Friday, February 28, 2014

"City of God" IV.31-34

Chapter 31:
Even in the best pagan writers (Varro this time), we see an understanding of the true God. Unfortunately, this understanding is buried both because of confusion over His exact nature and because of fear of what the "rabble" will do to any who speaks contrary to the common religion. Only the grace of God in Christ and through the Spirit can set men free from such superstitious bondage.

Chapter 32:
Political leaders, too, seem to know the truth about the One true Holy God, and yet they suppress it as well--this not out of fear (as with Varro), but out of social and political ambition and the desire to keep society bound together in one unified civil religion. Besides, the example of the gods' lives allows these leaders free reign in pursuing their own vices.

Chapter 33:
Political power, therefore, is a gift of God to good and bad alike, while happiness He gives only to the good (those who have received his saving grace). How does he decide who will receive worldly glory? "Neither does He do this rashly, and, as it were, fortuitously,—because He is God not fortune,—but according to the order of things and times, which is hidden from us, but thoroughly known to Himself; which same order of times, however, He does not serve as subject to it, but Himself rules as lord and appoints as governor."
This is the doctrine of the secret will of God, from which unfolds history and election and reprobation and all the other mysterious governances of creation. For an extended treatment of this subject in a thoroughly Augustinian vein, see John Calvin's Defense of the Secret Providence of God.

Chapter 34:
We see that all these things are true when we look at the record of the Jews in the Old Testament. They prospered without worshiping any of the pagan gods or performing pagan rites, and it was only when they turned to those very gods and rites that they were punished and their kingdom destroyed. But that is the subject of the next book...

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