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Do we Live in a City of God or a City of Man?

The City of God by Augustine of Hippo was written over 1500 years ago, but is a holy work that should be read and understood by more Christians.

“If we were faced with the unlikely proposition of having to destroy completely either the works of Augustine or the works of all the other (Christian) Fathers and Writers, I have little doubt that all the others would have to be sacrificed.  Augustine must remain…..    Of all the Fathers, none wrote so well or so much as Augustine.   He was unique in his time, and none like him has since been seen.” (The Faith of the Early Fathers– Volume 3,  William A. Jurgens)

Transcendent literary works have a tendency to stand the test of time.  It is quite an accomplishment for letters from 1600 years ago to remain today in some form or another.  There are some portions of many of Augustine’s works that still live in the 21st Century, and that is not by mistake.  Over the centuries, learned and holy men and women have studied and salvaged remnants and translations and transcriptions of the brilliant mind and theology of the one who would be referred to as “Saint Augustine”.   It is clear that people do not hold onto such things that have no true significance.  The simple fact that so many of Augustine’s writings were passed down through the ages are proof positive that this man was one of the most instrumental Christians since the Apostles.

History is cyclical and is nearly always relevant.  Today in the United States, do we live in a nation of God, or a nation with man as the centerpiece?  Is the U.S. in a growth mode, bettering ourselves, or are we now in a decline?  Many people draw similarities between today’s America and the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.

“Preceding Augustine’s birth and throughout his lifetime, the Roman Empire had been experiencing a long and slow descent from its glory days. The population decreased in size. Politics and the military struggled. People were migrating. Disease, general health, geologic catastrophes, and weather may have contributed.  Nearing the year 410, Rome itself, though no longer the capital, still stood as a critical city to the welfare of the empire. When the Visigoths rebelled and destroyed the city, dissent among the empire’s citizens mounted….. Society had struggled between the habits of worshipping the old gods and the new and spreading, and hopeful, faith of Christianity. Many people converted, wishing to believe in a strong, steadfast God over the multitude of fickle, fallible, corrupt gods of tradition. Much of the pagan faith may have been placed in the city itself—a monumental place embodying assurance of stability, seemingly destined to last forever.

Rome fell under the Visigoths. The pagan faith was shaken. Christianity offered a place to turn, yet many came to blame Christianity: the abandoned gods had in turn abandoned Rome.

Augustine wrote The City of God in response to this between 412 and 426. His purpose was to bolster the faith of those Christians persuaded to waver in faith, and also to persuade unbelievers on to true faith.  Society was now better primed to accept the theology he put forth.” (Top Ten Most Influential Christians since the Apostles- Matzke, Abby)

 

A spiritual and holy leader, Augustine answered the call from his nation.  In it he describes two cities, and the eventual outcomes of both.  In this tale is wrapped the New Testament central theme of the Second Coming, and the individual eternal choices made by every person.

 

“The earthly [city] has made for herself, according to her heart’s desire, false gods out of any sources at all, even out of human beings, that she might adore them with sacrifices. The heavenly one, on the other hand, living like a wayfarer in this world, makes no false gods for herself. On the contrary, she herself is made by the true God that she may be herself a true sacrifice to Him.” (City of God)

 

What happened in Rome may be happening today all around us.  Do we put our faith and reliance on God, or do we rely on self, money, fame, intellect, or the government?  Wise Christians and non-Christian leaders would do well to take a page out of Augustine and City of God.

About Ken

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Ken Lambert, D.Min, lives with his wife and twin boys in southern New Hampshire, and has written for a variety of religious and secular publications. He is co-author of Top Ten Most Influential Christians- since the Apostles, and is an adjunct instructor for Agape Seminary (Church History, Wisdom Books).

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One comment

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    Ken,

    What a great lesson in history with a wonderful application for today. Yes, we need to learn from the past, but most importantly we need to act on it. I think a lot of times people learn things and they do not act on it. Saint Augustine quite obviously was someone who acted on what he knew to be true, and he went forward to inspire others. I mean “Saint”, what a title to be known by. Could you imagine one day being known as Saint Ken or me as Saint Joel! Ha! Funny thing is we can be extraordinary people just like this great man, and the only person who can ever stop us is ourselves. Thanks for sharing and God bless.

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