Font of Life: Ambrose, Augustine, and the Mystery of Baptism

Garry Wills. Oxford Univ., $21.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-19-976851-6
In his latest book, prolific author and historian Wills (Lincoln at Gettysburg) takes the reader beneath Milan’s famed cathedral to the “font of life,” the baptistry where Ambrose baptized Augustine in 387 C.E. He explores the historical moment during which the two famous and highly influential Christians met, dramatically bringing to life this critical time in the history of Christianity. Painting a backdrop of heresies and tense clashes with Roman emperors, Wills provides a captivating and rich description of Ambrose’s baptismal rite and theology. He then compares these to Augustine’s own baptismal rite and theology, analyzing to what extent Ambrose might have influenced the future bishop of Hippo. Wills compellingly argues that despite their encounter in Milan, in which Ambrose initiated Augustine into the Christian community, the two men differed greatly both in personality and theology. Their respective baptismal rites were influenced largely by the heresies they wished to disprove and condemn, not by one another. A well-researched and fascinating historical look at Ambrose, Augustine, and the sacrament of baptism. Agent: Andrew Wylie. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/13/2012
Release date: 04/01/2012
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