Monday, October 6, 2014

"City of God" XIX.24-28

Chapter 24:
Of course, there are other ways to define a "commonwealth" or a "people." We could use the definition "a multitude of reasonable beings voluntarily associated in the pursuit of common interests." Under that definition, we'd have to examine those interests in order to judge them, but this is still at least in some sense a "people," who will be "better or worse.. as the interests which have brought them together are better or worse interests." The problem of course (at least as far as Rome is concerned) is that these "interests" have always been awful--violence, lust for power, civil war, and so on. And yet, the fact that they have wicked interests under this definition at least means that they are some kind of "commonwealth."
The same may be said of any other nation, but what we will consistently find is that all of them, "any civil community made up of pagans who are disobedient to God's command," are lacking in justice however unified they may be around their own goals.

Chapter 25:
Even when they appear to have some kind of virtue in the pagan state, "even when soul and reason do not serve God as He demands." Yet this is a false sham of virtue--indeed it is a vice. This is because these "virtues" are actually defined and shaped by pride rather than by God.

Chapter 26:
In the same way, whatever 'peace' this pagan state has isn't true 'peace'--thought it is also 'not to be scorned.' In fact, "it is to our advantage that there be such peace in this life. For as long as the two cities are mingled together, we can make use of the peace of Babylon. Faith can assure our exodus from Babylon, but our pilgrim status, for the time being, makes us neighbors."
While we are not dedicated to the state in the same way as the nonbelievers, we can enjoy and celebrate the good things that we share together in it as human beings.

Chapter 27:
Still, we pursue our own peace--"namely, peace with God in this world by faith and in the world to come by vision." What we enjoy here is a sort-of negative peace, that is, the absence of conflict. In heaven, we will enjoy a positive peace, that is, an active joy. "Even our virtue in this life, genuine as it is because it is referred to the true goal of every good, lies more in the pardoning of sins than in any perfection of virtues." We see this even in the Lord's prayer, where we are to "forgive our debtors," which is a negative action (for us, not for God of course).
The Lord's prayer is critical, because strength to obey and be virtuous is simply not in us. "Reason may give commands, but can exercise no control without a struggle." And while we struggle, we always sin in every action and thought:
And, in this time of weakness, something will inevitably creep in to make the best of soldiers--whether in victory or still in battle with such foes--offend by some small slip of the tongue, some passing thought, if not by habitual actions.... Who, then, save a proud man, will presume that he can live without needing to ask God: "Forgive us our debts?"
In this life our war against sin is never truly won, and is never won by our own strength:
This, then, in this world, is the life of virtue. When God commands, man obeys; when the soul commands, the body obeys; when reason rules, our passions, even when they fight back, must be conquered or resisted; man must beg God's grace to win merit and the remission of his sins and must thank God for the blessings he receives.
In heaven, however, we will
have no vices and experience no rebellion from within or without. There will be no need for reason to govern non-existent evil inclinations . God will hold sway over man, the soul over the body; and the happiness in eternal life and law will make obedience sweet and easy... That is why the peace of such blessedness or the blessedness of such peace is to be our supreme good.
Chapter 28:
The city of man, however, has doom waiting for it. "And what will make that second death so hard to bear is that there will be no death to end it." This is why (among other reasons) hell is so awful: it is war with no possibility of peace; punishment without remission; and pain without healing. And it is to this separation between the two cities--one to peace and one to punishment, that Augustine will turn next.

No comments:

Post a Comment