Off the Shelf Classics (continued)
JOHN FEA is an assistant professor of American history.
Saint Augustine (354–430 A.D.), the bishop of the North African diocese of Hippo, begins his Confessions by reminding his readers to consider God as the source of all human happiness: “You (God) made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.” What follows is a powerful account of his pilgrimage from a life of sin to a life of redemption and true joy.
The message of Confessions is a timeless one. Human beings still seek pleasure in creation rather than the Creator. We all struggle with sinful appetites and unhealthy ambition. We still seek the praise of other human beings and the delights of this world. Augustine reminds us that we are prisoners of habit in need of the saving grace provided by the Lord Jesus Christ—a lesson that is perhaps even more relevant in today’s culture than it was in the fourth century.
—JOHN FEA is an assistant professor of American history.
DONALD PRATT is a professor of engineering.
After my daughter performed a part in the play Les Misérables
, I decided to read this book by Victor Hugo. I wanted to know the whole story. And it’s a long
story, with several major digressions, including an epic description of the Battle of Waterloo (part of the Napoleonic Wars).
My patience was rewarded, however, as I began to recognize grace as the scarlet thread, masterfully contrasted with police inspector Javert’s overly strict sense of justice. While you do get a sense of this in the play, reading the entire story makes the characters breathe as you begin to feel the full force of their inner conflicts and motivations. I was deeply moved by ex-convict turned wealthy factory owner Valjean’s passion to spend his life serving others while struggling to conceal his past from the relentless Javert. To fully understand this, you’ll need to know Hugo’s back-story of the Bishop, and why he chooses grace over justice. Even the somewhat obvious ending has a twist . . . you’ll just have to read the book to find out more!
—DONALD PRATT is a professor of engineering.
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