Augustine continues on looking at the demons and the gods of the Greeks and Romans in book 9. He stays focused on the passions of demons and shows that the demons cannot be higher than humanity because they lack the virtues that humans can attain and therefore be blessed. And so, humanity is higher than the demons and capable of greater blessedness.
Instead of interacting with the details of Augustine’s argument today, I want to look at those things that we exalt as moving us toward or mediating between us and the gods in our culture, but which are basically demonic. I want to try for our culture what Augustine is trying to do for his. So, what are the things that we exalt that are really supposed to be tools for humans? What things are we above, but which we worship? I would start with The Market, The Military, Freedom, and Celebrity.
The Market is described as having an Invisible Hand, by which those who participate in The Market are compelled to give to those under them in their own self-interest. By this thinking, as The Market grows, everyone cooperates together and wealth grows for all without coercion and in response to The Market. Self-interest fuels wealth-creation for all. So, my greed is for the common good? It is possible that The Market can be used as a tool to benefit people, but let’s be clear that markets are only and no more than tools. I have heard it said that capitalism is the worst form of economics, except for every other one people have come up with. Perhaps, but that is not a reason to hold it firmly. The Christian does not have to settle for the least worst option because God is a creative, loving God who brings resurrection. Perhaps The Market is an evil we are forced to live with but that does not make it a social good, in the same way that greedy people might do nice things but we should not aspire to be greedy for the sake of the common good. Whether or not The Market and the forces of a global capitalist economy are beneficial in some ways is not in question, but when Christians bless The Market and serve it and defensively argue for it, they have lost the plot. The Market is not virtuous – it does not have the capacity for virtue; global capitalism is not a Christian good – like other ideologies, it will be cast out of Eternity; The Market does not spread the Kingdom – it is a soft empire of the Dragon and the Beasts.
We can say the same kinds of things about The Military, Freedom, and Celebrity. These are “demonic” forces at work in our world – demonic in the sense that they parallel the place of demons in the ancient world by supposedly standing in between humanity and the gods. These are forces by which humanity is ruled and which we worship. I will try to say more in coming days.
May the True God of this creation bless you,