In his magnum opus City of God, the great church father Augustine laid out his vision for a flourishing society centered on God. Notwithstanding the fact that this book has laid the foundation for many aspects of the Western Civilization, the book cannot be more significant for us today, when once again, our generation is losing a vision of a good society. Living under the regime of a quasi-socialist state, many Christians in America are lost between the choice of living in toleration of moral compromises or retreating into a bunker community. We are losing the vision of the city of God.
Let us go back in history and remind ourselves of the significance of this book. The book was complete in 426 AD by Augustine in response to Roman accusation that Christians did not worship the Roman gods so that their gods punished the empire by allowing the Visigoths to sack Rome. We are going through a similar persecution now, when Christians are accused of being narrow-minded and not supporting the liberal vision of tolerating all types of sexuality and all types of gender, and thereby contributing to the injustice in our society. The similarity in challenge is this: Non-Christians are pointing to the fundamental Christian beliefs as the source of social disruption and injustice.
Thus, as with Augustine’s generation, we have two options. Option #1: Believe in non-Christian accusation, compromise with our beliefs, and make peace with the world. Option #2: Realize that these accusations are Satanic, and their goal is to not only separate us from God, but to destroy the Christian vision of a good society. That is what’s at stake. We must teach our children how antithetical are these two visions of a good society, train them to discern the difference, and train their ability to defend the Christian vision of a good society.
Here are the basic insights of the City of God:
1). From the beginning of time, there are two societies with two conflicting visions. It began with Cain murdering his brother Abel. The children of Cain went on living dependent on the strength of man, thus the City of Man. The children of Seth, whom God gave in place of Abel, began to “call upon the Lord” (Gen 4:26), thus beginning the City of God, a city intentionally dependent upon God.
2) City of God is a city where Christ reigns, so that despite the failings of people, there is grace, forgiveness, and obedience to Christ and his law. City of Man is a city where man intentionally rejects the reign of Christ, and they seek to bring about unity by man’s own effort. The best example of this is the Tower of Babel.
3) These two cities are not political, but spiritual societies, and the two cities intermingle in real life. In other words, true Christians do not live in holy huddles. They live in the world, although not of the world. But wherever they are, Christians live with their allegiance to Christ and live in obedience to the law of Christ, so that they become a good kind of leaven for the bread, a fragrance of Christ to those around them.
4) Ultimately, both cities will grow. The City of Man will grow with all its wickedness. But at the same time, the City of God will grow and the influence of the followers of Christ will be a blessing to this world. Through the book City of God, Augustine proved the opposite of his accusers: Christians in Rome served as a preservative that kept Rome from further decay.
We have the hindsight of the great influence of the City of God on the further development of the Western Civilization based on the Lordship of Christ, and the obedience of Christians to the law of God.
The obvious lesson we should learn from the legacy of this book are twofold:
We need to teach our children (and the adults) the reality of the City of God and its influence in this world, and the need to trust and submit to the lordship of Christ.
We need to train our children to do what Augustine did--to defend the reality of the City of God, against all those who try to destroy it.