We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.



by Saint Augustine

Confessions Book V Summary

Section 1

  • Augustine says some stuff about praising God.

Section 2

  • Hey sinners, listen up: you can't hide from God, because he's freakin' everywhere. Clever, huh?

Section 3

  • So now Augustine is twenty-nine. This Manichean bishop named Faustus comes into town and Augustine is eager to hear what he has to say. 
  • He's beginning to get the feeling that the Manichees are full of hot air, and he's starting to prefer science to his religion. 
  • But the problem with scientists is that, even though there is more truth behind what they do, they don't recognize God as giving them the ability to figure this stuff out. Instead, they get all proud about it, and that's never good.
  • Silly, prideful scientists are prideful.

Section 4

  • In this section, Augustine talks about the pursuit of knowledge versus the pursuit of God.
  • Knowing things about the world is great, but knowing God is more important.

Section 5

  • So Manes, who is the founder of Manichaeism, had a lot of crazy theories about the universe and whatnot. Whenever he was proven wrong, he claimed that his ideas were right because he was the Holy Spirit. 
  • Anyway, when Augustine hears a Christian spout totally incorrect science, he is patient with him. Because even though his thoughts are wrong, they are not harmful. So long as they don't get in the way of his devotion to God.

Section 6

  • Faustus comes rolling into town. He's a nice guy and all, but Augustine really doesn't buy what he's selling, though he is selling it well. It doesn't matter how articulately something is phrased if it isn't true, Augustine says. Still, Augustine and his posse want to get near this guy, and they finally elbow their way through the fanboys and talk to him. 
  • Much to Augustine's disappointment, he isn't really very well read.

Section 7

  • Though Faustus proves to be lacking in the knowledge department, he isn't ashamed to admit it to Augustine. 
  • Augustine likes him all the more for this, and they book club it up together. Augustine soon loses interest in the Manichees. 
  • He doesn't have any belief system to replace it with, though, so he hangs around until something better comes along. 
  • All of this was just part of God's plan, of course.

Section 8

  • Augustine decides that it's high time he went to Rome, because the students in Carthage are worse than rowdy, and he's tired of it. Again, we're supposed to understand here that God's creating a motivation for Augustine to get where he needs to go. 
  • Augustine's mother is really overbearing, and basically follows him to the harbor begging him not to go. 
  • He lies to her and tells her that he is waiting for a friend before setting sail, but then he leaves during the night while she is asleep. 
  • She flips out and can't stop crying (how does Augustine know this?), but only because she doesn't know that by sending Augustine away, God is going to answer her prayers. 
  • Because, you know, he's getting closer to that whole conversion-to-Christianity bit every day.

Section 9

  • As soon as Augustine touches down in Rome, he gets sick. He almost dies from his illness. And if he had, he would have gone to hell as a sinner. 
  • But he recovers. We're only on Book V, after all. He thinks about how tragic it would have been for his mother to see her son die without his soul being saved, since that is apparently the only thing she cares about. Not, like, whether he dies while he's still in his twenties, for example.

Section 10

  • When in Rome, Augustine still hangs out with the Manichees and follows their belief that it's not people who sin, but the bad matter within people that makes them sin. 
  • But he's losing Manichee steam. He starts veering toward a group of philosophers called the Academics, who basically say that we can't really know anything for certain. 
  • Augustine can't get over the idea of God not having a body, so he doesn't look for the answer to his theological woes in Christianity yet.
  • Because Augustine thinks God has a corporeal presence, he also thinks that evil must have some sort of "body"; if God is good, then he couldn't have created evil. 
  • This understanding of good and evil as separate also prevents Augustine from accepting Christianity. Plus, he's not into the idea of Christ as an extension of God, or Christ's birth from the Virgin Mary.

Section 11

  • Sometimes, the Manichees will debate people with knowledge of the (Christian) Scriptures. 
  • This one guy named Elpidius likes to get into these debates, but he and the other Manichees don't usually argue about this stuff in public, because they get owned by other religious types.

Section 12

  • And you thought Carthage was bad. In Rome, Augustine may not have to deal with rowdy students, but he does have to deal with students who don't want to pay him.
  • It's understandable that Augustine should hate these students, but he should hate them for their greed and their lack of respect toward knowledge. Instead, he just hates them for pulling the ole' dine-n-dash on him. At least he doesn't have them thrown in jail.

Section 13

  • When a teaching position opens up in Milan, Augustine takes it. This marks the end of his association with the Manichees. 
  • In Milan, Augustine meets the bishop Ambrose . He's kind of a big deal in the Catholic Church. Augustine hangs out with him to see if he is as good of a speaker as everyone says. Augustine is impressed, but only by how Ambrose speaks, not by what he says.

Section 14

  • Ambrose's words eventually begin to seep into Augustine's mind. He explains the Old Testament in ways that aren't literal, which was how Augustine read the thing, and Augustine starts to see how Christianity can stand up to Manichaeism. 
  • Christianity scores a few truth-points.
  • But Augustine isn't convinced to convert just yet. He still likes the Academics. So though he decides to break it off with the Manichees, he remains a novice in the Catholic Church for now.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...