This post is part of an on-going series in which I and others systematically read through Augustine of Hippo’s City of God in 2014.

City of God 21.23–27.

21.23. From this point to the end of Book 21, Augustine refutes these bad ideas about punishment, beginning with the idea that perhaps the demons can be saved. Augustine says that the Scriptures clearly teach the eternal damnation of the Devil and his demons. If one tries to limit this eternality, then one is in danger of limiting the eternal life of the saints.

21.24. Augustine refutes the idea that the wicked will get eternal life because the saints will be praying for them. The idea is that the saints in their holiness will be praying for their enemies, and God will honor the prayers of his saints.

Augustine claims that after death, the saints will no longer be praying for their enemies. God has predestined who will be saved, but in this life we cannot tell the difference between the elect and the damned; therefore, we pray for everyone indiscriminately. After death, the saints will see God’s plan more clearly and pray in accordance with it, praying only for mercy to be extended to Christ’s church. Augustine also says that our prayers on behalf of the dead have no efficacy unless the person repented of his sins before he died.

In much of this chapter, Augustine exhorts his reader to repentance in this life, and he explains that repentance gives a person God’s own righteousness.

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This post is part of an on-going series in which I and others systematically read through Augustine of Hippo’s City of God in 2014.

City of God 20.20–30

20.20. In this chapter, Augustine attempts to make sense of 1 Thessalonians 4, in which Christians who are still alive at Christ’s second coming will be caught up and meet him in the air. This is a Dispensationalist rapture-text, but of course Augustine doesn’t interpret it that way.

The biggest question for Augustine is whether these Christians will die in the twinkling of an eye and then be resurrected. He concludes that they will experience a very short death as they are transformed and given immortal bodies.

20.21. Augustine continues his explanation of the resurrection of the dead. As he promised earlier, he shifts to what the Old Testament Scriptures say about the resurrection.

He begins this new section by discussing Isaiah’s contribution to the doctrine.

20.22–23. Augustine suggests that good people will understand what kind of punishment the wicked suffer after the judgment, but the wicked will not comprehend the peace of the saints. Then Augustine catches himself and tries to return to the topic of judgment. The punishment of the wicked is the topic of the next book.

Augustine begins talking about the prophetic visions from Daniel 7. This passage talks about the Antichrist and his coming, which precedes the final judgment. Augustine briefly mentions the common interpretation of the passage that identifies the Babylonians (whom Augustine conflates with Assyria), the Persians, the Macedonians, and the Romans as the four kingdoms who will come before the Antichrist. Augustine cannot think of whom the ten kings signify, which leads him to conclude that the Last Judgment could occur at any time.

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This post is part of an on-going series in which I and others systematically read through Augustine of Hippo’s City of God in 2014.

City of God 19.12–28

19.12. This world desires peace. People want peace in their homes. Nations go to war to establish a peace more favorable to themselves. Even animals and nature tend toward peace.

Augustine mentions Cacus, the mythological beast-man, claiming that even monsters want peace. Hercules kills Cacus in book eight of Virgil’s Aeneid to keep him from terrorizing the people in the area.

19.13. Augustine lists different kinds of peace beginning with the peace of the body and ending with the peace of the whole universe. In each instance, he emphasizes harmony and order.

He moves from the enjoyment of peace to the related issue of goodness of natures. He claims that no one, not even the Devil, has an evil nature. Instead we should talk about the nature as having an exceedingly diminished good. If a nature has no goodness, then it couldn’t experience pain when it loses its peace. (For a refresher on Augustine’s idea of evil growing out of a good created nature, look back at the beginning chapters of book twelve.)

His talk about how wretched and blessed people experience peace foreshadows his future discussion on their eternal states.

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What Really Happened In Houston

The sky is falling here in Houston.

The mayor’s office has subpoenaed sermons from a handful of pastors. The request seems to be a bullying tactic aimed at pastors who have opposed the city council’s “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance,” which protects gender identity along with categories such as race, sex, and creed. The biggest point of contention is that the law might require businesses to allow people to enter public restrooms based on their self-proclaimed gender identity rather than their biological sex. Who’s surprised that some Texans are disturbed?

Houston’s churches are leading the resistance against the new law, and it seems that the mayor’s office is trying to intimate this resistance by requesting copies of sermons and other communications.

It’s a petty move.

It’s constitutionally disturbing.

It’s a violation of the separation of church and state.

But why don’t they just give her the sermons anyway?

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This post is part of an on-going series in which I and others systematically read through Augustine of Hippo’s City of God in 2014.

City of God 19.1–11.

19.1. Book 19 begins a new section in City of God. In this final section of City of God, books 19 through 22, Augustine will ponder “ends.” First he reflects on man’s Final Good. (He means man’s ultimate aim. Philosophers sometimes talk about telos.) Then he will talk about final judgment and the end state of these two cities.

At the beginning of Book 19, Augustine launches into a somewhat tedious summary of Varro’s even more tedious division of philosophies. Varro had tried to account for all possible systems of philosophical belief. Augustine works through this exercise so he can show his reader what the philosophers thought about the Final Good. Then he can contrast that with Christianity’s teaching regarding man’s Final Good.

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This post is part of an on-going series in which I and others systematically read through Augustine of Hippo’s City of God in 2014.

City of God 18.42–18.54

18.42–43. Augustine defends his use of the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Christians adopted the Septuagint as part of their canon from the earliest days of the church. When Christianity moved into Latin-speaking communities, people translated this Greek translation of the Hebrew into Latin. We usually call these the Old Latin versions of the Old Testament.

Augustine recounts the traditional story of the Septuagint’s creation, in which seventy-two scholars independently arrive at the same translation. This legend, which attempts to prove the translation’s accuracy, is almost as old as the Septuagint itself.

Jerome had recently finished his own translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, a translation for which the Bishop of Rome had asked. Augustine is a bit uncomfortable with a translation based on the work of one man.

Augustine provides some of his own views on textual criticism. Good Latin translations should acknowledge differences in the Hebrew text and the Greek text. Christians should view both, even when they differ, as inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit might wish to communicate one thing through the prophets and another through the translators.

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