of the Christian church. This is, perhaps, one of the main reasons why Dr. Gerald Bray decided to write Augustine on the Christian Life: Transformed by the Power of God. This is the latest volume in Crossway’s Theologians on the Christian Life series, and a much needed introduction into Augustine’s thought.
Bray’s book is divided up into 5 chapters. In chapter 1, Bray tells us about Augustine’s life. He gives us a brief biographical sketch of his early life, and then tells us about Augustine’s large amount of writings. Presently, the work of Augustine is still popular and persuasive in most Christian circles. As Bray notes, “The truly astonishing thing is how much he got right and how much of his work is still influential today” (29).
In chapter 2, Bray goes into details about Augustine’s conversion. This chapter could be read alongside Augustine’s Confessions since it pretty much is a shorter exposition of Augustine’s famous autobiographical work. Chapter 3 discusses Augustine’s view of Scripture and his philosophy of teaching the Bible. Chapter 4 goes into details about Augustine’s life as a pastor. In his ministry, he encountered a lot of difficult times and trials. Nevertheless, as Dr Bray notes, “Augustine preached because he felt he owed it to God to fulfill the mission that he had been given” (178).
Chapter 5 concludes the book with a discussion of how Augustine is relevant in today’s world. The teachings of Augustine are applicable to our lives, and Christians would be wise to drink deeply from the founts of wisdom that Bray shows us through the works of Augustine.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
Augustine on the Christian Life is a very interesting and enlightening book. This book should be read by pastors and those in ministry because it presents the teachings of Augustine in an accessible way. Also, this book is unique because it specifically discusses Augustine’s teachings on the Christian life. I appreciate this because of the fact that no other ancient Christian writer has left such a large amount of work behind (29). Therefore, Dr. Gerald Bray does Christians a great service in writing this volume since it explicitly focuses on the Christian life and the practical applications of Augustine’s theology.
Also, it would be wise to note that Augustine on the Christian Life could probably be read alongside the Confessions. This would probably be beneficial to do in a small group setting since it would introduce people to Augustine’s original work. There is a lot that can be learned from Augustine, so I think that it would be ok to read these two books simultaneously.
One of the biggest drawbacks of this book is the way that it is formatted. Some people might be intimidated by the way that the chapters are set up. However, this book will serve as an excellent introduction into Augustine’s thought. In the end, the reader will benefit from reading Augustine on the Christian Life and pastors should not hesitate in recommending this book to their congregations.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
Augustine on the Christian Life introduces readers to one of the greatest theologians in church history and shows how his work is still applicable for life today.