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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Startling - Augustine's "The City of God"

Near the end of his life, Augustine spent a decade writing his major work, "The City of God." I'm at location 4,900+ out of 29,000+ locations on my Kindle, and he still hasn't given much in the way of his Christian theology, for which he is most famous.

His beginning is odd. I'm not sure - stoic, fatalist, or just coldly observant. He writes at the beginning of this book of the sacking of Rome that went on in his lifetime, beginning in 410 C.E. This book was completed in 426 C.E. in Hippo where he lived. He writes of the huge numbers of deaths in Rome and says things like They were going to die anyway, sooner or later, for all die. He writes of the stacks and stacks of corpses and says things like Dead bodies feel no sensations, so it really doesn't matter they are not yet buried. For someone who is going to be sainted, this seems oddly lacking in compassion, although technically accurate.

I guess this fits in with the next sections and premises. Rome and Greece have been wicked, violent, licentious, while true to their gods who were either ineffective in protecting them or were demons. He argues through huge mountains of data regarding wars and insidious attacks and murders and intrigues and horrible things in the history of these powerful nations. He indicates that there is a popular point of view that they were sacked because of Christianity and the people's slacking away from their traditional gods. Augustine, in excruciating detail, debunks this theory.

I look forward to getting to the point where he feels his case is laid sufficiently and can go forward explaining his view of Christianity. So far, in his defense of Christianity, he has made a few comments such as Christians would not behave so. He has made a point that I have made from time to time, that once Christianity became an imperial religion, its nature and teaching changed. I personally work to peel the imperial stamp and theology away, and to go back to the brilliant teachings of Jesus.

I also see in the history of Rome some disturbing parallels to our current situation as a nation and as Western civilization. I am reminded of the old adage He/She who does not know history is condemned to repeat it.

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