Joseph J. McInerney, The Greatness of Humility: St. Augustine on Moral Excellence (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2016)

McInerney looks at the writings of Augustine to discern how he views humility as the epitome of Christian virtue. Beginning with an assessment of classical models, McInerney builds on this foundation in order to demonstrate Augustine's unique contribution to the idea of "greatness" in classical moral thought. McInerney highlights Augustine's use of Scripture in promoting humility as the key to greatness. His view of pride as the foundation of sin elucidates his focus on humility as the answer to man's moral dilemma. While Augustine is certainly influenced by "eudaemonistic moral structures," his main influence is Scripture. McInerney helpfully traces the various phrases and words that Augustine uses in his conception of humility. From here, McInerney fast forwards to David Hume and Freidrich Nietzsche to assess their discussions of humility in relation to human greatness. These two modern philosophers take an alternate, even radically, diversion from the thought of Augustine on human excellence. McInerney concludes his study with an analysis of how Augustine's thought contributes positively to the tradition and practice of human greatness. 

This book will serve those in the field of Augustine's moral thought. Additionally, those seeking to understand humility in classical and late antique perspective will find this text helpful. Lastly, this book may be helpful for those wishing to explore comparisons between Christian and secular concepts of humility and greatness.

“Humility is an indispensable attribute for the development of human excellence, and few can match Augustine’s understanding and advocacy for that position.” (p. 4)

“The moral life for Augustine is centered on the acquisition of God as the object of the person’s love. It is in loving God that one acquires virtue.” (p. 89)

“Augustine presents the incarnation and Jesus’s death on the cross as the standard by which any understanding of humility must be judged.” (p. 107)

“Humility is not advocated for its own sake by Augustine. It is advocated as a means to a closer relationship with God, which is the foundation of the person’s greatness as God’s image and likeness.” (p. 184–5)

Bibliographical Information

Joseph J. McInerney. The Greatness of Humility: St. Augustine on Moral Excellence. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2016. Pp. 214. ISBN: 978-1498218160. $26.00 [Paperback].

About the Author:
Coleman M. Ford

Coleman is currently a Ph.D. student in Church History and Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and on pastoral staff at the Village Church. His dissertation focuses on spiritual friendship and pastoral care in Augustine of Hippo. His other research interests lie in pastoral care and theology, patristic exegesis, and patristic spirituality.