De Civitate Dei

Aurelius Augustinus
A.D. 426

This book on "the City of God" should find a ready readership despite its heft—1,500 pages. This is a book "for the ages," but never more relevant than now.

It is a wonder that bestselling author (Confessiones) Bishop Augustine found time to work on this monument, the latest of his nearly 1,000 titles. And he accomplished all this while conscientiously attending to pastoral duties in the busy African port city of Hippo, a place crowded with refugees since Rome was sacked in 410!

That trauma in Rome hit Augustine so hard that he's been working on his response for over 13 years. The result is both impassioned and literate. The author, well-schooled in rhetoric, cites the major Roman authors along with Christian Scriptures as he displays both the zeal of the convert and the evidence of long hours in the study.

These may be "post-pagan" times, but pagan authors got a second wind after inhaling the smoke of burning Rome. Christian residents of the Eternal City are blamed for its decline and fall. Augustine ably defends the faith amid these attacks.

Augustine's device is to divide reality into two realms, the temporal (or earthly) city and the heavenly. Expect many misreadings. This is not an outline for how to separate or unite "church" and "state," nor does it call for Christians to set up a distinct domain—call it "Christendom." (If things go wrong with such a setup, expect dark ages ahead.)

So what is this tome about? It is about love for the best things in the temporal city mixed with expressions of sorrow and sometimes fury over what goes wrong in it. Augustine is, after all, an expert on human sins, having experimented with more than a few in his youth.

A consistent theme in the ...

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