Thursday, July 11, 2019

July 9 -- Adult Ed Series on the City of God, Session 2 of 16, St Augustine's Theology and Overview of the City of God (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

In this series, which will continue for about six months, we are discussing the City of God by St Augustine of Hippo - certainly, one of the most influential books in the history of the Church, a book that formed Western Civilization.

Session 2 -- The key concepts of St Augustine's theology, especially as they relate to the City of God. Also, notes and suggestions on how to read The City of God, and suggestions on which chapters to read carefully and which can be skipped over or skimmed.

[Handouts for the session are below]

Listen online [here]!

The City of God
By St Augustine of Hippo
Session 2, St Augustine’s Theology and Overview of The City of God

The gods of the nations are demons. (Ps 95)
Glorious things are said of thee, o City of God! (Ps 86)

Note on schedule: Four introductory sessions in July. 1. Who is St Augustine? 2. St Augustine’s theology and Overview of The City of God. 3. Key concepts of Books I-X, St Augustine’s reply to paganism. 4. The problem of evil and Divine Providence. [subject to revision]

I. Review of Introduction
A. Why read The City of God? It is arguably the most important book for the medieval period outside of the Bible – it has shaped civilization.
B. Who was St Augustine? AD 354-430, convert after a sinful youth, Bishop of Hippo.
C. Heresies St Augustine fought: Manichaeism, Donatism, Pelagianism, Arianism.
D. The historical context of the Fathers of the Church. A unique time in history.
E. The Fall of Rome, AD 410 - to the outwardly Christian Visigoth King Aleric. The sack of Rome is the historical event which inspired St Augustine to write of the city of men which will pass away and the City of God which endures forever.

II. Key points of St Augustine’s theology
A. The problem of evil and of suffering. This is particularly important in the first ten books of The City of God.   
1. Question: If God is good and truly has power over events in the world, why does he allow evil?  Or, put more systematically, the perfection of Goodness would entail the annihilation of all evil – even as perfect heat removes all coldness.
2. Both the good and the bad suffer material harm and both gain material prosperity, so that we learn not to put our hope in material goods.
3. The good and the bad suffer the same external pains, but with very different interior effects.

B. Just War and Capital Punishment
1. Just war: Just intention, comparative justice, legitimate authority to declare war, attempt to do least damage to civilians, only as a last resort.
2. Death penalty: God has full authority over life and death, and he can exercise his authority also through the human minister of the State.

C. The Doctrine of Original Sin, this is especially important in Books XI-XIV
1. The sin of Adam which is transmitted to all his children. How we inherit the fallen nature from Adam, even though Original Sin is not a personal or actual sin.
2. Modern heresies: Polygenism (multiple first parents), denial of original sin, making original sin only the sinful world, etc.

D. The role of the Church and of the State
1. The Earthly City of Man and the Eternal City of God. The role of the State in relation to the City of God.
2. Christian States and the Holy Roman Empire.

E. The interpretation of Sacred Scripture
1. The senses of Scripture: Literal and Allegorical.  Literal, the historical meaning of the text, and the meaning of the words themselves. Allegorical, the spiritual meaning of the text and the way in which things from history can symbolize or foreshadow future realities.  Allegorical, how the Old points to the New. Tropological/Moral, interpreting the text as a symbol for the soul or for moral living. Anagogical, how the text foreshadows the end of time.
2. The different versions and translations of the Bible – Hebrew, Greek (LXX, Septuagint), Latin (old versions and St Jerome’s Vulgate).
3. The Canon of Scripture, especially the Old Testament.

F. Other: Purgatory, veneration of the Saints, the Eucharist and Mass, Baptism, etc.

III. Notes and suggestions on reading The City of God
A. Size of the work: The work is made up of 22 books, each consisting of about 30 chapters (up to even 54 chapters) which are generally about one or two pages long. Thus, the total work (in our “Modern Library” edition) is nearly 900 pages.

B. Historical timeline: St Augustine started writing in 413 (three years after the fall of Rome) and continued for about fourteen years until 426, ages 59 to 72! Many interruptions as he worked on the project, some of which are noted in the text itself. Also, it was published in stages, as is sometimes evident from the writing.

C. General Outline:
Part I, Books I-X. A defense of Christianity and a polemical critique of pagan religion (Books I-V, against pagan religion; Books VI-X, against pagan philosophy). 
Part II, Books XI-XXII. The City of God traced from Genesis to Revelation, and the Final Judgment (Books XI-XIV, the Creation and the Fall; Books XV-XVIII, Old Testament prophecies about Jesus and his testimony about Himself in the Gospels; Books XIX-XXII, The Final Judgement).

We can approach these two parts (Books I-X and XI-XXII) almost as two distinct works. We will focus much more intensely upon the second part of the work, in which St Augustine presents the Catholic view of Scripture and of human history.

D. The five part division of City of God (from St Augustine himself)
1. The Pagan gods and Earthly Happiness (Books I-V) – ancient history
2. The Pagan gods and Eternal Happiness (Books VI-X) – paganism and philosophy
3. The Origin of the Two Cities (Books XI-XIV) – angels/demons, Original Sin, death
4. The Development of the Two Cities (Books XV-XVIII) – Old Testament to Christ
5. The Ends of the Two Cities (Books XIX-XII) – the End of the World and Judgment

E. Recommended chapters for special focus, from Books I-X
Book I: Chapters 1-14, 35-36
I.1-7, Overview of the sack of Rome
I.8-12, Why bad things happen to good people
I.13-14, Honoring the bodies of the saints
I.35-36, Membership in the City of God and overview of the book

Book II: Chapters 2-14
II. 2, Review of Book I
II.3-14, Good example of St Augustine’s polemical style arguing against paganism

Book III: Chapters 1, 31
III.1, Overview of the history of the world before Jesus Christ
III.31, That Christ is not to be blamed for the fall of Rome

Book IV: Chapters 1-3, 18-34
IV.1-2, Review of Books I-III
IV.3, True happiness is not a vast empire or worldly power
IV.18-25, Of the goddesses “Virtue” and “Felicity/Happiness” and proof that true happiness only comes from God
IV.33-34, God gives power to both good people and bad, but only the good are happy

Book V: Chapters 1-11
V.1-7, Against astrology – A good example of St Augustine’s polemical arguing against pagan worship and superstitions
V.8-11, Brilliant explanation of Divine Providence and Divine Foreknowledge, and human free will

Book VI: Chapter 12
VI.12, An overview of Book VI, that the pagan gods don’t give eternal life

Book VII: Chapter 30-33
VII.30, The one God created all things, but remains only one God
VII.31-33, The place of Jesus Christ and Christians in human history and in the history of salvation

Book VIII: Chapter 27
VIII.27, We honor the saints, but worship only God alone

Book IX: Chapters 14-23
IX.14-15, How Christ is the mediator between God and man, being Divine and Human
IX.19-23, The knowledge that angels and demons have

Book X: Chapters 4-20
X.4-8, Of sacrifices offered to the true God

X.12-20 Of God’s manifestation or revelation of himself to men


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