Agree or disagree, now or after reading this issue: After Jesus and Paul, Augustine of Hippo is the most influential figure in the history of Christianity…

1987 marks the 1,600th anniversary of Augustine’s conversion to Christ and baptism. The anniversary is noteworthy not only because of Augustine’s influence on Christendom, for his pivotal role in history extends well beyond the ecclesiastical; it is noteworthy because he is one of the central pillars on which our entire Western civilization is built.

Time magazine acknowledged this in its September 29 issue of 1986, when it devoted a full page to a summary of and commentary on Augustine’s life and influence. Time observed that Augustine, in each of the 16 centuries since his conversion, has continued to exert a “major intellectual, spiritual and cultural force.”

Here at Christian History we have probably had more requests from readers for an issue exclusively devoted to Augustine than for anyone else. We thought this anniversary year was a perfectly appropriate time to present one.

There is no greater expression of human beauty, nor is there any greater exaltation of human nature, than when individuals or groups are humbled under, touched by, and made aware of the reality and presence of God’s grace. And none, apart from the biblical writers and characters, did more to help us understand the supreme joy of life in God’s grace than the man from North Africa treated in these pages.

He lived at a time when the waves of barbarians surging into the Roman empire must have created public anxiety similar to that experienced today because of the threat of nuclear holocaust. The barbaric Goths sacked Rome in 410 A.D., and the Vandals were besieging the city of Hippo even as Augustine, ...

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