Augustine starts out by telling us what he thinks of those Romans who blame Christ-worship for the fall of Rome. Book 1, chapters 1-2 are all about those “whom you now see insolently and shamelessly insulting the servants of Christ” after surviving the sack of Rome because they “feigned to be servants of Christ themselves.” They attribute the disaster to Christ but their survival to their own skill. At pretending to worship Christ. Augustine has not much good to say about these kinds of people and plans to spend a whole bunch of time arguing with them.

My favorite part of today’s reading is Augustine’s takedown of false gods. He says that ancient Troy did not fall to the Greeks – and, by implication Rome to the Visigoths – because the gods abandoned her (he refers to Minerva, the Roman equivalent of Athena and the goddess of wisdom, the arts, and strategy), but because their gods are powerless: “Nor was it because she lost Minerva that Troy perished. For what had Minerva herself lost first, that she was unable to prevent Troy from perishing? Her guards perhaps? Exactly so: for when these were slain, she could be stolen. It was not, therefore, the men that were protected by the effigy, but the effigy by the men. Why was she worshipped, then, so that she might defend the fatherland and its people: she who could not manage to defend even her own guards?”

Of course, this whole line of argument doesn’t do anything to defend the name of Christ unless the name of Christ is not associated with Rome. Augustine is arguing with those who have put Rome first, who want Rome to be great. He’s not there yet in his argument, but it’s pretty clear that he’s not that interested in promoting or defending Rome. Christ is about another city – the city of God.

Josh

Advertisements