In the early books of The City of God, Augustine has dealt with those who worship the gods, even though they are demons; in the chapters previous to today’s, he has been dealing with those who recognize that demons are not gods but think they are intermediaries between gods and humans; in today’s chapters, he deals with those who think that humans can make gods and that the images that humans make conjure not demons but gods. Over the course of The City of God, the demons have been experiencing some serious downward movement – they have gone from gods to intermediaries to handmade conjured god-spirits. Augustine appears to be trying to demote the demons in the minds of those engaging in his argument. “Those gods that you worship? They are not gods, not even mediators between you and the gods, not even local gods when you make their images by hand. No, those gods are just unclean spirits who play silly games with your souls.” Strategically, it’s kind of brilliant.
I look forward to reading Augustine’s discussion of how there is a need for a mediator between God and humanity, and how God has provided that mediator in the person of Jesus Christ, and how Jesus is both the Word and the interpretation of the glory of God made known to us. I understand that this discussion is coming in the next book or so, which is Advent season here, so that will work out really well for me. In the meantime, here are some quotes for today:
Who are the demons? “They are spirits whose sole desire is to harm us: who are entirely alien to justice, swollen with pride, livid with envy, and subtle in deceit. They do indeed dwell in the air; but they do so only because they were cast out from the sublimity of the higher heaven, and justly condemned for their irreparable transgression to dwell in this region as a prison appropriate to them.”
“For a man can more easily become less than a man by worshipping the works of his own hands as if they were gods than can the works of his own hands become gods through his worship of them. It can more readily happen that a man ‘that is in honor, but understandeth not’ may become ‘like the beasts that perish’, than that a work of man may be placed above a work of God, made in His image: that is, above man himself. Deservedly, then, does man fall away from Him Who made him, when he places above himself that which he has made.”
“…a house is indeed now being built for the Lord in all the earth: the City of God, which is holy Church, after the captivity in which demonic forces help prisoner those men who, because they believed in God, have become living stones in His house.”