Saturday, November 3, 2012

Reading Augustine's City of God

I have posted before about the theology reading group I am in. We meet every second saturday morning for about 90 minutes and discuss a chapter from a book we are reading. We have just started City of God by Augustine.

It is a robust defense of the Christian faith in the context of pagan and political hostility and instability. It presents a model for engagement with both the Bible and the surrounding cultural context. 
Today we discussed Book I. Augustine counters the claim that Christianity undermined the Roman empire leading to the fall of Rome in 410 at the hand of the barbarians.

He points out how non-Christians were spared from atrocities because they found shelter in Christian buildings. Given this what grounds do the opponents of Christ have to criticise what actually saved them. Furthermore, the same household gods failed to save the Greeks so why would they save the Romans.

Augustine critiques several historical Roman figures [e.g. Lucretia, Regulus, Cato] who were held as models of virtue.

There is a detailed discussion of the morality of suicide. It cannot be justified, even as a way to avoid terrible suffering and violence.

Suffering should challenge a Christian to humility, reflection, and repentance. Sometimes God uses suffering to expose sin and to rebuke. In contrast, the Romans have learnt little from their downfall, being ever so eager to return to their sinful lifestyle, particularly embodied in the theatre.

Augustine emphasizes the eternal perspective of the Christian. Nothing that happens in this life, including atrocities against the body, can damage the eternal soul and resurrected body of the Christian.

It may have been written 1600 years ago but it still resonates with issues of today.

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