AbstractsEarth & Environmental Science

Living in Two Cities: Lessons for the church today from Augustine's City of God

by Deborah Louise Broome

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: Augustine; City of God; Public Theology; eschatology; city; church; earthly city
Record ID: 1313519
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/5575


Reading Augustine’s City of God through the lens of public theology, as well as in conversation with some of his leading commentators, provides an opportunity to discover how Augustine’s account of the two Cities (the civitas Dei and the civitas terrena) might inform the role of Christians in contemporary New Zealand, those who are living both as citizens in temporal society (the secular realm) and members of an alternative, Christian, society. There are parallels between Augustine’s society and our own which make a reading of City of God instructive for the Church today. The occasion of Augustine’s writing of City of God is briefly discussed, as is the theme of the two cities in the Bible and elsewhere in ancient literature. Attention is given to the nature of public theology and significant issues which public theologians must address, including the location of the debate (a secular public square), the language used, and the right to speak. A key notion is ‘seeking the welfare of the city’. Augustine is considered as public theologian and as apologist. The structure of City of God is analysed, key themes considered, and a précis offered which focuses on Augustine’s treatment of the two cities throughout the work. The nature of the City of God and the Earthly City are examined, in discussion with major commentators: the cities are societies defined by their members and by what their members love. The Church is not the City of God, but is rather a sign and an anticipation of it. Likewise, the Earthly City is not Rome, nor the State. The two cities are interwoven and intermixed, perplexae and permixtae with one another, and interact in this present age, in the saeculum. Central to Augustine’s thinking is that members of the City of God on pilgrimage in the world should not withdraw from that world but be involved in its society and institutions. Ways in which Christian communities might engage with the surrounding culture are examined, including the idea of work as loving service; and a number of lessons for the Church today are drawn. Dealing with ‘the other’ and encountering diversity are important issues. The relationship between the Church and the State is considered, as is the nature of the Church as public space in its own right. A deeper relationship between Christian faith and public engagement is encouraged. Central to the application of City of God to our current setting is the idea of the citizens of the civitas Dei on pilgrimage, and what it means to be part of a pilgrim city. Viewing City of God through an eschatological lens is crucial. A major conclusion is that ‘living in two cities’ is not merely a description of what it feels like for Christians today: it is an indication of how our life is actually meant to be.