Feb 26, Fergus rated it it was amazing. You know, there are two ways of getting answers in the world Sub specie aeternitatis, transcendental answers are the ONLY important ones. One of them is a cold, grasping, calculating - in a word, selfish - world; the other is a world of warm, compassionate, caring, but quite ordinary, human beings. In a word, a loving world. Hard to believe? Take a closer look at the people around you. Some of them uniformly choose to do good.
God threw away the mold when He made that city If ONLY all the people who are still living there knew they had another, better choice of city to live in The second, of course, is the City of God. Hence the title. The fabled Stairway to Heaven no apologies to Led Zeppelin! The City of the Fall is full of hidden snakes, who will take us down to the Underworld, and hence back to square one.
The City of Salvation, though, is full of Ladders - taking us up to paradise - and the finish line. Going up, up to our Lost First World - you know, the one we knew when we were very little These two worlds DO exist, and they're engaged in an ongoing battle. To death! And you know what else?
We must - each of us - choose a side! Here and now - in THIS world. Which side will WE be on?
Will we gain Happiness or lose Everything? And lose the whole game! View all 22 comments. Once on the beach at Utica, I saw with my own eyes—and there were others to bear me witness—a human molar tooth so big that it could have been cut up, I think, into a hundred pieces each as big as one of our modern teeth. This book arguably set the tone for the entire Middle Ages that followed. It is a vast, Once on the beach at Utica, I saw with my own eyes—and there were others to bear me witness—a human molar tooth so big that it could have been cut up, I think, into a hundred pieces each as big as one of our modern teeth.
It is a vast, sweeping, powerful, and cockamamie book; it is a true classic. Augustine wrote The City of God over a period of 13 years. He began the work when he was 59, and finished it when he was It was a brutal defeat for the Romans, with much destruction, rape, pillage, and death. More than that, it was a symbolic defeat, the first time Rome had been taken by a foreign enemy in hundreds of years.
Unsurprisingly, the remaining pagans blamed the newly ascendant Christians for this calamity. If the old gods were worshiped, the critics argued, this never would have happened. Rome was never taken when Jupiter was praised and when Nike, goddess of victory, was gracing the Curia of the Roman Senate. By the middle, the beginning has been forgotten; and by the end, the middle is a distant memory. Because Augustine frequently interrupts his main points to indulge in lengthy digressions, the reader is often mired in pages and pages of side-issues and curiosities.
Yet there does remain one vital central idea. I even have it easier than most readers, since I read an abridgment—meant to cut out much of the extraneous material. Even so, there is a new topic on almost every page. Early on in the book, Augustine considers whether virgins who were raped in the sack of Rome have lost their virginity. He argues that, as long as they did not consent and did not enjoy it, they are still virgins.
Augustine even argues that being raped might have been a good thing for some of them, since it taught them not to be haughty about their virginity. It's frightening that, at the time, this opinion was considered quite progressive. Augustine thinks Adam did live years. In resolving this question, Augustine notes that there are several discrepancies in the ages reported of certain people in different versions of the Bible; specifically, the original Hebrew Bible said one thing, and the Septuagint said another.
The legend says that all 70 scribes completed their translations separately, only comparing them at the end, and they turned out to be all miraculously identical. Augustine concludes that, though the Septuagint was indeed divinely inspired, where it differed from the original Hebrew, the original should be trusted. In a lengthy section, Augustine attempts to correlate secular history with biblical history, doing his best to place the events of the Old Testament in the context of Greek and Roman history.
Augustine is against judicial torture, thinking it vile and illogical to torture witnesses and the accused. For, if one does not exist, he can be no means be mistaken. Therefore, I am, if I am mistaken. Augustine attempts to prove that living, physical bodies can, indeed, be tortured endlessly in the fires of hell, since, as everyone knows, salamanders live in fire, and peacock meat never putrefies. He observed this piece of meat for a whole year, noting that even after all that time it never began to stink; it only got dry and shriveled.
Now, presumably the piece of meat had been thoroughly cooked and salted, so make of that what you will. As the man was fearful of going under the knife, Augustine and several other friends had a loud and fervent prayer session before the surgery. And the surgery was a success!
Now for some more meaty issues. Augustine thinks, for example, that before the fall, Adam and Eve could choose to have sex without any feeling of sexual desire; all of the physiological prerequisites for intercourse to use a polite expression were under just as much control as our arms and legs. In short, Adam could just choose to have an erection without feeling horny. But now, in order to reproduce, we are at the mercy of our desires, which we cannot directly control and which threaten to overwhelm our rational minds.
Thus is the sorry state of fallen man. As a consequence of this belief, Augustine also argues that unbaptized infants go to hell; not being cleansed of original sin, they simply must. Since humankind is fallen, it is impossible for us without God's aid to do good deeds and to achieve salvation; salvation is granted from God, it is a gift of divine grace, not something we earn. Augustine also believed in predestination.
God, being omniscient, foreknew which people would end up saved, and which would end up damned. So in addition to anticipating Descartes and Kant, Augustine also anticipates Calvin. Just the reverse: many people argued vociferously against these doctrines. As befitting a great Christian thinker, Augustine also tackles some of the perennial problems of Christian philosophy. One of these is free will. Now, without free will, the entire worldview of Christianity collapses, since then there is no fair basis of separating people into the saved and the damned.
Yet God is omnipotent and omniscient; this means that when He created the world, He knew exactly what was going to happen. So how can we reconcile these attributes of God with free will? Augustine also addresses the so-called problem of evil. If God was truly all-powerful and purely good, why is there evil in the world?
Augustine makes several classic replies. First, he notes that, by allowing some evil in parts of creation, the whole might be, by consequence, even better, as the resulting goodness outweighs the evil. In short, goodness is cheap unless it is tested with temptation; so the presence of some evil is necessary for the existence of good. Augustine also notes that God never causes evil directly, since it is only His creatures that choose evil.
Thus, God never created anything evil; all existence, as existence, is good; His creatures, through their own perversity, have sometimes chosen evil.
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So even Satan himself, insofar as he exists, is good; though his nature has been corrupted by his wicked ways this corruption presumably being some sort of deficiency in his existence. Augustine even plays with Aristotelian terminology, saying that evil never has an efficient cause the direct, or proximate, cause of something , but only a deficient cause. And this is because, even if God is not indeed the proximate cause of evil, He would still be the ultimate cause, since He created the universe with full knowledge that evil would result from His action.
And arguably the soldiers on both sides do have some share in the responsibility, since each of them chose to participate, to fight, to kill, to risk their lives, and so on. Yet ultimately it was my decision to send all these people into battle, and I think I would share a large portion of the responsibility and if the action were unjust the guilt. If the war was indeed justified and necessary, and the result was good for the world, that would make the action excusable, but it would not negate all of the pain and suffering inflicted on the soldiers, nor would it make me any less responsible for their fate.
Besides, I find this whole business of balancing good and evil, as if weighing a scale, quite absurd.
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If an innocent person suffers, if a single child is abused or crippled by sickness, how can any amount of goodness elsewhere make that okay? Imagine there are ten people on an island with very limited food. There is only enough food for each person to stay alive, but not enough to make them energetic and happy. Does that justify killing the man? I think not. My point is that the happiness of the many cannot be balanced against the misery of the few, like an accountant balancing an earnings report. Augustine divides up humankind into two metaphorical cities: the City of Man and the City of God.
Members of the City of Man are swollen with pride; they think that they can achieve happiness in this life, through satisfying their bodily desires or by practicing human virtue; by creating peaceful cities and just laws; by trade, wealth, power, fame, and wisdom. Yet, noble as some of them may be, this goal is pure vanity. In this life, we are too beset with troubles and uncertainties to have real happiness. States try to create justice, but their laws are frail human creations, constantly failing to attain their goal of absolute justice—since so many sinners go unpunished and so many innocents are unduly condemned—with the result that the laws are always being changed, updated, reformed, and differ from country to country, from place to place, all without getting any closer to their goal.
The Stoics attempt to achieve happiness through virtue alone, without any hope of heaven; and yet how often do painful disease, the loss of a loved one, the failure of a scheme, the unquenchable passions in our breast overwhelm our reason and cast us into abject misery? Members of the City of God are not exempt from any of these miseries. However, they know that they are mere pilgrims on this earth.
They place their hopes, not in this life, but in the life to come. This doctrine, though simple enough, proved to be immensely influential. Augustine not only separates church and state, but subordinates the state to the church. Temporal authority is just the product of consensus, while the authority of the church comes from God.
The resultant history of the Middle Ages, with the rising political power of the Catholic Church, owes much to Augustine for its intellectual justification and formulation. Again, the importance and influence of this book could hardly be overestimated.
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After spending so much energy reading, summarizing, and responding to this book, I am almost at a loss for how to make a final evaluation. Augustine is obviously a genius of the highest order, and even now it is difficult for me to avoid be sucked into the endless labyrinths of his mind.
This is especially impressive to me when I consider that I am not a Catholic, not even a Christian, and disagree with almost everything he says.
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More than that, although I have immense admiration for his originality and his brilliance, I often find his perspective unhealthy, intolerant, dogmatic, and generally unappealing. Perhaps what I like least about Augustine is his incredible, I would even say his morbid, sense of sin. In his Confessions , there is a famous section where he berates his child-self for stealing a peach from a peach tree.
From his rhetoric, you would think that he committed a genocide; even after all these years, he seems wracked with guilt and filled with shame. To me, as I suspect to many others nowadays, this is absurd, even a bit childish. I admit a part of me wants to admire him for feeling so bad for his misdeeds; but when I really think it over, I do not even find this admirable.
The sense of sin is, in my opinion, an unrealistic and unhealthy way of thinking. I think the whole idea of sin is wrong-headed. This makes no sense to me. Sometimes people commit bad actions; but, to me, it is more sensible to focus on why the action was bad, rather than how the person is evil for committing this action. For example, if I get angry and say something hurtful to my friend, I can respond to it by isolating what I said, figuring out why I said it, determining why my friend thought it was hurtful—which requires empathy—and then apologizing to my friend and trying to learn from this experience.
Or I might, as Augustine would, start thinking about how I have done an evil thing, pray incessantly, beg God for forgiveness, and for years afterward torment myself with the thought of this wrong action. The first is adult and responsible, the second is self-obsessed and self-absorbed. To me, this endless chastisement for bad actions is immature on many levels. Second, since the sense of sin makes people obsess about whether they will be damned or saved, it makes people think about their actions through an intensely selfish lens—their own fate—rather than promoting good behavior through empathizing with those around you.
So in summary I find the idea of sin to be counterproductive to living a happy and ethical life. Yet, if I am to practice what I preach, I must not condemn Augustine the man for this behavior, but only a bad habit of thinking he developed. And if I am to weigh everything lovable and unlovable in the scales of my affection, I must admit that I find Augustine to be one of the most compelling personalities and extraordinary thinkers in all of history. This is not a book for just Catholics, or even just for Christians.
This is a book for everyone, for all of time. View all 20 comments. I only had to read half of this for school. But it was still really long. Imagine you're in a math class. And the teacher says, "Now we're going to learn about numbers: one plus one is two, two plus two is four, etc. I get that.
This is sort of how City of God treated me. Augustine would say, "So God created angels, the world, Adam and Eve And then my brain explodes from trying to comprehend eternity. Also, it does not help when Augustine goes on one of his many tangents. Like, "So about God's will.
Some people think it's like fate. It's not. Hey, speaking of fate, you know why astrology is wrong? Because twins are born under the same stars and they don't live identical lives! So there! But back to God's will. And you spend all this time reading about astrology and twins before coming back to the main point. I did appreciate all the thought that Augustine put into his writing. It sounds like he very much loved the Bible. Which is really cool. And he goes through a lot of really exciting concepts.
It's just View all 3 comments. Shelves: own. This is one of my favorite works. Yeah, I know you're skeptical, but here me out. I've begun my quest to read the basic works of western man beginning with Gilgamesh and in sequence reading through to the present. It's a lifelong ambition. I've read most of the ancient works of some repute, including Roman histories from Greek and Roman historians. Shortly after the first sack of Rome, Augustine wrote it not as an apology for the claim that This is one of my favorite works.
Shortly after the first sack of Rome, Augustine wrote it not as an apology for the claim that Christianity was responsible for the decay of Rome, but as a defense against that allegation. He then summarizes the histories as recorded to show internal corruption, incompetence, immorality and the quest for wealth caused the decay - not Christianity.
I read the same material he did! That's way cool! I knew exactly what he was saying and with what facts he prosecuted his claim. Then he projected that even if the City of Rome were to fall, Christians can look forward ultimately to their City of God. Highly recommended. A new jewel in the crown of the meantime famous and worldwide highly appreciated series!
Augustine of Hippo is one of the greatest thinkers and writers of the Western world. After he converted to Christianity he became bishop of Hippo in North Africa, where he was influential in civil and church affairs. His writings have had a lasting impact on Western philosophy and culture. Contact us. Akins Richard. Armstrong John H. Armstrong Regis. Augustine of Hippo. Badetti Luca. Bemporad Jack. Billy Dennis. Boulding Maria. Brink Laurie.
Cabetas Paloma. Camosy Charles. Canzani Francisco. Carlson David. Chemen Silvina. Ciardi Fabio. Deats Richard. Delio Ilia. Ranaghan Dorothy. Gillet Florence. Gold Lorna. Guadagno Geraldine. Hemmerle Klaus. James Michael. Kessler Michael. Koch Carl. Leahy Brendan. Augustine elaborates the notion of predestination that all things are preordained by God , an idea taken up much later by Martin Luther and John Calvin.
Discuss this crucial idea and its implications. Augustine was deeply interested in the workings of the human mind. In what ways does The City of God shed light on your own experience of being human?
The concept of doubt was crucial for St. How is this concept elaborated in The City of God? Augustine, The City of God is the autobiography of the Church written by the most Catholic of her great saints.