Tuesday, October 2, 2018

City of God by Augustine, Part II

City of God
Augustine
Published 426 AD

It has been a few months since I completed Part II of City of God, but I will do my best to review. By  the way, here is my review of Part I, if you are curious.

For starters...I read this book right out of its cover.



Second, at some point I jotted this little note on the title page, in case I forgot what I thought about it:
This is such good stuff. I can read Augustine without too much question of doubt, if any. This is super interesting. 
Next, Part II deals mostly with theology. I especially appreciated how Augustine retold the Ancient stories, as they occurred along side the stories of the Bible -- kind of like chronological crosscut of Egyptian/Assyrian/Greek/Roman and Bible history. I always tried to formulate these events in my mind, and here Augustine made it simple. 

For example, some chapters include: "The arrival of Aeneas in Italy at the time when Labdon was judge over the Hebrews" and "Rome's foundation coincides with the end of the Assyrian kingdom, and with the reign of Hezekiah in Judah."

Some of the topics in Part II cover Creation and how sin entered the world, the Trinity, the nature of angels (good and bad), the creation of man, his soul, the fall of man, death, and God's spirit. 

Around Book XV, Augustine introduces the "two lines of descent of the human race, advancing from the start towards different ends": Cain, who founded a city on earth, belonged to the city of man, and Abel, who was a pilgrim, belonged to the City of God, which is in heaven and produces its citizens here on earth, "brought forth by grace." Christ's Church is the City of God.

One fascinating note: there is a chapter on how Noah's ark is a symbol of Christ and the Church. In my notes I added: "Where does Augustine get this from?" (It's not like he had access to Google or Siri.) 

For many books and chapters, Augustine takes his readers through the genealogy of the biblical people, from Adam and all the way to Jesus, while marking their paths to the city of man or the City of God. Then toward the end of Part II, Augustine covers Revelation and the Last Days. 

And because it is Augustine, he has no reservation refuting those ideas which he disagrees, such as those who claim the sacraments save you from eternal punishment, that the guilty will be spared through the intercession of the saints, that only Catholics are saved, that punishment will last forever, or that good works will save us. And there are many more.

Of course, I struggled with the chapters on examples of miracles. I still do not know what to say about people being healed with "saint's oil." 

Finally, the last thing I will mention is in chapter six in Book XXII: "The Romans made Romulus a god because they loved him; the Church loved Christ because it believed him to be God." Augustine explains
Christ is the founder of the eternal Heavenly City, that City's belief in Christ as God does not arise from her foundation by him; the truth is that her foundation arises from her belief in Christ as God. Rome worshipped her founder as  a god after she had been built and dedicated; but this Heavenly Jerusalem put Christ as the foundation of her faith, so that she might be built and dedicated. 
As massive as this read is, its ending was anti-climatic; then again, it was not meant to be a novel, but a series of short essays or writings on related ideas and topics. The short chapters were perfect for reading a little bit every day.

IS THIS BOOK FOR YOU?

Since City of God is over 1000 pages long, it is not easily committed to; however, as I said, the short chapters make it manageable. It is for readers who LOVE ancient history, theology, philosophy, and Greek and Roman mythology. Augustine is a great writer, and his arguments are enjoyable. He is plain and literal and even a little snarky at times.

While I will probably never read it again, I am definitely grateful to have read it this once. It was worth it.

City of God, Part I

2 comments:

James said...

You have certainly made this great book sound interesting and very tempting for one who loves ancient history, theology, and philosophy. While I've read Augustine's Confessions many times (and would recommend it), I've yet to tackle this one. Now it is definitely on my short list.

Ruth said...

I have a feeling you will greatly appreciate it. It is for readers with a mature interest in important literature.

BTW, Confessions is a favorite for me, and I believe I like even more than City of God. I hope to reread it again, one of these days.