Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Reflections on the City of God, So Far, Part 2

It should be noted that if you haven't read the last post, you should probably not read this post.

Saying that, here are so more things Augustine cared about.

3) Evil Doesn't Exist

Now this is a strange one because Christians (at least us conservative ones) find themselves fighting against relativism at every turn. Surely, evil exists, because Hitler. Though to be honest, I've never met a true ethical relativist. I would assume that true ethical relativists have more money than I do and have never had to stare down evil in the face.

Or they smoke a lot of weed.

Or both.


The point is, evil doesn't exist because evil doesn't have a substance. Evil is not a thing, it is the lack of thingness. To those of you who have read CS Lewis, this is sounding awfully familiar.

St. Augustine put it shortly: "For evil has no positive nature, but the loss of good has received the name 'evil'" - Book 11, Chapter 9

I'll be honest, I don't know how well this holds in modern academia. But it does help support the idea of a natural law, that things work better when things are going "naturally" and things go bad when things are going "unnaturally". It also implies that if things go naturally (like sex), that it is a good thing. In fact one would be wild enough to say that all of creation is good, even the person who feels like they might be lacking.

At the very least, it is interesting to see the seeds of many philosophical systems to come in Augustine.

4) All Civilizations will Fall but God will Handle It

The fourth item is the reason I started to read the book. I really do think this country is going to heck. In fact, I wish Florida would secede and make more money as a tourist destination. But my own absurd politics aside, when one is a student of history, I'm sure a question crosses everybody's mind; "When is civilization going to fall?"

Or for those who are younger "How will l I survive the zombie apocalypse?"

But when it comes to Western European civilization, we've persevered, though there is a teenager somewhere in America that longs to be a Patrician.

But that was the point Augustine was trying to make. All civilizations change and shift. And the pagan gods won't certainly involve themselves, especially if they're as mean as they seem to be in myths.

And regarding whether the pagan gods can protect the Romans? He wrote "For why did these gods permit the disasters I am to speak of to fall on their worshipers before the preaching of Christ's name offended them, and put an end to their sacrifices?"

Money (Moneta), sex (Venus) , and power (Jupiter) didn't save the Romans and it won't save us now. So how is God involved in the middle of this?

"As for those who insult them in their trials, and when ills befall them say. 'Where is thy God?' we may ask them where their gods are when they suffer the very calamities for the sake of avoid which they worship their gods, or main they ought to be worshiped; for the family of Christ is furnished with its reply: our God is everywhere present, wholly everywhere; not confined to any place. He can be present unperceived, and be absent without moving; when He exposes us to adversities, it iseither to prove our perfections or correct our imperfections; and in return for our patient endurance of the sufferings of time, He reserves for us an an everlasting reward. But who are you, that we should deign to speak with you even about your own gods, much less about our God, who is to be feared above all gods? For all the gods of the nations are idols; but the Lord made the heavens'" - Book 1, Chapter 29

Money, sex and power can't save. Those things die. God is eternal, He is incapable of death. When everything fades away, it will be the soul encountering God with no mediation. For the Christian, for those who love God's kingdom, that is a wonderful thing. It is a wonderful thing to be prepared for God's coming kingdom through evils. It is a wonderful thing that God is so sovereign that He uses the calamities of the world for our good.

And for those who worship money, sex and power? I assure you, you're going to have a miserable time in God's kingdom. At the very least, you're going to be poor, ugly, and powerless on day. Heck, some of us are already there!

But it should be noted, we can only trust God because God seeks to bless us in Christ. This leads to my last point.

5) All Felicity Returns to God

Apparently Blaise Pascal once said that a man commits suicide because he seeks to be happy. St. Augustine once wrote that all of paganism can be reduced to one god: Felicity. Fortune. Luck. Blessing.

Again, if you're read CS Lewis, you know where I'm going with this.

With Augustine trying to dismantle polytheistic paganism, he makes a brilliant statement. Felicity is the only god necessary for all of men's dreams to come true. What did he mean?

"But how does it happen, if their books and rituals are true, and Felicity is a goddess, that she herself is not appointed as the only one to be worshipped, since she could confer all things, and all at once make men happy? For who wishes anything for any other reason than that he may become happy? Why was it left to Lucullus to dedicate a temple to so great a goddess at so late a date, and after so many Roman rulers?... For, in presence of Felicity, Fear and Dread would have disappeared - I do not say propitiated, but put to flight... Felicity, however is certainly more valuable than a kingdom. For no one doubts that a man might easily be found who may fear to be made a king; but no one is found who is unwilling to be happy". - Book 4, Chapter 23

We turn to money, sex, and power, because we want joy. If I might be so bold, eternal joy. In fact, Augustine goes as far to say that a man would rather happy than be king. Though to be fair, being a king also upped your chanced of being assassinated.

But you get the point.

But here's the trick, only God can bring joy. Eternal joy, even. The gods can't bring eternal joy because they're terrible people. Money, sex, and power can't bring eternal joy because those three things are fleeting?

But God? He hung Himself on a cross and died so that we might be reconciled to Him. And it's having faith in what God has done in Christ that brings joy. God suffered the curse of being a human in a sinful world in Jesus Christ, all the way to the cross, so that we may live with Him in new bodies in his kingdom.

But that's another blog post, I think.

Granted, I'm not saying you're going to have any psychological health imrpovements. But what I am saying is that Jesus came back from the dead, and that when He returns, His kingdom will be one of eternal felicity.

At the very least, Zeus is a terrible person and the economic woes of the last decades don't pain a strong picture for faith in what we see.

With that, that is what I've gleaned from Augustine so far, or at least, as much as I can fit in a blog post. I didn't want to talk about Roman history, Augustine's Platonic undertones, and his problem with the gods which can go for hundreds of pages.

Take care, God bless.



  1. Excellent! and funny! you are a good writer. I just now got around to reading this = final weeks.
    I especially liked your take on Agustin's view of evil. I didn't know that.

  2. Youre not the general blog writer, man. L'Reve 24k You definitely have something important to contribute to the net. Such a great blog. Ill come back again for more.hello anyone,