Augustine: A New Biography by James J. O'Donnell
In his "new biography" of Augustine, Georgetown University Provost and classicist James O'Donnell tries to strip the Church Father of his sainthood. For O'Donnell, Augustine was a mendacious autobiographer, an opportunistic cleric, a supercilious human being, a polarizing historian, a dogmatic political philosopher, and a tiresome apologist. He never overcame his Manicheanism, and today we are bound to his "binary" mode of thinking. Christendom's insistence upon univocal truth bears the unfortunate imprint of its Augustinian founding. Modernity, too, in its unrelenting pursuit of objectivity, is beholden to Augustine's thought: his spiritual imperialism deforms contemporary political discourse and his mortification of the flesh corrupts our culture.
All of Augustine's arguments (which the book uniformly mistreats) conceal his will to power, O'Donnell charges. Sadly, the author's own assertions attempt to obscure the truth of Augustine's greatness.
—David J. Bobb
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This article appeared in the Winter 2005-2006 issue of the Claremont Review of Books