Augustine is now tracing the City of God, from the sons of Noah to Abraham, following the genealogies of Genesis. God’s City is mixed in with Man’s City throughout history and in the middle of families. Augustine makes the point that, even within the righteous line, some reject God: “For it may be – and this is the more credible possibility – that, even before Babylon had begun to be built, there were already, among the offspring of the two good sons [of Noah], men who held God in contempt, and worshippers of God among the offspring of Ham. In any case, we must believe that the world was never without men of both these kinds.” Humanity always has men and women within it who will reject God and others who will serve Him. We are all tainted by sin, and there is none who does good, but some will serve God.
This is an important theme when it comes to the City of God among the nations. As Christians, our allegiance and citizenship belongs to that City ruled by Christ. And, at the same time, we live in the midst of a human city, ruled by human rulers. We are not absent from the body just because our citizenship belongs in Heaven. To me, this is where all of the struggle of proper political theology comes from. Am I a citizen of heaven, and therefore owe nothing to the nations of this world? Or, do I live in this world, and therefore fight for the blessing of the nations? Yes, and somehow those are not mutually exclusive options. I am a citizen of Heaven and I live in this world, and therefore I owe nothing to the nations but I will work and fight for their blessing. I look forward to watching Augustine and seeing how he deals with this difficult space in which Christians must live.
On this blog, I’ve looked at some of the demons and idols of our culture, and our job as citizens of Heaven is to reject those idols and call others to worship of the One True God. My concern is that many Christians have subordinated their citizenship in God’s city to citizenship in a nation. I was at a service this week at a local church that proudly flies two flags outside its building. The American flag flies above the Christian flag. And inside the foyer, there are a number of plaques prominently displaying the church’s support for various American military operations. I can’t say much about the heart of this church, but the flags and the plaques suggest that the people of this church have submitted themselves to the nation first, and the City of God second. That is a danger that I suspect Augustine would warn us away from.