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A few years ago, in the middle of the journey of life—in modern terms, having a midlife crisis—I read St. ­Augustine’s Confessions for the first time since I was eighteen. I’d loved the work when I was young, but in what was hardly an original discovery, I found that I appreciated it all the more as I was growing gray.

My wife’s grandmother, who is now ninety-six years old, joined me in reading Sarah Ruden’s new translation, and we discussed it night after night for a couple of months. The widow of theologian Robert W. Jenson, she patiently explained many sections that were then and remain today outside my easy understanding. In addition, to my amusement, she repeatedly urged me—a godless classicist—to write my own confessions.

Such a document only a grandmother could love. Personal reflections by ordinary people are embarrassing to compose and, because they are like diary entries, more embarrassing still for ­outsiders to read. Nonetheless, I am going to risk putting my name on a few words about sin, redemption, and faith.

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