Skip to comments.Two Cities: Augustine’s City of God
Posted on 08/20/2004 9:13:24 AM PDT by Mr. Silverback
On August 24, 410 A.D., the Visigoths, led by Alaric, sacked Rome. For the people of late antiquity, August 24 was even more traumatic than September 11 was for us. Rome, the capital of the greatest empire the world had ever known, was plundered by barbarians, people Rome regarded as uncouth and inferior.
In North Africa, these events prompted a Christian bishop to start writing about the lessons Christians should take away from the destruction of Rome. The result was a book that is every bit as relevant for our day as it was for his: The City of God by St. Augustine of Hippo.
In response to critics who blamed Romes demise on the fact that she abandoned the pagan gods and turned to Christ, Augustine introduced readers to two cities: the City of God and the City of Man. The City of Man is shaped by the love of self, even to the contempt of God, and the City of Godis shaped by the love of God, even to the contempt of self.
In describing the two cities, Augustine reiterated Jesus teaching that while Christians live in the City of Man, they do not belong to the City of Man. Their presence in the earthly city is like that of strangers sojourning in a foreign country. We are to enjoy the blessings the City of Man has to offer, including its rights, its protection, and its preservation of order, but we are always ready to move on. The City of Man is not our true home. No, our true home is in the City of God. And it is to that city that we owe our affections and our ultimate loyalty.
While this sounds like a recipe for withdrawal, it is anything but that. Augustine taught that, just as we are to enjoy the blessings of the City of Man, we must assume the obligations of citizenship. As he put it, Caesar looks for his own likeness, give it to him. Only, instead of fulfilling these obligations out of compulsion and fear, the Christian does so out of obedience to God and love of neighbor. Being a good citizen means doing our civic duty and, of course, voting.
As we enter this election season, the struggle for our cultures soul has simultaneously produced passivity and defeatism in some evangelical quarters and a shrill triumphalism in others. Neither response, as Augustine teaches, is the proper Christian response.
We can never retreat into our sanctuaries and neglect our civic responsibility to help set the moral tone of our culture. Leaving your neighbor in ignorance of his folly is inconsistent with the command to love him, and so political and cultural engagement are required for faithful believers. We are, I like to put it, to bring the influence of the City of God into the City of Man, working for justice and righteousness.
At the same time, if we controlled every legislative, executive, and judiciary branch, we still could not transform the City of Man into the City of God. Thats why talk about making this a Christian nation is wrong-headed and needlessly scares our neighbors.
Over the next few days, Ill be discussing what it means to be a Christian and a citizen in contemporary America: the temptations, pitfalls, and opportunities. Getting this right starts with the paradox Augustine taught: The best citizens of the City of Man are those who remember that their true citizenship is in the City of God.
This commentary first aired on January 27, 2004.
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But I always chuckle when I hear from him 'cause someone once said, "..only reason he found Jesus in that Florida prison was Jesus didn't see him coming."
Who said that?
Beats me. But certainly Colson has gone on doing what he does much longer and much better than any "jailhouse conversion" could account for. The post conversion is the real deal just as much as the pre-conversion Colson was a real scumbag.
Funny...I was just thinking about reading "City of God".
You may have created a lasting quote yourself.
Though he was one of the most intelligent men who ever lived and though he had been brought up a Christian, his sins of impurity and his pride darkened his mind so much, that he could not see or understand the Divine Truth anymore. Through the prayers of his holy mother and the marvelous preaching of St. Ambrose, Augustine finally became convinced that Christianity was the one true religion.
He was baptized, became a priest, a bishop, a famous Catholic writer, Founder of religious priests, and one of the greatest saints that ever lived. He becam e very devout and charitable, too. On the wall of his room he had the following sentence written in large letters: "Here we do not speak evil of anyone." St. Augustine overcame strong heresies, practiced great poverty and supported the poor, preached very often and prayed with great fervor right up until his death. "Too late have I loved You!" he once cried to God, but with his holy life he certainly made up for the sins he committed before his conversion. His feast day is August 28th.
Catholic Ping - let me know if you want on/off this list
Voting booths have replaced the sword.
Not if you're un-armed.
Memorial of St. Augustine is supressed by the Sunday liturgy. BTTT on 08-28-05!
Happy Anniversary.. The City of God is everlasting as is the eternal man.
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