Book Series Studia Traditionis Theologiae, vol. 17

Augustine of Hippo

Eloquent Wisdom

Rhetoric, Cosmology and Delight in the Theology of Augustine of Hippo

Mark Clavier

  • Pages: xiii + 303 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2014

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-55265-1
  • Paperback
  • Available


Mark F. M. Clavier is the Dean of Residential Training at St Michael's College, Llandaff, Wales and lecturer in theology at Cardiff University.


Augustine of Hippo employed delight within his theology in ways unprecedented in Christian thought. It underpins his approach to creation, redemption, the Christian ministry and the inner conflict between desire and the will. Moreover, his understanding of delight would make an enormous impact on the shape of monastic theology in the Latin West. Yet no full-length study of Augustine’s theology of delight has ever been undertaken.

In this book, Mark Clavier provides an in-depth historical and theological study of the nature and role of delight in Augustine’s theology. He contends that Augustine drew primarily from Cicero’s rhetorical theory as mediated through later Neoplatonic commentators to develop a rhetorical theology that could explain how even those unenlightened by the liberal arts could discover God. Clavier argues that delight functions within Augustine’s theology as eloquence does within Cicero’s rhetorical theory, engaging people’s hearts in order to make them receptive to a wisdom they would otherwise neglect or resist. Augustine conceived of God as an orator who persuades people to turn away from death towards salvation by pouring delight into their hearts through the reception of the Holy Spirit, presented as God’s own delight. His close identification of delight with the Holy Spirit laid the ground for the affective turn in western medieval theology and its understanding of contemplative reading as a participative process of ascent to God.

Clavier’s work demonstrates that scholars need to consider the rhetorical basis for Augustine’s thought at least as seriously as they have considered the philosophical.