Tuesday Dec 01, 2020

Augustine's City of God

To wrap up season 2 of Queen of the Sciences, not to mention wrapping up an exceptionally fraught election year (at least for those of you in the U.S.), we tackle St. Augustine's magnum opus, The City of God against the Pagans. Turns out there isn't actually very much about the two cities at all, but we range with Augustine across a wide assortment of issues: theodicy, providence, human community, the uses of history, and the nature of evil.

Fun fact: the Roman empire never actually fell, and certainly not due to barbarian invasions. It just sort of petered out due to its own stupid infighting. Food for thought, eh?

By the way, we had a technical glitch, so my audio track is pretty muffled, but Dad's is fine, and fortunately he did more of the talking on this one anyway.

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1. I quote from Dyson's translation of The City of God; this is the abridged one Dad mentioned; you may want to check out newer translations by New City Press; and this is the audiobook version I listened to, which was pretty well narrated except for the occasional pronunciation error, as in "the tropical interpretation of Scripture." Pretty sure he meant "tropological."

2. For a mind-blowing take on what really happened to the Roman empire under Christianity, check out Peter Brown's The Rise of Western Christendom.

3. Dad discusses the nature of evil in his Beloved Community, pp. 783–790. See also his forthcoming Joshua commentary on the nature of human community.

4. The accounts of evil that aim not only to harm the body but to destroy the soul that I mention toward the end of the episode are Endo's Silence, Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, and Orwell's 1984.

5. Earlier in 2020 I did an issue of Theology & a Recipe on Augustine, called "Late Have I Loved Thee," imagining a late-in-life encounter between Augustine and his concubine. I didn't realize at the time John Updike had already done this; if I may so, I think my version is a lot more faithful to the principals and ultimately the more compelling. Judge for yourself, and then sign up for Theology & a Recipe on my website!

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