Think of someone you know who is really, really smart. I mean a person so smart that he makes you think when he speaks. Well, over a thousand years ago, there lived a man with this kind of intelligence. Through his profound speaking and writing, he made many people think. In fact, his written works are still challenging people today. This man’s name was Aurelius Augustinus, but he is best known as Augustine of Hippo. Who was Augustine of Hippo? Keep reading for more!

Think of someone you know who is really, really smart. I mean a person so smart that he makes you think when he speaks. Well, over a thousand years ago, there lived a man with this kind of intelligence.

Augustine’s Early Life

 Augustine was born in North Africa in 354.  His mother, Monnica, was a devout Christian. His father, Patricius, was a Roman official and a self-proclaimed pagan. Though this couple’s religious beliefs were different, they both recognized the intelligence of their son.  Because of the boy’s giftedness, they sent him to the finest schools in Carthage, North Africa.

Augustine studied hard in Carthage. He was well educated in math, music, grammar, and rhetoric. Rhetoric is the art of speaking and writing intellectually. Augustine soon became a master in this field and accepted a position teaching others the skills of rhetoric.

Now, unlike his prayerful mother, young Augustine did not profess to be a Christian. He thought Christianity was for the “simple-minded.” He went against his mother’s Christian values, fathering a child at 18 while yet unmarried. He lived to later regret his immoral actions and wrote, “I came to Carthage, where a cauldron of unholy loves was sizzling and crackling around me.”1 (Great, but who was Augustine of Hippo?)

The Search for Truth

Despite all this, Augustine was a genuine seeker for truth. He immersed himself in studying all kinds of philosophies, one after the other, looking for answers to life. In his searching, Augustine moved to the city of Milan in 384. It was there that his mother introduced him to someone nearly as brilliant as himself. That man’s name was Ambrose. He was the bishop of Milan, which means he was a high leader of the Early Church.

Augustine was deeply struck by the fact that this intelligent man professed a strong faith in Jesus Christ yet wasn’t “simple-minded” at all! On the contrary, Augustine found Bishop Ambrose to be an astute scholar. Augustine, now 29, was greatly challenged. His friendship with the bishop forced him to examine his own life and beliefs.

A Call to Christ

There came a day, however, in 387, when Augustine could no longer put off the call of God in his life. According to Augustine, he was meditating in a garden when he heard something like children singing, “Take up and read; Take up and read.”2 So he did. Augustine read from Paul’s letter to the Romans:

Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Romans 13:13–14)

From that moment on, Augustine became a true believer in Christ (and that answers, “Who was Augustine of Hippo!) He said, “It was as though the light of faith flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled.”3 He and his son were soon baptized together on the night before Easter. Just four years later, in 391, Augustine was ordained as a priest, and by 395, he became the bishop of Hippo, a port city in North Africa.* (Hence the name, “Augustine of Hippo.”) Because of Augustine’s quick learning as a Christian and his great leadership skill, one historian said, “From this foot of earth he moved the world.”4

Think of someone you know who is really, really smart. I mean a person so smart that he makes you think when he speaks. Well, over a thousand years ago, there lived a man with this kind of intelligence.

 The Impactful Writings of Augustine

One way that Augustine “moved the world” was through his many writings. He used his gift of rhetoric to glorify God. He wrote about his conversion to Christianity in a book titled Confessions. In this autobiography Augustine shared his life and sins before knowing Christ personally. (I want to add here that Confessions is one of my favorite books on knowing Christ!) In the opening pages of the book, Augustine cries out, “You made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds its place of rest in You.”5 He would further write:

—It is no small woe if I do not love you.6

—I was starving for you, not your works.7

—This is the happy life, to rejoice in You, of You, and for You. This is the happy life, and there is no other.8

Coincidentally, around this time the Roman Empire was beginning to crumble. To help the Romans find peace with God, Augustine wrote a masterpiece called The City of God. In it, he claimed that cities whose foundations were laid by God would last, and those that weren’t would fall. As Rome was falling to the attacks of outsiders, he was pleading with the Romans to place their faith in the one true God. He influenced many people through this profound book.

Augustine’s Legacy

Unfortunately, in 430 the city of Hippo was attacked by the Vandals (a Germanic tribe of invaders). That was the same year Augustine fell ill and died. Many grieved the loss of this brilliant scholar who left behind about five million words through his prolific writings! You see, although the Vandals burned and destroyed the city of Hippo, they spared Augustine’s personal library. For this reason, Augustine’s influence lasted for centuries. In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther (an Augustinian monk) and John Calvin (a priest) would both rely on the teachings of Augustine during the Protestant Reformation.

Personally, I hope that Augustine’s testimony of great intelligence and faith will continue to challenge and encourage people today. His conversion should help others see that Christianity is certainly not just for the “simple-minded.”


Younger Students—Singing!

            Did you notice in Augustine’s story that the singing of children influenced him and stirred his heart? You and your younger students can record yourselves singing an encouraging song and send it to your friends and family.

Younger and Middle Students—Garden Stone Painting

            Augustine of Hippo realized the Truth of God in a garden through scripture. You and your students can take a smooth garden stone and paint a Bible verse on it that touches your heart! Feel free to paint pretty backgrounds, cool designs, and whatever inspires you about the story of Augustine. Once the stones are dry, cover them with Modge-Podge and place them in your garden. (Or give them away!)

Older Students—Serving Your City

            In his book The City of God, Augustine compared and contrasted Rome with what the Bible says about society.  Consider your city and if it upholds biblical values or does not! Brainstorm together ways to make your community better. Donating food, helping out the needy, and cleaning up local community spaces are some ideas. Execute one or more of your ideas and record how you each think it helped your community.  


1. Curtis, Lang, and Petersen, 100 Most Important Events, 41.

2. Augustine, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, trans. E. B. Pusey (New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 2003), 173.

3. Curtis, Lang, and Petersen, 100 Most Important Events, 42.

4. Will Durant, The Age of Faith, vol. 4 of The Story of Civilization (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1950), 67.

5. Augustine, The Confessions of St. Augustine (Modern English Version) (Grand Rapids, MI: Spire, 2008), 15–16.

6. Augustine, 18.

7. Augustine, 39.

8. Augustine, 182.