Saturday, October 06, 2007

City of God 1

I'm reading Augustine's 'City of God' and I thought I'd share my thoughts along the way. I should say, first, that I have mixed feelings about Augustine. On the one hand, I think he was a brilliant mind and far ahead of his time in the order of his thoughts. On the other hand, being ahead of one's time is only so good as the product and it may be the case that much error now existing in the church is the result of Augustine's great work. Depending on one's theology, he is either a second Paul or the primary root of mistaken doctrine.

I'm reading, of course, an abridged version (though still well over 500 pages in length) which is divided into 5 parts. Thus, my reaction to 'City of God' will most likely be 5 posts spread out over some time.

Part 1 of 'City of God' begins & ends as a defense of God's people from charges that they were responsible for the fall of Rome. Augustine spends most of his time arguing persuasively that Rome was falling long before the incarnation of Christ due to its foolish polytheism. At times, his ridicule of false gods crosses over to comedic, but the arguments are cutting and to be taken seriously. He argues against polytheism, pantheism & even astrology while urging his readers to rid themselves of the multitude and worship 1 true God, no matter what name is given Him.

Perhaps more interesting are Augustine's handling of slightly off-topic issues. In answering why God allows suffering upon the just, he gives 4 explanations: Suffering 1) Builds character 2) Grants perspective 3) is deserved, to some degree, by all and 4) reveals faith. Augustine made a strong case for the seriousness and sinfulness of suicide along with a clarification of the rules and exceptions to 'thou shalt not kill.' Most impressive, though, was his nuanced discussion of the fate vs. free will issue. Augustine maintained both the true sovereignty of God and the genuine free will of mankind.

Other snippets I found worthy of note were support for the historicity of the story of Jonah, usage of a very Wesleyan definition of sin, and some interesting political and geographical background of world history.

1 comment:

glo said...


i felt the same way about him when i was reading the confessions. Purhaps i will need to read city of God soon.