On Monday, Steve and I (and anyone who wants to join us) will begin a year in Augustine’s City of God. I finished the editor’s introduction today and am really excited to finally read through the whole thing. I hope to regularly post quotes, thoughts, comments, questions, theological reflections, and devotional meditations here on the blog, and if anyone wants to interact with those little dabblings, I’d love it. Or, if you want to join us as we read, I’d really love that. I’m reading the Cambridge edition:
Augustine, The City of God against the Pagans, ed. and trans. by RW Dyson (Cambridge: 1998)
And, we are following Collin Garbarino’s reading plan <https://collingarbarino.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/city-of-god-readings.pdf>. More or less. Garbarino’s plan starts in January, we are starting on Monday, August 31, 2015. Anyway, here are my thoughts on Dyson’s introduction, for those interested.
Dyson’s introduction is most interested in the political implications of Augustine’s thought. So, he’s perplexed by Augustine’s claim that all human political leadership is inherently unjust because it fails to give to God what God is due (using a typical ancient definition of “justice” as “giving to one what one is due”). God is the most central person for any city and therefore if a city fails to act with justice toward God, the city is necessarily unjust, no matter how much “justice” the city does otherwise. I buy it. Dyson doesn’t seem to.
I just go along with Augustine on that one (a city that rejects God will necessarily fail at most other aspects of what we might call justice, plus I’m not interested in a so-called “just” political order that fails to worship God as sovereign and Jesus as King; what might such “justice” look like if not defined by the city’s relationship to God?). I’m more interested in Augustine’s ontology (the Nature-Grace relationship), his call for the church’s engagement in an unjust regime, the teleological nature of political order (for what purpose does it exist?), and how well his ideas borrow from and work with John’s two cities in Revelation. I expect to be influenced by more than just that, but that’s a start.