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Order of St. Augustine
Contents:


  1. St. Augustine Quotes
  2. Church and State: In Defense of Augustine's Allegory of the Two Cities - Reformed Journal
  3. Dr. Kenneth Howell
  4. Augustine: Political and Social Philosophy

In any case, predestination fixes the ultimate destination of every human being—as well as the political states to which they belong. Hence, predestination for Augustine is the proverbial elephant in the room. For those predestined for salvation, what is the point of their being refined by the vicissitudes of life in a political state? In order to prevent the collapse of such a systematic account of the human condition as Augustine provides, the question simply must be set aside as a matter unknowable to finite man.

As the social fabric of the world around him unravels in the twilight years of the Roman Empire, Augustine attempts to elucidate the relationship between the eternal, invisible verities of his faith and the stark realities of the present, observable political and social conditions of humanity. Even though those elected for salvation and those elected for damnation are thoroughly intermingled, the distinction arising from their respective destinies gives rise to two classes of persons, to whom Augustine refers collectively and allegorically as cities—the City of God and the earthly city.

Indeed, the object of their love—whatever it may be—is something other than God. No political state, nor even the institutional church, can be equated with the City of God. What are criminal gangs but petty kingdoms? The state maintains order by keeping wicked men in check through the fear of punishment. In this regard, the institution of the state marks a relative return to order from the chaos of the Fall.

The Augustinians

Rulers have the right to establish any law that does not conflict with the law of God. Citizens have the duty to obey their political leaders regardless of whether the leader is wicked or righteous. There is no right of civil disobedience. Citizens are always duty bound to obey God; and when the imperatives of obedience to God and obedience to civil authority conflict, citizens must choose to obey God and willingly accept the punishment of disobedience. Nevertheless, those empowered to levy punishment should take no delight in the task.

Hence, Augustine concludes that. Augustine clearly holds that the establishment and success of the Roman Empire, along with its embracing of Christianity as its official religion, was part of the divine plan of the true God. Indeed, he holds that the influence of Christianity upon the empire could be only salutary in its effect:. Still, while Augustine doubtless holds that it is better for Rome to be Christian than not, he clearly recognizes that officially embracing Christianity does not automatically transform an earthly state into the City of God.

Augustine does not wish ill for Rome. He sees Rome as the last bastion against the advances of the pagan barbarians, who surely must not be allowed to overrun the mortal embodiment of Christendom that Rome represents. Nevertheless, Augustine cannot be overly optimistic about the future of the Roman state as such—not because it is Rome, but because it is a state; for any society of men other than the City of God is part and parcel of the earthly city, which is doomed to inevitable demise. Even so, states like Rome can perform the useful purpose of championing the cause of the Church, protecting it from assault and compelling those who have fallen away from fellowship with it to return to the fold.

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St. Augustine Quotes

Indeed, it is entirely within the provinces of the state to punish heretics and schismatics. Wars serve the function of putting mankind on notice, as it were, of the value of consistently righteous living. If one were forced to act righteously contrary to his or her will, is it not the case that he or she would still lack the change of heart that is necessary to produce a repentant attitude—an attitude that results in genuine reformation?

Perhaps; but Augustine is unwilling to concede that it is better, in the name of recognizing the agency of others, to let them continue to wallow in evil practices. Augustine argues,. The aim towards which a good will compassionately devotes its efforts is to secure that a bad will be rightly directed. For who does not know that a man is not condemned on any other ground than because his bad will deserved it, and that no man is saved who has not a good will? Exactly how God is to bring about his good purposes through the process of war may not be clear to man in any particular case.

Moreover, those of good will shall administer discipline to those erring by moving them toward repentance and reformation. All of this leads conveniently to a second point: War can bring the need to discipline by chastening. Those of good will do not manifest cruelty in the proper administration of punishment but, rather, in the withholding of punishment. For Augustine, it is always better to restrain an evil man from the commission of evil acts than it is to permit his continued perpetration of those acts.

Writing after the time when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, Augustine holds that there is no prohibition against a Christian serving the state as a soldier in its army.

Church and State: In Defense of Augustine's Allegory of the Two Cities - Reformed Journal

Neither is there any prohibition against taking the lives of the enemies of the state, so long as he does it in his public capacity as a soldier and not in the private capacity of a murderer. Nevertheless, Augustine also urges that soldiers should go to war mournfully and never take delight in the shedding of blood. He becomes quite pessimistic though in his view of human nature and of the ability and desire of humans to maintain themselves orderly, much less rightly.

Augustine holds that, given the inextricable mixing of citizens of the two cities, the total avoidance of war or its effects is a practical impossibility for all men, including the righteous. Happily, he holds that the day will come when, coincident with the end of the earthly city, wars will no longer be fought. For, says Augustine, citing words from the Psalms to the effect that God will one day bring a cessation of all wars,.

For the present, however, man—particularly Christian man—is left with the question of how to live in a world full of war. As the Roman Empire collapses around him, Augustine confronted the question of what justifies warfare for a Christian. On the one hand, the wicked are not particularly concerned about just wars.

This is by no means a perfect solution; but then again, this is not a perfect world. If it were, all talk of just wars would be altogether nonsensical. Perfect solutions characterize only the heavenly City of God. Its pilgrim citizens sojourning on earth can do no better than try to cope with the present difficulties and imperfections of the earthly life.

Dr. Kenneth Howell

Thus, for Augustine, the just war is a coping mechanism for use by the righteous who aspire to citizenship in the City of God. In terms of the traditional notion of jus ad bellum justice of war, that is, the circumstances in which wars can be justly fought , war is a coping mechanism for righteous sovereigns who would ensure that their violent international encounters are minimal, a reflection of the Divine Will to the greatest extent possible, and always justified.


  1. Just War Theory.
  2. Are Christians Obliged to Obey Civil Authorities? | Queens Latino;
  3. An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers.;
  4. Artificial Absolutes (Jane Colt Book 1).
  5. Augustine on War.
  6. Augustine Theory of Political Obligation;

In terms of the traditional notion of jus in bello justice in war, or the moral considerations which ought to constrain the use of violence in war , war is a coping mechanism for righteous combatants who, by divine edict, have no choice but to subject themselves to their political masters and seek to ensure that they execute their war-fighting duty as justly as possible.

Sometimes that duty might arise in the most trying of circumstances, or under the most wicked of regimes; for. In sum, why would a man like Augustine, whose eye is fixed upon attainment of citizenship in the heavenly city, find it necessary to delineate what counts as a just war in this lost and fallen world?

In general terms, the demands of moral life are so thoroughly interwoven with social life that the individual cannot be separated from citizenship in one or the other city. In more specific terms, the just man who walks by faith needs to understand how to cope with the injustices and contradictions of war as much as he needs to understand how to cope with all other aspects of the present world where he is a stranger and pilgrim. Augustine takes important cues from both Cicero and Ambrose and synthesizes their traditions into a Christianized world view that still retains strong ties to the pre-Christian philosophic past.

He resolves the dilemma of just war and pacifist considerations by denying the dilemma: war is simply a part of the human experience that God Himself has ordained or permitted. War arises from, and stands as a clear manifestation of, the nature of fallen man. His approach explains how a morally upright citizen of a relatively just state could be justified in pursuing warfare, in prosecuting war, and ultimately, although unhappily, in taking human life. Augustine as a Christian philosopher achieves a full synthesis of the Roman and Christian values associated with war in a way that legitimizes war as an instrument of national policy which, although inferior to the perfect ideals of Christianity, is one which Christians cannot altogether avoid and with which they must in some sense make their peace.

The former describes the necessary and, by some accounts, sufficient conditions for justifying engagement in war. The latter describes the necessary conditions for conducting war in a just manner.

Understanding Submission and Obedience

Concerning jus in bello , Augustine holds that wars, once begun, must be fought in a manner which:. Augustine distinguishes the two cities in several important ways, as well as the kind of peace they seek:. There is, in fact, one city of men who choose to live by the standard of the flesh, another of those who choose to live by the standard of the spirit. The citizens of each of these desire their own kind of peace, and when they achieve their aim, that is the kind of peace in which they live.

Because the common choice of fallen man is a peace of his own liking—one that selfishly serves his own immediate or foreseeable ends, peace becomes, in practice, merely an interlude between ongoing states of war. Augustine is quick to point out that this life carries with it no guarantee of peace; that blessed state is reserved for the saved in heaven. Sadly, Augustine is abundantly clear that temporal peace is rather an anomalous condition in the totality of human history and that perfect peace is altogether unattainable on earth:.

Such is the instability of human affairs that no people has ever been allowed such a degree of tranquility as to remove all dread of hostile attacks on their dwelling in this world. That place, then, which is promised as a dwelling of such peace and security is eternal, and is reserved for eternal beings. However, Augustine insists that, by any estimation, it is in the best interest of everyone — saint or sinner—to try to keep the peace here and now; and indeed, establishing and maintaining an earthly peace is as fundamental to the responsibilities of the state as protecting the state in times of war.

Interestingly, Augustine gives no suggestion whatsoever that the rest of the earth will be at peace while this violence against the church continues. On the contrary, the entire tenor of his argument suggests that anti-Christian violence is merely typical of the violence and disorder that will accompany the human experience until the second coming of Christ. For see, thou wast within and I was without, and I sought thee out there. Unlovely, I rushed heedlessly among the lovely things thou hast made. Thou wast with me, but I was not with thee. These things kept me far from thee; even though they were not at all unless they were in thee.

Thou didst call and cry aloud, and didst force open my deafness. Thou didst gleam and shine, and didst chase away my blindness. Thou didst breathe fragrant odors and I drew in my breath; and now I pant for thee. I tasted, and now I hunger and thirst. Thou didst touch me, and I burned for thy peace. Conscience is due to yourself, reputation to your neighbor.

Immortality is health; this life is a long sickness. Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation. Begin by descending.

Augustine: Political and Social Philosophy

You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility. All things proclaim Him, all things speak. Their beauty is the voice by which they announce God, by which they sing, "It is you who made me beautiful, not me myself but you. Only to those whose hearts are crushed do you draw close.