We have mentioned the Teaching Company courses on this site before; specifically, Luke Timothy Johnson's Great World Religions: Christianity and Brad Gregory's History of Christianity in the Reformation Era. This company's "Great Courses" audio and video courses are the next best thing to enrolling in university classes—and a whole lot less expensive. Through the company's website, you can find top-notch courses in the arts, sciences, and humanities taught by selected professors who are not only accomplished scholars but compelling teachers.

Eastern University's Phillip Cary starts his Teaching Company course Augustine: Philosopher and Saint with the paradoxical "bang!" embedded in the course title: "Surely," we may be tempted to think, "you can be a philosopher, or a saint … but not both." In fact, as Cary convincingly shows us, the modern stereotype of philosopher-as-rationalist-atheist doesn't work at all for ancient and late-ancient philosophers such as Augustine. For those men, not only did philosophy and religion not conflict, they were part of the same pursuit. What such philosophers sought, with all their hearts as well as their minds, was the beatific vision: a divine contact as mind-blowing and world-changing as Carl Sagan's extraterrestrial Contact. Cary launches this splendid course with just this sort of insight, and before you know it, you're in late-ancient outer (and more important, inner) space with the philosopher/saint who changed the way we all think.

For Augustine is even more to the modern West than its seminal theologian. Cary shows us how, whether we are Christian or not, Westerners' very understanding of ourselves as human beings comes directly from Augustine. (For the full-blown, scholarly ...

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