City of God

Article

Celebrated apologetic work of Saint Augustine, constituting the most complete defense of Christianity against the attacks of paganism. To grasp fully its import, it is necessary to know the circumstances that led to its writing. In a desperate attempt to crush the new religion, paganism employed libel and calumny besides the sword, the most persistent accusation being that the Christians were guilty of the evils which befell the Roman Empire. At length, however, the Church won her freedom, and had already enjoyed a century of triumph, when the worst calamity of all overtook Rome; on 24 August 410, the city was taken by the Goths. The question of responsibility for the disaster was again raised, and the old charge was revived. Prosperous under the gods, the pagans could now say with a semblance of truth, “Rome perished in Christian times!” The result was demoralizing, for many simple Christians, bewildered and at a loss for a reply, faltered in their faith. In order to encourage these and to refute the ancient calumny, Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, undertook to write the apology which he called “De Civitate Dei” (City of God). In 22 books, written at intervals from 412 to 427, and published in parts as written, the great Doctor surveys the whole course of history pointing out that the downfall of Rome was caused not by the Christians but by the immorality of pagan cults, by the perversions of pagan philosophies, by pagan unbelief, and by the corruption of pagan life. In a historical and doctrinal panorama, he displays God’s plan as embracing and ordaining all things with supreme wisdom and harmony. In the last 12 books, he shows that the natural unity of the human race was broken by the sin of Adam, from whom in consequence sprang two kinds of men or “Cities”; the one ruled by self-love, the other by love of God. The latter constitutes the “City of God,” which in opposition to the civitas Diaboli (city of the devil) will outlast all the kingdoms of this world, and progress invincible and imperishable unto an assured future of happiness. Although the purpose of the “City of God” is directly apologetic, by setting forth the course of humanity in a universal form, unifying it under one Providence, and verxying the providential guidance in the facts of history, it is the first work to offer the distinct outlines of a philosophy of history. Until modern materialism began to cramp the minds of men, few other books wielded as much influence on human thought.

MLA Citation

  • “City of God”. New Catholic Dictionary. Saints.SQPN.com. 30 July 2012. Web. 20 April 2014. <http://saints.sqpn.com/city-of-god/>