Augustine's City of God
Welcome to our reading and study group, and thank you for joining us. Right now we're making our way through the early books of Augustine's City of God. Take a few moments to scroll through the open threads or even introduce yourself. If you have a thought or question that you would like to share but aren't sure where to post it, I recommend visiting the Open Discussion thread.
What to expect: I try to post 1-2 times a week with a summary of pertinent material, along with my own thoughts, reactions, and questions, though I am not always successful in this goal. Members are encouraged to submit their own reactions, thoughts, questions, or other materials as frequently as they would like, independently or in response to what has already been posted.
Our primary text is Marcus Dods' 1871 translation of Augustine's City of God. Occasionally we may consult alternative translations for clarity.
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Forum discussions and group studies at the CCEL have been an important resource in my own development as a Christian. It's a remarkable thing, to carry on a global conversation about the faith with the whosoever will. Depending on the size of our membership, it may be impractical for me to respond personally to every post, but I hope to be able to interact closely with those who want to closely engage Augustine's City of God. Join me in prayer for the success of this effort, and may God bless your interest in the literature of the Church.
Argument—This book treats of the end of the city of God, that is to say, of the eternal happiness of the saints; the faith of the resurrection of the body is established and explained; and the work concludes by showing how the saints, clothed in immortal and spiritual bodies, shall be employed.
Argument—Of the end reserved for the city of the devil, namely, the eternal punishment of the damned; and of the arguments which unbelief brings against it.
Editor's Summary: Argument—Concerning the last judgment, and the declarations regarding it in the old and new testaments.
Editor's Summary: Argument—In this book the end of the two cities, the earthly and the heavenly, is discussed. Augustin reviews the opinions of the philosophers regarding the supreme good, and their vain efforts to make for themselves a happiness in this life; and, while he refutes these, he takes occasion to show what the peace and happiness belonging to the heavenly city, or the people of Christ, are both now and hereafter.
Argument—Augustin traces the parallel courses of the earthly and heavenly cities from the time of Abraham to the end of the world; and alludes to the oracles regarding Christ, both those uttered by the Sibyls, and those of the sacred prophets who wrote after the foundation of Rome, Hosea, Amos, Isaiah, Micah, and their successors.
Argument—In this book the history of the city of God is traced during the period of the kings and prophets from Samuel to David, even to Christ; and the prophecies which are recorded in the books of Kings, Psalms, and those of Solomon, are interpreted of Christ and the church.
Editor's Summary: Argument—In the former part of this book, from the first to the twelfth chapter, the progress of the two cities, the earthly and the heavenly, from Noah to Abraham, is exhibited from Holy Scripture: In the latter part, the progress of the heavenly alone, from Abraham to the kings of Israel, is the subject.
Editor's summary: Argument—Having treated in the four preceding books of the origin of the two cities, the earthly and the heavenly, Augustin explains their growth and progress in the four books which follow; and, in order to do so, he explains the chief passages of the sacred history which bear upon this subject. In this fifteenth book he opens this part of his work by explaining the events recorded in Genesis from the time of Cain and Abel to the deluge.
That the Disobedience of the First Man Would Have Plunged All Men into the Endless Misery of the Second Death, Had Not the Grace of God Rescued Many. Of Carnal Life, Which is to Be Understood Not Only of Living in Bodily Indulgence, But Also of Living in the Vices of the Inner Man. That the Sin is Caused Not by the Flesh, But by the Soul, and that the Corruption Contracted from Sin is Not Sin But Sin’s Punishment. What It is to Live According to Man, and What to Live According to God.
That the Opinion of the Platonists Regarding the Nature of Body and Soul is Not So Censurable as that of the Manichæans, But that Even It is Objectionable, Because It Ascribes the Origin of Vices to the Nature of The Flesh. Of the Character of the Human Will Which Makes the Affections of the Soul Right or Wrong. That the Words Love and Regard (Amor and Dilectio) are in Scripture Used Indifferently of Good and Evil Affection. Of the Three Perturbations, Which the Stoics Admitted in the Soul of the Wise Man to the Exclusion of Grief or Sadness, Which the Manly Mind Ought Not to Experience. Of the Perturbations of the Soul Which Appear as Right Affections in the Life of the Righteous. Whether It is to Be Believed that Our First Parents in Paradise, Before They Sinned, Were Free from All Perturbation.
Of the Fall of the First Man, in Whom Nature Was Created Good, and Can Be Restored Only by Its Author. Of the Nature of Man’s First Sin. That in Adam’s Sin an Evil Will Preceded the Evil Act. Of the Pride in the Sin, Which Was Worse Than the Sin Itself. Of the Justice of the Punishment with Which Our First Parents Were Visited for Their Disobedience. Of the Evil of Lust,—A Word Which, Though Applicable to Many Vices, is Specially Appropriated to Sexual Uncleanness. Of the Nakedness of Our First Parents, Which They Saw After Their Base and Shameful Sin. Of the Shame Which Attends All Sexual Intercourse.
Editor's summary: Of the Fall of the First Man, Through Which Mortality Has Been Contracted. Of that Death Which Can Affect an Immortal Soul, and of that to Which the Body is Subject. Whether Death, Which by the Sin of Our First Parents Has Passed Upon All Men, is the Punishment of Sin, Even to the Good. Why Death, the Punishment of Sin, is Not Withheld from Those Who by the Grace of Regeneration are Absolved from Sin. As the Wicked Make an Ill Use of the Law, Which is Good, So the Good Make a Good Use of Death, Which is an Ill. Of the Evil of Death in General, Considered as the Separation of Soul and Body.
Of the Death Which the Unbaptized Suffer for the Confession of Christ. That the Saints, by Suffering the First Death for the Truth’s Sake, are Freed from the Second. Whether We Should Say that The Moment of Death, in Which Sensation Ceases, Occurs in the Experience of the Dying or in that of the Dead. Of the Life of Mortals, Which is Rather to Be Called Death Than Life. Whether One Can Both Be Living and Dead at the Same Time. What Death God Intended, When He Threatened Our First Parents with Death If They Should Disobey His Commandment. What Was the First Punishment of the Transgression of Our First Parents. In What State Man Was Made by God, and into What Estate He Fell by the Choice of His Own Will. That Adam in His Sin Forsook God Ere God Forsook Him, and that His Falling Away From God Was the First Death of the Soul.
Of the Falseness of the History Which Allots Many Thousand Years to the World’s Past. Of Those Who Suppose that This World Indeed is Not Eternal, But that Either There are Numberless Worlds, or that One and the Same World is Perpetually Resolved into Its Elements, and Renewed at the Conclusion of Fixed Cycles. How These Persons are to Be Answered, Who Find Fault with the Creation of Man on the Score of Its Recent Date.
Editor's Summary: Of This Part of the Work, Wherein We Begin to Explain the Origin and End of the Two Cities. Of the Knowledge of God, to Which No Man Can Attain Save Through the Mediator Between God and Men, the Man Christ Jesus. Of the Authority of the Canonical Scriptures Composed by the Divine Spirit.
Editor's Summary: Argument—In this book Augustin teaches that the good angels wish God alone, whom they themselves serve, to receive that divine honor which is rendered by sacrifice, and which is called “latreia.” He then goes on to dispute against Porphyry about the principle and way of the soul’s cleansing and deliverance.
Editor's Summary: Argument—Having in the preceding book shown that the worship of demons must be abjured, since they in a thousand ways proclaim themselves to be wicked spirits, Augustin in this book meets those who allege a distinction among demons, some being evil, while others are good; and, having exploded this distinction, he proves that to no demon, but to Christ alone, belongs the office of providing men with eternal blessedness.
Editor's Summary: Argument—Augustin comes now to the third kind of theology, that is, the natural, and takes up the question, whether the worship of the gods of the natural theology is of any avail towards securing blessedness in the life to come. This question he prefers to discuss with the Platonists, because the Platonic system is “facile princeps” among philosophies, and makes the nearest approximation to Christian truth.
Argument—Hitherto the argument has been conducted against those who believe that the gods are to be worshipped for the sake of temporal advantages, now it is directed against those who believe that they are to be worshipped for the sake of eternal life. Augustine devotes the five following books to the confutation of this latter belief, and first of all shows how mean an opinion of the gods was held by Varro himself, the most esteemed writer on heathen theology.
Editor's Summary: Argument—Augustine first discusses the doctrine of fate, for the sake of confuting those who are disposed to refer to fate the power and increase of the Roman empire, which could not be attributed to false gods, as has been shown in the preceding book. After that, he proves that there is no contradiction between God’s prescience and our free will. He then speaks of the manners of the ancient Romans, and shows in what sense it was due to the virtue of the Romans themselves, and in how far to the counsel of God, that he increased their dominion, though they did not worship him. Finally, he explains what is to be accounted the true happiness of the Christian emperors. (Emphasis Added)
Editor's Summary: Argument—In this book it is proved that the extent and long duration of the Roman empire is to be ascribed, not to Jove or the gods of the heathen, to whom individually scarce even single things and the very basest functions were believed to be entrusted, but to the one true God, the author of felicity, by whose power and judgment earthly kingdoms are founded and maintained.
Argument: In this book Augustine reviews those calamities which the Romans suffered before the time of Christ, and while the worship of the false gods was universally practiced; and demonstrates that, far from being preserved from misfortune by the gods, the Romans have been by them overwhelmed with the only, or at least the greatest, of all calamities—the corruption of manners, and the vices of the soul.