Saturday, July 19, 2008

City of God

I'm listening to City of God, by St. Augustine, as an audiobook.

In short, it's gold.

Augustine writes to address an idea in Rome that the reason it was recently sacked is because the Christians made the Romans stop worshiping their old Gods.

It's book full of wit and argumentation. For example, Augustine starts by saying, 'so, you think your Roman gods would have saved you. Well, then how come they got deposed by Christianity in the first place?'

Some bullet points:

-Augustine writes and thinks in a style surprisingly familiar to my Evangelical mind. This is reassuring because some would have us believe that time and location have made it hard or impossible to understand the writings of long ago. It's clear to me Augustine and I practice the same faith and understand it in the same way.

-Augustine unapologetically tells the non-Christians that they've just plain got it wrong. It's a style I appreciate, and all the more for its current unpopularity.


Ben said...

Not surprising that you find yourself thinking like Augustine. As you and I well know from the seminar (and as you probably know better than I now) we're all probably following Augustine to some degree. He's like, the most influential Christian thinker since Paul.

Out of curiosity, where did you happen to pick up a City of God audiobook?

Extraneous side note: If you pick up a movie called City of me, it's not about Augustine.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Yes, Augustine is practically the only Church father in the West (there's others, of course, like Tertullian, whom I like to read despite the fact that he left the Orthodox Church), and so it is not surprising, as Ben said, that we're all probably following him in some degree (or, at least most of us). As for Church fathers, I cut my teeth on exactly what you're listening to and enjoying, City of God, along with his Confessions.

What's for sure is that the Church fathers really aren't as irrelevant and hard to understand as many believe. If I listened to audio-books, I'd also ask you where you found it, and of course, what translation is used. But then again, I don't.

Thanks for sharing your insights.

kennyching said...

I got the audiobook on iTunes for $40. Not cheap, but to me worth it as it makes it much more likely that I'll actually make it through this really lengthy text.

Romanos, I wonder if you could elaborate on your comment that Augustine is the only church father in the West. What do you mean by this?

Andrew Kenny said...

There are some good biographies of Augustine. My favourite is the very readable 'Augustine, Wayward Genius: The Life of Saint Augustine of Hippo' by David Bentley-Taylor.

This is a very balanced biography of him. Some biographers either love him or hate him. He was not perfect and had his faults especially when viewed from a non-Calvinistic perspective.

Calvin was a great admirer. Certainly all the Reformers who believed in predestination followed his lead. Luther also loved him and quoted him often.

One thing for sure he was a man who loved God and also recognised his own sinful nature. He also had a child out of wedlock before he came to faith and if I remember right they were baptised at the same time. Much of this was put down to his mother Monica's faithful prayers. He therefore understood greatly the grace of God.

I was stuck when reading the COG that he never ignored the difficult passages of Scripture i.e. those verses that you think don’t make sense and are ignored by most Bible commentators.

His confessions are certainly a book that most Christians would do well to read.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

"Augustine is practically the only Church father in the West," should not be taken as an exhaustive or categorical statement, but I have read it or heard it innumerable times in sources both West and East. What I meant to say is that among the early Church fathers, taken as a whole, only Augustine stands out as a Latin father of notice, notwithstanding others such as Gregory the Great, Tertullian, Salvian, Vincent of Lerins, and so on. Others, such as Irenaeus of Lyons, though in the West, was in fact a Greek and an eastern Church father. The Western Church has been influenced by Augustine of Hippo to such a degree as is unknown in the East, where no single Church father has such a universal appeal or following.

Luther and many of the other Reformers, even among the Roman Catholics, were essentially Augustinian, and the essence of classic Protestantism is Augustinian.

The Eastern Church has no concept of original sin as we find in Augustine, and so his writings strike a discordant note in Orthodoxy. In the West, sin is regarded as the breaking of God's Law and is expressed in Roman frames of reference, which are based on law. In the East, sin is regarded as the breaking of the divine image in man, and the life of salvation is expressed in Greek and Hebrew frames of reference, which are based on …I don't know what to say here exactly, because the Greek mind is philosophic and mystical, and the Hebrew mind is legal, but in a different way than the Roman mind. Forgive me, but I'm at a loss to explain it any further.

I don't set up the Latin West and the Greek/Hebrew East in opposition to each other. This is one of the few discussions in which I can say, that both paths though differing in tangibles lead to the same end. I can prefer the Eastern approach without denying or rejecting the Western, and I admit I have some of both in my own Christian life, which is why I can bridge them.

Again, hopefully I have not given cause for offense to anyone, or muddied the waters.

kennyching said...

Thanks for these thoughts, Romanos. We're woefully ignorant in the West of our Eastern brethren.