Award-winning Author James K.A. Smith Reintroduces the Fourth Century Bad-Boy-Turned-Saint Augustine
Updated: Oct 25, 2019
“In this engrossing reflection on the human spiritual journey, philosophy professor Smith uses the fourth-century Bishop of Hippo, Saint Augustine, as a guide for considering complex, timeless issues.…By following Augustine’s model and sharing his own faith journey, Smith makes Augustine’s guidance accessible to a new generation of seekers.” — Publishers Weekly Starred Review
Augustine of Hippo, a fourth-century African who after a wild and dissolute youth became a great saint and Doctor of the Church, is the ideal guide for the restless hearts of the 21st century, says award-winning author James K.A. Smith. His new book, On the Road with Saint Augustine: A Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts (Brazos Press, hardcover $24.95, October 1, 2019), shows how Augustine can be a pilgrim guide to a spirituality that meets the complicated world we live in. It’s a followup to Smith’s You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, which sold more than 100,000 copies.
In many ways, Augustine is our contemporary: “He knows us from the inside—our temptations, our fears, our idolatries. But he also points a way out of them. You’re looking for yourself; this ancient African has the map,” says Smith, who has spent time on the road with Augustine and now invites readers along for the journey. “You might think of Augustine as offering a hitchhiker’s guide to the cosmos for wandering hearts.”
Augustine’s Confessions, one of the masterpieces of Western literature, widely seen as the first Western autobiography, is still taught in colleges and universities around the world. Augustine has influenced countless writers, radicals, and innovators over the centuries; Smith focuses on Martin Heidegger, the father of existentialism, Albert Camus, who spent part of his career wrestling with Augustine, Heidegger’s student Hannah Arendt, and Jacques Derrida, enfant terrible of postmodernism.
“The literary skeleton of the Confessions is a travelogue of the human heart,” Smith says. “The reason Augustine tells his story is that he thinks it is simply an example of the human story that we are all prodigals and he wants us to ask ourselves a question: what if I went home?” Home, Augustine unapologetically suggests, is found beyond yourself.
Augustine spent years resisting God, disdaining the Christian faith of his pious mother Saint Monica. He spent a lifetime searching for his heart's true home: “Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you,” he wrote. “What makes Augustine a guide worth considering,” says Smith, “is that he knows where home is, where rest can be found, what peace feels like, even if it is sometimes ephemeral and elusive along the way.”
Smith illuminates Augustine’s concept of the human condition as being like the experience of a refugee, an emigre in search of not just the security of home but peace, rest, and joy. “The Christian isn’t just a pilgrim but a refugee, a migrant in search of a refuge. The Christian life isn’t just a pilgrimage but a journey of emigration,” Smith writes. “Augustine frames this search as a quest to the country called joy.”
On the Road with Saint Augustine includes threads of memoir from Smith’s own travels with Augustine, wrestling with some of the same questions the saint did. Augustine offers a spirituality for realists, Smith notes, “One of the reasons I’ve found Augustine a comforting companion on the way is that he is honest about how hard the road is even once you know where home is.”
James K. A. Smith (PhD, Villanova University) is a popular speaker who has written many books, including Awaiting the King, Imagining the Kingdom, How (Not) to Be Secular, and the Christianity Today Book Award winners You Are What You Love, Desiring the Kingdom, and Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? He is professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he also holds the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview. He was editor in chief of Comment magazine from 2013-2018 and is now editor in chief of Image journal. Smith has written for Christianity Today, First Things, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Washington Post.
On the Road with Saint Augustine: A Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts
by James K.A. Smith
Brazos Press • Pub Date: October 1, 2019
Hardcover $24.95 • 256 pages • ISBN: 9781587433894